Abstract

A methodology is presented for estimating the urban bias of surface shelter temperatures due to the effect of the urban heat island. Multiple regression techniques were used to predict surface shelter temperatures based on the time period 1986–89 using upper-air data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts to represent the background climate, site-specific data to represent the local landscape, and satellite-derived data—the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) nighttime brightness data—to represent the urban and rural landscape. Local NDVI and DMSP values were calculated for each station using the mean NDVI and DMSP values from a 3 km × 3 km area centered over the given station. Regional NDVI and DMSP values were calculated to represent a typical rural value for each station using the mean NDVI and DMSP values from a 1° × 1° latitude–longitude area in which the given station was located. Models for the United States were then developed for monthly maximum, mean, and minimum temperatures using data from over 1000 stations in the U.S. Cooperative Network and for monthly mean temperatures with data from over 1150 stations in the Global Historical Climate Network. Local biases, or the differences between the model predictions using the observed NDVI and DMSP values, and the predictions using the background regional values were calculated and compared with the results of other research. The local or urban bias of U.S. temperatures, as derived from all U.S. stations (urban and rural) used in the models, averaged near 0.40°C for monthly minimum temperatures, near 0.25°C for monthly mean temperatures, and near 0.10°C for monthly maximum temperatures. The biases of monthly minimum temperatures for individual stations ranged from near −1.1°C for rural stations to 2.4°C for stations from the largest urban areas. There are some regions of the United States where a regional NDVI value based on a 1° × 1° latitude–longitude area will not represent a typical “rural” NDVI value for the given region, Thus, for some regions of the United States, the urban bias of this study may underestimate the actual current urban bias. The results of this study indicate minimal problems for global application once global NDVI and DMSP data become available. It is anticipated that results from global application will provide insights into the urban bias of the global temperature record.

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