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Steven B. Malevich and Katherine Klink

Abstract

Urban heat islands (UHIs) are one of the best-recorded incidences of anthropogenic climate change. Studies from across the globe have examined this phenomenon, but relatively few have focused on cold-winter cities and the effects of snow cover and snowfall. This study uses hourly temperature measurements from 1 December 2008 through 28 February 2009 at 22 urban sites in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to investigate the effect of snow cover and snowfall on the UHI. Snow effects on temperature are estimated for calm conditions using a linear mixed-effect (LME) model. For the winter of 2008/09, the average wintertime UHI was approximately 1.0°C, with a peak near midday rather than at night. The LME model results suggest that a snow cover of 5 cm or more increased the magnitude of the UHI by about 1.0°C during the day and by about 0.5°C at night. The model also indicates that the presence of moderate snowfall decreased the magnitude of the UHI by up to 2.0°C, although this result is based on a comparatively small number of events. The high albedo of snow is posited to contribute to the enhanced UHI during the day, and snow’s insulating properties are likely contributors to the characteristics of the nighttime UHI.

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