Contribution of land use changes to near-surface air temperatures during recent summer extreme heat events in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area

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Grossman-Clarke, Susanne ; Zehnder, Joseph A. ; Loridan, Thomas ; Grimmond, C.Sue B (2010)

The impact of 1973–2005 land use–land cover (LULC) changes on near-surface air temperatures during four recent summer extreme heat events (EHEs) are investigated for the arid Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) in conjunction with the Noah Urban Canopy Model. WRF simulations were carried out for each EHE using LULC for the years 1973, 1985, 1998, and 2005. Comparison of measured near-surface air temperatures and wind speeds for 18 surface stations in the region show a good agreement between observed and simulated data for all simulation periods. The results indicate consistent significant contributions of urban development and accompanying LULC changes to extreme temperatures for the four EHEs. Simulations suggest new urban developments caused an intensification and expansion of the area experiencing extreme temperatures but mainly influenced nighttime temperatures with an increase of up to 10 K. Nighttime temperatures in the existing urban core showed changes of up to 2 K with the ongoing LULC changes. Daytime temperatures were not significantly affected where urban development replaced desert land (increase by 1 K); however, maximum temperatures increased by 2–4 K when irrigated agricultural land was converted to suburban development. According to the model simulations, urban landscaping irrigation contributed to cooling by 0.5–1 K in maximum daytime as well as minimum nighttime 2-m air temperatures in most parts of the urban region. Furthermore, urban development led to a reduction of the already relatively weak nighttime winds and therefore a reduction in advection of cooler air into the city.
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