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ADVANCES IN CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH 4(2): 133136, 2013

www.climatechange.cn
DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1248.2013.133
OPINION

Are There Impacts of Urban Heat Island on Future


Climate Change?
ZHAO Zong-Ci1,2 , LUO Yong1,2 , HUANG Jian-Bin1
1
2

Center for Earth System Science, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

National Climate Center, China Meteorological Administration, Beijing 100081, China

The United Nations world urbanization prospects


2009 report points out, that at present more than 50%
of the worlds population is living in urban area, and
it is expected that by 2050 this figure will reach 70%
[UN, 2009]. Therefore, there is need to pay more attention to the impacts of urban heat island effects on
future climate change.

tion of urbanization to the warming for some studies


in China [Zhao, 2011]. Because many gauge stations
in China are located in urban regions, they are influenced by urbanization processes more clearly than
before. Urban heat island effect is strengthening climate warming. Early research found that the mean
warming was 0.06 C per decade in China for 1951
1989, in which urbanization caused the mean warming of 0.05 C per decade and accounted for 83% of
the total warming [Zhao, 1991]. It means that the
key warming action was from urban heat island effect during 1950s1980s. Recent study indicates that
temperature increasing was obvious in China for 1961
2004, the mean warming was 0.060.09 C per decade
up to 0.10 C per decade in some significant areas. The
annual mean warming rate due to urban heat island
effect was 27%, and 18%38% for the four seasons.
It means that urban heat island effect contributed to
1/51/3 of the total warming in China in the last 50
years. Warming due to urban heat island effect in
China was significant [Ren et al., 2008]. A new investigation estimated urban heat island effect in comparison with the nearby SST which was not influenced by
urbanization. The warming trend in China for 1951
2004 was 0.22 C per decade. At the same time, the
warming trend of SST was 0.14 C per decade. Urban heat island effect caused warming of 0.08 C per
decade, which was 36% of the total warming. Urban heat island effect in China was more obvious than
before due to urban population increase, urban areas

1 Observed contribution of urban heat


island effect on warming
The impacts of urban heat island effect on climate change in China and the world have been mostly
conducted with meteorological station data for about
last 50 years. Both the urban heat island effect and
its contribution to climate warming have been calculated. For the quantification of urban heat island effect, one method is that observation stations are divided into degrees in accordance with city population,
corresponding to the calculated population changes in
different periods. Another method is that differences
between the temperature at urban station and rural
(countryside) station (or nearby sea surface temperature, SST). A recent study based on remote sensing
data shows that heat island effect of the global mean
daily temperature is 2.6 C in summer, and 1.4 C in
winter [Zhang et al., 2010]. Research on China [Zhao,
1991; Ren et al., 2008; Jones et al., 2008] indicates that
urban heat island effect contributes to climate warming by about 30%. Table 1 summarizes the contribuReceived: 4 February 2013
Corresponding author: ZHAO Zong-Ci, Zhaozc@cma.gov.cn

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ADVANCES IN CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH

extension, social sphere and economy development.


The main warming trend in China for the last several
decades was from the anthropogenic emissions [Jones
et al., 2008]. Summarizing those investigations, the urbanization in China for the last several decades contributed to the warming by 1/51/3. The warming
caused by urbanization in China cannot be neglected.
The warming contributions by urbanization in China
are stronger than those in developed countries [Jones

et al., 2008; Zhao, 2011]. It needs to be pointed out


that a small warming appeared during 1950s1980s
in China, and the warming by urban heat island effects in China was about 80% of the total. However,
it is different for the last 20 years of the 20th century. Although urban heat island effect strengthened
in this period, its contribution was not as high as that
in 1950s1980s due to the significantly increased total
warming (Table 1).

Table 1 Contribution rates of urban heat island effect on warming in China


Author
Zhao [1991]
Ren et al. [2008]
Jones et al. [2008]

Number of stations
160
752
728
728
728

2 Earth system model simulation on the


impacts of urban heat island on future climate change
Recent studies were concentrated on the impacts
of urban heat island on future climate by using climate models such as HadAM4 (UK) and CAM3.5
(USA). The former investigated urban heat island effect between doubled CO2 and the present concentration [McCarthy et al., 2010]. The latter studied urban
heat island effect between the IPCC SRES A2 scenario
and the present day [Oleson et al., 2010]. The common result is that urban heat island effect on climate
may not be static. Therefore, they proposed that climate models should nest urban models.
Climate between urban and rural areas were contrasted by using the earth system model CCSM4
of CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project
phase 5) with several scenarios [Oleson, 2012]. The
CCSM4 is an earth system model with land model
(CLM4) which includes the parameterizations of urban surface types. Based on it, an urbanization model
is nested to CLM4, named CLMU. The urbanization
model is a three-dimensional model with parameterization processes, i.e., heights of roofs, sunlit walls,
and shaded walls of buildings, as well as pervious land
surface (such as grasslands of residential lawns and
parks) and impervious (such as roads, parking lots
and sidewalks) canyon floor. The urbanization model

Time series (years)


19511989 (39)
19612004 (44)
19512004 (54)
19541983 (30)
19812004 (24)

Contribution rate (%)


83
27
36
81
18

has 15 layers for temperature and hydrological cycle


in vertical direction, and up to 5 additional layers for
snow based on snow depth. Urban areas consider land
features including building height and street width.
According to the CMIP5 experiment design [Taylor
et al., 2012], the CCSM4 runs the historical experiments with both anthropogenic and natural forcings
for 18502005, and three RCP (Representative Concentration Pathway) experiments (RCP8.5, RCP4.5
and RCP2.6). Five ensembles have been calculated
for each experiment, respectively. The definition of
urban heat island effect is the difference of surface air
temperature between urban and rural regions. The
simulated results indicate that: 1) Urban heat island
effect in the 20th century caused the averaged urban
warming by about 1.4 C compared with rural regions.
2) An obvious warming in the global, land, urban and
rural regions will very likely appear for three periods of
20112030, 20462065, and 20802099 as projected by
the model with RCPs, respectively. The model with
RCP8.5 projects a global mean warming of 0.66 C,
1.91 C and 3.48 C for three periods relative to 1986
2005, respectively. A lower warming for RCP4.5 and
RCP2.6 is noted. The global land warming is prominent. 3) Impacts of urban heat island on future mean
temperature, maximum and minimum temperatures
will continue to have a warming effect. 4) Differences
of temperature between urban and rural areas for the
three periods in RCP8.5 are more significant than in

ZHAO Zong-Ci et al. / Are There Impacts of Urban Heat Island on Future Climate Change?

RCP2.6 and RCP4.5. Urban heat island effect decreases as time goes by due to more warming in rural
areas than in urban areas (Table 2).
Further calculations focused on heat island effects
in 11 regions of the world for December to February (DJF) and June to August (JJA) in the present
day (19862005) and 20802099 relative to 19862005
as projected by the model with RCP8.5, respectively
(Table 3). It is found that: 1) Whether in DJF or JJA
of the present day, urban heat island has a warming
effect as simulated by the model. In DJF for example, the lowest warming is in East Africa (0.94 C),
the highest warming is in Central Asia (2.26 C). Results for East Asia which are related to China show a
warming of 1.93 C in DJF and 1.29 C in JJA. 2) The
model with RCP8.5 projects a significant warming in

135

11 regions for 20802099. The warming is 2.684.43 C


in DJF and 3.204.87 C in JJA. The warming in East
Asia is 3.69 C. 3) Under RCP8.5 for 20802099, urban
heat island effect contributes slightly less to the warming, in 11 regions for DJF, except for East Africa. It
decreases by 0.14 C in East Asia. For the same period, the model under RCP8.5 projects the warming
to be decreasing in 6 regions for JJA and 0.10 C in
East Asia [Oleson, 2012].

3 Evidence of regional climate models


to simulate urban heat island effect
Kusaka et al. [2012] tested urban heat island effect by a regional climate model WRF. WRF has a
horizontal resolution of 4 km and a vertical resolution

Table 2 Ensemble mean global (GL), land, urban (U), and rural (R) 2-m air temperature, and urban minus rural
temperature for 18501869 and 19862005 from the history simulations, and those results for three future time
periods from RCP8.5, RCP4.5, and RCP2.6 simulations [Oleson, 2012] (unit: C)
Scenario
History
RCP8.5

RCP4.5

RCP2.6

Period
18501869
19862005
20112030
20462065
20802099
20112030
20462065
20802099
20112030
20462065
20802099

GL
13.34
14.30
0.66
1.91
3.48
0.58
1.29
1.62
0.60
0.88
0.85

2-m air temperature


Land
U
7.39
17.51
8.56
18.35
0.84
0.72
2.48
2.12
4.48
3.75
0.75
0.65
1.65
1.44
2.03
1.76
0.77
0.68
1.12
0.97
1.04
0.91

R
16.06
16.93
0.73
2.16
3.82
0.65
1.43
1.75
0.68
0.98
0.91

Ta
1.45
1.42
1.41
1.38
1.35
1.42
1.43
1.43
1.42
1.41
1.42

Urban minus rural


Tmax
Tmin
0.56
2.02
0.55
1.98
0.53
1.96
0.48
1.93
0.42
1.91
0.53
1.98
0.53
2.00
0.49
2.00
0.53
1.97
0.52
1.98
0.53
1.97

Note: Projections are relative to 19862005. Ta , Tmax , and Tmin are daily mean, daily maximum and minimum temperatures,
respectively

Table 3 Regional averages of 11 areas for the present (19862005) heat island (urban minus rural temperature),
climate change (land air temperature) and heat island change (20802099 minus 19862005)
in RCP8.5 simulation (unit: C) [Oleson, 2012]
Region
NW America
NE America
Central America
South America
EU
West Africa
Middle East
East Africa
Central Asia
East Asia
AU-NZ

Present heat island


DJF
JJA
1.80
1.58
2.04
2.00
1.01
1.06
1.13
1.60
1.35
1.60
1.86
1.02
1.04
1.32
0.94
1.18
2.26
1.14
1.93
1.29
1.07
1.44

Note: AU-NZ refers to Australia and New Zealand

Climate change
DJF
JJA
3.80
4.49
4.43
4.66
3.35
3.62
3.65
3.64
2.68
5.06
3.75
3.52
3.80
4.87
3.35
3.39
4.19
3.71
3.69
3.69
3.52
3.20

Heat island change


DJF
JJA
0.16
0.00
0.17
0.11
0.13
0.11
0.08
0.01
0.16
0.16
0.11
0.06
0.10
0.01
0.01
0.00
0.02
0.06
0.14
0.10
0.09
0.13

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ADVANCES IN CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH

of 35 layers. A 1-layer urban cover model (UCM) over


the Tokyo Metropolitan Area and a simple slab urban
model (SLAB) are nested to WRF, respectively. UCM
included urban features and distribution of streets.
The multi-layer thermodynamic equation was used to
calculate temperature and heat flux on roofs, walls and
roads. SLAB calculated temperature by surface thermodynamic equation. The model simulated climate
change in August of 20042007. The results simulated
by WRF nested to UCM or SLAB were compared with

the observations, respectively. Based on calculating


the bias and root mean square error (RMSE) between
simulations and observations, it is found that WRF
with UCM are better than WRF with SLAB (Table 4).
It means that regional climate model (such as WRF)
nested to a complex city model (such as UCM) is better than nested to a simple one (such as SLAB). This
result evinces from the other side that an earth system model (CCSM4) nested to an urban model is very
important as Oleson [2012] provided.

Table 4 Surface temperature bias and RMSE over the entire analysis domain at indicated times for simulations by
WRF nested to UCM or SLAB and observations (unit: C) [Kusaka et al., 2012]
City model
Bias
RMSE
Bias at 05:00
RMSE at 05:00
SLAB
0.6 (0.3)
2.5 (2.8)
2.0 (2.6)
3.1 (3.3)
UCM
0.4 (0.7)
2.1 (1.8)
0.1 (1.0)
2.0 (1.8)
Note: 05:00 and 15:00 are Japanese standard time; urban values are in the parentheses

Finally, it is to be emphasized that only a few


studies are concentrated on the impacts of urban heat
island effect on climate change by using earth system
models and regional climate models nested to the complicated urban cover models. Therefore, the studies
are tentative. How to design and nest city models is
worth studying. Some research results need further
analysis, examination, and confirmation.
Acknowledgements
This research was supported by the 973 Project (No.
2010CB950500) and National Natural Science Foundation
(No. 41175066).
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