The role of urban landscape configuration in influencing urban moisture excess and urban dry island intensities

Authors: Neil Debbage*, University of Texas - San Antonio
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Urban Dry Island, Urban Moisture Excess, Spatial Metrics, Urban Planning, Metropolitan Statistical Areas
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Century, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Majestic Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The numerous interactions between cities and the water cycle are complex and can vary spatially, diurnally, and seasonally. This complexity is made particularly evident by the emergence of both Urban Dry Islands (UDI), where a city is drier than its natural surroundings, and Urban Moisture Excesses (UME), where an urban environment is characterized by higher atmospheric moisture content than its environs. Since many of the physical factors that govern the urban heat island effect also influence the UDI and UME, it is often presumed that they are enhanced by similar patterns of urban development. However, there is an absence of research explicitly examining the relationships between urban morphology and the UDI and UME effects. The overall purpose of this paper was to provide an empirical examination of how the spatial arrangement of cities contributes to UDI and UME intensity. Specifically, gridded climate data for dewpoint temperature was used to estimate the UDI/UME intensity for the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. To describe the spatial configuration of the urban development patterns, spatial metrics were utilized. Finally, both bivariate and multivariate statistical approaches were adopted to determine how urban morphology influenced UDI/UME intensities. The findings indicated that more spatially contiguous developed open space enhanced UME intensities while more spatially contiguous high-intensity development magnified UDI intensities. Overall, since the spatial configuration of the urban development did significantly influence the UDI/UME effects, urban policies governing land use configuration appear to provide one mechanism to reduce UDI/UME intensities.

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