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The climatology of Tennessee heat waves as influenced by the urban heat island effect from 1959–2019

Authors: Alisa L. Hass*, Middle Tennessee State University
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Global Change
Keywords: Climatology, Heat Waves, Urban Heat Island
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Anthropogenic climate change has caused an increase in warm days and heat waves. In the southeastern United States, the number of days where the heat index is above thresholds that are dangerous for human health is also expected to increase. Those living in urban areas are often more exposed to high temperature than those living in rural areas, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island. Anthropogenic climate change could exasperate these differences, especially during heat waves. This work is an analysis of the patterns of frequency, intensity, and duration of Tennessee heat waves and how these patterns compare between locations with varying heat island intensities. We analyze local climate data collected from airport weather stations from 1959–2019. We determine heat wave occurrence based on the current National Weather Service guidelines for Excessive Heat Warnings. Specifically, heat waves are defined as two or more consecutive days with daytime heat indices above 40.5°C and nighttime temperature above 23.9°C. We compare the characteristics of heat waves that have occurred in larger cities that experience a more intense urban heat island effect (Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville) to heat waves that have occurred in smaller cities that experience less intense or minimal urban heat island effect (Jackson, Dyersburg, and Bristol).

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