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A continental forecast of future urban vegetation, temperature, and equity

Authors: Darrel Jenerette*, University of California Riverside, Peter Ibsen, University of California Riverside, Dion Kucera, University of California Riverside, Sharon Harlan, Northeastern University, Matai Georgescue, Arizona State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Environment
Keywords: urban, climate, heat, vulnerability, forecast
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


High temperatures increasingly influence urban residents through interactions of global and regional climate changes. As an adaptation to increasing heat risks, urban vegetation is increasing recognized for the capacity to reduce urban temperature distributions. However, the effectiveness of vegetation for cooling likely differs within and among cities. We evaluated vegetation cooling capacity across a continental scale network of thirteen cities in the United States. For each city we combined satellite derived vegetation greenness and land surface temperature (LST) data with census tract boundaries centered on 2010. We then used an atmospheric climate forecasting model to project future surface temperature distributions based on relationships observed circa 2010. Our results found consistent support across all cities that vegetation cooling capacity is enhanced in hotter and drier compared to cooler and moister conditions. This was consistent both within cities, shown by maximum vegetation derived cooling in dry summer conditions, and among cities, with greatest cooling in cities located in arid climate. Our results also showed consistent segregation in vegetation greenness associated with income, which further was associated with hotter temperatures in lower income neighborhoods. In future forecasts, we project hotter surface temperatures that are moderated by vegetation. These results imply greater future inequities in surface temperature distributions unless corresponding changes to vegetation distributions or social segregation are enacted.

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