The Impact of Anthropogenic Modification of Rural Vegetation on Surface Urban Heat Island Intensity

Authors: Michelle Dornath-Mohr*, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Qualitative Research, Rural Geography
Keywords: Urban Heat Island, Anthropogenic Modification, Rural, Agriculture, Vegetation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 7
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the quantification of Urban Heat Islands (UHI), anthropogenic modification of the rural area is an understudied yet vital area of interest, which if overlooked, could cause a biased estimation of UHI intensity. This research explores the influence of anthropogenic modification of vegetation in the rural reference area on surface urban heat island intensity (SUHII) by using multi-year MODIS daily land surface temperature (LST), annual Cropscape landcover maps, and MODIS weekly smoothed NDVI. Seasonal, diurnal, and regional differences are studied by quantifying the LST response to phenology changes in two contrasting domains: one predominantly surrounded by cultivated vegetation (Chicago, IL, USA) and the other predominantly surrounded by natural vegetation (Atlanta, GA, USA) over a typical growing season (April – October). The results from this study show that anthropogenic modification of vegetation alters daytime LST and that this influence is most pronounced during the daytime in spring and fall, resulting in up to a 6 oC underestimation of SUHII relative to natural vegetation. The underestimation of SUHII is linked to reduced vegetative activity in cultivated areas during spring and fall. Chicago, at a higher latitude and surrounded by cultivated land, experiences larger changes in SUHII and NDVI than Atlanta throughout the growing season. This new understanding of how temperature varies across the rural biome will provide more accurate rural reference temperatures, helping us to understand the true signal of SUHII and improving the analysis of UHI globally.

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