The Mexico City Metropolitan Area (MCMA) has undergone significant urban expansion in a closed basin that once supported a large lacustrine system. While urbanization has been mentioned as a factor in observed meteorological trends, a systematic study of the effects of land use-land cover change (LULCC) on seasonal meteorology is lacking. In this study, we utilize the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) system to determine the spatiotemporal changes in near-surface air temperature, precipitation, and boundary layer conditions induced by the modern-day urban landscape relative to presettlement conditions. We capture the MCMA extent through an improved Landsat-based multicategory urban classification and therefore account for intraurban spatial heterogeneity and further conduct additional experiments to examine the sensitivity to anthropogenic heating within WRF. We find that accounting for these factors produced the best simulations of thermal conditions, with RMSE values less than 1.5°C at all measurement stations, and an improved diurnal cycle of air temperature and precipitation. We then assessed the impacts of LULCC in the MCMA, finding that thermal changes were largest during daytime hours, with temperature increasing, on average, by more than 4°C. Furthermore, we utilize these simulations to mechanistically link the built environment-induced increase in air temperature to simulated increases in rainfall during the evening hours. To our knowledge, this study provides the first dynamical and thermodynamical evidence to support the rainfall enhancements documented through observations in the MCMA and link it quantitatively to the warming effects associated with urbanization. These results have important implications for understanding the meteorological conditions leading to widespread urban flooding in the MCMA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
StateAccepted/In press - 2016


  • Convection
  • Precipitation
  • Surface energy balance
  • Urban heat island
  • Urbanization
  • Weather Research and Forecast Model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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