The impact of distinct anthropogenic and vegetation features on urban warming

Soe Myint, Elizabeth Wentz, Anthony J. Brazel, Dale A. Quattrochi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


We investigate the direct relationship between detailed urban land cover classes, derived from fine resolution QuickBird satellite data, and land surface temperatures (Celsius), generated from ASTER imagery, over Phoenix, Arizona. Using daytime and nighttime temperatures in both winter and summer and all observation points (n = 11,025), we develop linear, non-linear and multiple regression models to explore the relationship. Conventional wisdom suggests that all urban features result in increased temperatures. Rather, our results show that a mass of buildings is not necessarily or holistically responsible for extreme heat in desert cities. It is the construction of other impervious dark surfaces (i. e., asphalt roads) associated with buildings that result in extreme heat. Moreover, our results suggest that buildings, especially commercial buildings with high albedo roofs, actually reduce temperatures. The addition of trees and shrubs, as opposed to grass, around buildings can further mitigate extreme heat by providing more cooling during the summer and increasing nighttime temperatures in the winter. In conclusion, the compositional design of and avoidance of dark impervious materials in desert cities help mitigate extreme temperatures. It is important to note, however, that design choices that reduce extreme heat must be made within the broader context of tradeoffs and unintended consequences to ensure the sustainability of these cities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-978
Number of pages20
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Dark surface
  • High albedo roof
  • Land surface temperature
  • Phoenix
  • QuickBird
  • Urban land cover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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