Jin, ML, Dickinson, RE, Zhang, DL (2005). The footprint of urban areas on global climate as characterized by MODIS. JOURNAL OF CLIMATE, 18(10), 1551-1565.
One mechanism for climate change is the collected impact of changes in land cover or land use. Such changes are especially significant in urban areas where much of the world's population lives. Satellite observations provide a basis for characterizing the physical modifications that result from urbanization. In particular, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Terra satellite measures surface spectral albedos, thermal emissivities, and radiative temperatures. A better understanding of these measurements should improve our knowledge of the climate impact of urbanization as well as our ability to specify the parameters needed by climate models to compute the impacts of urbanization. For this purpose, it is useful to contrast urban areas with neighboring nonurban surfaces with regard to their radiative surface temperatures, emissivities, and albedos. Among these properties, surface temperatures have been most extensively studied previously in the context of the urban heat island (UHI). Nevertheless, except for a few detailed studies, the UHI has mostly been characterized in terms of surface air temperatures. To provide a global analysis, the zonal average of these properties are presented here measured over urban areas versus neighboring nonurban areas. Furthermore, individual cities are examined to illustrate the variations of these variables with land cover under different climate conditions [e.g., in Beijing, New York, and Phoenix (a desert city of the United States)]. Satellite-measured skin temperatures are related to the surface air temperatures but do not necessarily have the same seasonal and diurnal variations, since they are more coupled to surface energy exchange processes and less to the overlying atmospheric column. Consequently, the UHI effects from skin temperature are shown to be pronounced at both daytime and nighttime, rather than at night as previously suggested from surface air temperature measurements. In addition, urban areas are characterized by albedos much lower than those of croplands and deciduous forests in summer but similar to those of forests in winter. Thus, urban surfaces can be distinguished from nonurban surfaces through use of a proposed index formed by multiplying skin temperature by albedo.