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Zhang, P; Imhoff, ML; Wolfe, RE; Bounoua, L (2010). Characterizing urban heat islands of global settlements using MODIS and nighttime lights products. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING, 36(3), 185-196.

Impervious surface area (ISA) from the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) and land surface temperature (LST) from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) averaged over three annual cycles (2003-2005) are used in a spatial analysis to assess the urban heat island (UHI) signature on LST amplitude and its relationship with development intensity, size, and ecological setting for more than 3000 urban settlements globally. Development intensity zones based on fractional ISA are defined for each urban area emanating outward from the urban core to the nearby nonurban rural areas and used to stratify sampling for LST. Sampling is further constrained by biome type and elevation data to ensure objective intercomparisons between zones and between cities in different biomes. We find that the ecological context and settlement size significantly influence the amplitude of summer daytime UHI. Globally, an average of 3.8 degrees C UHI is found in cities built in biomes dominated by forests; 1.9 degrees C UHI in cities embedded in grass-shrubs biomes; and only a weak UHI or sometimes an urban heat sink (UHS) in cities in arid and semi-arid biomes. Overall, the amplitude of the UHI is negatively correlated (R = -0.66) with the difference in vegetation density between urban and rural zones represented by the MODIS normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Globally averaged, the daytime UHI amplitude for all settlements is 2.6 degrees C in summer and 1.4 degrees C in winter. Globally, the average summer daytime UHI is 4.7 degrees C for settlements larger than 500 km(2) compared with 2.5 degrees C for settlements smaller than 50 km(2) and larger than 10 km(2). The stratification of cities by size indicates that the aggregated amount of ISA is the primary driver of UHI amplitude, with variations between ecological contexts and latitudinal zones. More than 60% of the total LST variance is explained by ISA for urban settlements within forests at mid to high latitudes. This percentage will increase to more than 80% when only settlements in the US are examined.



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