Investigation of Urban Heat Stress from Satellite Atmospheric Profiles

Monday, 15 December 2014
Leiqiu Hu and Nathaniel A Brunsell, University of Kansas, Geography, Lawrence, KS, United States
Heat stress is the leading cause of weather-related human mortality in the United States and in many countries world-wide. Heat stress is usually enhanced by the urban heat island effect. Here, we investigate the ability to use remotely sensed atmospheric profiles to detect and monitor heat stress in the urban environment. MODIS atmospheric profiles at 5 km are used to quantify the spatial distribution of heat stress across Chicago during summer periods from 2003-2013. Four heat stress indices are investigated (Discomfort Index (DI), NWS Heat Index (HI), Humidex, and Simplified Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (SWBGT)) from the near-surface temperature and humidity observed at ground sites and retrieved from satellite atmospheric profiles. The heat stress climatology indicates that the urban effects are similar to the heat stress in top 5% hot days and 11 summers during the daytime. There is a lack of relationship between urban fraction and the heat stress on the warmest nights. The nighttime heat stress in the hottest 5% suggests a larger stress compared to the normal conditions during 11 summers. A case study of the heat wave in 2012 is assessed to identify the key pre-heat wave spatial patterns, which may potentially apply to predict future high heat-stress events. In addition, the role of the temporal persistence on the spatial dynamics of the heat wave is also examined. This research illustrates the spatial heat pattern under normal and heat wave conditions, which may help to make public heat health protection strategies. Also, the remotely sensed temperature and humidity information are invaluable to assess urban heat island impact spatially and temporally.