A numerical study of the effect of urbanization on the climate of Las Vegas metropolitan area

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Samy M Kamal, Huei-Ping Huang and Soe Win Myint, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States
Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing desert cities. Its developed area has doubled in the last 30 years. An accurate prediction of the effect of urbanization on the climate of the city is crucial for resource management and planning. In this study, we use the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model coupled with a land surface and urban canopy model to investigate the effects of urbanization on the regional climate pattern around Las Vegas. High resolution numerical simulations are performed with a 3 km resolution over the metropolitan area. With identical lateral boundary conditions, three land-use land-cover maps, representing 2006, 1992 and hypothetical 1900, are used in multiple simulations. The differences in the simulated climate among those cases are used to quantify the urban effect. The simulated surface air temperature is validated against observational data from the weather station at the McCarran airport. It is found that urbanization affects substantial warming during the night but a minor cooling during the day. Detailed diagnostics of the surface energy budget are performed to help interpret this result. In addition, the emerging urban structures are found to have a mechanical effect of slowing down the climatological wind field over the urban area. The change in wind, in turn, leads to a secondary modification of the temperature structure within the air shed of the city. This finding suggests the need to combine the mechanical and thermodynamic effects to construct a complete picture of the influence of land cover on urban climate. In all cases of the simulations, it is also demonstrated that urbanization influences surface air temperature mainly within the metropolitan area.