Urban heat islands opportunities and challenges for mitigation and adaptation

The observation that cities can be significantly warmer than their rural surroundings is a phenomenon widely referred to as the urban heat island (UHI) effect. The causes of the UHI include generally lower urban reflectivity to solar radiation; lower surface moisture availability; lower vegetative cover; and substantial levels of waste heat release in cities. While current heat island intensities can be large and the impacts substantial, there are a number of environmental stressors that are likely to lead to even more intense heat island effects in the future. Specifically, there is a global trend toward increasing urban population densities (e.g., United Nations, 1999). This, combined with the potential for global warming (IPCC, 1995) may dramatically increase the severity of urban heat island-related impacts.

Sailor, D.J., undated: Urban heat islands opportunities and challenges for mitigation and adaptation. Tulane University. The Clean Air Partnership, http://www.cleanairpartnership .org

Anticipating long-term climate change

Strong link made by authors

climate disaster


Small network


Social consensus


Medium cost to implement


Multipliers could be significant

Medium term (5-20 years)

Unmanaged ecosystem

Neutral or ambiguous effect

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