The effects of heat advection on UK weather and climate observations in the vicinity of small urbanized areas

Richard Bassett, Xiaoming Cai, Lee Chapman, Clare Heaviside, John Thornes

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Weather and climate networks traditionally follow rigorous siting guidelines, with individual stations located away from frost hollows, trees or urban areas. However, the diverse nature of the UK landscape suggests that the feasibility of siting stations that are truly representative of regional climate and free from distorting local effects is increasingly difficult. Whilst the urban heat island is a well-studied phenomenon and usually accounted for, the effect of warm urban air advected downwind is rarely considered, particularly at rural stations adjacent to urban areas. Until recently, urban heat advection (UHA) was viewed as an urban boundary-layer process through the formation of an urban plume that rises above the surface as it is advected. However, these dynamic UHA effects are shown to also have an impact on surface observations. Results show a significant difference in temperatures anomalies (p < 0.001) between observations taken downwind of urban and rural areas. For example, UHA from small urbanized areas (~ 1 km²) under low cloud cover and wind speeds of 2 – 3 m s-1 is found to increase mean nocturnal air temperatures by 0.6ºC at a horizontal distance of 0.5 km. Fundamentally, these UHA results highlight the importance of careful interpretation of long-term temperature data taken near small urban areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181–196
JournalBoundary-Layer Meteorology
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Temperature observations
  • Urban heat advection
  • Urban heat island
  • Urbanization


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