Quantifying the daytime and night-time urban heat island in Birmingham, UK: A comparison of satellite derived land surface temperature and high resolution ground measured air temperature

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The Urban Heat Island (UHI) is one of the most well documented phenomena in urban climatology. Although a range of measurements and modelling techniques can be used to assess the UHI, the paucity of traditional meteorological observations in urban areas has been an ongoing limitation for studies. The availability of remote sensing data has therefore helped fill a scientific need by providing high resolution temperature data of our cities. However, satellite-mounted sensors measure land surface temperatures (LST) and not canopy air temperatures with the latter being the key parameter in UHI investigations. Fortunately, such data is becoming increasingly available via urban meteorological networks, which now provide an opportunity to quantify and compare surface and canopy UHI on an unprecedented scale. For the first time, this study uses high resolution air temperature data from the Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory urban meteorological network and MODIS LST to quantify and identify the spatial pattern of the daytime and night-time UHI in Birmingham, UK (a city with an approximate population of 1 million). This analysis is performed under a range of atmospheric stability classes and investigates the relationship between surface and canopy UHI in the city. A significant finding of this work is that it demonstrates, using observations, that the distribution of the surface UHI appears to be clearly linked to landuse, whereas for canopy UHI, advective processes appear to play an increasingly important role. Strong relationships were found between air temperatures and LST during both the day and night at a neighbourhood scale, but even with the use of higher resolution urban meteorological datasets, relationships at the city scale are still limited.


Original languageEnglish
Article number153
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2016


  • urban heat island , land surface temperature, air temperature, urban meteorological networks