Geography & Environment Publications

Impacts of Urban Albedo Increase on Local Air Temperature at Daily–Annual Time Scales: Model Results and Synthesis of Previous Work

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Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology

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The authors combine urban and soil–vegetation surface parameterization schemes with one-dimensional (1D) boundary layer mixing and radiation parameterizations to estimate the maximum impact of increased surface albedo on urban air temperatures. The combined model is evaluated with measurements from an urban neighborhood in Basel, Switzerland, and the importance of surface–atmosphere model coupling is demonstrated. Impacts of extensive albedo increases in two Chicago, Illinois, neighborhoods are modeled. Clear-sky summertime reductions of diurnal maximum air temperature for the residential neighborhood (λp = 0.33) are −1.1°, −1.5°, and −3.6°C for uniform roof albedo increases of 0.19, 0.26, and 0.59, respectively; reductions are about 40% larger for the downtown core (λp = 0.53). Realistic impacts will be smaller because the 1D modeling approach ignores advection; a lake-breeze scenario is modeled and temperature reductions decline by 80%. Assuming no advection, the analysis is extended to seasonal and annual time scales in the residential neighborhood. Yearly average temperature decreases for a 0.59 roof albedo increase are about −1°C, with summer (winter) reductions about 60% larger (smaller). Annual cooling degree-day decreases are approximately offset by heating degree-day increases and the frequency of very hot days is reduced. Despite the variability of modeling approaches and scenarios in the literature, a consistent range of air temperature sensitivity to albedo is emerging; a 0.10 average increase in neighborhood albedo (a 0.40 roof albedo increase for λp = 0.25) generates a diurnal maximum air temperature reduction of approximately 0.5°C for “ideal” conditions, that is, a typical clear-sky midlatitude summer day.

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