Geography Publications


Thermal Remote Sensing of Urban Climates

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Remote Sensing of Environment





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Thermal remote sensing has been used over urban areas to assess the urban heat island, to perform land cover classifications and as input for models of urban surface atmosphere exchange. Here, we review the use of thermal remote sensing in the study of urban climates, focusing primarily on the urban heat island effect and progress made towards answering the methodological questions posed by Roth et al. [International Journal of Remote Sensing 10 (1989) 1699]. The review demonstrates that while some progress has been made, the thermal remote sensing of urban areas has been slow to advance beyond qualitative description of thermal patterns and simple correlations. Part of the difficulty lies in the tendency to use qualitatively based land use data to describe the urban surface rather than the use of more fundamental surface descriptors. Advances in the application of thermal remote sensing to natural and agricultural surfaces suggest insight into possible methods to advance techniques and capabilities over urban areas. Improvements in the spatial and spectral resolution of current and next-generation satellite-based sensors, in more detailed surface representations of urban surfaces and in the availability of low cost, high resolution portable thermal scanners are expected to allow progress in the application of urban thermal remote sensing to the study of the climate of urban areas.