Urban Heat Island Effect in the Borderland

An Urban Heat Island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. The temperature difference is usually larger at night than during the day and is most apparent when winds are weak. UHI is most noticeable during the summer and winter [1]. 

The term “heat island” describes built-up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C) [2]. Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water pollution [3]. 

Major impacts of heat island are increased energy consumption; elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases; compromised human health and comfort; and impaired water quality [4]. In our project, the surface temperature with local metrological data is analyzed and visualized in a form of a web application where users can search their area and see the heat island effect in temperature value. A sample web page view for El Paso, TX is shown in Figure 1. The project also visualizes the historical map of heat index over the years (2002-2019). In addition, the project includes the Google Earth Engine mapping system to visualize the heat index map.

  1. Mirzaei, P. A. (2015). Recent challenges in modeling of urban heat island. Sustainable cities and society, 19, 200-206.
  2. Heat Island Effect, https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands. 
  3. Heaviside, C., Macintyre, H., & Vardoulakis, S. (2017). The urban heat island: implications for health in a changing environment. Current environmental health reports, 4(3), 296-305.
  4. Bhargava, A., Lakmini, S., & Bhargava, S. (2017). Urban heat island effect: it’s relevance in urban planning. J. Biodivers. Endanger. Species, 5, 5-187.  
Heat Island Effect Demo Tool