Urban heat island diagnosis using ASTER satellite images and 'in situ' air temperature

Janet Elizabeth Nichol, Wing Yee Fung, Ka Se Lam, Man Sing Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

164 Citations (Scopus)


This study demonstrates that thermal satellite images combined with 'in situ' ground data can be used to examine models of heat island genesis and thus identify the main causes of urban heat islands (UHIs). The models, although proposed over 30 years ago, have not been thoroughly evaluated due to a combination of inadequate ground data and the low resolution of thermal satellite data. Also there has been limited understanding of the relevance of satellite-derived surface temperatures to local and regional scale air temperatures. A cloud-free ASTER thermal image of urban and rural areas of Hong Kong was obtained on a winter night with a well-developed heat island, accompanied by a 148 km vehicle traverse of air temperatures. Over the whole traverse a high R2of 0.80 was observed between surface and air temperatures, with the two datasets showing a similar amplitude and general trend, but with the surface exhibiting much higher local variability than air temperature. Gradients in both surface and air temperature could be related to differences in land cover, with little evidence of large scale advection, thus supporting the population/physical structure model of UHI causation, rather than the advection model. However, the much higher surface and air temperatures observed over the largest urban area, Kowloon, than over any smaller urban centre with similar physical structure in the New Territories, would seem more indicative of the advection model. The image and ground data suggest that Kowloon's urban canopy layer climate is mainly influenced by local city structure, but it is also modified by a strongly developed, regional scale urban boundary layer which has developed over the largest urban centre of Kowloon, and reinforces heating from both above and below.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-284
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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