The impact of climate change and urban growth on urban climate and heat stress in a subtropical city


Urban residents face increasing risk of heat stress due to the combined impact of climate change and intensification of the urban heat island (UHI) associated with urban growth. Considering the combined effect of urban growth and climate change is vital to understanding how temperatures in urban areas will change in the future. This study investigated the impact of urban growth and climate change on the UHI and heat stress in a subtropical city (Brisbane, Australia) in the present day (1991–2000) and medium term (2041–2050; RCP8.5) during summer. A control and urban growth scenario was used to compare the temperature increase from climate change alone with the temperature increase from climate change and urban growth. Average and minimum temperatures increased more with climate change and urban growth combined than with climate change alone, indicating that if urban growth is ignored, future urban temperatures could be underestimated. Under climate change alone, rural temperatures increased more than urban temperatures, decreasing the effect of the UHI by 0.4 °C at night and increasing the urban cool island by 0.8 °C during the day. With climate change, the number of hot days and nights doubled in urban and rural areas in 2041–2050 as compared to 1991–2000. The number of hot nights was higher in urban areas and with urban growth. Dangerous heat stress, defined as apparent temperature above 40 °C, increased with climate change and occurred on average 1–2 days every summer during 2041–2050, even in shaded conditions. There was higher temperature increases with urban growth and climate change than with climate change alone, indicating that reducing the effect of the UHI is vital to ensuring urban growth does not increase the heat stress risks that urban residents will face in the future.

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