Environmental Research Letters

Interaction of urban heat islands and heat waves under current and future climate conditions and their mitigation using green and cool roofs in New York City and Phoenix, Arizona

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Urban environments and heat waves interact synergistically and aggravate the thermal environment through the urban heat island (UHI) effect. Of concern is the potential for a projected warmer future climate to further compound heat waves in urban environments. The present study investigates the interaction of a 2006 heat wave in North America with two urban environments (Phoenix and New York City (NYC)) in current climate and future climate simulations. The future climate conditions were generated using the pseudo-global warming methodology. Multiple high-resolution (3 km) simulations were performed using the weather research and forecasting (WRF) model coupled with the single-layer urban canopy model to improve representation of urban processes and we explore how irrigated green roofs and cool roofs can mitigate heat wave amplification by UHIs. To quantify heat wave intensity, an analytical model is applied to the WRF model output that considers the urban surface heat and water vapor exchanges with the atmosphere. A future, warmer climate is found to amplify the UHI intensity during heat waves in both Phoenix (21%) and NYC (48%), but the amplification is of great uncertainty as its magnitude is comparable to the temporal variability of temperatures. The increase in urban heat index can be almost completely offset by adopting irrigated green roofs in urban areas, and partially offset by adopting cool roofs.