Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 108, Issue 1–2, pp 105–117 | Cite as

Characterization and estimation of urban heat island at Toronto: impact of the choice of rural sites

  • Tanzina Mohsin
  • William A. Gough
Original Paper


In this study, the urban heat island of Toronto was characterized and estimated in order to examine the impact of the selection of rural sites on the estimation of urban heat island (UHI) intensity (∆T u-r). Three rural stations, King Smoke Tree (KST), Albion Hill, and Millgrove, were used for the analysis of UHI intensity for two urban stations, Toronto downtown (Toronto) and Toronto Pearson (Pearson) using data from 1970 to 2000. The UHI intensity was characterized as winter dominating and summer dominating, depending on the choice of the rural station. The analyses of annual and seasonal trends of ∆T u-r suggested that urban heat island clearly appears in winter at both Toronto and Pearson. However, due to the mitigating effect on temperature from Lake Ontario, the estimated trend of UHI intensity was found to be less at Toronto compared to that at Pearson which has no direct lake effect. In terms of the impacts of the rural stations, for both KST and Millgrove, the trends in UHI intensity were found to be statistically significant and also were in good agreement with the estimates of UHI intensities reported for other large cities in the USA. Depending on the choice of the rural station, the estimated trend for the UHI intensity at Toronto ranges from 0.01°C/decade to 0.02°C/decade, and that at Pearson ranges from 0.03°C/decade to 0.035°C/decade during 1970–2000. From the analysis of the seasonal distribution of ∆T u-r, the UHI intensity was found to be higher at Toronto in winter than that at Pearson for all three rural stations. This was likely accounted for by the lower amount of anthropogenic heat flux at Pearson. Considering the results from the statistical analysis with respect to the geographic and surface features for each rural station, KST was suggested to be a better choice to estimate UHI intensity at Toronto compared to the other rural stations. The analysis from the current study suggests that the selection of a unique urban–rural pair to estimate UHI intensity for a city like Toronto is a critical task, as it will be for any city, and it is imperative to consider some key features such as the physiography, surface characteristics of the urban and rural stations, the climatology such as the trends in annual and seasonal variation of UHI with respect to the physical characteristics of the stations, and also more importantly the objectives of a particular study in the context of UHI effect.


Urban Heat Island Urban Station Rural Station Urban Heat Island Effect Urban Heat Island Intensity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada

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