Convergence of microclimate in residential landscapes across diverse cities in the United States
The urban heat island (UHI) is a well-documented pattern of warming in cities relative to rural areas. Most UHI research utilizes remote sensing methods at large scales, or climate sensors in single cities surrounded by standardized land cover. Relatively few studies have explored continental-scale climatic patterns within common urban microenvironments such as residential landscapes that may affect human comfort.
We tested the urban homogenization hypothesis which states that structure and function in cities exhibit ecological “sameness” across diverse regions relative to the native ecosystems they replaced.
We deployed portable micrometeorological sensors to compare air temperature and humidity in residential yards and native landscapes across six U.S. cities that span a range of climates (Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Boston, MA; Baltimore, MD; and Miami, FL).
Microclimate in residential ecosystems was more similar among cities than among native ecosystems, particularly during the calm morning hours. Maximum regional actual evapotranspiration (AET) was related to the morning residential microclimate effect. Residential yards in cities with maximum AET <50–65 cm/year (Phoenix and Los Angeles) were generally cooler and more humid than nearby native shrublands during summer mornings, while yards in cities above this threshold were generally warmer (Baltimore and Miami) and drier (Miami) than native forests. On average, temperature and absolute humidity were ~6 % less variable among residential ecosystems than among native ecosystems from diverse regions.
These data suggest that common residential land cover and structural characteristics lead to microclimatic convergence across diverse regions at the continental scale.
KeywordsUrban homogenization Residential lawn Microclimate Urban heat island (UHI) Humidity Urban protected area
We are grateful to numerous technical staff, students, and volunteers who assisted with microclimate data collection, including Erin Barton, Matthew Camba, Emma Dixon, La’Shaye Ervin, Caitlin Holmes, Richard McHorney, Miguel Morgan, Joseph Rittenhouse, Anna Royar, Jehane Samaha, Sydney Schiffner, Julea Shaw, Anissa Vega, Elisabeth Ward, and Megan Wheeler. We also thank Darrel Jenerette for reviewing an earlier draft of this manuscript. This project was supported by several collaborative grants from the Macrosystems Biology Program at NSF (EF-1065548, 1065737, 1065740, 1065741, 1065772, 1065785, 1065831, 1241960, and 121238320), and by the Earth Systems Modeling program at NSF (EF-1049251). This work was also supported in part by the NSF Long-term Ecological Research Program in Baltimore (BES LTER, DEB-0423476), Phoenix (CAP LTER, BCS-1026865), Plum Island (PIE LTER Boston; OCE-1058747 and 1238212), Cedar Creek (CDR LTER, Minneapolis–St Paul; DEB-1234162), and Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE LTER, Miami; DBI-0620409).
- APA (2000) Policy guide on planning for sustainability. Adopted by chapter delegate assembly, April 16, 2000; Ratified by Board of Directors, April 17, 2000. American Planning Association, New York, p 15Google Scholar
- Budyko MI (1974) Climate and life. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Cengel YA, Ghajar AJ (2015) Heating and cooling of buildings, chapter 16. Heat and mass transfer: fundamentals and applications, 5th edn. McGraw-Hill, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Chowdhury RR, Larson K, Grove M, Polsky C, Cook E, Onsted J, Ogden L (2011) A multi-scalar approach to theorizing socio-ecological dynamics of urban residential landscapes. Cities Environ 4(1):6Google Scholar
- ClimateCHIP (2015) Excel heat stress calculator. Climate CHIP, climatechip.org, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
- Cole L, Foster S (2001) From the ground up: Environmental racism & the rise of the environmental justice movement. New York University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Cronon W (1991) Nature’s metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, 1848–1893. W. W. Norton and Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Gobster PH (1994) The urban savanna: reuniting ecological preference and function. Restor Manag Notes 12:64–71Google Scholar
- Hartmann DL (1994) Global physical climatology. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Heffernan JB, Soranno PA, Angilletta MJ Jr, Buckley LB, Gruner DS, Keitt TH, Kellner JR, Kominoski JS, Rocha AV, Xiao J, Harms TK, Goring SJ, Koenig LE, McDowell WH, Powell H, Richardson AD, Stow CA, Vargas R, Weathers KC (2014) Macrosystems ecology: understanding ecological patterns and processes at continental scales. Front Ecol Environ 12(1):5–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Jankovic V (2013) A historical review of urban climatology and the atmospheres of the industrialized world. Wiley Interdiscip Rev 4(6):539–553Google Scholar
- Jones J, Creed I, Hatcher K, Warren R, Adams M, Benson M, Boose E, Brown W, Campbell J, Covich A, Clow D, Dahm C, Elder K, Ford C, Grimm N, Henshaw D, Larson K, Miles E, Miles K, Sebestyen S, Spargo A, Stone A, Vose J, Williams M (2012) Ecosystem processes and human influences regulate streamflow response to climate change at long-term ecological research sites. Bioscience 62(4):390–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kenward A, Yawitz D, Sanford T, Wang R (2014) Summer in the city: hot and getting hotter. Clim Cent, Princeton, pp 1–29Google Scholar
- Kunstler JH (1993) Geography of nowhere: the rise and decline of America’s man-made landscape. Simon and Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Larson DW, Matthes U, Kelly PE, Lundholm JT, Gerrath JA (2004) The urban cliff revolution. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, TorontoGoogle Scholar
- Larson KL, Nelson KC, Samples SR, Hall SJ, Bettez N, Cavender-Bares J, Groffman PM, Grove M, Heffernan JB, Hobbie SE, Learned J, Morse JL, Neill C, Ogden LA, O’Neil-Dunne J, Pataki DE, Polsky C, Chowdhury RR, Steele M, Trammell TLE (2015) Ecosystem services in managing residential landscapes: Priorities, value dimensions, and cross-regional patterns. Urban Ecosyst 1-19Google Scholar
- Litvak E, Bijoor N, Pataki D (2013) Adding trees to irrigated turfgrass lawns may be a water-saving measure in semi-arid environments. Ecohydrology 7(5):1314–1330Google Scholar
- Lundholm JT (2006) Green roofs and facades: a habitat template approach. Urban Habitats 4(1):87–101Google Scholar
- Mander P (2012) How to convert relative humidity to absolute humidity. https://carnotcycle.wordpress.com/2012/08/04/how-to-convert-relative-humidity-to-absolute-humidity/. Accessed Jan 2015
- Marshall T, Ruddell BL (unpublished) Performance evaluation of a low-cost printable radiation shieldGoogle Scholar
- NOAA National Weather Service (2015) Glossary. www.nws.noaa.gov/glossary/. Accessed 7 Sept 2015
- Oke TR (1982) The energetic basis of the urban heat island. Q J R Meteorol Soc 108(455):1–24Google Scholar
- Oke TR (1987) Boundary layer climates. Methuen Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Orians G (1986) An ecological and evolutionary approach to landscape aesthetics. In: Penning-Rowsell EC, Lowenthal D (eds) Landscape meanings and values. Allen and Unwin, London, pp 3–25Google Scholar
- Polsky C, Grove JM, Knudson C, Groffman PM, Bettez N, Cavender-Bares J, Hall SJ, Heffernan JB, Hobbie SE, Larson KL, Morse JL, Neill C, Nelson KC, Ogden LA, O'Neil-Dunne J, Pataki DE, Chowdhury RR, Steele MK (2014) Assessing the homogenization of urban land management with an application to us residential lawn care. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111(12):4432–4437PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Robbins P (2007) Lawn people: how grasses, weeds, and chemicals make us who we are. Temple University Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
- St. Hilaire R, VanLeeuwen DM, Torres P (2010) Landscape preferences and water conservation choices of residents in a high desert environment. HortTechnology 20(2):308–314Google Scholar
- Steele MK, Heffernan JB, Bettez N, Cavender-Bares J, Groffman PM, Grove JM, Hall S, Hobbie SE, Larson K, Morse JL, Neill C, Nelson KC, O'Neil-Dunne J, Ogden L, Pataki DE, Polsky C, Chowdhury RR (2014) Convergent surface water distributions in us cities. Ecosystems 17(4):685–697Google Scholar
- UN (2014) World urbanization prospects: The 2014 Revision. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, United NationsGoogle Scholar
- Wendt KM, Coffin BA (1988) Natural vegetation of Minnesota at the time of the public land survey, 1847–1907. In: Winchell NH (ed) Program. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, pp 1–6Google Scholar
- Wong KV, Chaudhry S (2012) Use of satellite images for observational and quantitative analysis of urban heat islands around the world. J Energy Res Technol 134(042101):1–8Google Scholar