High-resolution simulation of heatwave events in New York City

Abstract

Heatwave intensity and frequency are predicted to increase in the coming years, and this will bear adverse consequences to the environmental well-being and the socio-economic fabric in urbanized areas. The hazardous combination of increased heat storage and reduced water retention capacities of the land surface make the urban areas warmer than the surrounding rural areas in what is commonly known as the urban heat island (UHI) effect. The primary motives of this study are to quantify the interaction of this city-scale UHI with synoptic-scale heatwave episodes and to analyze the factors that mediate this interaction. A modified version of the Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) is utilized to simulate two heatwave episodes in New York City. The land surface scheme in the default WRF model is modified to better represent the surface to atmosphere exchanges over urban areas. Our results indicate that during the heatwave episodes, the daily-averaged UHI in NYC increased by 1.5 K. Furthermore, most of this amplification occurs in the mid-afternoon period when the temperatures peak. Wind direction and urban-rural contrasts in available energy and moisture availability are found to have significant and systematic effects on the UHI, but wind speed plays a secondary role.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the Helen Shipley Hunt Fund through Princeton University and by the US National Science Foundation under grant CBET-1058027. The simulations were performed on the supercomputing clusters of the National Center for Atmospheric Research through project P36861020.

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Correspondence to P. Ramamurthy.

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Ramamurthy, P., Li, D. & Bou-Zeid, E. High-resolution simulation of heatwave events in New York City. Theor Appl Climatol 128, 89–102 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-015-1703-8

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Keywords

  • Urban Heat Island
  • Urban Soil
  • Urban Heat Island Intensity
  • Surrounding Rural Area
  • Mosaic Approach