Is the urban heat island exacerbated during heatwaves in southern Australian cities?

  • Cassandra D. W. Rogers
  • Ailie J. E. Gallant
  • Nigel J. Tapper
Original Paper


The extra-tropical Australian cities of Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth are all affected by summer heatwaves and the urban heat island (UHI) effect. While research has been undertaken on both phenomena individually, they have not been studied in tandem in Australia. This research investigates the relationship between warm season heatwaves (November to March) and the UHI from January 1995 to March 2014. Observational temperature data from six or seven Bureau of Meteorology Automatic Weather Stations in each of Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth are used to determine the strength of the UHI during heatwave periods and these are compared to non-heatwave periods. Melbourne and Adelaide both experience an exacerbated (warmer than normal) UHI at night during heatwaves. The night-time UHI in Perth is diminished (cooler than normal) during heatwaves and often changes to an urban cool island (UCI), when compared to non-heatwave periods. Environmental factors that might affect the strength of the UHI are investigated, including wind speed and direction, and station location. Despite the proximity of all stations to the coast, coastal influences on UHI strength are minimal during heatwave conditions. Station choice is found to not affect our results, with the characteristic pattern of the UHI during heatwaves remaining consistent across all three cities in a leave-one-out sensitivity analysis.



The Bureau of Meteorology provided access to the ACORN-SAT and 3-hourly AWS datasets. Thank you to Blair Trewin for the access to Bureau of Meteorology AWS data and insights into station selection and data quality control.

Funding information

Cassandra Rogers is supported through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and a ‘top-up scholarship’ from the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities. Ailie Gallant is supported by ARC DECRA project DE150101297.

Supplementary material

704_2018_2599_MOESM1_ESM.docx (90 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 89.8 kb)


  1. Alexander L (2011) Climate science: extreme heat rooted in dry soils. Nat Geosci 4:12–13. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander LV, Perkins SE (2013) Debate heating up over changes in climate variability. EnvironResLett 8:041001. Google Scholar
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) 3222.0 - Population projections, Australia, 2012 (base) to 2101. (base) to 2101. Accessed 29 Aug 2017
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014) 3218.0 - Regional population growth, Australia, 2012–13: Feature Article: Capital Cities: Past, Present and Future. Accessed 16 Apr 2018
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017) 3218.0 - Regional population growth, Australia, 2016: Main Features. Accessed 16 Apr 2018
  6. Berardi U, GhaffarianHoseini A, GhaffarianHoseini A (2014) State-of-the-art analysis of the environmental benefits of green roofs. Appl Energy 115:411–428. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brazel A, Gober P, Lee SJ, Grossman-Clarke S, Zehnder J, Hedquist B, Comparri E (2007) Determinants of changes in the regional urban heat island in metropolitan Phoenix (Arizona, USA) between 1990 and 2004. Clim Res 33:171–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bureau of Meteorology (1997) Guidelines for the siting and exposure of meteorological instruments and observing facilities. Bureau of Meteorology, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  9. Bureau of Meteorology (2015) Long-term temperature record - methods. Commonwealth of Australia. - tabs=Methods. Accessed 19 Oct 2015
  10. Chestnut LG, Breffle WS, Smith JB, Kalkstein LS (1998) Analysis of differences in hot-weather-related mortality across 44 U.S. metropolitan areas. Environ Sci Pol 1:59–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coumou D, Rahmstorf S (2012) A decade of weather extremes. Nat Clim Chang 2:491–496. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coutts A, Beringer J, Tapper N (2010) Changing urban climate and CO2 emissions: implications for the development of policies for sustainable cities. Urban Policy Res 28:27–47. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coutts AM, Beringer J, Tapper NJ (2007) Impact of increasing urban density on local climate: spatial and temporal variations in the surface energy balance in Melbourne, Australia. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 46:477–493. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coutts AM, Tapper NJ, Beringer J, Loughnan M, Demuzere M (2013) Watering our cities: the capacity for water sensitive urban design to support urban cooling and improve human thermal comfort in the Australian context. Prog Phys Geogr 37:2–28. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cowan T, Purich A, Boschat G, Perkins S (2014a) Future projections of Australian heat wave number and intensity based on CMIP5 models. Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 27:134–138Google Scholar
  16. Cowan T, Purich A, Perkins S, Pezza A, Boschat G, Sadler K (2014b) More frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves for Australia in the twenty-first century. J Clim 27:5851–5871. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Department of Human Services (2009) January 2009 heatwave in Victoria: an assessment of health impacts. Victorian Government, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  18. Erell E, Williamson T (2007) Intra-urban differences in canopy layer air temperature at a mid-latitude city. Int J Climatol 27:1243–1255. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fallmann J, Emeis S, Suppan P (2013) Mitigation of urban heat stress -a modelling case study for the area of Stuttgart. Erde 144:202–216. Google Scholar
  20. Fallmann J, Wagner S, Emeis S (2017) High resolution climate projections to assess the future vulnerability of European urban areas to climatological extreme events. Theor Appl Climatol 127:667–683. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fenner D, Meier F, Scherer D, Polze A (2014) Spatial and temporal air temperature variability in Berlin, Germany, during the years 2001–2010. Urban Clim 10(Part 2):308–331. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gibson PB, Pitman AJ, Lorenz R, Perkins-Kirkpatrick SE (2017) The role of circulation and land surface conditions in current and future australian heat waves. J Clim 30:9933–9948. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Guan H et al (2013) Characterisation, interpretation and implications of the Adelaide urban Heat Island. Flinders University, AdelaideGoogle Scholar
  24. Haashemi S, Weng Q, Darvishi A, Alavipanah SK (2016) Seasonal variations of the surface urban heat island in a semi-arid city. Remote Sens 8.
  25. Heaviside C, Cai XM, Vardoulakis S (2015) The effects of horizontal advection on the urban heat island in Birmingham and the West Midlands, United Kingdom during a heatwave. Q J R Meteorol Soc 141:1429–1441. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Karoly DJ (2009) The recent bushfires and extreme heat wave in southeast Australia. Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society 22:10–13Google Scholar
  27. Li D, Bou-Zeid E (2013) Synergistic interactions between urban heat islands and heat waves: the impact in cities is larger than the sum of its parts. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 52:2051–2064. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Li D, Sun T, Liu M, Yang L, Wang L, Gao Z (2015) Contrasting responses of urban and rural surface energy budgets to heat waves explain synergies between urban heat islands and heat waves. Environ Res Lett 10.
  29. Loughnan M, Nicholls N, Tapper N (2010) Mortality-temperature thresholds for ten major population centres in rural Victoria, Australia. Health Place 16:1287–1290. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Loughnan ME, Tapper NJ, Thu P, Lynch K, McInnes JA (2013) A spatial vulnerability analysis of urban populations during extreme heat events in Australian capital cities. National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold CoastGoogle Scholar
  31. Meehl GA, Tebaldi C (2004) More intense, more frequent, and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century. Science 305:994–997. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morris CJG, Simmonds I (2000) Associations between varying magnitudes of the urban heat island and the synoptic climatology in Melbourne, Australia. Int J Climatol 20:1931–1954.<1931::aid-joc578>;2-d CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nicholls N, Skinner C, Loughnan M, Tapper N (2008) A simple heat alert system for Melbourne, Australia. Int J Biometeorol 52:375–384. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Oke TR (1973) City size and the urban heat island. Atmos Environ Part A Gen Top 7:769–779. Google Scholar
  35. Oke TR (1982) The energetic basis of the urban heat island. Q J R Meteorol Soc 108:1–24. Google Scholar
  36. Oke TR, Johnson GT, Steyn DG, Watson ID (1991) Simulation of surface urban heat islands under ‘ideal’ conditions at night part 2: diagnosis of causation. Bound-Layer Meteorol 56:339–358. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Parker TJ, Berry GJ, Reeder MJ (2013) The influence of tropical cyclones on heat waves in southeastern Australia. Geophys Res Lett 40:6264–6270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Perkins SE, Alexander LV, Nairn JR (2012) Increasing frequency, intensity and duration of observed global heatwaves and warm spells. Geophys Res Lett 39
  39. Pezza AB, van Rensch P, Cai W (2012) Severe heat waves in Southern Australia: synoptic climatology and large scale connections. Clim Dyn 38:209–224. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rasul A, Balzter H, Smith C (2015) Spatial variation of the daytime surface urban cool island during the dry season in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, from Landsat 8. Urban Clim 14:176–186. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ramamurthy P, Bou-Zeid E (2017) Heatwaves and urban heat islands: a comparative analysis of multiple cities. J Geophys Res 122:168–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stull R (2006) 9 - The atmospheric boundary layer. In: Wallace JM, Hobbs PV (eds) Atmospheric science, 2nd edn. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 375–417. Google Scholar
  43. Trewin B (2013) A daily homogenized temperature data set for Australia. Int J Climatol 33:1510–1529. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tryhorn L, Risbey J (2006) On the distribution of heat waves over the Australian region. Aust Meteorol Mag 55:169–182Google Scholar
  45. Williams S, Nitschke M, Weinstein P, Pisaniello DL, Parton KA, Bi P (2012) The impact of summer temperatures and heatwaves on mortality and morbidity in Perth, Australia 1994–2008. Environ Int 40:33–38. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zhang B, Xie GD, Gao JX, Yang Y (2014) The cooling effect of urban green spaces as a contribution to energy-saving and emission-reduction: a case study in Beijing, China. Build Environ 76:37–43. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zhou Y, Shepherd JM (2010) Atlanta’s urban heat island under extreme heat conditions and potential mitigation strategies. Nat Hazards 52:639–668. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cassandra D. W. Rogers
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Ailie J. E. Gallant
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nigel J. Tapper
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Earth, Atmosphere and EnvironmentMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.CRC for Water Sensitive CitiesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  3. 3.ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System ScienceMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

Personalised recommendations