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High-resolution climatic characterization of air temperature in the urban canopy layer


Urbanized environments are of greater relevance because of the high and still rapidly increasing percentage of the world population living in and around cities and as the preferred location of human activities of every type. For this reason, much attention is paid to the urban climate worldwide. Among the UN 2030 17 Sustainable Development Goals, at least one concerns resilient cities and climate action. The WMO supports these goals promoting safe, healthy, and resilient cities by developing specially tailored integrated urban weather, climate, and environmental services. An unavoidable basis for that is an improved observational capability of urban weather and climate, as well as high-resolution modeling. For both the former and the latter, and of primary importance for the latter, urban meteorological surface networks are undoubtedly a very useful basis. Nevertheless, they are often unfit for detailed urban climatological studies and they are generally unable to describe the air temperature field in the urban canopy layer (UCL) with a spatial resolution which is sufficient to satisfy the requirements set by several professional activities and especially for local adaptation measures to climate change. On the other hand, remote sensing data from space offer a much higher spatial resolution of the surface characteristics, although the frequency is still relatively lower. A useful climatological variable from space is, for instance, the land surface temperature (LST), one of the WMO Essential Climate Variables (ECV). So often used to describe the Surface Urban Heat Islands (S-UHI), LST has no simple correlation with UCL air temperature, which is the most crucial variable for planning and management purposes in cities. In this work, after a review of correlation and interpolation methods and some experimentation, the cokriging methodology to obtain surface air temperature is proposed. The implemented methodology uses high quality but under-sampled in situ measurements of air temperature at the top of UCL, obtained by using a dedicated urban network, and satellite-derived LST. The satellite data used are taken at medium (1 × 1 km2) resolution from Copernicus Sentinel 3 and at high resolution (30 × 30 m2) from NASA-USGS Landsat 8. This fully exportable cokriging-based methodology, which also provides a quantitative measure of the related uncertainties, was tested and used to obtain medium to high spatial resolution air temperature maps of Milan (Italy) and the larger, much populated, but also partly rural, surrounding area of about 6000 km2. Instantaneous as well as long period mean fields of fine spatially resolved air temperature obtained by this method for selected weather types and different Urban Heat Island configurations represent an important knowledge improvement for the climatology of the urban and peri-urban area of Milan. It finds application not only in more detailed urban climate studies but also in monitoring the effects of urban activities and for the assessment of adaptation and mitigation measures in the urban environment. Finally, the first set of interactive maps of medium–high resolution UCL air temperature was produced in the framework of the locally funded ClimaMi project and made freely available to urban authorities and professionals as an improved climatological basis for present and future plans and projects to be developed in the framework of the national and international adaptation and mitigation measures.

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Part of this research would not have been possible without ESA Copernicus Sentinel 3 and NASA- U.S. Geological Survey Landsat 8 data.

We are grateful to Susanna Di Lernia (FOMD) for reviewing the text, and to both the anonymous reviewers for their much-appreciated comments and suggestions.

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Authors and Affiliations



Enea Montoli developed and applied the cokriging methodology, Giuseppe Frustaci selected and provided the satellite data, the UHI classification, and edited most of the article. Cristina Lavecchia produced the GIS maps and supervised all the activities in the framework of the ClimaMi Project (co-funded by Fondazione Cariplo), Samantha Pilati organized the AWS DB, selected external stations, and provided the weather classification.

All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Giuseppe Frustaci.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Montoli, E., Frustaci, G., Lavecchia, C. et al. High-resolution climatic characterization of air temperature in the urban canopy layer. Bull. of Atmos. Sci.& Technol. 2, 7 (2021).

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  • Air temperature
  • Land surface temperature
  • Urban canopy layer
  • Urban heat island
  • Cokriging