Characterizing the urban heat island in current and future climates in New Jersey

Cynthia Rosenzweig, William D. Solecki, Lily Parshall, Mark Chopping, Gregory Pope, Richard Goldberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Climate change caused by increased anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases is a long-term climate hazard with the potential to alter the intensity, temporal pattern, and spatial extent of the urban heat island (UHI) in metropolitan regions. Particular meteorological conditions—including high temperature, low cloud cover, and low average wind speed—tend to intensify the heat island effect. Analyses of existing archived climate data for the vicinities of Newark and Camden, New Jersey indicate urban to suburban/rural temperature differences over the previous half-century. Surface temperatures derived from a Landsat thermal image for each site were also analyzed for spatial patterns of heat islands. Potential interactions between the UHI effect and projected changes in temperature, wind speed, and cloud cover are then examined under a range of climate change scenarios, encompassing different greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. The scenarios include those utilized in the Metropolitan East Coast Regional Assessment of Climate Variability and Change and the A2 and B2 scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). The UHI effect was detected in Newark and Camden in both satellite surface-temperature and meteorological station airtemperature records. The average difference in urban—nonurban minimum temperatures was 3.0 °C for the Newark area and 1.5 °C for Camden. Extrapolation of current trends and the selected global climate models (GCMs) project that temperatures in the case study areas will continue to warm in the current century, as they have over the past half-century. An initial analysis of global climate scenarios shows that wind speed may decline, and that cloud cover may increase in the coming decades. These generally small countervailing tendencies suggest that urban—nonurban temperature differences may be maintained under climate change. Overall warmer conditions throughout the year may extend the spatial and temporal dimensions of the urban-suburban heat complex. The incidence of heat-related morbidity and mortality are likely to increase with interactions between the increased frequency and duration of heat waves and the UHI effect. Camden and Newark will likely be subjected to higher temperatures, and areas experiencing UHI-like conditions and temperature extremes will expand. Thus, urban heat island-related hazard potential is likely to increase in a warmer climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Hazards
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Climate change
  • Climate of New Jersey
  • Urban climate
  • Urban heat island


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