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Observed and Simulated Urban Heat Island and Urban Cool Island in Las Vegas
AdvisorMejia, John F
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This research investigates the urban climate of Las Vegas and establishes long-term trends relative to the regional climate in an attempt to identify climate disturbances strictly related to urban growth. An experimental surface station network (DRI-UHI) of low-cost surface temperature (T2m) and relative humidity (RH) sensors were designed to cover under-sampled low-intensity residential urban areas, as well as complement the in-city and surrounding rural areas. In addition to the analysis of the surface station data, high-resolution gridded data products (GDPs) from Daymet (1km) and PRISM (800 m) and results from numerical simulations were used to further characterize the Las Vegas climate trends. The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model was coupled with three different models: the Noah Land Surface Model (LSM) and a single- and multi-layer urban canopy model (UCM) to assess the urban related climate disturbances; as well as the model sensitivity and ability to characterize diurnal variability and rural/urban thermal contrasts. The simulations consisted of 1 km grid size for five, one month-long hindcast simulations during November of 2012: (i) using the Noah LSM without UCM treatment, (ii) same as (i) with a single-layer UCM (UCM1), (iii) same as (i) with a multi-layer UCM (UCM2), (iv) removing the City of Las Vegas (NC) and replacing it with predominant land cover (shrub), and (v) same as (ii) with increasing the albedo of rooftops from 0.20 to 0.65 as a potential adaptation scenario known as "white roofing".T2m long-term trends showed a regional warming of minimum temperatures (Tmin) and negligible trends in maximum temperatures (Tmax). By isolating the regional temperature trends, an observed urban heat island (UHI) of ~1.63°C was identified as well as a daytime urban cool island (UCI) of ~0.15°C. GDPs agree with temperature trends but tend to underpredict UHI intensity by ~1.05°C. The WRF-UCM showed strong correlations with observed T2m (0.85 < ρ < 0.95) and vapor pressure (ea; 0.83 < ρ < 0.88), and moderate-to-strong correlations for RH (0.64 < ρ < 0.81) at the 95% confidence level. UCM1 shows the best skill and adequately simulates most of the UHI and UCI observed characteristics. Differences of LSM, UCM1, and UCM2 minus NC show simulated effects of warmer in-city Tmin for LSM and UCM2, and cooler in-city Tmax for UCM1 and UCM2. Finally, the white roofing scenario for Las Vegas was not found to significantly impact the UHI effect but has the potential to reduce daytime temperature by 1°-2°C.