How will the urban heat island in growing cities behave under climate change


How will the urban heat island in growing cities behave under climate change


Project Description


Dr Clare Goodess (UEA Environmental Sciences)

Prof Corinne Le Quéré (UEA)

Scientific background

It is well known that most cities are warmer than their surrounding environment. This Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect is caused by changes in the way heat is exchanged in the built environment. Published studies show that the UHI grows initially as cities develop, but tends to saturate when urbanization reaches a certain level of maturity. However, because of the lack of a global synthesis of UHI characteristics, we do not fully understand what influences UHIs across a range of geographical and climate settings. Therefore it is hard to recommend if and how it could be minimized, particularly in the context of growing cities and a changing climate due to human influences. Here we propose to fill this gap.

Research methodology

The PhD candidate will first make a systematic assessment of UHI warming based on all relevant existing data. With this new data synthesis, the candidate will attempt to determine relationships between the characteristics of the UHI (i.e. its magnitude, change over time, extremes, and night/day properties), and (1) the stage of urbanization of a city, (2) environmental variables such as mean temperature, humidity, prevalent wind direction, distance from coast, elevation, and (3) the type of city and its urban design (e.g., size, compactness, green space, water bodies, building height). The project will also explore the implications of projected UHI effects this century for heat-related health burden, and if possible propose effective solutions to minimise it.


The successful candidate will be trained to develop and use large datasets (what to include, how to quality-control, use of statistics, handling of uncertainty) including satellite data and climate model outputs. The candidate will work across the Climatic Research Unit and Tyndall Centre at UEA and interact with international experts, policymakers (such as the World Health Organization) and stakeholders from a range of cities and disciplines.

Person specification

This project is particularly suitable for candidates with first degrees in any sciences and an interest in the environment and climate change (including physics, mathematics, engineering, computer sciences, and earth and environmental sciences).



  • McCarthy, M., Harpham, C., Goodess, C.M. and Jones, P.D. (2012). Simulating climate change in UK cities using a regional climate model, HadRM3. International Journal of Climatology, DOI:10.1002/JOC.2402.
  • Jenkins, K., Hall, J., Glenis, V., Kilsby, C., McCarthy, M., Goodess, C., Smith, D., Malleson, N. and Birkin, M. (2014) Probabilistic spatial risk assessment of heat impacts and adaptations for London. Climatic Change, 124, 105-117.
  • Zhou, B., Rybski, D. and Kropp, J.P. (2013) On the statistics of urban heat island intensity. Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 5486-5491, doi: 10.1002/2013GL057320.
  • Jones, P.D., Lister, D.H. (2009) The urban heat island in Central London and urban-related warming trends in Central London since 1900. Weather, 64, 323-327.
  • Creutzig, F. P. Agoston, J. Minx, J.G. Canadell, R. Andrews, C. Le Quéré, G.P Peters, A. Sharifi, Y. Yamagata, S. Dhakal (2016) Urban infrastructure choices structure climate solutions. Nature Climate Change, 6, 1054-1056.

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