Diurnal interaction between urban expansion, climate change and adaptation in US cities


Climate change and urban development are projected to substantially warm US cities, yet dynamic interaction between these two drivers of urban heat may modify the warming. Here, we show that business-as-usual GHG-induced warming and corresponding urban expansion would interact nonlinearly, reducing summer night-time warming by 0.5 K over the twenty-first century in most US regions. Nevertheless, large projected warming remains, particularly at night when the degree of urban expansion warming approaches that of climate change. Joint, high-intensity implementation of adaptation strategies, including cool and evaporative roofs and street trees, decreases projected daytime mean and extreme heat, but region- and emissions scenario-dependent nocturnal warming of 2–7 K persists. A novel adaptation strategy—lightweight urban materials—yields ~1 K night-time cooling and minor daytime warming in denser areas. Our findings highlight the diurnal interplay of urban warming and adaptation cooling, and underscore the inability of infrastructure-based adaptation to offset projected night-time warming, and the consequent necessity for simultaneous emissions reductions.

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Fig. 1: Summertime urban air temperature change resulting from the dynamically interactive combination of 90 years of projected urban expansion and climate change (2090–2099 compared with 2000–2009).
Fig. 2: Summertime nocturnal (03:00 LMST) urban air temperature change resulting from the dynamic interaction between 90 years of projected urban expansion and climate change.
Fig. 3: Diurnal variation of summertime urban air temperature change by US region resulting from select individual drivers.
Fig. 4: Change to the summertime diurnal range of urban air temperature by US region resulting from select individual drivers.
Fig. 5: Summertime urban air temperature change resulting from the interactive combination of 90 years of projected urban expansion and climate change, and full adaptation.
Fig. 6: Yearly increase in extreme heat afternoons by the end of the century resulting from the interactive combination of urban warming drivers and potential adaptation implementations.

Data availability

Regional climate simulation output supporting the findings of this study is accessible at https://erams.com/UWIN/asu-conus-urban-and-climate-change-assessment-data/


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This work was supported by National Science Foundation Sustainability Research Network Cooperative Agreement 1444758, the Urban Water Innovation Network, and NSF grants SES-1520803 and EAR‐1204774. The authors acknowledge support from Research Computing at Arizona State University for the provision of high-performance supercomputing services. We also thank A. Martilli for helpful discussions.

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E.S.K., M.M. and M.G. designed the research. E.S.K., M.M., A.M.B. and M.G. performed the model simulations. E.S.K., A.M.B. and V.G. analysed the model output. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to E. Scott Krayenhoff or Matei Georgescu.

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Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–22, Supplementary Tables 1–3, Supplementary References

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Krayenhoff, E.S., Moustaoui, M., Broadbent, A.M. et al. Diurnal interaction between urban expansion, climate change and adaptation in US cities. Nature Clim Change 8, 1097–1103 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0320-9

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