Basic Principles of Urban Heat Island Effects

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  • 0:01 Hot Islands
  • 0:25 Urban Heat Islands
  • 1:33 Formation of an Uhi
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Even though some cities are not on an actual island, they may still be considered urban heat islands. This lesson outlines the basic principles behind urban heat island effects.

Hot Islands

Do you live on an island known for its heat? Maybe you live in the Bahamas or in the Dominican Republic. Did you know that you can also live in a relatively hot island if you live in Chicago? And, yes, I know Chicago isn't an island in the traditional sense, but it is an urban heat island.

The basic principles of what an urban heat island is and how it forms will be outlined for you in this lesson.

Urban Heat Islands

An urban heat island (UHI) is a metropolitan area that is much warmer than its surrounding rural areas. Basically, we're talking cities here. Namely, cities with lots of asphalt, little vegetation, and lots of tall buildings - Chicago, New York, LA, Shanghai, Tokyo, and so on.

How much warmer is an urban heat island than its surrounding areas? On average, about ten degrees Fahrenheit.

To begin understanding the basics of why this is the case, just imagine what you'd see out in the country: lots of green trees, grass, open fields, windy forests, few buildings, and few roads. And then imagine transporting yourself to a large city. How would this be different? Few trees or grass. Open fields replaced by tall buildings. Little wind blowing in any one direction as you walk the narrow streets in between the huge buildings. Lots of roads and lots of cars. It's these visual, structural, and environmental variances that create differences between the temperature of an urban area compared to a nearby rural area.

The Formation of a UHI

Knowing all of this, why is an urban heat island formed? Care to guess? Is it because:

A.) Tall buildings reduce wind speeds that would help disperse the heat in an otherwise open area of land.
B.) Lots of densely placed tall buildings trap energy in their walls, radiating out that hot energy into the surrounding environment, much like a canyon would.
C.) Cities are full of asphalt and concrete that absorb, as opposed to reflect, the sun's heat.
D.) Cities have little vegetation, vegetation that provides natural cooling in the form of shade.

What's the answer? All of the above and a whole lot more! In fact, a lot more.

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