Resolving the influence of local flows on urban heat amplification during heatwaves

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Environmental Research Letters


Heatwaves have implications for human health and ecosystem function. Over cities, the impacts of a heatwave event may be compounded by urban heat, where temperatures over the urban area are higher than their rural surroundings. Coastal cities often rely upon sea breezes to provide temporary relief. However, topographic features contributing to the development of Foehn-like conditions can offset the cooling influence of sea breezes. Using convection-permitting simulations (4 km) we examine the potential for both mechanisms to influence heatwave conditions over the large coastal city of Sydney, Australia that is bordered by mountains. Heatwave onset in the hot period of January-February 2017 often coincides with a hot continental flow over the mountains into the city. The temperature difference between the coast and the urban-rural interface can reach 15.79 C. Further, the urban heat island contributes on average an additional 1 C in the lowest 1 km of the atmosphere and this often extends beyond the city limits. The cumulative heat induced by the urban environment reaches 10 C over the city and 3 C over adjacent inland areas. Strong sea breezes are important for heat dispersion with city temperature gradients reducing to within 1 C. The resolution permits a comparison between urban types and reveals that the diurnal cycle of temperature, moisture content and wind are sensitive to the urban type. Here we show that convection permitting simulations can resolve the interaction between local breezes and the urban environment that are not currently resolved in coarser resolution models.

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