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An Investigation into the Spatial Variability of Near-Surface Air Temperatures in the Detroit, Michigan, Metropolitan Region

Publication Abstract

Oswald, E., R. Rood, K. Zhang, C. Gronlund, M. O'Neill, J. White-Newsome, S. Brines, and Daniel G. Brown. 2012. "An Investigation into the Spatial Variability of Near-Surface Air Temperatures in the Detroit, Michigan, Metropolitan Region." Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 51(7): 1290-1304.

On an annual basis, heat is the chief cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. Therefore, understanding the temperature structure where people live is important for reducing the health burden imposed by hot weather. This study focused on the air temperatures in the Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan region during the summer of 2009. An observational network was established that included 1) monitors sited in the backyards of residential participants, 2) National Weather Service standard observations, and 3) a network of monitors operated by the State of Michigan. Daily high and low temperatures were analyzed for spatial pattern, magnitude of spatial variability, and relationships with weather conditions. The existence of spatial variability was confirmed specifically during weather that was considered to be dangerous to public health. The relationships between temperature observations and distance to water, distance to city center, and local percent of impervious surface were investigated. The spatial variability during the daily low was typically stronger in magnitude and the spatial pattern was more consistent than were those during the daily high. The largest correlation with land-cover and location attributes was between values of percent of impervious surface and daily low temperatures. Daily high temperatures were most correlated with distance to water. Consistent with previous studies on spatial variability in urban environments, the results suggest a need for sensitivity to the spatially variable nature of exposure to heat events in both public health and urban planning. For example, these results showed that the downtown area experienced elevated temperatures during nights and that the eastern portions of Detroit experienced decreased temperatures during afternoons.

DOI:10.1175/jamc-d-11-0127.1 (Full Text)

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