UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Daytime Thermal Anisotropy of Urban Neighbourhoods : Morphological Causation Krayenhoff, E. S.; Voogt, James A.


Surface temperature is a key variable in boundary-layer meteorology and is typically acquired by remote observation of emitted thermal radiation. However, the three-dimensional structure of cities complicates matters: uneven solar heating of urban facets produces an “effective anisotropy” of surface thermal emission at the neighbourhood scale. Remotely-sensed urban surface temperature varies with sensor view angle as a consequence. The authors combine a microscale urban surface temperature model with a thermal remote sensing model to predict the effective anisotropy of simplified neighbourhood configurations. The former model provides detailed surface temperature distributions for a range of “urban” forms, and the remote sensing model computes aggregate temperatures for multiple view angles. The combined model’s ability to reproduce observed anisotropy is evaluated against measurements from a neighbourhood in Vancouver, Canada. As in previous modeling studies, anisotropy is underestimated. Addition of moderate coverages of small (sub-facet scale) structure can account for much of the missing anisotropy. Subsequently, over 1900 sensitivity simulations are performed with the model combination, and the dependence of daytime effective thermal anisotropy on diurnal solar path (i.e., latitude and time of day) and blunt neighbourhood form is assessed. The range of effective anisotropy, as well as the maximum difference from nadir-observed brightness temperature, peak for moderate building-height-to-spacing ratios (H/W), and scale with canyon (between-building) area; dispersed high-rise urban forms generate maximum anisotropy. Maximum anisotropy increases with solar elevation and scales with shortwave irradiance. Moreover, it depends linearly on H/W for H/W < 1.25, with a slope that depends on maximum off-nadir sensor angle. Decreasing minimum brightness temperature is primarily responsible for this linear growth of maximum anisotropy. These results allow first order estimation of the minimum effective anisotropy magnitude of urban neighbourhoods as a function of building-height-to-spacing ratio, building plan area density, and shortwave irradiance. Finally, four “local climate zones” are simulated at two latitudes. Removal of neighbourhood street orientation regularity for these zones decreases maximum anisotropy by 3%–31%. Furthermore, thermal and radiative material properties are a weaker predictor of anisotropy than neighbourhood morphology. This study is the first systematic evaluation of effective anisotropy magnitude and causation for urban landscapes.

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