Paradoxical impact of sprawling intra-Urban Heat Islets: Reducing mean surface temperatures while enhancing local extremes

Anamika Shreevastava, Saiprasanth Bhalachandran, Gavan S. McGrath, Matthew Huber, P. Suresh C. Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Extreme heat is one of the deadliest health hazards that is projected to increase in intensity and persistence in the near future. Here, we tackle the problem of spatially heterogeneous heat distribution within urban areas. We develop a novel multi-scale metric of identifying emerging heat clusters at various percentile-based thermal thresholds and refer to them collectively as intra-Urban Heat Islets. Using remotely sensed Land Surface Temperatures, we first quantify the spatial organization of heat islets in cities at various degrees of sprawl and densification. We then condense the size, spacing, and intensity information about heterogeneous clusters into probability distributions that can be described using single scaling exponents (denoted by β, Λs c o r e, and λ, respectively). This allows for a seamless comparison of the heat islet characteristics across cities at varying spatial scales and improves on the traditional Surface Urban Heat Island (SUHI) Intensity as a bulk metric. Analysis of Heat Islet Size distributions demonstrates the emergence of two classes where the dense cities follow a Pareto distribution, and the sprawling cities show an exponential tempering of Pareto tail. This indicates a significantly reduced probability of encountering large heat islets for sprawling cities. In contrast, analysis of Heat Islet Intensity distributions indicates that while a sprawling configuration is favorable for reducing the mean SUHI Intensity of a city, for the same mean, it also results in higher local thermal extremes. This poses a paradox for urban designers in adopting expansion or densification as a growth trajectory to mitigate the UHI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19681
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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