Using “Local Climate Zones” to Detect Urban Heat Island on Two Small Cities in Alabama
Classifying “urban” and “rural” environments is a challenge in understanding urban climate, specifically urban heat islands (UHIs). Stewart and Oke developed the “local climate zone” (LCZ) classification system to clarify these distinctions using 17 unique groups. This system has been applied to many areas around the world, but few studies have attempted to utilize them to detect UHI effects in smaller cities. Our aim was to use the LCZ classification system 1) to detect UHI in two small cities in Alabama and 2) to determine whether similar zones experienced similar intensity or magnitude of UHIs. For 1 week, we monitored hourly temperature in two cities, in four zones: compact low-rise, open low-rise, dense forests, and water. We found that urban zones were often warmer for overall, daytime, and nighttime temperatures relative to rural zones (from −0.1° to 2.8°C). In addition, we found that temperatures between cities in similar zones were not very similar, indicating that the LCZ system does not predict UHI intensity equally in places with similar background climates. We found that the LCZ classification system was easy to use, and we recognize its potential as a tool for urban ecologists and urban planners.