Detecting urbanization effects on surface and subsurface thermal environment--a case study of Osaka

Sci Total Environ. 2009 Apr 15;407(9):3142-52. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.04.019. Epub 2008 Jun 2.


Tremendous efforts have been devoted to improve our understanding of the anthropogenic effects on the atmospheric temperature change. In comparison, little has been done in the study of the human impacts on the subsurface thermal environment. The objective of this study is to analyze surface air temperature records and borehole subsurface temperature records for a better understanding of the urban heat island effects across the ground surface. The annual surface air temperature time series from six meteorological stations and six deep borehole temperature profiles of high qualities show that Osaka has been undergoing excess warming since late 19th century. The mean warming rate in Osaka surface air temperature is about 2.0 degrees C/100a over the period from 1883 to 2006, at least half of which can be attributed to the urban heat island effects. However, this surface air temperature warming is not as strong as the ground warming recorded in the subsurface temperature profiles. The surface temperature anomaly from the Osaka meteorological record can only account for part of the temperature anomaly recorded in the borehole temperature profiles. Surface air temperature is conventionally measured around 1.5 m above the ground; whereas borehole temperatures are measured from rocks in the subsurface. Heat conduction in the subsurface is much less efficient than the heat convection of the air above the ground surface. Therefore, the anthropogenic thermal impacts on the subsurface can be more persistent and profound than the impacts on the atmosphere. This study suggests that the surface air temperature records alone might underestimate the full extent of urban heat island effects on the subsurface environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Environment*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Greenhouse Effect*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Japan
  • Urbanization*