DOI: 10.1029/2023jd038764 ISSN: 2169-897X

Albedo as a Competing Warming Effect of Urban Greening

Hannah L. Schlaerth, Sam J. Silva, Yun Li, Dan Li
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics


Urban greening is often proposed for urban heat island (UHI) mitigation because vegetation provides shade and increases evapotranspiration. However, vegetation has lower albedo and higher emissivity than the bare soil it often replaces, which increases incoming energy fluxes. Here, we use the Weather Research and Forecasting model to quantify and compare the albedo and non‐albedo effects (i.e., changes in emissivity, surface roughness, and evaporative fluxes) of urban greening in the Los Angeles Basin under policy relevant urban greening scenarios. When albedo‐induced effects were included in the model, daytime surface temperatures in urban areas warmed by 0.70 ± 0.89°C with increases in the sensible heat flux outweighing increases in the latent heat flux from increased evapotranspiration. In contrast, daytime surface temperatures cooled by 0.27 ± 0.72°C when the albedo‐induced effects were ignored. At night, including albedo‐induced effects of urban greening resulted in only half the cooling modeled in the non‐albedo simulations. Near surface air temperatures also had contrasting model results, with nighttime cooling of 0.21 ± 0.47°C outweighing slight daytime warming of 0.04 ± 0.32°C in the non‐albedo simulations and daytime warming of 0.33 ± 0.41°C outweighing slight nighttime cooling of 0.05 ± 0.46°C in the albedo simulations. Our results reveal the critical role that albedo plays in determining the net surface climate effects of urban greening. Reductions in albedo from urban greening should be carefully considered by policy makers and urban planners, especially as high albedo roofs and pavements are simultaneously being deployed for UHI mitigation in many cities.

More from our Archive