Previous analysis of Oklahoma City (OKC), Oklahoma, temperature data indicated that urban heat islands (UHIs) frequently formed at night and the observed UHI intensity was variable (1°-4°C). The current study focuses on identifying meteorological phenomena that contributed to the variability of nocturnal UHI intensity in OKC during July 2003. Two episodes, one with a strong UHI signature and one with a weak signature, were studied in detail using observations along with simulations with the Weather Research and Forecasting model. Mechanical mixing associated with low-level jets (LLJs) played a critical role in moderating the nocturnal UHI intensity. During nights with weak LLJs or in the absence of LLJs, vertical mixing weakened at night and strong temperature inversions developed in the rural surface layer as a result of radiative cooling. The shallow stable boundary layer (SBL < 200 m) observed under such conditions was strongly altered inside the city because rougher and warmer surface characteristics caused vertical mixing that eroded the near-surface inversion. Accordingly, temperatures measured within the urban canopy layer at night were consistently higher than at nearby rural sites of comparable height (by ∼3°-4°C). During nights with strong LLJs, however, the jets facilitated enhanced turbulent mixing in the nocturnal boundary layer. As a consequence, atmospheric stability was much weaker and urban effects played a much less prominent role in altering the SBL structure; therefore, UHI intensities were smaller (<1°C) during strong LLJs. The finding that rural inversion strength can serve as an indicator for UHI intensity highlights that the structure of the nocturnal boundary layer is important for UHI assessments.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science