U.K. climate projections: Opposite summer daytime and night-time urban heat island changes in England’s major cities

Eunice Lo, Dann Mitchell, Sylvia Bohnenstengel, Matthew Collins, Ed Hawkins, Gabriele C. Hegerl, Manoj Joshi, Peter Stott

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In the United Kingdom, where 90% of residents are projected to live in urban areas by 2050, projecting changes in urban heat islands (UHIs) is essential to municipal adaptation. Increased summer temperatures are linked to increased mortality. Using the new regional U.K. Climate Projections, UKCP18-regional, we estimate the 1981-2079 trends in summer urban and rural near-surface air temperatures and in UHI intensities during day and at night in the 10 most populous built-up areas in England. Summer temperatures increase by 0.458-0.818C per decade under RCP8.5, depending on the time of day and location. Nighttime temperatures increase more in urban than rural areas, enhancing the nighttime UHI by 0.018-0.058C per decade in all cities. When these upward UHI signals emerge from 2008-18 variability, positive summer nighttime UHI intensities of up to 1.88C are projected in most cities. However, we can prevent most of these upward nighttime UHI signals from emerging by stabilizing climate to the Paris Agreement target of 28C above preindustrial levels. In contrast, daytime UHI intensities decrease in nine cities, at rates between 20.0048 and 20.058C per decade, indicating a trend toward a reduced daytime UHI effect. These changes reflect different feedbacks over urban and rural areas and are specific to UKCP18-regional. Future research is important to better understand the drivers of these UHI intensity changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9015-9030
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number20
Early online date23 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020


  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Climate change
  • Climate models
  • Temperature
  • Trends

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