Urban heat island effects on human heat-stress values during the July 2006 Portland, Oregon heat wave

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Exhibit Hall B2 (GWCC)
R. Bornstein, San Jose State Univ., San Jose, CA; and A. Melford

The Heat Index (HI), a measure of the effective temperature felt by the human body, is based on both 2 m air temperature and relative humidity (RH) values. This NWS index, however, is generally calculated by use of only airport data. It thus cannot account for urban heat island (UHI) effects, which would raise the temperature (T) values used in its calculation, create greater HI values, and thus more accurate estimates of the danger to human populations.

The current study thus uses 12 mesoscale sites around Portland, Oregon to map the UHI and resulting HI fields during the heat wave of 20-24 July, 2006. Past studies have observed UHIs in the area, but temperatures during this heat wave were unusually high due to a combination of synoptic influences, i.e., high temperatures aloft and a surface high pressure area. The associated surface southerly flow of moist air also produced high RH values during both daytime (which raised HI values) and nighttime (which kept min temperatures high).

Results showed two separate Portland midday UHI centers (of up to 160F), divided by the Willamette River that flows through the city. The UHI produced significant differences in the HI values across the city, with the highest variability during the 22nd of July. HI values from the airport NWS site were much lower (up to 200F) than those from the center of the UHI. An urbanized HI needs to thus be considered (either from mesoscale observations, statistical extrapolation, or mesoscale modeling) when forecasting HI values in urban areas.