THE ROLE OF URBAN VEGETATION IN TEMPERATURE AND HEAT ISLAND EFFECTS IN QUERÉTARO CITY, MEXICO

Maria L. Colunga, Víctor Hugo Cambrón-Sandoval, Humberto Suzán-Azpiri, Aurelio Guevara-Escobar, Hugo Luna-Soria

Abstract

Alteration of climatic conditions and the urban heat island effect (UHI) are consequences of increased human population and activities in urban zones. Determining the magnitude of the UHI is important to improve urban planning in medium-size cities like Querétaro. Increase and conservation of vegetated areas is a mitigation option for UHI. Here we characterized both the UHI and the role of vegetation cover over temperature regularization in urban zones. Four local climatic zones were defined: three urban and one rural, each with two plots with low and high canopy cover defined by their average leaf area index (0.5 and 2.0, respectively). Air temperature and relative humidity were measured with data loggers at a 30 min time step from June 2012 to May 2013. Climatic data from six weather stations was also analyzed. Daily mean temperature increased at a rate of 0.75 ºC per decade (r2 = 0.38, P < 0.0001), and this was related to population dynamics (r2 = 0.52, P < 0.0001). Patterns of air temperature defined a cold and a warm season: July to March and April to June for maximum temperature, and November to March and April to October for minimum temperature. The difference between cold and warm seasons was 5 ºC (P < 0.0001). The minimum temperature was similar between canopy cover levels. However, relative humidity was higher in high canopy cover plots. The relationship between UHI and the pervious surface fraction of the city was inversely proportional. The UHI ranged from 0.1 to 5 ºC and this magnitude was similar between the warm and cold seasons. Vegetation with high canopy cover had lower temperature at 17:00 LT and higher at 9:00 to 10:00 LT during the warm season. Increasing the urban zone canopy cover by 50% would reduce the UHI by 2.05 ºC. In conclusion, vegetation with higher canopy cover improved environmental conditions in terms of relative humidity and regularization of extreme temperatures during the warm season.

 

Keywords

Climate change, urban heat island effect, urban planning, Querétaro, vegetation.

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