NWC REU 2010
May 25 - July 30



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Toward an Analysis of the Influence of the Urban Heat Island Effect on Single-Cell Convective Cloud Trajectories

Joshua Turner, and Brian Vant-Hull


What is already known:

  • Urban bifurcation of convective thunderstorms due to Urban Heat Islands witnessed through case sutdies, particularly of Atlanta and New York City.
  • Building-barrier divergence effect causes radar echo and precipitation maxima downwind of the UHI.

What this study adds:

  • Preliminary results seem to suggest a possible effect of UHIs on convective cloud trajectories.
  • More factors on cloud propagation need to be accounted for, and a more regional/localized study of UHIs would yield more conclusive results.


This is an initial analysis of how the Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect influences convective cloud trajectories. Case studies have been done in the past that demonstrate the observed movement of convective storms around various urban areas like Atlanta and New York City. This analysis uses the GOES-East satellite to track single-cell convective cloud towers (SCCTs) and the algorithm for following the SCCT tracks them using infrared data from satellite observations taken at 15-minute intervals. Matlab was then used to filter and extract suitable trajectories by using thresholds on both speed and direction. Following the filters to determine viable trajectories, another process was developed to determine where along the trajectory there existed a significant deviation in the propagation of the particular SCCT. After these specific perturbations in trajectory angle were found, they were then cross-referenced with locations of urban areas in the domain using a density plot to determine where the highest concentration of significant perturbation points occurred.

Full Paper [PDF]