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  1. Abstract Tree cover is generally associated with cooler air temperatures in urban environments but the roles of canopy configuration, spatial context, and time of day are not well understood. The ability to examine spatiotemporal relationships between trees and urban climate has been hindered by lack of appropriate air temperature data and, perhaps, by overreliance on a single ‘tree canopy’ class, obscuring the mechanisms by which canopy cools. Here, we use >70 000 air temperature measurements collected by car throughout Washington, DC, USA in predawn (pd), afternoon (aft), and evening (eve) campaigns on a hot summer day. We subdivided tree canopy into ‘soft’ (over unpaved surfaces) and ‘hard’ (over paved surfaces) canopy classes and further partitioned soft canopy into distributed (narrow edges) and clumped patches (edges with interior cores). At each level of subdivision, we predicted air temperature anomalies using generalized additive models for each time of day. We found that the all-inclusive ‘tree canopy’ class cooled linearly at every time (pd = 0.5 °C ± 0.3 °C, aft = 1.8 °C ± 0.6 °C, eve = 1.7 °C ± 0.4 °C), but could be explained in the afternoon by aggregate effects of predominant hard and soft canopy cooling at lowmore »and high canopy cover, respectively. Soft canopy cooled nonlinearly in the afternoon with minimal effect until ∼40% cover but strongly (and linearly) across all cover fractions in the evening (pd = 0.7 °C ± 1.1 °C, aft = 2.0 °C ± 0.7 °C, eve = 2.9 °C ± 0.6 °C). Patches cooled at all times of day despite uneven allocation throughout the city, whereas more distributed canopy cooled in predawn and evening due to increased shading. This later finding is important for urban heat island mitigation planning since it is easier to find planting spaces for distributed trees rather than forest patches.« less
  2. The urban heat island (UHI) concept describes heat trapping that elevates urban temperatures relative to rural temperatures, at least in temperate/humid regions. In drylands, urban irrigation can instead produce an urban cool island (UCI) effect. However, the UHI/UCI characterization suffers from uncertainty in choosing representative urban/rural endmembers, an artificial dichotomy between UHIs and UCIs, and lack of consistent terminology for other patterns of thermal variation at nested scales. We use the case of a historically well-enforced urban growth boundary (UGB) around Portland (Oregon, USA): to explore the representativeness of the surface temperature UHI (SUHI) as derived from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land surface temperature data, to test common assumptions of characteristically “warm” or “cool” land covers (LCs), and to name other common urban thermal features of interest. We find that the UGB contains heat as well as sprawl, inducing a sharp surface temperature contrast across the urban/rural boundary. The contrast ranges widely depending on the end-members chosen, across a spectrum from positive (SUHI) to negative (SUCI) values. We propose a new, inclusive “urban thermal deviation” (UTD) term to span the spectrum of possible UHI-zero-UCI conditions. We also distinguish at finer scales “microthermal extremes” (MTEs), discrete areas tending in themore »same thermal direction as their LC or surroundings but to extreme (hot or cold) values, and microthermal anomalies (MTAs), that run counter to thermal expectations or tendencies for their LC or surroundings. The distinction is important because MTEs suggest a need for moderation in the local thermal landscape, whereas MTAs may suggest solutions.« less