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Normalised difference spectral indices and urban land cover as indicators of land surface temperature (LST)

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  • Cici Alexander
Land cover changes associated with urbanisation modify microclimate, leading to urban heat islands, whereby cities are warmer than the surrounding countryside. Understanding the factors causing this phenomenon could help urban areas adapt to climate change and improve living conditions of inhabitants. In this study, land surface temperatures (LST) of Aarhus, a city in the high latitudes, are estimated from the reflectance of a thermal band (TIRS1; Band 10; 10.60–11.19 μm) of Landsat 8 on five dates in the summer months (one in 2015, and four in 2018). Spectral indices, modelled on the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI), using all combinations of the first seven bands of Landsat 8 are calculated and their relationships with LST, analysed. Land cover characteristics, in terms of the percentages of tree cover, building cover and overall vegetation cover are estimated from airborne LiDAR data, building footprints and 4-band aerial imagery, respectively. The correlations between LST, the spectral indices and land cover are estimated.

The difference in mean temperature between the rural and urban parts of Aarhus is up to 3.96 °C, while the difference between the warmer and colder zones (based on the mean and SD of LST) is up to 13.26 °C. The spectral index using the near infrared band (NIR; Band 5; 0.85-0.88 μm) and a short-wave infrared band (SWIR2; Band 7; 2.11–2.29 μm) has the strongest correlations (r: 0.62 to 0.89) with LST for the whole study area. This index is the inverse of normalised burn ratio (NBR), which has been used for mapping burnt areas. Spectral indices using different combinations of the infrared bands have stronger correlations with LST than the more widely used vegetation indices such as NDVI. The percentage of tree cover has a higher negative correlation (Pearson’s r: -0.68 to -0.75) with LST than overall vegetation cover (r: -0.45 to -0.63). Tree cover and building cover (r: 0.53 to 0.71) together explain up to 68 % of the variation in LST. Modification of tree and building cover may therefore have the potential to regulate urban LST.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102013
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

    Research areas

  • Landsat 8, Urban heat island, Tree cover, NBR, NDWI

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