Surface Heat Budget Project

Project Summary

While the evidence of global warming continues to grow, the theory of regional climate change remains less well developed and less well accepted. Because individuals and societies experience only regional and local climates, our lack of knowledge threatens both public awareness of climate change and the design of adaptation strategies. An important science problem with regard to local climate is the role of the earth’s surface.

Over the last twenty years, the important role of local surface properties on weather and climate has been revealed by numerous field, remote sensing and numerical investigations.

Relevant surface properties include:
- albedo: the proportion of the sun’s radiation reflected
- surface roughness: a control on turbulent transport of heat, moisture etc.
- evaporative potential: the availability of water for evaporation
- melting potential: the availability of ice for melting
- emissivity: the efficiency of long wave emission
- heat storage: the ability of the surface to store heat and release it at a later time

The study will begin with about ten selected regions and cities. Satellite data from MODIS and conventional data will be used to determine site suitability. A smaller set of about 5 regions and cities will be chosen for detailed study with higher resolution images such as Landsat and ASTER. For these regions, the connection between climate change and surface heat budgets will be determined. New methods for estimating surface heat budgets from space will be tested with data from the Ameriflux network. The goal is to understand local climate change and to suggest adaptive strategies.

During the initial phases of the "Surface heat" project in summer 2010, the project is composed of five sub-projects. Information about each of these can be found by clicking on the banner near the top of this page.