In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Urban Meteorology and Climatology

  • Introduction
  • General Overview Books
  • Specialized Books
  • Bibliographies/Monographs/Reports
  • Websites
  • History and Progress
  • Urban Models
  • Urban Air Pollution
  • Applications

Geography Urban Meteorology and Climatology
Anthony J. Brazel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0207


Urban areas tend to form their own weather and climate that significantly relates to effects of buildings, paved surfaces and materials, the water landscape, and emissions of waste heat and pollution into the atmosphere by industry, transportation systems, and human metabolism. A city gives rise to regional and local urban heat islands, altered river flows, changes in precipitation and humidity, elevated pollution levels, and altered airflow within, over, and across the built landscape. A myriad of microenvironments and microclimates exist across a metropolitan region as a result. These differences are important for a number of reasons, among them the fact that populations are increasingly moving to and living in cities, and the fact that there are several impacts of these changes that affect communities, businesses, urban planning, transportation systems, public health, energy and water use, security, and emergency responses. It is well known that cities have altered the atmosphere, producing changes in air temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind flow, sunshine, and pollution levels. A first formal study is Luke Howard’s The Climate of London. Since the 19th century, several developments led to modern-day practices and applications by urban meteorologists and climatologists. These are outlined in a seminal book Urban Climates and include four periods: (a) prior to 1930, pioneering climatographies of selected cities and weather elements, (b) 1930–1965, growth of micro- and local climatology, (c) 1965–2000, rapid increase in research with links to meteorology and physically based models, and (d) in the 21st century, the maturing of urban meteorology and climatology into a predictive science is occurring. This selective article cites literature on various areas of urban meteorology and climatology. The books, reports, and articles that are listed, with some exceptions, are recent ones. The maturing phase has created an enormous literature from many related disciplines focusing on urban weather and climate. Not every aspect is covered in detail, but books and references will lead to uncovering the vast literature related to this subject. Although it is a selective bibliography, certainly further in-depth searches, it is hoped, can be made by the reader.

General Overview Books

A literature is emerging, a vast one, on the subject of urban meteorology and climatology. It dates back over 180 years from descriptive to advanced modeling efforts. Luke Howard’s writings on London’s climate, composed in the 19th century, is republished by the International Association on Urban Climate’s Gerald Mills (Howard 2012) and is available to those interested. Landsberg 1981 constitutes a major effort at the time of publication to summarize the field. Oke, et al. 2017 together with many meteorological reports, for example National Research Council 2009 and National Research Council 2012, contain a vast bibliography available to researchers, educators, and stakeholders on this subject. Seto, et al. 2016 is a series of contributions by leading experts in urbanization and the environment, including urban meteorologists and climatologists and provides a wider context of global environmental change and urbanization from an interactive point of view.

  • Howard, Luke. The Climate of London. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    Originally published in 1818. Howard was the first to recognize the effect that urban areas have on local climate. His analysis of temperature records allowed him to detect, describe, and analyze the urban heat island phenomenon many decades before others.

  • Landsberg, Helmut E. The Urban Climate. New York: Academic Press, 1981.

    This book summarizes studies directed toward physical understanding of the rural-urban differences in the atmospheric boundary layer. It introduces the literature surrounding the topic, its historical development, and the problem of local climate modification with discussion on air composition, urban energy fluxes, urban heat island, urban wind field, moisture, clouds, and hydrometeors, modeling, and urban hydrology. This volume is written by one of the most famous atmospheric scientists of our time.

  • National Research Council. Observing Weather and Climate from the Ground Up: A Nationwide Network of Networks. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2009.

    A Committee of the National Research Council was charged with developing mesoscale meteorological observational capabilities to meet multiple national needs. This report highlights findings in book form with very useful recommendations, eight pages of references, and appendixes that illustrate the need for more local scale monitoring of the atmosphere. Available for purchase online.

  • National Research Council. Urban Meteorology: Forecasting, Monitoring, and Meeting Users’ Needs. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2012.

    Results of a 2011 Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate “summer study” working session are presented in this publication sponsored by the National Research Council aimed at exploring opportunities to improve urban weather information for end users. It contains an excellent up-to-date fifteen-page reference list on the subject of urban weather. Excellent appendixes by leading scientists in the field. Available for purchase online.

  • Oke, T. R., G. Mills, A. Christen, and J. A. Voogt. Urban Climates. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1017/9781139016476

    This is a must-have reference book on the subject. The epilogue reviews a brief history. Topics relate to urban ecology, impacts of development, urban form, sustainable cities, the urban surface, atmosphere, definitions used in urban climate; they are followed by methods, airflow, radiation, energy balance, heat island, water, moisture, clouds and precipitation, air pollution, geographical controls, global climate change, humans, and design. There is an extensive twenty-three page list of references.

  • Seto, Karen C., William Solecki, and Corrie A. Griffth, eds. 2016. The Routledge Handbook of Urbanization and Global Environmental Change. London: Routledge.

    The Handbook provides research into cities and sustainability at the global scale. It considers global environmental change and how interactions and influences from global to cities take place and vice versa. Includes an excellent discussion on climate and cities from contributions by many in the urban climate and climate change community. The chapter “Effects of Urbanization on Local and Regional Climate” (pp. 169–187) by C. S. B. Grimmond, Helen C. Ward, and Simone Kotthaus should be read on how urbanization is altering local and regional climate.

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