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Evaluating the Potential of Irrigation for Mitigating Urban Heat: Trade-off between Water Use and Heat Mitigation Capacity
  • Chenghao Wang,
  • Zhihua Wang,
  • Jiachuan Yang
Chenghao Wang
Arizona State University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Zhihua Wang
Arizona State University
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Jiachuan Yang
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
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Our world has been continuously urbanized and is currently accommodating more than half of the human population in cities. Despite that cities cover only less than 3% of the Earth’s land surface area, they emerged as focal points of human activities, and confront numerous environmental challenges as a result of changes in landscapes, hydroclimate, ecosystems, and biodiversity. In particular, the built environment usually experiences exacerbated heat stress induced by global climate and landscape changes, commonly known as the urban heat island effect. Urban irrigation, as a climate adaptation and mitigation strategy, is effective in cooling the built environment, but exhibits large uncertainties in the trade-off between water use and heat mitigation capacity. Here we show the efficiency of cooling effect induced by irrigation of urban vegetation, represented by a novel metric, viz. urban water capacity, analogous to the heat capacity, across the contiguous United States (CONUS) during summertime via numerical simulations. The urban water capacity is calculated as the average irrigation depth per degree of urban temperature reduction; the values are 4.52 ± 0.77 mm day–1 °C–1 and 7.27 ± 1.27 mm day–1 °C–1 (mean ± standard deviation) for surface and near-surface air cooling, respectively, over the CONUS. The robustness of urban water capacity is further exemplified in an extreme heat wave event, during which the warming anomaly is partially offset by the additional cooling from urban irrigation. Estimates of water capacity provide a quantitative metric for evaluating the efficacy of irrigation in urban planning under current heat stress and future warming.