Atlanta Urban Heat Island Research


Watson Technical Consulting

110 Deerwood Court, Rincon, GA USA 31326

Watson Technical Consulting (WTC) specializes in meteorological hazard assessments and remote sensing applications to environmental monitoring and modeling. WCT has modeled the Atlanta metroplex, showing regional variation in temperature and heat index. This map shows 15F differences in heat index in areas separated by as little as a few hundred yards.

                            Atlanta micro-climates-2.gif (56673 bytes)

Urban Ecosystems and Heat Islands

WTC has developed a methodology for Urban Planners to assess the impact of development on the environment, and develop cost effective mitigation measures.

One study of particular regional interest is an analysis of the Urban Heat Island of the city of Atlanta, Georgia. This study was conducted for the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and American Forests. Over the last two decades, the city of Atlanta has seen tremendous growth. This growth has resulted in many areas which were heavily vegetated to become covered in concrete. This causes many changes in the local weather, or microclimate. One of the most obvious is that temperatures in dense urban areas are higher than the neighboring countryside. The two maps below show average temperatures increases, as calculated by WTC's microclimate models and verified by satellite data, for two of the four target years: 1972, 1978, 1986, and 1993.

Copy of Atlanta micro-climate-1972+1995-combo2.gif (50207 bytes)Why do heat islands matter? First, heat islands cost money, especially in the southern US. In a study WTC conducted for the US Army, the Savannah Georgia heat island costs a typical residence over $25 per year. That doesn't sound like much, but when multiplied by the number of homes in the city it starts to add up. In addition, the $25/year number is only the average direct cost. We have to pay for the extra generating capacity the power company must maintain, but only use a few days a year. Secondly, heat islands generally indicate a lack of vegetation. A lack of vegetation usually means that other problems are present, among them increased levels of pollution, intense stormwater runoff problems, etc. WTC is working with non-profits, local governments, and the business community to address these problems on a local level, through low cost, non-regulatory means.

For more information contact:

Chuck Watson, (912) 826-4462,

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