Utilising green and blue-space to mitigate urban heat island intensity

Kanchane Gunawardena, Mike Wells, Tristan Kershaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

601 Citations (SciVal)


It has long been recognised that cities exhibit their own microclimate and are typically warmer than the surrounding rural areas. This ‘mesoscale’ influence is known as the urban heat island (UHI) effect and results largely from modification of surface properties leading to greater absorption of solar radiation, reduced convective cooling and lower water evaporation rates. Cities typically contain less vegetation and bodies of water than rural areas, and existing green and bluespace is often under threat from increasing population densities. This paper presents a meta-analysis of the key ways in which green and bluespace affect both urban canopy- and boundary-layer temperatures, examined from the perspectives of city-planning, urban climatology and climate science. The analysis suggests that the evapotranspiration-based cooling influence of both green and bluespace is primarily relevant for urban canopy-layer conditions, and that tree-dominated greenspace offers the greatest heat stress relief when it is most needed. However, the magnitude and transport of cooling experienced depends on size, spread, and geometry of greenspaces, with some solitary large parks found to offer minimal boundary-layer cooling. Contribution to cooling at the scale of the urban boundary-layer climate is attributed mainly to greenspace increasing surface roughness and thereby improving convection efficiency rather than evaporation. Although bluespace cooling and transport during the day can be substantial, nocturnal warming is highlighted as likely when conditions are most oppressive. However, when both features are employed together they can offer many synergistic ecosystem benefits including cooling. The ways in which green and bluespace infrastructure is applied in future urban growth strategies, particularly in countries expected to experience rapid urbanisation, warrants greater consideration in urban planning policy to mitigate the adverse effects of the UHI and enhance climate resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1040-1055
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date1 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Utilising green and blue-space to mitigate urban heat island intensity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this