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How urbanisation alters the intensity of the urban heat island in a tropical African city

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JournalPLoS ONE
DateAccepted/In press - 24 Jun 2021
DatePublished (current) - 13 Jul 2021
Issue number7
Number of pages18
Original languageEnglish


Due to the combined effects of urban growth and climate change, rapid urbanisation is particularly challenging in African cities. Areas that will house a large proportion of the urban population in the future coincide with where natural hazards are expected to occur, and where hazard risk management institutions, knowledge, and capacity are often lacking. One of the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation is the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, whereby urban areas are warmer than the surrounding rural areas. This study investigates urbanisation patterns and alterations in surface UHI (SUHI) intensity for the Kampala urban cluster, Uganda. Analyses show that between 1995 and 2017, Kampala underwent extensive changes to its urban built-up area. From the centre of the city to adjoining non-built up areas in all directions, the urban land cover increased from 12,133 ha in 1995 to 25,389 ha in 2016. The area of SUHI intensity in Kampala expanded significantly over the 15-year period of study, expanding from 22,910 ha in 2003 to 27,900 ha in 2016, while the annual daytime SUHI of 2.2°C in 2003 had decreased to 1.9°C by 2017. Although SUHI intensity decreased in some parts of the city, elsewhere it increased, suggesting that urbanisation does not always lead to a deterioration of environmental conditions. We postulate that urban development may therefore not necessarily create an undesirable impact on local climate if it is properly managed. Rapidly growing cities in Africa and elsewhere should ensure that the dynamics of their development are directed towards mitigating potentially harmful environmental impacts, such as UHI effect through careful planning that considers both bluespaces and greenspaces.

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© 2021 Li et al.

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