Achievements NOAA-CREST West

Welcome to NOAA-Crest West
Student Achirvements

NOAA-CREST West supports graduates and undergraduates in research areas utilizing remote sensing and environmental satellite data and products at California State University, Los Angeles.

Graduate Research

Urban Heat Island and Global Warming Changes in the Los Angeles Basin


Brandi Gamelin (graduate)
Tania Torres (graduate)
Freddy Hsu (undergraduate)


CSLA Department of Geosciences & Environment
Steve LaDochy, Ph.D.
Pedro Ramirez, Ph.D.
Hengchun Ye, Ph.D.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

William Patzert, Ph.D.


Los Angeles is a warming subtropical coastal city. California has warmed 2°F in the last 50 years, metropolitan Los Angeles has warmed nearly twice that rate, over 5°F in the last century. Changing urban land use has added substantially to heat fluxes, particularly during the warmer months. Recent studies found that heat waves are becoming more frequent and longer in duration. Increased temperatures and intense heat waves lead to greater energy and water demands, increased air pollution levels and elevated mortality rates. Future predictions show even greater heating. A thorough study of the city's heat island, including urban albedo, land use changes, heat wave morphology and coastal meteorology (sea breezes, inversions, synoptic scale circulations) is needed. Together with our CUNY-CREST partners and JPL collaborators, the California State University, Los Angeles team of faculty mentors and graduate student researchers plan to thoroughly investigate the Los Angeles heat island(s), its diurnal characteristics, seasonality, and contributing factors (albedo, radiative fluxes, land use changes, urban and synoptic circulations, and Pacific Ocean influences). The team will investigate the relationships between urban heating, energy consumption, air pollution and heat stress. The role of sea breezes in alleviating coastal summer heating will be measured using the South Coast Air Quality Management District's meso-network of land use, wind and inversion data. From these sources and NOAA re-analyses data, a model of urban heating and wind circulation will be created. CSLA students will look at heat island hotspots and the most effective mitigation schemes for reducing urban heating.


In order to understand the urban heat island (UHI) and its variability, the CSLA team will produce datasets from information available through NOAA and other agencies. Station temperatures are available from the Western Regional Climate Center ( for several decades. Hourly weather records, which include wind and cloudiness information, are also available at first-order weather stations (Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Ontario International Airports).

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) maintains 32 weather stations in the LA Basin recording hourly wind, temperature and humidity. The District also uses 5 wind profilers (or acoustic sounders). Kevin Durkee of SCAQMD has provided us with their data. California Institute of Technology uses a LIDAR for gathering mixing heights at their campus.

CSLA has its own weather station and a set of portable meteorological instruments. These instruments are available for measuring heating parameters at local scales and will be useful for ground truthing remote sensing products, such as those derived from overflights of the LA Basin.

The Pacific Fisheries Environmental Laboratory (PFEG) collects 6-hour upwelling and wind stress data at 15 stations along the North Pacific coast. Sea surface temperatures (SST) influence coastal air temperatures, and may also influence coastal cloudiness and wind circulations. SST data along the Southern California coast are available from the early 1900s. Upwelling indices archived by PFEG since 1946 will be analyzed along with contributing climatic indices, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Pacific Oscillation (NP, NOI).

NOAA reanalysis data includes daily and monthly synoptic variables, such as pressure and wind fields that interact with surface heating. The strength of the sea breeze can be gauged with low level pressure gradients. These will be also monitored particularly during the warm season.

Questions to be addressed

  • How have temperatures in the Los Angeles Basin changed over the last century and why?

  • What are the diurnal and seasonal variations in the UHI and how does this vary spatially?

  • How have the changes in the UHI impacted heat waves? What are the health consequences for the residents? How do air pollution levels vary with UHI changes (including spatial aspects)?

  • How is regional warming affecting coastal atmospheric and oceanic conditions, such as upwelling? Are there natural cycles in the Pacific that dictate changes to coastal conditions? Besides natural cycles, are there trends in the data that relate to change in coastal climate?

  • How can mitigation techniques affect the UHI and which ones are most effective, practical?
  • Progress and Future Directions

    Although the project was begun in the summer of 2013 and less than half a year of data had been collected as of this writing, the students have already made two presentations at Satellites & Education Conference XXVI in August 2013. Research results will also be represented at the American Geophysical Union where Brandi Gamelin is presenting a paper in December 2013. Another presentation will be made at the American Meteorological Society's Annual Meeting in the Urban Envrionment Symposium in February 2014.

    On September 24, 2013, JPL launched a U-2 aircraft overflight of the Los Angeles basin tasked with a multispectral survey of the region. Freddy Hsu and Dr. La Dochy collected ground temperature data across a section of metropolitan Los Angeles at the same hours as the overflight to compare with the aircraft's information.

    "Our students are progressing well on the project and should be able to answer some of the project's questions concerning the diurnal and seasonal patterns to the Los Angeles urban heat island," said Dr. La Dochy. During the 2013-2014 school year, the graduate researchers will continue to collect hourly data allow them to map the 24-hour changes in the urban heat island as well as the saesonal changes. The students will look at wind patterns associated with the heat island and how the sea breeze influences the diurnal patterns. Students will map the multi-decadal changes in the heat island using over 50 years of hourly data already collected. They will investigate the impact of urban heat island waves over the long-term and identify hot spots which could be addressed in mitigating heat island extremes.

    NOAA-CREST West 2012-2013
    Researcher Profiles

    Brandi Gamelin
    Brandi graduated with a MA in Geography from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) in June 2013. She spent the summer as a research intern at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory working with CSULA professors and JPL scientists on this project. Her work focused on the Pacific Ocean influences on the Los Angeles urban heat island. She presented a paper at Satellites Education Conference XXVI in August 2013 and will be presenting some of her research at the American Geophysical Union Fall Conference in San Francisco in December 2013. She is presently applying to PhD programs, including University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Irvine.

    Yohsiang (Freddy) Hsu
    Freddy graduated from University of California, Berkeley in mathematics in June 2013 and enrolled in the geography Master’s program this fall. Freddy was a summer researcher on this project, meeting at JPL with CSULA and JPL mentors. His work focused on the diurnal and seasonal patterns of the Los Angeles urban heat island. He presented a paper at Satellites & Education Conference XXVI in August 2013 and will be presenting some of his research at the California State University (CSU) Student Research Symposium in spring 2014.

    Tania Torres
    Tania graduated with a BA in geography from CSULA in June 2013 and is enrolled in the geography MA graduate program at CSULA. Tania also began working on this project this summer and has been collecting hourly data to describe the diurnal and seasonal patterns of the urban heat island. Tania plans to use some of her research as part of her thesis, which will also be on the urban heat island. She will be presenting some of her research at the CSU Student Research Symposium in spring 2014.

    NOAA-CREST West 2012-2013
    Researcher Mentors

    California State University, Los Angeles
    Steve La Dochy, Ph.D.
    Pedro Ramirez, Ph.D.
    Hengchun Ye, Ph.D.

    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    William Patzert, Ph.D.

    NOAA-CREST West Accomplishments
    M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. Program Success 2011-2013

    The Multinational Youth Studying Practical Applications of Climatic Events (M.Y. S.P.A.C.E.) program has made a significant impact on the career goals of participating high school students. M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. is the international collaborative environmental research program for high school students, an initiative of the Satellites & Education Conference. Surveys of the students conducted by their teachers before the students joined the program and by the conference at the conclusion of the program year clearly indicate decidedly increased interest in science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) related careers. The results of surveys made of students in the 2011-2012 and the 2012-2013 program years are shown here. (N=66)

    M.Y. .P.A.C.E. Student Career Goals 2011-2013

    Before M.Y. S.P.A.C.E.After M.Y. S.P.A.C.E.Growth
    STEM537+ 640%
    Medical-Related710+ 43%
    Non-STEM43- 25%
    Undecided5016- 68%

    The M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. program is supported by NOAA, NASA, and the NOAA-CREST West grant.

    Click here for more information about the M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. program.

    Click here for more information about NOAA-CREST West.

    Access to M.Y. S.P.A.C.E. Annual Reports

    1  -  Annual Report 2012
    2  -  Annual Report 2013

    California State University, Los Angeles