NCW Supported Research

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Welcome to NOAA-CREST West
Supported Research

at California State University, Los Angeles

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.


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 reports and results will be posted as they become available.

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    Last updated September 7, 2013. All rights reserved.