The influence of seasonal land-use-land-cover transformation on thermal characteristics within the city of Pietermaritzburg

John Odindi


Urbanisation has been identified as a major threat to the environment as it increases demand for urban spaces and transforms natural landscapes to impervious surfaces, leading to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) phenomenon. Natural landscapes such as vegetation and water bodies act as thermal sinks that absorb heat while impervious surfaces such as buildings and concrete pavements act as thermal sources that retain and emit heat. The thermal emission results in several negative effects such as temperature inversion, compromised human health, pollution, species loss, high energy consumption and climate change at a local, regional and global scales. Whereas studies on UHI are abound, there is paucity in literature on the influence of seasonal urban Land Use Land Cover (LULC) transformation on urban thermal characteristics. Specifically, the proportional seasonal variability and contribution of individual LULCs to urban heat is often poorly understood.   Using the freely available Landsat 8 optical and thermal bands, this study examined the seasonal characteristics of the UHI phenomenon in relation to LULCs in the Pietermaritzburg city, South Africa. Results in this study revealed that UHIs exist in both winter and summer, but with more intensity in summer. The study also established that LULCs varied with seasons. Bare surfaces and dense vegetation had the most thermal influence during winter while dense vegetation and low density buildings had the most thermal influence during summer. These findings provide a better understanding of thermal distribution based on LULC seasonality changes, valuable for sustainable urban planning and climate change mitigation.

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