Impervious surface coverage is a quantifiable environmental indicator correlating closely with the urban thermal environment. This study measured the impervious surface development in the subtropical coastal area of Xiamen, southeastern China, and investigated its impact on the regional thermal environment. The Normalized Difference Impervious Surface Index was used to extract impervious surface features of the Xiamen area from the Landsat Thematic Mapper images of 1989, 1996, and 2009, respectively. Multivariate regression analysis was implemented to examine how land surface temperature (LST) was related to impervious surface and to some other urban biophysical descriptors such as vegetation and water. Results show that the impervious surface of the study area increased by approximately eight times during the 20 study years. Detailed relationship analysis can find that (1) impervious surface is positively exponentially correlated with LST, while vegetation and water are inversely related to LST; (2) the impervious surface contribution to regional LST change can be up to six times greater than the sum of vegetation and water contributions and (3) each decrement of 10% impervious surface cover with additional 10% green or water space could lower LST by up to 2.9 or 2.5 °C, respectively. These findings would facilitate the regional urban planning strategies to minimize the local temperature rise in future urban growth. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society
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