Impacts of urbanization on future climate in China

Liang Chen, Oliver W. Frauenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urbanization plays an important role in human-induced climate change at the regional scale through altered land-atmosphere interactions over urban areas. In this study, the impacts of future urbanization in China on climate are investigated. The Weather Research and Forecasting model is used to downscale future projections using Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 4.5 simulations from the Community Earth System Model. Results for 2050 show decreased latent and increased sensible heat fluxes over the urban area, therefore leading to higher surface temperatures and less humidity. Future climate projections reveal that urbanization produces strong warming effects, up to 1.9 °C at regional and local/urban scales, which is comparable to the magnitude of greenhouse gas forcing under the RCP 4.5 scenario. Greater urban warming effects are projected during night and summer, which can be attributed to the high heat capacity of built-up areas. The impacts of urbanization on precipitation show varying effects primarily in summer—both increases and decreases depending on spatial scale—related to both local moisture deficits and large-scale circulation changes. Urbanization could strengthen the East Asian summer monsoon in southern China in summer, and slightly weaken it in eastern China in winter. Due to these significant impacts, we suggest that urbanization should be included in model projections to provide a more realistic and complete depiction of future climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-357
Number of pages13
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Future climate
  • Urbanization
  • WRF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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