Cutting Edge > Enhance Your Teaching > Urban Geology > Teaching Activities > Richmond's Urban Heat Island

Richmond's Urban Heat Island

Don Yow
Eastern Kentucky University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

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This page first made public: Mar 7, 2008


Students will be asked questions regarding the causes and impacts of the UHI. They will also be asked to apply this knowledge to two real-world settings and analyze data collected at both locations.

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Introductory physical geography course Designed for a geophysics course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic knowledge of the UHI
MS Excel
Google Earth

How the activity is situated in the course

After discussing the UHI in class, I spend a day in the computer lab working on this assignment with my students.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Evaluating how land use/land cover impacts local climate. Realizing the impact that elevated temperatures have on human, economic, and biotic systems.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will have to apply knowledge about the UHI to real world settings. They will analyse data and think about how to display them. They will evaluate methods to convey scientific knowledge to non-science professionals.

Other skills goals for this activity

searching the WWW, using MS excel, creating graphs, using Google Earth

Description of the activity/assignment

Students will need to learn about urban heat islands before they will have all of the information necessary to complete this lab. Instructors may wish to accomplish this via lecture and/or assigned readings and discussion. You may wish to start with the following: Yow, D.M. 2007, "Urban Heat Islands: Observations, Impacts, and Adaptation," Geography Compass. Volume 2, October 2007, 1227-1251.

Also, if your students have no prior experience with MS excel, guiding them through a quick tutorial is advisable.

The first thing students will do in the exercise is report on some important causes of the UHI. Then, they will examine two real-world sites via photographs and Google Earth to discuss how each location's land use/land cover may affect local temperatures. Next, students will analyze data acquired at each site using MS excel. After that, students will be asked to think about potential impacts of the UHI. The exercise ends with a critical thinking exercise asking students to devise and evaluate strategies to communicate scientific knowledge to non-science professionals.

Has minimal/no quantitative component. Uses geophysics to solve problems in other fields.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Suggested points for each section of the exercise are provided.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Yow, D.M. 2007, "Urban Heat Islands: Observations, Impacts, and Adaptation," Geography Compass. Volume 2, October 2007, 1227-1251.

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