The twenty-first century is the first "urban century" according to the United Nations Development Program. The focus of cities reflects awareness of the growing percentage of the world's population that lives in urban areas. In environmental terms, cities are the original producers of many of the global problems related to waste disposal, air and water pollution, and associated environmental and ecological challenges. Expansion of cities, both in population and areal extent, is a relentless process. In 2000, approximately 3 billion people representing about 40% of the global population, resided in urban areas. Urban population will continue to rise substantially over the next several decades according to UN estimates, and most of this growth will Occur in developing countries. The UN estimates that by 2025, 60% of the world's population will live in urban areas. As a consequence, the number of"megacities" (those cities with populations of 10 million inhabitants or more) will increase by 100 by 2025. Thus, there is a critical need to understand urban areas and what their impacts are on environmental, ecological and hydrologic resources, as well as on the local, regional, and even global climate. One of the more egregious side effects of urbanization is the increase in surface and air temperatures that lead to deterioration in air quality. In the United States, under the more stringent air quality guidelines established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997, nearly 300 counties in 34 states will not meet these new air quality standards for ground level ozone. Mitigation of the urban heat island (UHI) effect is actively being evaluated as a possible way to reduce ground ozone levels in cities and assist states in improving air quality. Foremost in the analysis of how the UHI affects air quality and other environmental factors is the use of remote sensing technology and data to characterize urban land covers in sufficient detail to quantifiably measure the impact of increased urban heating on air quality. The urban landscape impacts surface thermal energy exchanges that determine development of the UHI. This paper will illustrate how we are using high spatial remote sensing data collected over the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area in conjunction with other geographic information, to perform a detailed urban land cover classification and to determine the contribution of these land covers to the urban heat island effect. Also, the spatial arrangement of the land covers and the impact on urban heating from these selected patterns of development are evaluated. Additionally, this paper will show how these data are being used as inputs to improve air quality modeling for Atlanta, including potential benefits from UHI mitigation
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