Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Earth & Environmental Sciences


William D. Solecki

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences | Geography | Urban Studies and Planning


Land Use Land Cover, Suburbanization, Surface Heat Island, Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Heat Island, Zoning Regulations


The process of suburbanization blurs regional bounds, forms mega-regions and fosters the expansion of multifaceted environmental problems, such as the urban heat island (UHI) effect. Defined by differences in air- and surface- temperature between rural and urban areas, UHI is the result of the characteristics of urbanization which modify the land surface condition, urban geometry, thermal properties of construction materials, anthropogenic heat and air pollution, which increase storage and re-radiation of heat to the atmosphere. Climate change is predicted to worsen the UHI effect. Hence, the objective of this research to characterize the UHI effect as it pertains to suburban and exurban development patterns, which are neither low-density rural nor high-density urban, yet the dominant landscape pattern in America's mega-regions. Using multi-resolution remote sensing data, this dissertation describes the geography of the surface urban heat island (SUHI) effect across the New York Metropolitan Region's urban-rural continuum and the influence of residential minimum lot size zoning regulations on the Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Brightness Temperature. The study area for this research endeavor is Somerset County, New Jersey. An inverse relationship exists between NDVI and Brightness Temperature, where increases in vegetation and tax lot size reduce Brightness Temperature; and therefore UHI Intensity. However, utilization of a cumulative metric, such as net thermal flux by tax lot, is critical to illuminate the role that suburbanization has on the expansion of regional environmental problems. The Landsat ETM imagery combined with tax lot data provide an efficient and effective method for assessing the cumulative impact of suburban development in the study area and evaluating mitigation techniques to lower urban heat, save energy and facilitate reintroduction of natural elements into urban environments.