Temperature patterns along an arid coastline experiencing extreme and rapid urbanization, case study: Dubai

Emily Elhacham, Pinhas Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Today more than one billion people are living in coastal regions, and coastal urbanization is rapidly growing worldwide. Here, we explore the impact of an extreme and rapid coastal urbanization on temperature patterns, based on MODIS data. We study Dubai, one of the fastest growing cities in the world over the last two decades. Dubai's urbanization centers along its coastline – in land, massive skyscrapers and infrastructure have been built, while in sea, just nearby, unique artificial islands have been constructed. Studying the coastline during the years of intense urbanization, we show that the coastline exhibits surface urban heat island characteristics, where the urban center experiences higher temperatures, by as much as 2.5 °C and more, compared to the adjacent less urbanized zones. During development, the coastal surface urban heat island has nearly doubled its size, expanding towards the newly developed areas. This newly developed zone also exhibits the largest temperature trend along the coast of over 0.1 °C/year on average. In addition, an opposite linear relation was found between the surface temperature and albedo trends. In sea, temperature decreases were observed, particularly over the artificial islands, exceeding −0.1 °C/year, in one of them. The positive trends in land along with the negative trends in sea decreased the coastal sea-land temperature gradient by up to about −30% in only 12 years, which also decreased the land breeze intensity. The findings shown here directly affect the local coastal population and ecosystem, exacerbate the thermal comfort, and add additional burden to this area, which is already considered as one of the warmest in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147168
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 25 Aug 2021


  • Albedo
  • Artificial islands
  • Coastal urbanization
  • Dubai
  • Surface urban heat island


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