Although urbanization has contributed to improving living conditions, it has had negative impacts on the natural environment in urbanized areas. Urbanization has changed the urban landscape and resulted in increasing land surface temperature (LST). Thus, studies related to LST in various urban environments have become popular. However, there are few LST studies focusing on mountain landscapes (i.e., hill stations). Therefore, this study investigated the changes in the landscape and their impacts on LST intensity (LSTI) in the tropical mountain city of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. The study utilized annual median temperatures extracted from Landsat data collected from 1996 to 2017 based on the Google Earth Engine (GEE) interface. The fractions of built-up (BL), forested (FL) and agricultural (AL) land, were calculated using land use and cover maps based on urban–rural zone (URZ) analysis. The urban–rural margin was demarcated based on the fractions of BL (<10%), and LSTI that were measured using the mean LST difference in the urban–rural zone. Besides, the mixture of land-use types was calculated using the AL/FL and BL/FL fraction ratios, and grid-based density analysis. The results revealed that the BL in all URZs rapidly developed, while AL decreased during the period 1996 to 2017. There was a minimal change in the forest area of the Nuwara Eliya owing to the government’s forest preservation policies. The mean temperature of the study area increased by 2.1 °C from 1996 to 2017. The magnitude of mean LST between urban–rural zones also increased from 1.0 °C (1996) to 3.5 °C (2017). The results also showed that mean LST was positively correlated with the increase and decrease of the BL/FL and AL/FL fraction ratios, respectively. The grid-based analysis showed an increasing, positive relationship between mean LST and density of BL. This indicated that BL density had been a crucial element in increasing LST in the study area. The results of this study will be a useful indicator to introduce improved landscape and urban planning in the future to minimize the negative impact of LST on urban sustainability.
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