Studies of the spatial extent of surface urban heat island (SUHI or UHISurf
) effects require precise determination of the footprint (FP) boundary. Currently available methods overestimate or underestimate the SUHI FP boundary, and can even alter its morphology, due to theoretical limitations on the ability of their algorithms to accurately determine the impacts of the shape, topography, and landscape heterogeneity of the city. The key to determining the FP boundary is identifying background temperatures in reference rural regions. Due to the instability of remote sensing data, these background temperatures should be determined automatically rather than manually, to eliminate artificial bias. To address this need, we developed an algorithm that adequately represents the decay of land surface temperature (LST) from the urban center to surrounding rural regions, and automatically calculates thresholds for reference rural LSTs in all directions based on a logistic curve. In this study, we applied this algorithm with data from the Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (Aqua/MODIS) 8-day level 3 (L3) LST global grid product to delineate precise SUHI FPs for the Beijing metropolitan area during the summers of 2004–2018 and determine the interannual and diurnal variations in FP boundaries and their relationship with SUHI intensity.
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