In this paper, we assessed and compared land surface temperature (LST) in urban centers using data from Landsat, MODIS, and the Simple Biosphere model (SiB2). We also evaluated the sensitivity of the model’s LST to different land cover types, fractions (percentages), and emissivities compared to reference points derived from Landsat thermal data. This was demonstrated in three climatologically- and morphologically-different cities of Atlanta, GA, New York, NY, and Washington, DC. Our results showed that in these cities SiB2 was sensitive to both the emissivity and the land cover type and fraction, but much more sensitive to the latter. The practical implications of these results are rather significant since they imply that the SiB2 model can be used to run different scenarios for evaluating urban heat island (UHI) mitigation strategies. This study also showed that using detailed emissivities per land cover type and fractions from Landsat-derived data caused a convergence of the model results towards the Landsat-derived LST for most of the studied cases. This study also showed that SiB2 LSTs are closer in magnitude to Landsat-derived LSTs than MODIS-derived LSTs. It is important, however, to emphasize that both Landsat and MODIS LSTs are not direct observations and, as such, do not represent a ground truth. More studies will be needed to compare these results to in situ LST data and provide further validation.
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