Canopy layer heat islands (CLHIs) in urban areas are a growing problem. In recent decades, the key issues have been how to monitor CLHIs at a large scale, and how to optimize the urban landscape to mitigate CLHIs. Taking the city of Wuhan as a case study, we examine the spatiotemporal trends of the CLHI along urban-rural gradients, including the intensity and footprint, based on satellite observations and ground weather station data. The results show that CLHI intensity (CLHII) decays exponentially and significantly along the urban-rural gradients, and the CLHI footprint varies substantially and especially in winter. We then quantify the driving factors of the CLHI by establishing multiple linear regression (MLR) models with the assistance of ZY-3 satellite data (with a spatial resolution of 2.5 m), and obtain five main findings: (1) built-up area had a significant positive effect on daily mean CLHII in summer and a negative effect in winter; (2) vegetation had significant inhibiting effects on daily mean CLHII in both summer and winter; (3) absolute humidity has a significant inhibiting effect on daily mean CLHII in summer and a positive effect in winter; (4) anthropogenic heat emissions exacerbated the daily mean CLHII by about 0.19 °C (90% confidence interval −0.06–0.44 °C) on 17 September 2013 and by about 0.06 °C (−0.06–0.19 °C) on 23 January 2014; and (5) if most of the urban area is transformed into roads (i.e., an extreme case), we estimate that the daily mean CLHII would reach 1.41 °C (0.38–2.44 °C) on 17 September 2013 and 0.14 °C (0.08–0.2 °C) on 23 January 2014 in Wuhan metropolitan area. Overall, the results provide new insights into quantifying the CLHI and its driving factors, to enhance our understanding of urban heat islands.
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