As urban thermal environments are being caused by global climatic changes and urbanization is not uniform on diurnal, seasonal, or annual scales, the spatiotemporal patterns of surface urban heat islands (SUHI) similarly vary between cities across regions. This research assessed the spatiotemporal variations in SUHI intensities (SUHII), and then revealed their spatiotemporal patterns and relationships that existed within 32 major cities in China using spatialization technologies, such as the self-organizing map (SOM) method and statistical methods. Results showed that the spatial patterns of the SUHII patterns in China were significantly affected by the climatic types, whereas human heat discharge also disturbed the patterns to a certain extent. Specifically, the daytime SUHIIs in China had much higher seasonal variations in North China than in South China. The nighttime SUHIIs were much weaker and more stable than the daytime SUHIIs, and had far more obvious spatial patterns with much higher values in North China than in South China. As for the temporal regimes, the temporal variation in the SUHIIs in one city was more related to the development of the urbanization. To be specific, not all cities were experiencing increasingly worse urban thermal environments with urbanization as reported by previous studies. This research not only proposes a spatiotemporal framework to study the SUHIIs patterns and their relationships, but also provides an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of SUHIIs in China.
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