Mapping urban form into local climate zones for the continental US from 1986–2020

2024  Journal Article

Mapping urban form into local climate zones for the continental US from 1986–2020


The study is important because it provides a detailed, long-term view of how cities and their surrounding areas have evolved, and how these changes have impacted local climates—particularly phenomena like the urban heat island effect, where urban areas can be significantly warmer than their rural surroundings. This effect can have major implications for public health, energy consumption, and overall environmental sustainability.

DOI: 10.1038/s41597-024-03042-4    PubMed ID: 38351040

College of Health researcher(s)

OSU Profile


This study's resulting dataset is the first of its kind for the continental US and is expected to be a valuable resource for a variety of fields, including urban planning, public health, and climate science.

It can help researchers and policymakers understand how urban development affects local climates and guide future urban planning to mitigate negative impacts on the environment and human health.


Urbanization has altered land surface properties driving changes in micro-climates. Urban form influences people’s activities, environmental exposures, and health. Developing detailed and unified longitudinal measures of urban form is essential to quantify these relationships. Local Climate Zones [LCZ] are a culturally-neutral urban form classification scheme. To date, longitudinal LCZ maps at large scales (i.e., national, continental, or global) are not available. We developed an approach to map LCZs for the continental US from 1986 to 2020 at 100 m spatial resolution. We developed lightweight contextual random forest models using a hybrid model development pipeline that leveraged crowdsourced and expert labeling and cloud-enabled modeling – an approach that could be generalized to other countries and continents. Our model achieved good performance: 0.76 overall accuracy (0.55–0.96 class-wise F1 scores). To our knowledge, this is the first high-resolution, longitudinal LCZ map for the continental US. Our work may be useful for a variety of fields including earth system science, urban planning, and public health.

Qi, M., Xu, C., Zhang, W., Demuzere, M., Hystad, P., Lu, T., James, P., Bechtel, B., Hankey, S.(2024)Mapping urban form into local climate zones for the continental US from 1986–2020Scientific Data11