Urban climate studies in Johannesburg, A sub-tropical city located on a ridge-A review

Yair Goldreich

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26 Scopus citations


This paper summarizes three decades of urban climate studies in Johannesburg, South Africa, which is situated on a series of ridges, at an altitude of 1700 m. The first research phase, Near-ground data collection, started with an intensive mobile unit survey measuring wet- and dry-bulb temperatures at midday and near dawn. The results showed that during strong-inversion winter (dry season) nights, the strong heat island and humidity island situated in the city center is more than 11°C warmer than northern suburban valleys. With multiple regression methods the heat island magnitude was estimated to be about 5 K and the relative humidity was 43% lower than the rural areas (but the humidity mixing ratio island was 0.33 g kg-1 higher than the rural areas). The second phase, Upper air studies, included helicopter, pibal and tethered balloons. Near-ground observations (temperature and wind) were constricted to valleys where anomalies were previously found. The main findings at this stage relate to the interaction between mountain/valley winds with country breezes their connection with cold and warm plumes over the ridges which are dominated by the vertical nocturnal wind shear. In the third phase, Remote sensing, in situ and mobile acoustic soundings were combined with the other upper air measurement. In addition, ground temperature variations in Johannesburg were estimated from airborne infrared scanner images. The spatial structure of the ground heat-island core shows a steep thermal gradient of about 600-700 m from the city center, comparable to the screen level temperature distribution obtained previously using a meteorological mobile unit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-420
Number of pages14
JournalAtmospheric Environment - Part B Urban Atmosphere
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1992


  • Johannesburg
  • Urban climate
  • urban topo-climate


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