Urban Heat Island Effect Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period 

Please join GLOBE for the Urban Heat Island Effect / Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period for this School Year!

Intensive Observation Period Months: October, December and March

Visit the new Urban Heat Island Effect page for students. 

Photos of students measuring urban heat island effect in a field and by mountain lake.

Meet the lead scientist for the Urban Heat Island Effect Intensive Observation Period, Dr. Kevin Czajkowski! Listen as he introduces the observation period and the need for GLOBE's data! Then scroll down for a NASA video about the science behind the Urban Heat Island Effect. At the bottom of the page, there are details about getting involved!


Kevin Czajkowski, Ph.D. 

Dr. Czajkowski is the director of the Geographic Information Science and Applied Geographics Lab at the the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.


What Is the Urban Heat Island Effect? 


To get involved in the Urban Heat Island Effect - Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period, download the:


The purpose of this investigation is to discover how the land cover of the ground affects its surface temperature. But that is not the only reason to participate in the Intensive Observation Period. The main research question that needs to be answered is, "How does surface cover affect surface temperature?" Students can set up research studies at their own school, such as looking at the difference between paved and unpaved areas, like grassy areas. More schools are taking surface temperature observations; therefore, students can investigate how surface temperature changes between schools. They could look at elevation, latitude and longitude, urban versus rural and proximity to water, among other topics. There are many research questions possible with surface temperature. Students could also look at how cloud cover or humidity affect the surface temperature.


The Urban Heat Island Effect-Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period is focused on looking at the impact urbanization has on the Earth’s surface temperature and how the surface temperature changes the dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere. Studying the energy cycle is fundamental to understanding how the Earth’s spheres function within its system. The surface temperature measurements contribute data: a) not normally collected by weather agencies; b) for climate studies; and c) for ground-truthing satellite data.

The Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period is not new to The GLOBE Program. The Surface Temperature Protocol was originally designed by Dr. Kevin Czajkowski to investigate the urban heat island effect and to validate satellite thermal measurements from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and LandSat. Focused observation periods include the months of October, December and March each year, to accommodate students during the typical school year, and to give a distribution of seasonal data. Participants are also encouraged to collect data during any time of the year that is most convenient to them. 

What Data to Collect and When

Dr. Czajkowski needs participants to collect and submit the following data to GLOBE:

  • Cloud Data
  • Air Temperature
  • Surface Temperature

Take measurements on at least five different days within the following months:

  Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul
Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period     X   X     X        

What to Do and How to Do it

Report data directly to the GLOBE database

  • Sign in to the GLOBE website and select "Data Entry" at the top, and "Data Entry", then "Data Entry - Desktop forms".
  • Click the plus sign next to the institution to expand the list of sites. 
  • For members who have already established a Surface Temperature site, select a site(s).
  • Create a new site by selecting "Add site" 
  • Fill in the data forms as directed and select "Send Data".
  • Participants will receive a green smiley face if their data uploads properly.

Report data to the GLOBE database by apps

  • Download the GLOBE Observer App to a electronic device.
  • Sign in with an email and password if an account was created, or create a new one. 
  • Select "Atmosphere" and check the boxes for Clouds, Air Temperature and Surface Temperature. 
  • Go outside and collect data following the instructions provided in the eTraining protocols.
  • Once in an area with WiFi, be sure to click on “Send Observation to GLOBE.”

Retrieve data from the GLOBE database

  • Sign in to the GLOBE website and select "GLOBE Data" at the top.
  • To view a map version of the data, click on "Visualize Data".
  • To compare the data to satellite thermal data, change the basemap to Land Surface Temperature.
  • Note that the Thermal satellite data is shown in degrees Kelvin.
  • The equation to convert between degrees Kelvin and degrees Celsius is C = K - 273.15.
  • To retrieve data in a spreadsheet format, click on "Retrieve Data (ADAT)". ADAT stands for Advanced Data Access Tool.
  • For both the Visualization System and the ADAT, participants will need to input filters to locate the data. 
  • For example, under the Protocols filter, select Surface Temperature, then select a Date Range and hit Apply.
  • This will retrieve data for the whole world. Use the additional filters in the Visualization System or ADAT to narrow the geographical range.
  • From both systems, export the data as a .csv file and save it for further analysis. 

STFC - overview continued

Advice from Dr. Czajkowski

Some teachers find it hard to get an infrared thermometer to do the protocol. In the past, GLOBE has used Fluke 63, but the program has used Fluke 561 and Etekcity 774 most recently. Participants who cannot find one of those may use a lower cost instrument, however please specify the type of infrared thermometer used to set up a surface temperature site. Also, it may be possible to borrow one from a heating and cooling specialist or an auto mechanic. They use them for their jobs.

Apply and extend your knowledge


Additional Support

For any further questions about the Urban Heat Island Effect-Surface Temperature Intensive Observation Period or student projects, email Dr. Kevin Czajkowski at kevin.czajkowski (at) utoledo.edu.