How Cities Use Parks for Climate Change Management

City Parks Forum Briefing Papers 11

By Joseph MacDonald, AICP



The urban heat island effect, and its mostly negative consequences of modified temperature, wind, precipitation, and air quality patterns, is the primary instigator of local climate change. Continued urbanization of the global population will only hasten further change. The increasing impact of urban heat islands on local climates may eventually translate to more widespread climate change, possibly global, if left unchecked.

Parks are the first and best line of defense against these changes. Urban parks cool and clean the air, improve and modify local wind circulations, and better regulate precipitation patterns. Well-vegetated parks, in a variety of forms and sizes, mitigate the impact of the urban heat island and minimize local climate change. Reduced impact of the urban heat island may prolong or even prevent more widespread global climate change as cities continue to increase in both size and number.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2007
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Joseph MacDonald, AICP
Joseph MacDonald, AICP, is currently Manager of Environmental Planning for the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). NOACA serves as both the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and Areawide agency for Greater Cleveland. NOACA’s Environmental Planning staff update and maintain the region’s Water Quality Management Plan and encourage transportation modal choice to reduce mobile emissions; meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS); and improve public health. Prior to joining NOACA, Dr. MacDonald served as Project Manager of the Environment with the Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NEOSCC). NEOSCC produced the Vibrant NEO 2040 Regional Vision Framework, recipient of the 2015 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan from the American Planning Association (APA). Dr. MacDonald has also served as Senior Research Associate with the APA and consulted on water resource planning projects through APA’s China Program. Dr. MacDonald holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; an M.S.P. in Urban and Regional Planning from the Florida State University; and a B.S. in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Science from the University of Michigan.