Managing vegetation for stronger cooling efficiency during hot days in the Arabian Peninsula

M. Zampieri*, R. Alkama, T. Luong, K. Ashok, I. Hoteit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The growth of vegetation in desert areas is expected to cause considerable changes to the local climate. Compared to bare ground desert, the balance of different processes related to vegetation such as reduced albedo and increased evapotranspiration can either warm up or cool down the surface climate. Quantifying these changes is essential for impact assessments of climate mitigation and adaptation measures, especially in regions increasingly hit by heat waves such as the Arabian Peninsula. In this respect, the analysis of in situ observations is challenging owing to limited data, uneven vegetation distribution, complex terrain, and other confounding factors. Thus, this study, using long-term satellite data at the daily temporal resolution, estimates the impact of vegetation on land surface temperature for several agricultural regions in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Results demonstrate that managed vegetation has a significant cooling effect during the day and particularly during hot weather events, reducing the highest temperatures by > 5 °C. During heat waves, managed vegetation can provide an additional cooling effect of about 3 °C (2 to 4 °C depending on the location). This effect is robustly assessed though a tailored statistical indicator that is suitable for application over complex terrain that are found in the Saudi agricultural sites. However, a situation is identified where the vegetation vigor collapsed and the cooling effect vanished, which was possibly related to issues associated with water management sustainability. Thus, herein, this paper discusses several potential solutions to achieve sustainable irrigation among those that were recently proposed in the scientific literature, such as desalinization from renewable energy and land-use change options that could enhance local precipitation. This study supports the decision-making process of the green initiatives undertaken in the Middle East and similar efforts in other arid regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110789
JournalEcological Indicators
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Arabian Peninsula
  • Desert greening
  • Dryland irrigation
  • Extreme events
  • Heat waves
  • Oasis effect
  • Surface temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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