Urban heat islands (UHIs) threaten the ecological environment and human health. A large number of studies have focused on surface UHIs (SUHIs) across different spatial and temporal scales around the world with the development of satellite remote sensing technology. However, the influences of heterogeneous urbanization processes and background climates on SUHIs are still unclear and are important for targeted mitigation policies. A systematic review of the current status of SUHI studies, particularly from the perspective of comparisons among different regions, is urgently needed. We first introduce the commonly used satellite-retrieved data products and quantification methods used in SUHI studies. Subsequently, we summarize the potential driving factors of SUHI and compare the specific findings for different regions. Finally, we point out the deficiencies in the existing research and propose several prospects for the consideration of future SUHI studies. Additional global-scale research should be conducted using more advanced spatial statistical models. This can help better explore the spatially heterogeneous relationship between the SUHI and its associated driving factors. The effects of urbanization and climate from different regions should be further explored. Moreover, the problems of imperfections in the satellite data and from dynamic land use should not be ignored.
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