This paper is part 1 of a two-part study that evaluates the climatic effects of recent landscape change for one of the nation's most rapidly expanding metropolitan complexes, the Greater Phoenix, Arizona, region. The region's landscape evolution over an approximate 30-year period since the early 1970s is documented on the basis of analyses of Landsat images and land use/land cover (LULC) data sets derived from aerial photography (1973) and Landsat (1992 and 2001). High-resolution, Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS), simulations (2-km grid spacing) are used in conjunction with consistently defined land cover data sets and associated biophysical parameters for the circa 1973, circa 1992, and circa 2001 time periods to quantify the impacts of intensive land use changes on the July surface temperatures and the surface radiation and energy budgets for the Greater Phoenix region. The main findings are as follows: since the early 1970s the region's landscape has been altered by a significant increase in urban/suburban land area, primarily at the expense of decreasing plots of irrigated agriculture and secondarily by the conversion of seminatural shrubland. Mean regional temperatures for the circa 2001 landscape were 0.12??C warmer than the circa 1973 landscape, with maximum temperature differences, located over regions of greatest urbanization, in excess of 1??C. The significant reduction in irrigated agriculture, for the circa 2001 relative to the circa 1973 landscape, resulted in dew point temperature decreases in excess of 1??C. The effect of distinct land use conversion themes (e.g., conversion from irrigated agriculture to urban land) was also examined to evaluate how the most important conversion themes have each contributed to the region's changing climate. The two urbanization themes studied (from an initial landscape of irrigated agriculture and seminatural shrubland) have the greatest positive effect on near-surface temperature, increasing maximum daily temperatures by 1??C. Overall, sensible heat flux differences between the circa 2001 and circa 1973 landscapes result in a 1 W m-2 increase in domain-wide sensible heating, and a similar order of magnitude decrease in latent heating, highlighting the importance of surface repartitioning in establishing near-surface temperature trends. In part 2 of this study, we address the role of the surface budget changes on the mesoscale dynamics/thermodynamics, in context of the large-scale environment. Copyright 2009 by the American Geophysical Union.