News Brief

Rural Areas Feel Heat from Cities

The urban heat-island effect can warm city air by 10°F—and new research indicates it could also affect distant rural areas.

Image courtesy NASA
By Erin WeaverThe urban heat-island effect may not be limited to “islands” and may instead be altering weather far from the cities that cause it, suggests a new report in the journal

Nature Climate Change.

The authors of “Energy consumption and the unexplained winter warming over northern Asia and North America” demonstrate by computer modeling that the heat from buildings, cars, and pavement in large cities rises about a half-mile into the atmosphere, altering high-altitude currents and redistributing heat. In winter, the jet stream is altered in a way that lessens the cold arctic air reaching parts of Alaska, Siberia, and northwestern Canada, warming winter temperatures by up to 1.8°F (1°C). In parts of North Dakota and Minnesota, the authors suggest that this effect increases temperatures by about 0.5°F (0.3°C).

At the same time, autumn and winter temperatures in some places are cooled by this redistribution, with less warm air from the Atlantic reaching Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean and less warm Pacific air reaching the northwestern U.S.

Published March 1, 2013 Permalink

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.