Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

January 28, 2013

Study: Distant rural areas may feel cities' heat

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — WASHINGTON — Heat rising up from cities such as New York, Paris and Tokyo might be remotely warming up winters far away in some rural parts of Alaska, Canada, and Siberia, a surprising study theorizes.

In an unusual twist, that same urban heat from buildings and cars may be slightly cooling the autumns in much of the Western United States, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, according to the study published Sunday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

Meteorologists long have known that cities are warmer than rural areas, with the heat of buildings and cars, along with asphalt and roofs that absorb heat. That’s called the urban heat island effect and it’s long been thought that the heat stayed close to the cities.

But the study, based on a computer model and the Northern Hemisphere, now suggests the heat does something else, albeit indirectly. It travels about half a mile up into the air and then its energy changes the high-altitude currents in the atmosphere that dictate prevailing weather.

“Basically, it changes the flow.” said Guang Zhang of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. He wrote the paper with Aixue Hu at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

This doesn’t change overall global temperature averages significantly, unlike man-made greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Instead it redistributes some of the heat, the scientists said.

The changes seem to vary with the seasons and by region because of the way air currents flow at different times of the year. During the winter, the jet stream is altered and weakened, keeping cold air closer to the Arctic Circle and from dipping down as sharply, Hu explained.

The computer model showed that parts of Siberia and northwestern Canada may get, on average, an extra 1.4 degrees to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 to 1 degree Celsius) during the winter, which “may not be a bad thing,” Zhang said. The effect isn’t quite as much in northern North Dakota and Minnesota, where temperatures might be about half a degree warmer (0.3 degrees Celsius), and even less along the East Coast.

Text Only
Local News
Featured Ads
Front page
Community Events
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case