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January 28 2013

Urban Heat Islands Can Alter Temperatures Thousands of Miles Away From a City

The urban heat island effect—in which heat trapped by large-scale construction and paving cause a city to be several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside—is a well-documented phenomenon that’s been studied for decades.

Now, though, a group of atmospheric researchers have discovered that through a different mechanism, cities can also alter the weather over a much wider area—causing temperatures to rise or fall by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit thousands of miles away. As described in a paper published today in Nature Climate Change, they discovered that ambient heat generated by a city’s buildings and cars often gets lifted up into the jet stream, leading to weather changes over a massive area.

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