Populated cities warming rural areas, study says

by | Jan 29, 2013 | News

By Simon Carr from Canada [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Toronto skyline as seen from Riverdale Park By Simon Carr from Canada [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dona Boulos

Researchers from the scientific journal Nature Climate Change suggest cities such as New York, Paris and Tokyo may actually be warming up rural areas of Alaska, Canada and Siberia.

According to the study, buildings and cars generate heat while asphalt and roofs absorb it.

This is called the urban heat island effect, Associate Press reporter Seth Borenstein wrote in an article published in the Toronto Star.

The article explains heat “travels 800 metres up into the air and then its energy changes the high-altitude currents in the atmosphere that dictate prevailing weather.”

David Phillips, Senior Climatologist with Environment Canada told Humber News he isn’t all that surprised by the report.

“We used to think that all of the heat came from the sun, but that’s not the case,” he said.

“Heat is generated by people,” Phillips said.

Essentially, the more people living in a city, the warmer it will be.

According to the study led by chief researcher, Guang Zhang “extra heat (is) given off by Northern Hemisphere urban areas (which) causes as much as 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) of warming in winter.”

“Heat rises in the upper currents,” said Phillips. “That’s why there is ice in the Arctic that is melting. Heat rises and travels and gets mixed up. Warm air doesn’t stay still.”

“Other climate scientists are interested in the report but were more interested in some other modules being used before the hypothesis is agreed upon,” Geoff Coulson, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, told @HumberNews reporter Tatiana Patterson on Tuesday.

“There’s still more work that needs to be done,” said Coulson.

Although the study remains a theory for now, Phillips said it makes sense.

“The air we breathe today is the same air Americans were breathing, and that is the same air Japan was breathing,” he said.

“Whatever we do in our backyards is going to influence the other side of the world. The atmosphere knows no boundaries,” he said.