Researchers have determined that waste heat, which is released in major cities of the Northern Hemisphere could be causing an additional 1 degree C. (1.8 F) of continental-scale winter warming in the high latitudes of the North America and Eurasian Continents.
This additional heat could explain the disparity between actual observed warming in the last half-century and the amount of warming predicted by computer models that only include anthropogenic greenhouse gases and aerosols, according to the EurekAlert article.
This release of urban waste heat from heating buildings to powering vehicles was found to be great enough to influence the character of major atmospheric circulation systems, including the jet stream during the winter months.
This study, which is titled 'Energy Consumption and the Unexplained Winter Warming Over Northern Asia and North America' was posted in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Key excerpt from the article........
"The world's most populated metropolitan areas, which also have the highest rates of energy consumption, are along the east and west coasts of the North American and Eurasian continents, underneath the most prominent atmospheric circulation troughs and ridges," said Ming Cai, a professor in Florida State University's Department of Meteorology. "The concentrated and intensive release of waste energy in these areas causes a noticeable interruption to normal atmospheric circulation systems, leading to remote surface temperature changes far away from the regions where the waste heat is generated."
Researchers note that the climate impacts that this research studied are different than the well known urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is more a function of heat that is collected and re-radiated by pavement and large buildings.
The study does not address whether the urban heating effect disrupts atmospheric weather patterns or plays a role in accelerating global warming
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