Cities Hotter Than Suburbs: The Heat Island Effect

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Driving from a rural area into a city, you might notice a temperature difference. Urban areas may have a higher temperature than a rural area due to the structure of a city, creating what is known as the urban heat island effect. Expert Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews explained that the heat in a city will remain in that area due to a city's size.

"A city is like an island of dense population," Andrews said.

Temperature differences in urban areas can be anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees higher than a rural area in the evening.

During the day, the sun acts as a heater to standing buildings and black tops, according to Expert Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines. The buildings and asphalt absorb the sunlight. At nighttime, the buildings and concrete surfaces release the energy, slowly making temperatures higher than they would be in a rural area. Kines said that the temperature difference during the day will not be as dramatic as the nighttime.

"It is kind of like a brick fireplace; even when the fire goes out, the heat is still in the bricks. This is the same thing in a city," Kines said.

Kines said that although there is danger of heat-related injuries in rural areas, the threat is greater in cities due to higher temperatures and the amount of people.

Extreme heat claims the lives of more than 1,000 people every year, according to the American Meteorological Society.

Story by Staff Writer Molly Cochran.


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