Urban Heat Island

An urban heat island is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. The temperature difference is usually larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak.

Air temperatures in the central region of a city are typically several degrees warmer than those of the surrounding suburbs and countryside.

Such a large quantity of heat is stored in the ground during the daytime hours that the heat island remains warmer than its surroundings during the night, too.

The urban heat island effect has important economic consequences. Higher temperatures demand more air conditioning and more electric power in the summer. The fossil fuel burned to generate this power contributes CO2 and air pollutants to the air.

To reduce these effects, many cities are planting more vegetation and using more reflective surfaces, such as concrete or bright roofing materials, to reflect solar energy back to space.