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Picture of the Day

Cold wave reveals potential benefits of urban heat islands

National Science Foundation-funded researchers have found that the urban heat island effect -- cities are hotter in the summer than their surrounding areas -- also helps keep cities warmer during extreme cold. The findings have implications for urban planners in areas such as New York City or Chicago, which experience marked seasonal temperature swings. Urban heat islands have been extensively studied during heat waves, with recent analyses showing city temperature boosts can be as high as 8 degrees Fahrenheit for large cities like New York City or Washington. The researchers combined temperature and land use data with high-resolution weather simulations to investigate the 2014 cold wave in Chicago. The results suggested that heat released from buildings was a key contributor to the stronger heat island effect observed during the cold wave.

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