Urban Heat Islands

Phoenix, Ariz.Let’s play the urban heat island game, shall we?

This is not about whether global warming is real or not. I’m prepared to stipulate that the various groups analyzing global temperatures are doing a fine job of correcting for the UHI in their global temperature trend calculations. This is about the way we’re creating cities that are becoming less livable, on account of how warm it stays in the summer.

Today’s poster child is Phoenix, Ariz. I was in Tucson last week. It seemed to me to be unbearably hot at night there. But a bunch of people at the meeting I was attending, down from Phoenix, seemed positively giddy to be out of the heat.

In August 2007, Phoenix set a record. The average overnight low for the month was 86 F (30 C). The continuous record at the Phoenix airport goes back to 1948. The average August overnight low over that time period is 79.5 F (26.4 C). The last time August fell below that mark was 1990. That’s some serious concrete-fueled, heat-island temperature trapping trend goin’ on out there where they stuck that thermometer.

One Comment

  1. I recently caught a brief bit on the History Channel about Phoenix and its heat problems. The programme was about “desert tech” I think so I don’t know how much more detail they went into, but they did mention the heat/AC feedback cycle (warmer means more air conditioning means warmer etc.) and the fact that the city has increased the local humidity (partly through irrigation) by a noticeable amount too.

    There was also mention of the water aquifer and subsidence due to it being heavily drained. The implication was that this issue had all been solved, but I didn’t see any details, so it’s possibly a dubious claim.

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