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Don't blame the cities

Urban heat islands not responsible for global warming

By
11:38am, September 5, 2008
Many man-made objects — buildings, parking lots and cars, to name a few — absorb the sun’s radiation much more effectively than plants, soil and rocks do, a trend that transforms cities into “urban heat islands.” This phenomenon has led some researchers to claim that urban sprawl has skewed weather data and is the true cause of global warming in recent decades. But a new study indicates that this idea is just a lot of hot air.

During the past 100 years, the global average temperature has risen about 0.74 degrees Celsius (SN: 2/10/07, p. 83). Some scientists have blamed some, if not all, of that warming on urban heat islands, says David Lister, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

For instance, previous studies indicate that conditions in central London are, on average, 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than those in undeveloped areas nearby. Likewise, a weather station in Vienna,

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