A Moment of Science

Urban Weather Systems

A lot of people think the weather where they live is unique. Well, for large urban areas there might be some truth to that.

You see, in some ways, large cities create their own weather. Above each big city rests a dome of hot air, known as an urban heat island. This heat island can produce clouds and thunderstorms. And because the landscape of a city doesn’t change much, these thunderstorms often fall in the same regions of the city.

The terrain of the city, all that concrete and those rooftops, absorbs heat during the day. At night the hot air rises, creating the low-pressure heat island that sucks in cooler air from the perimeter of the city. As the dome of heat continues to rise, it cools, condenses, forms clouds, and produces thunderstorms. The same precipitation does not recycle itself within a city like it does within a snow-globe, but the idea of a dome of heat resting over each big city seems something like my unappreciated snow-globe.

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