MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Do skyscrapers affect weather in cities? If so, how?

Area: Earth Sciences
Posted By: Kevin Smith, Professional Engineer, Air Pollution, Petroleum Engineering, City of St Louis Air Pollution Control
Date: Thu Sep 25 09:44:23 1997
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 875053120.Es

Skyscrapers and Weather

Their effects


Answer: The short answer is yes. Skyscrapers indirectly affect weather for cities.

There are two ways in which urban growth can change weather patterns locally. The first is the complexity by which the air (wind) must negotiate above and around construction. Tall obstructions like skyscrapers cause air movements to convene both around the buildings and over. This is called the geometric effect.

The second and more important factor is the ability of buildings and their composition to absorb and hold heat from the sun. Building materials like concrete, brick and macadam retain the rays from the sun as heat. As the sun sets, the heat remains and then begins to radiate upward as the night air begins to cool. It creates a heat island near the city. Just when the urban mass begins to cool, the sun reemerges. This is called the thermal effect.

The thermal effect is the more important of the two. Localized air is hotter than the surrounding air mass, and must mix and interact with it. This instability can lead to weather effects, like raindrops, wind conditions, or greater or lesser precipitation. It is not yet known if these effects are great enough to attract/detract conditions like tornadoes, frontal boundaries and other greater weather phenomena.

Kevin Smith

Copyright 1997 Kevin Smith

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