Air Quality Worsened by Paved Surfaces: Widespread Urban Development Alters Weather Patterns
ScienceDaily (June 7, 2011) — New research focusing on the Houston area suggests that widespread urban development alters weather patterns in a way that can make it easier for pollutants to accumulate during warm summer weather instead of being blown out to sea.
The international study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), could have implications for the air quality of fast-growing coastal cities in the United States and other midlatitude regions overseas. The reason: the proliferation of strip malls, subdivisions, and other paved areas may interfere with breezes needed to clear away smog and other pollution.
The research team combined extensive atmospheric measurements with computer simulations to examine the impact of pavement on breezes in Houston. They found that, because pavement soaks up heat and keeps land areas relatively warm overnight, the contrast between land and sea temperatures is reduced during the summer. This in turn causes a reduction in nighttime winds.
In addition, built structures interfere with local winds and contribute to relatively stagnant afternoon weather conditions.
"The developed area of Houston has a major impact on local air pollution," says NCAR scientist Fei Chen, lead author of the new study. "If the city continues to expand, it's going to make the winds even weaker in the summertime, and that will make air pollution much worse."
Article continues: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110607121137.htm