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Scientists use advanced computer modeling to project future urban heat

Global city temperatures may rise by more than 4 degrees C

Jan 12, 2021 - by Staff

An advanced new computer modeling technique has enabled scientists to project the potential extent of climate change in the world’s cities.

Although cities occupy just 3 percent of Earth’s land surface, they are home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population and will bear the burden of the effects of global climate change. A new study, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), shows that urban regions around the world would warm by more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) if society emits greenhouse gas emissions at a high rate.

An intermediate emissions scenario would significantly mitigate the warming, but average city temperatures would still increase by significantly more than the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

The authors used both the NCAR-based Community Earth System Model, which has advanced urban simulation capabilities, as well as a statistical model known as an urban climate emulator. This enabled them to produce city-level projections of temperature and relative humidity with high inter-model confidence.

“Understanding how climate is likely to change in the most heavily populated areas of the globe can help society anticipate the impacts later this century,” said NCAR scientist Keith Oleson, a co-author of the new paper.

The new research was published last week in Nature Climate Change. For more, see the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign news release.

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