Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Modeling reveals significant climatic impacts of megapolitan expansion

13.08.2012
According to the United Nations' 2011 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects, global urban population is expected to gain more than 2.5 billion new inhabitants through 2050.

Such sharp increases in the number of urban dwellers will require considerable conversion of natural to urban landscapes, resulting in newly developing and expanding megapolitan areas. Could climate impacts arising from built environment growth pose additional concerns for urban residents also expected to deal with impacts resulting from global climate change?

In the first study to attempt to quantify the impact of rapidly expanding megapolitan areas on regional climate, a team of researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research has established that local maximum summertime warming resulting from projected expansion of the urban Sun Corridor could approach 4 degrees Celsius. This finding establishes that this factor can be as important as warming due to increased levels of greenhouse gases. Their results are reported in the early online edition (Aug. 12) of the journal Nature Climate Change.

Arizona's Sun Corridor is the most rapidly growing megapolitan area in the United States. Nestled in a semi-arid environment, it is composed of four metropolitan areas: Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and Nogales. With a population projection expected to exceed 9 million people by 2040, the developing Sun Corridor megapolitan provides a unique opportunity to diagnose the influence of large-scale urbanization on climate, and its relation to global climate change.

"We posed a fundamental set of questions in our study, examining the different scenarios of Sun Corridor expansion through mid-century. We asked what are the summertime regional climate implications, and how do these impacts compare to climate change resulting from increased emissions of greenhouse gases," says Matei Georgescu, lead author and assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The authors utilized projections of Sun Corridor growth by 2050 developed by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), the regional agency for metropolitan Phoenix provides long-range and sustainably oriented planning. Incorporating maximum and minimum growth scenarios into a state-of-the-art regional climate model, the researchers compared these impacts with experiments using an urban representation of modern-day central Arizona. Their conclusions indicate substantial summertime warming.

"The worst case expansion scenario we utilized led to local maximum summer warming of nearly 4 degrees Celsius. In the best case scenario, where Sun Corridor expansion is both more constrained and urban land use density is lower, our results still indicate considerable local warming, up to about 2 degrees Celsius," Georgescu said.

An additional experiment was conducted to examine an adaptation where all of the buildings were topped by highly reflective white or "cool" roofs.

"Incorporating cool roofs alleviated summertime warming substantially, reducing the maximum local warming by about half," Georgescu said. "But, another consequence of such large-scale urbanization and this adaptation approach include effects on the region's hydroclimate."

The cool roofs, like the maximum-growth scenario without this adaptation approach, further reduce evapotranspiration – water that evaporates from the soil and transpires from plants. Ultimately, comparison of summertime warming resulting from Sun Corridor expansion to greenhouse-gas-induced summertime climate change shows that through mid-century the maximum urbanization scenario leads to greater warming than climate change.

However, pinning precise figures on the relative contribution of each effector is difficult, the authors state.

"The actual contribution of urban warming relative to summertime climate change warming depends critically on the path of urbanization, the conversion of natural to urban landscapes, and the degree to which we continue to emit greenhouse gases," said Alex Mahalov, a co-author and principal investigator of the National Science Foundation grant, "Multiscale Modeling of Urban Atmospheres in a Changing Climate," which supported the research.

"As well as providing insights for sustainable growth of the Sun Corridor and other rapidly expanding megapolitan areas, this research offers one way to quantify and understand the relative impacts of urbanization and global warming,"said Mahalov, the Wilhoit Foundation Dean’s Distinguished Professor in ASU’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

The group conducted their numerical simulations using an "ensemble-based" approach. By modifying their model's initial conditions and repeating their simulations a number of times, they were able to test the robustness of their results. In all, nearly half of a century of simulations were conducted.

"By incorporating differing Sun Corridor growth scenarios into a high performance computing modeling framework with MAG projections, we quantified direct hydroclimatic impacts due to anticipated expansion of the built environment," added Mahalov. Simulations were conducted at ASU's Advanced Computing Center (A2C2).

Georgescu said that one take-home message from this study is that the incorporation of sustainable policies need to extend beyond just greenhouse gas emissions. He also stressed the importance of extending adaptation strategies beyond the focus on mere average temperature.

"Truly sustainable adaptation, from an environmental standpoint, must extend to the entire climate system, including impacts on temperature and hydrology," he said.

The study's co-authors also included Mohamed Moustaoui, an associate professor in ASU's School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, and Jimy Dudhia, a project scientist in the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. All three ASU co-authors are affiliated with ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Global Institute of Sustainability.

Source: Matei Georgescu, (480) 965-7533; Matei.Georgescu@asu.edu

Media contacts: Skip Derra, (480) 965-4823; skip.derra@asu.edu
Barbara Trapido-Lurie, (480) 965-7449; Barbara.Trapido-Lurie@asu.edu

Skip Derra | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>