Satellite Images of Houston Metro Area
These images show the Houston metropolitan area, where buildings, roads and other built surfaces create urban heat islands that can affect local rain patterns. The images were taken by ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer), an imaging instrument that is flying on Terra, a satellite launched in December 1999 as part of NASAs Earth Observing System (EOS). Credit: NASA/J
Higher Rainfall Rates Downwind of Texas Cities
This image shows areas where urban heat islands influenced higher rainfall rates (in blue) downwind of major cities connected by Interstate 35, known as the I-35 corridor in Texas. The winds that carried clouds and rainfall downwind (in this case, south and east of urban areas) occurred roughly 3.0 kilometers (1.9 miles) above the surface. Rainfall was measured by the precipitation radar instrument on NASAs Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. The higher rainfall rates depicted here were derived from measurements of mean monthly rainfall during the warm seasons (May through September) from 1998 through 2000. Credit: Jim Williams, Scientific Visualization Studio, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
New evidence from satellites, models, and ground observations reveal urban areas, with all their asphalt, buildings, and aerosols, are impacting local and possibly global climate processes. This is according to some of the world’s top scientists convening in a special session at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
To study urban impact on local rainfall, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Steve Burian of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, used the world’s first space-based rain radar, aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, and dense rain gauge networks on land to determine there are higher rainfall rates during the summer months downwind of large cities like Houston and Atlanta. Burian and Shepherd offer new evidence that rainfall patterns and daily precipitation trends have changed in regions downwind of Houston from a period of pre-urban growth, 1940 to 1958, to a post-urban growth period, 1984 to 1999.
Cities tend to be one to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (0.56 to 5.6 degrees Celsius) warmer than surrounding suburbs and rural areas. Warming from urban heat islands, the varied heights of urban structures that alter winds, and interactions with sea breezes are believed to be the primary causes for the findings in a coastal city like Houston.
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