Support Our Work

Urban vs. Rural Heat

By Climate Central

Cities tend to be warmer than the surrounding countryside, a phenomenon known as an urban heat island. This happens because concrete, asphalt, and shingled roofs absorb heat more easily than fields and forests, then hold on to this heat more effectively at night than the surrounding countryside – which usually has more vegetation and trees.

What that means is that as summers get hotter under the planet’s growing blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the worst of it will happen downtown rather than out of town. Climate Central’s new analysis of the Urban Heat Island effect in 60 of the largest continental U.S. cities makes it clear just how big the gap can be during the summer. Over the past 10 years, the cities were 2.5°F hotter, on average, than in nearby rural areas. But in Albuquerque, the difference was 5.9°F, and Las Vegas topped our list with a difference of 7.3°F.