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Islands in the Sun

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islands5.jpgIf you're anywhere near the latitude I am, a warm summer day probably sounds pretty good right about now. But come July you might be thinking differently - especially if you live in a city. In urban areas, pavement and rooftops soak up sunlight and radiate it back into the atmosphere, creating bubbles of heat surrounded by cooler countryside.

Known as the urban heat island effect, the tendency of cities to be warmer than outlying areas is a growing public health concern as Earth heats up. In fact, temperatures are climbing in most cities twice as fast as across the planet as a whole, say University of Minnesota climate scientists Peter Snyder and Tracy Twine.

Preparing for the future, Snyder and Twine are using an Institute on the Environment Discovery Grant to study 100 "Islands in the Sun" - urban heat islands around the world. They want to learn what factors contribute to elevated city heat and what cities are doing to reduce the effect. Based on the information they gather, they'll use the Twin Cities metropolitan area as a testing ground for engineering and landscape design strategies for reducing the urban heat island effect.

Hear Snyder and Twine talk about their study:

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.