Urban heat: Why cities like El Paso are warmer than rural areas that surround it

El Paso News

View of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico on August 15, 2019. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

El Paso, TX (KTSM) — When living in rural areas like Vado or San Elizario, you may have noticed a slight rise in temperatures during a drive to the city. This is known as the urban heat island effect.

An urban island is a city area that is warmer than the areas surrounding it. This effect is formed when rural areas are replaced with asphalt, concrete, and buildings, much like El Paso.

Unlike urban surfaces like grass, soil, and vegetation, rather than reflecting the sun’s heat, asphalt and concrete absorb its rising temperatures significantly and the addition of pollution from vehicles especially from those waiting at international bridges fuels the rising heat. Along with the quick rise in temperatures, come night time cities cool down much slower than rural areas.

Tall buildings, and streets trap heat from the afternoon sun and pollution. This prevents heat from escaping and keeping temperatures warmer at night compared to towns outside of the city.

According to the EPA, the annual average air temperature of a city can be one to five degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas.

For example El Paso can see a high temperature at 72° and outer areas like Vado, NM can expect a high of 69°.

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