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"Mega-Size Me" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers from Arizona State University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research conduct a study attempting to quantify the impact of rapidly expanding megapolitan areas on regional climate.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Phoenix rising.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

With a population expected to exceed nine million by 2040, Arizona's sun corridor (Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott and Nogales) is the fastest-growing megapolitan region in the U.S, it's the focus of an Arizona State and National Center for Atmospheric Research study--the first of its kind--on the impact of urban expansion on regional climate.

The team plugged local government growth projections for the sun corridor, into a state-of-the-art regional climate model. The result: A 3.6 to 7.2 degree higher average summertime temperature by the middle of this century due to urbanization--potentially causing more warming than climate change.

The researchers indicate there may be ways to reduce the impact on regional climate. They modeled the effects of using white roofs that reflect the sun's rays away from the earth. If all buildings had one, the team notes that maximum local warming could be cut in half--though there could be negative effects on the evaporation and the water cycle.

The scientists say their study shows that "sustainable policies" must go further than just greenhouse gas emissions. They point out that adaptation strategies must extend beyond simply focusing on average temperature.

Is it getting warm in here?

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! 'earn more at or on our podcast.

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