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Type Journal Article - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Title Evidence for a significant urbanization effect on climate in China
Author(s)
Volume 101
Issue 26
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
Page numbers 9540-9544
URL http://www.pnas.org/content/101/26/9540.long
Abstract
China has experienced rapid urbanization and dramatic economic growth since its reform process started in late 1978. In this article, we present evidence for a significant urbanization effect on climate based on analysis of impacts of land-use changes on surface temperature in southeast China, where rapid urbanization has occurred. Our estimated warming of mean surface temperature of 0.05°C per decade attributable to urbanization is much larger than previous estimates for other periods and locations. The spatial pattern and magnitude of our estimate are consistent with those of urbanization characterized by changes in the percentage of urban population and in satellite-measured greenness.

Land-use changes from urbanization, creating an urban heat island (UHI), have been suspected as partially being responsible for the observed warming over land during the last few decades because of (i) the observed decrease in the diurnal temperature range (DTR) resulting from a larger increase or a smaller decrease in minimum temperature relative to maximum temperature and (ii) a lower rate of warming observed over the past 20 years in the lower troposphere compared with the surface (1). The area-weighted average warming effect of UHI over land during the 20th century has been estimated to be <0.06°C per century (1–4) globally and approximately 0.06~0.15°C per century (5, 6) in the U.S. based on differences in temperature trends between rural and urban stations. A much larger estimate of 0.27°C per century in the U.S. has been reported recently (7) by comparing trends in observed and reanalysis surface temperatures over the period from 1950 to 1999.

China has experienced rapid urbanization and dramatic economic growth since its reform process started in late 1978. From 1978 to 2000, China's gross domestic product grew at an average annual rate of 9.5%, compared with 2.5% for developed countries and 5% for developing countries; the number of small towns soared from 2,176 to 20,312, nearly double that of the world average during this period; the number of cities increased from 190 to 663; and the proportion of urban population rose from 18% to 39% (see the Peopledaily article at http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200111/27/eng20011127_85410.shtml and the State Family Planning Commission of China web site at www.sfpc.gov.cn/EN/enews20030320-1.htm). In this article, we present evidence for a significant urbanization effect on climate based on analysis of impacts of land-use changes on surface temperature in southeast China, where most of China's urbanization has occurred.

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