Why Every City Has Its Own Climate?

An aerial view of the city of New York showcasing its towering buildings and the wind gracefully flowing through.
Most of the people on Earth currently live in cities, but many of them don’t realize that the urban climate they experience is different than outside the city. Why does this happen, and what consequences can it have for city populations?

Heat Islands

The most obvious distinction of an urban climate is warmer air temperatures compared to surrounding rural areas. This is characteristic of most cities, and the bigger the city, the larger the temperature difference. For example, Moscow averages 3.6°F warmer than nearby areas, and sometimes the difference can reach up to 27°F! The difference between urban and rural temperatures is most noticeable during the winter, especially on cold nights. The colder the night, the greater the difference. This is not surprising — during the winter, buildings require heating. Some of the heat inevitably escapes outside through the walls, roofs, and especially the windows, which warms up the surrounding air. Lower temperatures lead to an increase in heating; thus, more heat gets released into the air. That’s why the most significant temperature difference between the city and countryside occurs on polar nights in the Far North. For example, the city of Norilsk is often 18 degrees warmer than the surrounding tundra. However, official weather reports don’t reflect this trend: the city’s only meteorological station is positioned on the outskirts, near the airport, and thus doesn’t account for the local “heat island.”

City climate
Urban heat island in Paris, summer 2003
Subscribe to read in full

Get Unlimited Digital Access for all issues

The subscription renews automatically. You can unsubscribe at any time


An astronaut floating in space above the earth, surrounded by particles and positrons.

Subscribe to continue reading

Get 20% off your first order!