During a heat wave, ground temperatures soar, particularly in urban areas where there are fewer plants to cool the ground with shade and evapotranspiration. Paved or metallic surfaces can become warm enough to cook food. These images show land surface temperatures as measured by two different satellites.
The image above shows temperature anomalies across China between August 5 and August 12, 2013, as observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Red areas are warmer than the long-term average for the week, while cooler-than-average temperatures are blue. While much of China was warm during this period, the worst of the heat wave was concentrated near the coast and in Tibet. This weather pattern is tied to a subtropical high-pressure system parked over southern China, according to the China Meteorological Administration.
Though miserable everywhere, the heat wave was likely worst in China’s cities, where manmade surfaces absorb heat during the day and cool slowly at night. As a result, cities are warmer during the day and slower to cool at night, making an extended heat wave more uncomfortable, and more deadly, in a city. The image below shows this “urban heat island” effect in Shanghai.
- Associated Press (2013, August 1) Bacon fried on pavement as heat wave grips China. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- China Meteorological Administration (2013, July 31) Southern China experiencing record-high temperature. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- EarthSky (2013, August 12) Heat wave in China has brought record high temperatures. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- Tan, J. et al. (2009, September 1) The urban heat island and its impact on heat waves and human health in Shanghai. International Journal of Biometeorology. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- The Weather Channel (2013, August 14). Shanghai still broiling as deadly, relentless heat wave grips China. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- Weather Underground (2013, August 12) Japan breaks national heat record. Chinese heat wave continues. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- Xinhua (2013, August 13) Xinhua insight: China endures worst heat wave in half-decade. Accessed August 14, 2013.
- Terra - MODIS
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