-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Urban development is
exacerbating air pollution in coastal regions, new research
The study, led by researchers at the U.S. National Center for
Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that the sprawl of strip malls
and other paved areas can affect weather patterns, trapping
pollutants and hurting air quality during the summer months.
In conducting the nine-day study, which focused on the Houston
area, the investigators used atmospheric measurements and computer
simulations to analyze how paved surfaces affected breezes. They
found that pavement, which heats up and keeps land warmer
overnight, reduced night-time winds. The reason for this, the study
authors explained, is that when land temperatures rise, the
contrast between land and sea temperatures is reduced and winds die
The study, published in June in the
Journal of Geophysical Research -- Atmospheres, also noted that buildings impede local winds, resulting in stagnant air in the afternoons. As a result, pollutants accumulate, instead of being blown out to sea.
"The developed area of Houston has a major impact on local air pollution," study author Fei Chen, an NCAR scientist, said in a news release from the journal publisher. "If the city continues to expand, it's going to make the winds even weaker in the summertime, and that will make air pollution much worse."
The study authors noted that the development of paved areas such
as strip malls and subdivisions, which impede the clearing of smog
and air pollution, could have implications for the air quality of
growing coastal cities in the United States as well as other
Although the researchers pointed out that more study is needed
to better understand the link between wind patterns and urban
development, they suggested that the findings may inspire city
planners to take new approaches to development.
The study found that drought conditions could also worsen air
pollution since dry soil heats up more quickly during the day than
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides more
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