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Record-setting heat in Twin Cities brings urban heat islands into focus

July 5, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (07/05/2012) – With an overbearing heat wave bringing record setting, triple-digit temperatures and excessive heat warnings to the Twin Cities, a longer-term problem comes into focus: urban heat islands. These islands make cities – including Minneapolis and St. Paul – hotter than rural areas, with differences in excess of 1-10 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and as much as 12-20 degrees at night.

Urban heat islands are regions of strong warming that are localized around the core downtown region of a city, and exist due to the large differences in land use, building materials and vegetation between cities and their rural surroundings.

Two University of Minnesota experts who can discuss how the city landscapes of Minneapolis and St. Paul have contributed to this week’s record heat and what changes may be implemented in the future to mitigate the effects of urban heat islands are:

Peter Snyder and Tracy Twine, atmospheric scientists in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate and primary investigators in the university’s Islands in the Sun project.

Islands in the Sun is a four-year research project funded by the university’s Institute on the Environment and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences to monitor the urban heat island of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA). Data collected will be used to comprehensively map and understand our urban heat island. Researchers will also explore the effectiveness of different engineering and building design practices on reducing energy consumption and urban warming.

Given that more than half the global population lives in cities, there is urgent need to understand and mitigate heat island effects, especially during heat wave events when the risk of heat-related illness and mortality can increase dramatically.

The economic, environmental and human toll of urban heat islands is far-reaching and significant:

To schedule an interview with Professor Snyder or Professor Twine, please contact Todd Reubold, (612) 624-6140, or email

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Tags: Institute on Environment

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Islands in the Sun

Institute on the Environment

Department of Soil, Water and Climate

College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences