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Patterns and Causes of Atlanta's Urban Heat Island–Initiated Precipitation

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  • 1 Climatology Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
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Abstract

Because of rapid growth and urbanization of Atlanta, Georgia, over the past few decades, the city has developed a pronounced urban heat island (UHI) that has been shown to enhance and possibly to initiate thunderstorms. This study attempts to find patterns and causes of Atlanta's induced precipitation that might not have been initiated otherwise. Land use maps, radar reflectivity, surface meteorological data, upper-air soundings, and airmass classification (spatial synoptic classification) types are all used to determine when, where, and why precipitation is initiated by Atlanta. Findings illustrate significant spatial and temporal patterns based on a 5-yr climatological description of events. July had the most events, with a diurnal peak just after local midnight. Low-level moisture, rather than UHI intensity, appears to be the most important factor for UHI-induced precipitation. However, UHI intensity also plays an important role. Events tended to occur under atmospheric conditions that were more unstable than those on rain-free days but not unstable enough to produce widespread convection.

Corresponding author address: P. Grady Dixon, Department of Geography, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 870104, Tempe, AZ 85287-0104. gradydixon@asu.edu

Abstract

Because of rapid growth and urbanization of Atlanta, Georgia, over the past few decades, the city has developed a pronounced urban heat island (UHI) that has been shown to enhance and possibly to initiate thunderstorms. This study attempts to find patterns and causes of Atlanta's induced precipitation that might not have been initiated otherwise. Land use maps, radar reflectivity, surface meteorological data, upper-air soundings, and airmass classification (spatial synoptic classification) types are all used to determine when, where, and why precipitation is initiated by Atlanta. Findings illustrate significant spatial and temporal patterns based on a 5-yr climatological description of events. July had the most events, with a diurnal peak just after local midnight. Low-level moisture, rather than UHI intensity, appears to be the most important factor for UHI-induced precipitation. However, UHI intensity also plays an important role. Events tended to occur under atmospheric conditions that were more unstable than those on rain-free days but not unstable enough to produce widespread convection.

Corresponding author address: P. Grady Dixon, Department of Geography, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 870104, Tempe, AZ 85287-0104. gradydixon@asu.edu

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