Air Conditioning Heats Your World

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 9:05 PM EST

Our cool addiction is making it hotter. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports on a study by Dr Yukitaka Ohashi of Okayama University of Science and colleagues in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology reporting that air conditioners make it hotter outside and how they do it.

Their study compared the summer temperatures in downtown Tokyo on weekends versus weekdays. It showed air conditioners dump enough heat into the streets to raise the temperature at least 1 to 2ºC [1.8 to 3.6 degrees F]. In turn, heat blasting from the rear-ends of air conditioners is contributing to the "heat island" effect that makes cities hotter and their weather sometimes more severe.

Air conditioners remove not only ambient heat from buildings, but they expel heat from their use of electricity. In other words, coolers don't just move heat from the inside to the outdoors, they also add new heat just by being machines that consume power. In fact, Tokyo sucks up about 1.6 gigawatts of electricity for every 2 degrees of warming on a hot summer day, the researchers says. That's equivalent to the output of one-and-a-half nuclear power plants.

If we want to get serious about local warming as well as global warming can we agree to open the doors? I mean, does anyone keep their house or apartment as frigid as the average mini-mart, restaurant, or mall store? Can we imagine adding thermostat control to our list of consumer demands… we already (don't we?) ask for sustainably-caught seafood and sustainably-harvested wood and forest products? Why not ask to open the doors and cool the world?

US-based urban heat researcher Dr Stuart Gaffin of the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University in New York suspects the Japanese researchers are right about the significant contribution of air conditioning to hotter cities. "Such heat is not fully appreciated in urban heat island discussions," says Gaffin. The heat islands created by big cities in warm climates like Atlanta or Dallas - have been recognised as having noticeable and sometimes violent effects on stormy weather that crosses their path. Even non-urban areas downwind of cities have been known to get more violent thunder storms as a result of the supercharging of storms by city heat.

Either we get bitchy about it or Mother Nature will. And she's queen bitch.

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