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Desert Diary
Climate/Hot Spots


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El Paso is a hot spot. So is Chihuahua City. No, I'm not talking about the night life, or even the fact that we're living in a desert, but about a fact of modern, city life. We've changed the local climate by the artifacts of civilization. By replacing the desert with roads and parking lots of asphalt or cement and open lots with houses for living, we've created our own hot spots. Quicker to heat up in the hot desert sun than even scantily vegetated open country, the cities absorb and then radiate the sun's energy. Except in comfort, perhaps this doesn't make that much difference in the desert Southwest. Or maybe it does—studies have yet to be done.

In research centered on damper climes, the heat islands that are cities have been shown to change patterns of precipitation—it seems we can impact nature in ways we seldom anticipate. Cities have another unsuspected impact on nature. Recently we've found that birds sing louder in our noisy cities--they, like us, have had to learn to shout!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.