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Tourists walk in harsh afternoon sunlight in Las Vegas, on July 3 , 2007. Las Vegas has the nation's most intense urban heat island effect. / Jae C. Hong, AP

Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Denver lead the list of U.S. cities with the most intense urban heat islands, according to a report released this week by research organization Climate Central, which is based in Princeton, N.J.

"Urban heat islands have hotter days, far hotter nights, and more extremely hot days each summer than adjacent rural areas," said Alyson Kenward, lead author of the report and senior scientist with Climate Central.

The concrete, asphalt and shingled roofs of buildings, roads and other infrastructure in urban environments usually make cities much hotter than surrounding rural areas.

On average, U.S. summer temperatures have increased nearly 2 degrees since 1970, the National Climate Assessment reported earlier this year.

"Thanks to the dual action of urbanization and climate change, cities are not just hotter, they are getting hotter faster: 45 of 60 cities we analyzed were warming at a faster rate than the surrounding rural land," Kenward reported.

About 80% of Americans live in metropolitan areas.

Cities also tend to have many more extremely hot days each year, on average, than nearby rural areas, the report found. Over the past 10 years, cities had an average of at least eight more days over 90 degrees each summer, compared to nearby rural areas.

Hotter summer temperatures have been correlated with higher ozone pollution, and the hottest days of the year often had ozone levels exceed the safe standard established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Additionally, independent studies have found that urban heat islands don't bias global warming measurements, ruling out the possibility that rising global temperatures have been caused by urbanization alone.

Based on data from 2004-13, the top 10 U.S. cities with the most intense urban heat islands -- measured as the greatest difference in average temperatures between urban and rural areas over the entire summer -- were:

Las Vegas (7.3°F)
Albuquerque (5.9°F)
Denver (4.9°F)
Portland (4.8°F)
Louisville (4.8°F)
Washington, D.C. (4.7°F)
Kansas City (4.6°F)
Columbus (4.4°F)
Minneapolis (4.3°F)
Seattle (4.1°F)



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Which U.S. cities have the worst urban heat islands?

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