A new paper published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology examines temperature trends in NW China and concludes, "The majority of the temperature trends, accounting for more than 60% of the trends during 1961–2009, can be explained by natural factors." The authors also find the Urban Heat Island [UHI] effect is more complex than previously believed, finding, "The urbanization of most cities in northwestern China resulted in considerable negative warming effects during 1961–1978 but evidently positive effects during 1979–2009."
The effects of urbanization on temperature trends in different economic periods and geographical environments in northwestern China
Feng Fang et al
Abstract: Using data collected from 22 urban and 65 rural meteorological stations in northwestern China between 1961 and 2009, this paper presents a study concerning the effects of urbanization on air temperature trends. To distinguish among the potential influences that stem from the economic development levels, population scales, and geographic environments of the cities in this region, the 49-year study period was divided into two periods: a period of less economic development, from 1961 to 1978, and a period of greater economic development, from 1979 to 2009. Each of the cities was classified as a megalopolis, large, or medium–small, depending on the population, and each was classified as a plateau, plain, or oasis city, depending on the surrounding geography. The differences in the air temperature trends between cities and the average of their rural counterparts were used to examine the warming effects of urbanization. The results of this study indicate that the magnitude of warming effects due to urbanization depends not only on a city’s economic level, but also on the population scale and geographic environment of the city. The urbanization of most cities in northwestern China resulted in considerable negative warming effects during 1961–1978 but evidently positive effects during 1979–2009. The population scale of a city represents a significant factor: a city with a larger population has a stronger warming influence, regardless of whether the effect is negative or positive. Among the three geographic environments of the cities considered, plateaus and plains more significantly enhance warming effects than oases. The urban population trend has a very significant logarithm relationship with the urban temperature effect, but no clear relationships between urban temperature effects and city elevation were detected. The majority of the temperature trends, accounting for more than 60 % of the trends during 1961–2009, can be explained by natural factors, although urbanization has had some obvious effects on temperatures in northwestern China.