Richmond has warmest spring on record; 'heat islands' to blame? - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

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Richmond has warmest spring on record

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By Andrew Freiden - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) –  After a cold and snowy winter, our weather made a dramatic change. The numbers are in and spring in Richmond was the warmest on record.

The numbers need a little explanation. Spring doesn't end until June 21, but for meteorologists spring is March, April, and May -- so the spring numbers are in.

The average temperature for spring 2010: 61.5 degrees -- that beats the spring of 1945 by 0.2 of a degree.

The record went down thanks to warm overnight temperatures.

"The nighttime temperatures have really gone up a lot while the daytime temperatures have gone up slightly but not nearly as much," said Larry Brown of the National Weather Service.

Brown noticed the Richmond temperature is warmer at night compared to surrounding areas.  The charts show this for the past 10-20 years.

"You don't get those ideal cooling off conditions that you do in a rural area," he said.

Metro areas stay warmer than rural spots because human activities create and hold heat.  Things like pavement, air conditioning units and buildings combine to produce what's called an urban heat island.

The urban heat island effect is something that we experience on a regular basis but you might not know it.  If you stand on pavement, it's warm.  If you move just a few feet away, into a forest or stand on some grass, you can immediately notice the drop in temperatures.

And those effects have been magnified at the airport, the site of this official weather station.  Brown said it could be Richmond's overall growth or a local change. That station was moved to a new location on Richmond International Airport grounds in 1995.  There have also been runway and terminal expansions in the past five years.

And for some reason, RIC tends to show an evening breeze longer than rural sites.

"That tends to keep the mixing up and that inhibits the air from really cooling off at the surface as much as it otherwise would," Brown said.

Whatever the reason, it still goes in the record books.

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