Tokyo has become so crowded that the accumulated heat from all the human activity is changing local weather patterns. “We are seeing more than just an increase in temperatures,” says Shuhei Akashi, of Japan’s Central Meteorological Agency. “It is changing rain patterns and humidity as well.”

The warming of crowded cities to one or two degrees higher than the surrounding countryside is effecting the weather of cities around the world, from Toronto to Los Angeles to Shanghai. The large number of cars and air conditioners, which pump out hot air and greenhouse gasses, raises temperatures. Computers and other electrical appliances in office buildings add more heat. Asphalt and concrete absorb heat from the sun, while the lack of greenery means less shade.

When the heat doesn’t let up much, even at night, there is more demand for energy, which creates a vicious cycle. And the warmth isn’t only felt in the summer. In the winter, the number of days when Tokyo?s temperature has dropped below freezing has fallen from an average of 53 a year in the 1930s to just three in 1990s. The warming trend is a health risk for the elderly, the very young, asthmatics and other people who are vulnerable to heat.

As cities become islands of high temperatures, we may need to wear shorts to work and keep a coat in our cars, to wear when we drive home to the suburbs in the evening.

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