Popular Science

The shape of your city could determine how hot it gets at night

New York City is a crystal, but Boston is a liquid.




Is your city crystal or liquid? No, this isn’t a Facebook quiz. It’s a serious scientific question about urban design, and whether a city’s layout can affect how hot it gets at night compared to its rural surroundings — a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect.

If you live in a grid-like city, such as New York or Chicago, whose design at the nanoscale looks like atoms in a crystal, you are more likely to be hotter at night than if you live in a chaotically arranged city, London or Boston, for example, which resemble the disordered atoms of liquid or glass.

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