Posted by Michele Redmon ● June, 2020

Microclimates Explained: Formation and Forecasting


While a lot of focus rests on global climates these days, local weather reports require microclimate consideration to improve accuracy for every person living in a specific geographic region. Both natural and engineered conditions affect both the formation and weather forecasting ability in these microclimates. When you understand what causes them, you can adopt hyper- local methods to more accurately plan your outdoor activities and prepare for severe weather.

What Are Microclimates?

Unlike climates associated with latitudinal regions or environments, microclimates are much smaller pockets of land with distinct features that affect things like temperature, precipitation, and wind. Although other possibilities exist, the most common recognized microclimates include:

  • Mountainous or other high-elevation areas
  • Coastal regions
  • Large forests or jungles
  • Dense urban landscapes
It is important to note that a single mountain range or stretch of coastline can include multiple microclimates depending on the specific conditions. For example, an upward slope of forested hillside has different characteristics than a high, rocky prominence. A flat sandy beach differs from a coastal wetland or a shore defined by towering cliffs.

How Do Microclimates Form?

The formation of a microclimate depends on any features that affects normal climate and weather patterns. Differences in topography affect airflow, temperatures, and cloud formation. Soil composition affects rate of evaporation. Bodies of water do too, but also decrease air temperatures in a concentrated spot. Heavy vegetation affects both airflow and moisture levels.

Unnatural additions to the landscape can create microclimates, too. The smog and increased heat above and urban center affect both low and high level winds and temperature changes. Due to the differing landscapes and characteristics of different parts of the city, multiple microclimates can exist in a very small geographic area. For example, San Francisco offers considerable changes from one block to the next with fog, rain, and sun at the same time and temperatures varying up to 10 degrees.

Forecasting In a Microclimate

With the extensive collection of satellite data and forecast models available to professional meteorologists, forecasting in a microclimate still presents issues due to the specificity of the location characteristics. While an urban heat dome may always change airflow, the smaller variances can make a big difference when it comes to predicting the path of a hurricane or snowstorm, for example.

For an individual living in or near one of these microclimates, the forecast you see on TV may not give you an accurate idea of what it will feel like outside on any specific day. Look to forecasts on community websites that get their information from local data sources or use at-home weather systems to track your own climate changes.

Advancements in smart home technology include weather stations that collect more in-depth data than simple temperature and rainfall over a period of time. The technology behind them analyzes the information and creates specific forecasts based on your microclimate conditions. The best even aligns atmospheric changes with your interior thermostat and smart blinds on windows and skylights.

Understanding and identifying microclimate conditions leads both meteorologists and local residents to improved weather forecasts. Whether topography or construction affects temperature, precipitation, and winds, accurate data collection and use matters more for microclimates around the world.

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