'Cool islands' could be solution to urban heat islands, say researchers

Jun 24, 2013
Credit: NSF Central-Arizona Phoenix LTER site

(Phys.org) —In a recent National Science Foundation article, several sustainability scientists from the Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU's Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) highlight their research on Phoenix's urban heat island effects.

Urban heat islands, or areas where temperatures are significantly higher than surrounding rural communities, tend to happen in cities where concrete, buildings and black asphalt replace cool-inducing vegetation. These higher temperatures have deadly effects on vulnerable populations like the elderly, poor and homeless, who may not have easy access to air conditioning and the cooler indoors.

Sustainability scientist Sharon Harlan is a who studies the human-environment interactions behind class, gender and ethnic inequalities. She believes we are the cause of urban heat islands.

"It's all due to the effects of humans," says Harlan, also an associate professor in the School of and Social Change. "We've modified the surface of the land in ways that retain heat."

Researchers from CAP LTER say we can positively modify our urban environment by incorporating cool, green parks within urban areas. Their studies have found that temperatures are significantly cooler in green parks. Large trees absorb and reflect sun rays, thus causing cooler temperatures. Harlan says these "cool islands" can mitigate negative effects.

"If targeted to low-income neighborhoods where vulnerability to heat is greater," says Harlan, "it would address an environmental inequity and provide better for these neighborhoods."

Explore further: Tourists evacuated amid Iceland volcano concerns

More information: www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Plants help lower temperatures

Feb 19, 2013

(Phys.org)—As Melbourne swelters through another heat wave, scientists are using thermal imaging to work out how plants can be used to reduce the severe temperatures in our cities.

Recommended for you

Water in the Netherlands–past, present, and future

3 hours ago

The storm in the Netherlands began on a Saturday afternoon in February 1953. Ria Geluk, who was 6 years old, told me that it peaked during the night when nationwide communications were on their nightly pause. ...

NASA image: Signs of deforestation in Brazil

Aug 20, 2014

Multiple fires are visible in in this image of the Para and Mato Grosso states of Brazil. Many of these were most likely intentionally set in order to deforest the land. Deforestation is the removal of a ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Neinsense99
3.3 / 5 (7) Jun 24, 2013
My buddy The Fonz says he IS an island of cool.