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Cities need tailored strategies to mitigate heat

 

Last updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

Global warming, Temperature Rise, Urban Heat Island  
 
Scientists and climate experts don’t relate the rise in temperature, particularly in cities, with global warming. However, scientists have recognised the ‘heat island’ effect created by the cities. Basing upon recorded data and results of their analysis, Matei Georgescu of Arizona State University and colleagues think that as populations grow, and cities begin to spread, temperatures is to rise anyway.  

Basudev Mahapatra

 
 

Since last few years, most of the cities of Odisha have experienced increasing heat during summer. The capital city of Bhubaneswar turns into a boiling pot for its dwellers. While atmospheric temperature in industrial hubs like Jharsuguda crosses 46 degree Celsius, mercury goes beyond 47 degree Celsius in some of the non-industrialised towns of Odisha like Bolangir, Titlagarh etc. Many Indian cities and industrial towns too experience similar rise in heat during summer.

Many scientists and climate experts don’t relate the rise in temperature, particularly in cities, with global warming. However, scientists have recognised the ‘heat island’ effect created by the cities. Basing upon recorded data and results of their analysis, Matei Georgescu of Arizona State University and colleagues think that as populations grow, and cities begin to spread, temperatures is to rise anyway.

 

So, what we need is a way out.

A group of scientists, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, report that they have tested a few strategies to mitigate the rise of city temperatures and perhaps at the same time turn down the rate of rise in greenhouse temperatures as well.

Scientists argue that roofs, paved roads, pipes, wiring, traffic, central heating and air conditioning, industry and commerce and other such urban trappings could raise temperatures by 1C to 2C. It is also certain that cities are to expand and, thus, more land areas are to be covered by roofs and roads.

If you go by analysis of urban growth data, global urban area is expected to grow by 185% by 2030 and much of that will be in China and India. In that same time Africa could see the greatest proportional increase with its cities expanding by six-fold.

‘Urban expansion within these areas will almost certainly be highly concentrated, exposing highly vulnerable populations to land use-driven climate change,’ the authors of the report say.

Adaptation strategies to be tailored

So the researchers started to think about some simple changes that could reduce urban temperatures. The first conclusion was that adaptations needed to be tailored to local climates and needs.

One simple answer is the ‘cool roof’ – paint it white so it reflects the sunlight. This has been a proved idea and in California’s Central Valley, at least, the temperature levels fall. However, in other simulated environments, the measure didn’t work well as reflective roofs lowered the temperature in winter necessitating extra investment in heating fuels.

‘Green roofs,’ covered with turf or planted with transpiring foliage, were more effective in other urban climates. These highly transpiring structures did not compromise summertime energy savings by demanding additional energy in winter.

The scientists suggest that cities need to develop tailored strategies based on their local climatic condition and needs. With judicious planning and careful choice of design, it could be possible not only to counteract urban growth temperature increases but even offset the effect of greenhouse gas warming as well, not just over the cities, but beyond the cities as well.

The study delivered unexpected results. In Florida, the team’s simulations significantly reduced rainfall, a result that would have implications for water supply and local ecosystems.

There was no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Geography played an important role in any such calculations.

‘For Florida, cool roofs may not be the optimal way to battle the urban heat island because of these unintended consequences,’ said Georgescu as quoted by Tim Radford in a Climate News Network release.

‘We simply wanted to get all these technologies on a level playing field and draw out the issues associated with each one, across place and across time,’ Georgescu added.

(With Inputs from Tim Radford's Report released by Climate News Network)

 
   
 

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