SCaRP professor Stone leads first urban heat-adaptation plan in major US city

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As Earth's climate changes over the coming decades, global warming will hit metropolitan areas especially hard because their buildings and pavements readily absorb sunlight and raise local temperatures, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Cities, as a result, stand a greater chance of extreme hot spells that can kill. And yet despite the risks, few cities have plans in place to address urban heat directly. In the United States, says School of City and Regional Planning professo Brian Stone, “most cities are ignoring the climate issue”.

Louisville in Kentucky will soon become the first major US city to develop an urban heat-adaptation plan, says Stone, who is leading the project. The effort is driven by necessity. Louisville has the fastest warming urban heat island in the United States, and temperatures there have climbed by more than 4 °C since 1961. Part of the problem is that the city has lost 54,000 trees per year to insects, ice storms and lack of care. 

If Louisville implements the strategies that Stone recommends, it could become a testing ground that will reveal how changes to a city's physical surface alter the urban heat island — and its pioneering programme could point the way for other cities to follow. “We're already crossing thresholds that are pretty sensitive,” says Stone. “Cities are going to be contemplating more aggressive action. But cities can measurably slow the rate at which they're warming over a decade or two.” And that's pretty quick, he adds, because even if we eliminated greenhouse-gas emissions tomorrow, “we're still going to warm for a couple of hundred years”.

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School of City & Regional Planning

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Brian Stone, Global Warming, green roof, greenhouse gasses, heat island, louisville, nature.com
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  • Created By: Jessie Brandon
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Aug 27, 2015 - 6:33am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 10:27pm