Cool Urban Heat Islands

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Cool Urban Heat Islands

Urban heat islands (UHI) are metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. On a hot, sunny summer day, the sun can heat dry, exposed urban surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, to temperatures 50–90°F (27–50°C) hotter than the air while shaded or moist surfaces—often in more rural surroundings—remain close to air temperatures. This dangerous high temperature zone can affect people, cars, plants pets, etc. and can also lead to higher utility costs for the buildings located within its confines.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Concrete Sustainability Hub looked at the different textures of these urban areas as well. They discovered that the patterns and properties of a city, as well as the topography of surrounding areas, began to mimic the same patterns as other traditional structures studied under a microscope. What they learned was that the structures of these cities could be comparable to a molecular structure, a new realm designated as urban physics.

Researchers found that the arrangement of buildings in New York City could be equivalent to that of a crystal structure. By analyzing the texture of a cities layout, scientists at MIT predict that it can better analyze the effect of urban heat island (UHI). UHI is the effect of exposed urban surfaces heating up their environment 3 to 8 degrees warmer than the current air temperature.

Cities only cover 2% of the world’s landmass,but they contribute to more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Urban population growth is on the rise and trending to continue to growth for the foreseeable future. According to the World Health Organization, urban populations around the world are “expected to grow approximately 1.84% per year between 2015 and 2020.”

Skyscrapers and other high-rise buildings have utilized vegetation in order to offset the UHI effect. However, the research from MIT indicates that taking on the overall infrastructure, to looking at the type of materials that are included in building up cities could be crucial to combating those rising temperatures.