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The Cool City Project: NYC Urban Heat Island Mitigation Strategies
Investigators: Joyce Rosenthal (Public Health), Patrick Kinney (Public Health), Hillary Brown (Planning), Elliott Sclar (Planning), and Christopher Small (Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory)
Funding Source: ISERP Seed Grant
In summer, air temperatures in cities can register 2 to 10 degrees higher than in surrounding suburbs, resulting in a hotter urban environment, uncomfortable conditions, higher energy demand, and accelerated smog formation. Urban "heat islands" (UHI) are created principally by man-made surfaces, including dark roofs, asphalt lots and roads, which absorb most of the sunlight falling on them and reradiate that energy as heat. Also important is that many urban streets have far fewer trees and other natural vegetation to shade buildings, block solar radiation and temperatures caused by the urban heat island increases demand for cooling energy in commercial and residential buildings in summer, costing residents and municipalities thousands of additional dollars in electricity bills. Increased summer electricity demand leads to increased peak load of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and suspended particulates, as well as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. Most importantly for NYC residents, higher summer temperatures accelerate the formulation of harmful smog, as ozone precursors combine faster to produce ground level ozone, and can lead to higher mortality rates, especially among the elderly. Although measures to reduce and mitigate the Urban Heat Island have been investigated and employed in other cities (e.g., Chicago, Sacramento, Salt Lake City), there has not been a similar effort to design and implement UHI mitigation strategies in NYC. This research will involve community-based organizations and residents in the definition and development of strategies for urban heat island mitigation, in order to evaluate the most effective institutional mechanisms and public policies for further implementation of UHI mitigation within New York City. This project requires collaboration between urban planners, architects, economists, health scientists and geophysicists in order to: (1) identify New York City neighborhoods with the highest surface temperatures; (2) identify effective institutional mechanisms and economic incentives to promote the adoption of neighborhood-based heat island mitigation and energy conservation measures, and (3) assess their environmental and public health impacts.
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