Environmental planning for the 2002 Olympic games, strategies to reduce ozone levels, focused tree-planting programs and identification of cool roofs are early spinoffs from a NASA urban study just concluding in three U.S. cities.
Researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, flew a thermal camera mounted on a NASA aircraft over Baton Rouge, LA; Sacramento, CA; and Salt Lake City, UT. The thermal camera took each city's temperature and produced an image that pinpoints the cities' "hot spots."
The researchers are using the images to study which city surfaces contribute to bubble-like accumulations of hot air, called urban heat islands. The bubbles of hot air develop over cities as naturally vegetated surfaces are replaced with asphalt, concrete, rooftops and other man-made materials.
"One thing's for sure, the three cities we've looked at were hot," said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Jeff Luvall of Marshall's Global Hydrology and Climate Center. "They can use a lot of trees and reflective rooftops."
Salt Lake City is using the early results to help plan sites for the 2002 Olympic Games and develop strategies to reduce ground-level ozone concentrations in the Salt Lake City valley. Though at high altitudes ozone protects the Earth from ultraviolet rays, at ground level it is a powerful and dangerous respiratory irritant found in cities during the summer's hottest months.
In Sacramento and Baton Rouge, city planners and tree-planting organizations are using the study to focus their tree-planting programs. "We are helping the citiesincorporate the study into their urban planning," said Maury Estes, an urban planner on the science team at Marshall. "By choosing strategic areas in which to plant trees and by encouraging the use of light-colored, reflective building material, we think that the cities can be cooled."
The science team will continue to analyze the thermal heat information and work with the cities to incorporate future results into the cities' plans. The team plans to disseminate its findings nationally so other cities can incorporate what the team has learned into their long-range growth plans.
This study is supported by NASA's Earth Science enterprise. The enterprise is responsible for a long-term, coordinated research effort to study the total Earth system and the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment. This project also is aimed at the enterprise's efforts to make more near-term economic and societal benefits of Earth science research and data products available to the broader community of public and private users.
Working on the study are researchers from Marshall; the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC; the Department of Energy, Washington, DC; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA; Baton Rouge Green, LA; the Sacramento Tree Foundation, CA; Tree Utah, Salt Lake City; and the Utah State Energy Services Department, Salt Lake City.
Note to Editors: Interviews with the NASA urban planner, heat island researchers and program coordinators in Baton Rouge, Sacramento and Salt Lake City are available via telephone, NASA TV live satellite link or by e-mail. For additional information, call Marshall's Media Relations Office at 256/544-0034. Images related to the study can be found at:
More information on the study and research updates can be found on the new Marshall Internet Web site at URL: http://www.msfc.nasa.gov/news
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