Some Of The Country's Hottest Cities Early Results From A NASA Study To Improve Urban Planning Environment

October 26, 1998

RELEASE: 98-209

Environmental planning for the 2002 Olympic games, strategies to reduce ozone levels, focused tree planting programs and identifying 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 in Huntsville, Ala., flew a thermal camera, mounted on a NASA aircraft, over Baton Rouge, La.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Salt Lake City -- taking each city's temperature. The thermal camera produced an image which pinpoints the cities' "hot spots."

The researchers are using the images to study what types of surfaces in cities 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! They can use a lot of trees and reflective rooftops," said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Jeff Luvall of the Global Hydrology and Climate Center at Marshall.

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. Not to be confused with the "good" ozone layer protecting Earth from ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone 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 cities incorporate 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 implement future results into the cities' plans. Based on the results of the project, the team plans to disseminate its findings nationally so other cities can incorporate what the team has learned into their long-range growth plans.

The urban heat island 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. The project also is aimed at the enterprise's efforts to make more near-term economic and social 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, D.C.; the Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; Baton Rouge Green, La.; the Sacramento Tree Foundation, Calif.; 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 Email. For additional information, call Marshall's Media Relations Office at (256) 544-0034. More information on the study and research updates can be found on the new Marshall Center Virtual Newsroom Website at URL:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center News Center

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