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Barry H. Lynn, Toby N. Carlson, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Richard Goldberg, Leonard Druyan, Jennifer Cox, Stuart Gaffin, Lily Parshall, and Kevin Civerolo


A new approach to simulating the urban environment with a mesocale model has been developed to identify efficient strategies for mitigating increases in surface air temperatures associated with the urban heat island (UHI). A key step in this process is to define a “global” roughness for the cityscape and to use this roughness to diagnose 10-m temperature, moisture, and winds within an atmospheric model. This information is used to calculate local exchange coefficients for different city surface types (each with their own “local roughness” lengths); each surface’s energy balances, including surface air temperatures, humidity, and wind, are then readily obtained. The model was run for several summer days in 2001 for the New York City five-county area. The most effective strategy to reduce the surface radiometric and 2-m surface air temperatures was to increase the albedo of the city (impervious) surfaces. However, this caused increased thermal stress at street level, especially noontime thermal stress. As an alternative, the planting of trees reduced the UHI’s adverse effects of high temperatures and also reduced noontime thermal stress on city residents (and would also have reduced cooling energy requirements of small structures). Taking these results together, the analysis suggests that the best mitigation strategy is planting trees at street level and increasing the reflectivity of roofs.

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Cynthia Rosenzweig, William D. Solecki, Lily Parshall, Barry Lynn, Jennifer Cox, Richard Goldberg, Sara Hodges, Stuart Gaffin, Ronald B. Slosberg, Peter Savio, Frank Dunstan, and Mark Watson

This study of New York City, New York's, heat island and its potential mitigation was structured around research questions developed by project stakeholders working with a multidisciplinary team of researchers. Meteorological, remotely-sensed, and spatial data on the urban environment were brought together to understand multiple dimensions of New York City's heat island and the feasibility of mitigation strategies, including urban forestry, green roofs, and high-albedo surfaces. Heat island mitigation was simulated with the fifth-generation Pennsylvania State University-NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5). Results compare the possible effectiveness of mitigation strategies at reducing urban air temperature in six New York City neighborhoods and for New York City as a whole. Throughout the city, the most effective temperature-reduction strategy is to maximize the amount of vegetation, with a combination of tree planting and green roofs. This lowered simulated citywide surface urban air temperature by 0.4°C on average, and 0.7°C at 1500 Eastern Standard Time (EST), when the greatest temperature reductions tend to occur. Decreases of up to 1.1°C at 1500 EST occurred in some neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where there is more available area for implementing vegetation planting. New York City agencies are using project results to guide ongoing urban greening initiatives, particularly tree-planting programs.

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