updated: 10/24/2005 12:59:28 PM

ISU Studies Effects of Warmer Temperatures in Urban Areas

InsideIndianaBusiness.com Report

Indiana State University researchers are using Indianapolis to study urban heat islands, a phenomenon where cities remain warmer than surrounding countrysides.

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Researchers say that warmer urban areas result in an increase in energy costs and added pollution. The study is aimed at assisting urban planners around the world.

Source: Inside INdiana Business

Press Release

While Hoosiers may be turning their attention to how much it will cost to keep warm this winter, researchers at Indiana State University are already thinking about next summer.

A case study in Indianapolis will help urban planners around the world determine the best ways to address the phenomenon of urban heat islands, in which cities remain warmer than the surrounding countryside, driving up energy costs for air conditioning and adding to pollution.

A grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the university's Center for Urban and Environmental Change to use satellite images and remote sensing to map surface temperatures throughout the city and even pinpoint temperature differences for individual buildings.

Researchers will then examine the impact on temperatures from the use of heat absorbing construction materials and the loss of natural vegetation and water as a result of development. They will also look into the role the planting and spacing of trees plays in reducing the effects of heat retention.

Procedures developed in the Indianapolis study will result in methods that can be applied to other cities worldwide, said Qihao Weng, associate professor of geography at Indiana State and the center's director.

"Knowledge of the surface energy budget and urban heat islands is significant to a range of issues and themes in earth sciences central to urban climatology, global environmental change, and human-environment interactions, and is also important for planning and management practices," Weng said.

The research will also provide real-world educational experience for graduate and undergraduate students at Indiana State and result in a unique science education program for middle and high school students. Materials made available on the Internet will also help educate the public.

"Urban heat greatly impacts the health and quality of life of people living in cities. This effort will have very practical application to local government in our building codes and our planning for green spaces," said Jim Stout, program manager of the Indianapolis Mapping and Geographic Infrastructure System.

"This research is exciting given the new information and educational materials that may result," said Don Miller, land steward coordinator with Indy Parks and Recreation. "Dr. Weng's research will hopefully become available to city planners who must take into account the complicated interactions between urban land cover and natural surfaces in reducing effects of heat."

While it may be easy for suburban homeowners to decide just where to plant a tree in their back yard, the decision is more complicated in an urban setting, Miller said.

"If a project involves planting 300 trees in a city block that has buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and gardens, planners must decide the most beneficial location for the trees," he said. "Although the obvious answer might be to plant the trees along parking areas where heat is easily absorbed, there are more complex variables. The data generated could prove very helpful to urban forest managers as practices are improved based on new science."

Source: Indiana State University

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