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Helping Cool Cities

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Louisville, Kentucky, could significantly reduce the number of people who die from heat-related causes under a series of recommendations that could also help other cities around the world respond to the growing hazards of extreme heat.

The plan calls for planting additional trees and vegetation, cutting energy consumption by cars and buildings, decreasing impervious surface areas such as parking lots, and increasing the reflectivity of roads and rooftops. The recommendations are part of a new study that is the first in the nation to measure the benefits of heat management strategies for reducing urban temperatures and reducing the numbers of individuals dying from heat-related causes.

The strategies were developed by a research team led by Brian Stone, director of Georgia Tech’s Urban Climate Lab and a professor in the School of City and Regional Planning in the College of Design.

If the strategies are implemented, Louisville would be the first city in the world to develop an urban heat-adaptation plan, Stone said. The city could then show how changes to a city’s physical surface can alter the impact of the urban heat island effect, which turns cities into cauldrons because of the combined impact of climate change and rising temperatures driven by a predominance of concrete and a shortage of vegetation.

“Cities need to think about aggressive action if they want to measurably slow the rate at which they’re warming,” Stone said. “Louisville and this study can point the way for other cities to follow.”

Heat is the deadliest natural disaster facing the United States — killing more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes combined. About 650 people die every year because of exposure to excessive heat, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. — Laura Diamond

photo - Brian Stone

Brian Stone is a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning.

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