Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It is HOT in HOUSTON: Houston Urban Heat Island Effect

Houston Urban Heat Island Effect
Like other cities, Houston's urbanized areas are hotter than surrounding rural areas by 6 to 8 degrees F – a phenomenon called the urban heat island effect. These higher temperatures contribute to air pollution, higher energy costs, and other detriments to the city’s quality of life. Roads, buildings, and other hard surfaces absorb and retain heat, leading to surface temperatures 50 to 70 degrees F hotter. The removal of trees as the region develops also removes the cooling effects that vegetation provides. Hard surfaces and vegetation loss also contribute to flooding and water quality deterioration.

Cool Houston! is a program designed to reduce urban temperatures through use of cool technologies - reflective and green roofing, paving with light colored or porous materials, and a greatly expanded forest canopy.

Cool Houston! Plan
Cool Houston! Plan The Cool Houston! Plan (Adobe PDF 2.17 MB) provides guidance on what we can do to reduce heat island effects on the Houston region.

If you would like to receive a copy of the Cool Houston! Plan, please send an email with your mailing address to:

Recent News
Cool Roofs
Cool Roofs
Flat, dark-colored roofs like those on many retail centers, apartments, warehouses and offices can exceed 160 degrees F in the summer – enough to affect the temperature of whole neighborhoods. Greater use of more reflective roofing with high albedo (a measure of the reflectivity of solar radiation) helps cool urban air temperatures. Greater use of green or garden roofs also reduces urban temperatures and helps reduce runoff that contributes to flooding. Cool Houston! proposes the widespread use of reflective roofing on all low-slope roofs. The Cool Houston! Plan provides information on these technologies, their benefits, and what we need to do to have more cool roofs.

Links to information on cool roof products:
Cool Paving
Cool Paving
A dark surface on parking lots can reach 160 degrees F or hotter. Parked cars on hot pavement emit gasoline fumes contributing to air pollution. Rainfall on this surface is heated before it flows into waterways, where it harms temperature-sensitive species and introduces heated pollutants. Light-colored pavements offer a cooler alternative, reducing surface heat and lowering the temperature of storm water runoff. Porous paving offers a good solution for low traffic areas such as parking lots and light duty roads, cooling the city and reducing urban runoff. The Cool Houston! Plan provides information on paving technologies and a course of action on encouraging their use.
Trees and Vegetation
Trees and Vegetation
From 1972 to 1999, the Houston region lost about 400 square miles of tree canopy, or 25 acres per day, causing Houston's urban heat islands to grow larger and hotter. Trees remove pollutants from the air. They cool air temperature through shading and a process called evapotranspiration. Current tree shade provides Houston area residents with $26 million in annual energy savings, at the same time increasing property values and the quality of life in the region. Trees slow storm water movement, lower total runoff volume, reduce flooding, and control erosion. The Cool Houston! Plan provides a new look at the role of trees in the Houston region and how we can greatly expand the benefits of our tree population.

Links to information on trees & vegetation:

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