May 4, 2018

Hot Weather Forecast Warms Up Urban Planning Research

UA team investigating solutions to daily buildup of city heat.

Sun, Heat, Summer, Hot, Temperature hero The bright sun sets behind some trees near Soleng Tom Elementary School on Tucson's east side. (PHOTO: AZPM Staff)

A weekend forecast for 100-degree afternoon temperatures is giving University of Arizona researchers a chance to investigate urban planning and the environment.

Lecturer Ladd Keith is part of a team examining the urban heat island effect. It happens when concrete, asphalt, and buildings retain heat during the day and make temperatures warm and uncomfortable at night.

"And a lot of that has to do with the total of impervious surfaces, the building hardscaping, and increasing tree canopy and increasing green infrastructure," Keith said.

He added that years of urban economic development make it difficult to turn the situation around.

"To do that on a regional scale that impacts the whole heat island is very difficult," according to Keith. "And cities like Tucson and Phoenix have urban forestry targets where they want to increase the tree canopy from 8 percent, where it's at now, to 20 percent in the future."

Keith and his fellow researchers are collecting data and advising city planners on diversifying their environments to include more green space. The team has undertaken a two-year project that has already helped Tucson, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico, develop heat maps to find out which areas can use the most relief.

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