Category Archives: Climate Change

Urban heat islands – why is it warmer in the city?

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Summer in the city can be especially hot and sticky, because urban heat islands exacerbate the warm weather. Researchers at Berkeley Lab are testing materials that battle that effect, making pavements cooler and safer.

Causes

The properties of urban roofs and pavements, as well as human activity, contribute to the formation of summer urban heat islands:

  • Urban surface properties. Roofs and pavements can constitute about 60% of the surface area of a U.S. city. These surfaces are typically dark in color and thus absorb at least 80% of sunlight, causing them to get warmer than lighter colored surfaces.1 These warm roofs and pavements then emit heat and make the outside air warmer.
  • Human activity. Air conditioning, manufacturing, transportation, and other human activities discharge heat into our urban environments.

Consequences

Urban heat islands can negatively affect the urban community and the environment.

  • Increased energy use. Warm temperatures in cities increase the need for air conditioning (A/C) to cool buildings. This elevated demand can strain the electrical grid on a hot summer afternoon, making it more susceptible to brown-outs and black-outs.
  • Impaired air quality. Warmer air accelerates the formation of smog (ozone) from airborne pollutants like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Elevated demand for cooling energy in the form of A/C use can also increase the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel power plants.
  • Illness. Higher air temperatures and lower air quality can aggravate heat-related and respiratory illnesses, and also reduce productivity.

Learn more

(Source: heatisland.lbl.gov)

Restoring oysters along the California coast

oystersIn response to global climate change, Jill Bible at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab shows us how her research with the Olympia Oyster is aimed at restoring this species along the west coast.

“My research will help us determine what populations of oysters are particularly vulnerable or particularly robust to future changes and will help us determine how to best restore the populations given some of the changes coming down the pipe for oceans.” – Jill Bible

 

Studying the seasons: how climate change affects natural communities

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UC Santa Barbara researchers have launched the California Phenology Project. Scientists, docents, staff, teachers and citizen researchers will track the life stages of selected plant species at eight UC natural reserves.

Nowadays, observing nature’s seasonal events is a serious science. Called phenology, the study of recurring biological changes and their responses to the environment can answer a host of pressing ecological questions. Chief among these: How is climate change affecting natural communities?

To keep tabs on natural schedules in California, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have launched the California Phenology Project. Led by professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Susan Mazer, graduate student Brian Haggerty, and postdoctoral fellow Elizabeth Mathews, the project is observing plants at eight UC Natural Reserves and seven national parks, totaling more than 100 monitoring sites.

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