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Cooling effects of white roofs


Highly read on 15 Apr–15 May

Increasing the ability of urban roofs and pavements to reflect the Sun's heat would decrease the average global temperature by less than 0.1 °C over the next 300 years, according to climate simulations.

Hashem Akbari and his colleagues at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, used a global climate model, along with estimates of the extent of the world's urban areas, to predict what would happen if urban solar reflectivity rose from roughly 15% to 25%. Depending on which set of urban data they used, the researchers found that the resulting global cooling ranged from 0.01 to 0.07 °C by 2300.

Although this temperature decrease is small relative to natural climate variability, the authors say that cities should promote the use of white or light-coloured surface materials because these can reduce air-conditioning usage and counteract the urban 'heat island' effect at minimal extra cost.

Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 024004 (2012)

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Cooling effects of white roofs. Nature 485, 419 (2012).

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