Would More Reflective Surfaces Help Prevent Heat Waves?

Would More Reflective Surfaces Help Prevent Heat Waves?

Unploughed fields and brighter cities could help lower extreme temperatures during periods of hot weather, particularly in important agricultural regions and densely populated areas of Europe and North America, new research suggests.

“Even this climate technique is no silver bullet…”

Climate change will make heatwaves more common, and continental areas and urban regions that become significantly warmer in summer will be particularly affected.

Researchers have now detailed a practical approach that combines clever land use and urban radiation management to help cool extreme summer temperatures locally.

The approach, detailed in in the journal Nature Geoscience, is based on the different reflection properties of ground surfaces. For instance, fields left unploughed after harvest reflect significantly more sunlight that ploughed ones. Similarly, crop selection for brighter species and the implementation of reflective material on roofs, streets, and other urban infrastructure could increase the surface reflectivity and cool local climates.

“These measures could help to lower extreme temperatures in agricultural regions and densely populated areas by up two to three degrees Celsius,” says first author Sonia Seneviratne, professor of land-climate dynamics at ETH Zurich. In this context, the hotter it becomes, the stronger the effect. The cooling effect only works in the short term, however, and is local or regional rather than global—but this regional contribution is still very important, emphasizes Seneviratne.

The researchers used simulations to examine how radiation-optimized agricultural surfaces and metropolitan areas in North America, Europe, and Asia affect average temperatures, extreme temperatures, and precipitation.

The models showed that the measures had a negligible effect on average temperatures and only slightly altered precipitation—except in Asia—but significantly reduced extreme temperatures. In Asia, India, and China, the levels of the crucial monsoon rains also decreased in the simulations, suggesting that the selected approach is unsuitable for these countries.

The measures that could be used for this type of radiation management already exist and have largely been tested, although they’ve only been applied on a small scale or for other purposes. In contrast, it is doubtful whether other climate techniques currently discussed as “geoengineering” could actually work to adjust or avoid climate change.

Interventions such as spraying sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere, fertilizing the oceans with iron, or placing huge mirrors in space are likely to have unpredictable effects on the Earth’s climate and ecosystems, potentially making the situation even worse.

“Regional radiation management can be effective, but even here, we have to consider any potential effects on food production, biodiversity, CO2 absorption, recreation areas, and much more before we can actually implement it,” says Seneviratne. And she points out: “Even this climate technique is no silver bullet; it’s just one potential tool among several others in the battle against climate change.”

Source: ETH Zurich

Related Books:

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy
Author: Hal Harvey
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Island Press
List Price: $25.00
Offers - Buy New From: $25.00
Buy Now

A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About The Science, The Consequences, and The Solutions
Author: Jeffrey Bennett
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Big Kid Science
List Price: $15.00
Offers - Buy New From: $8.98 Used From: $6.19
Buy Now

Climate Solutions: A Citizen's Guide
Author: Peter Barnes
Binding: Paperback
Features:
  • Ships from Vermont

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
List Price: $9.95
Offers - Buy New From: $7.78 Used From: $0.27
Buy Now

enarfrhiitptrues

SOLUTIONS

Passive housing cuts costs – and global warming
by Alex Kirby
Buildings which heat and cool themselves – passive housing – save householders money and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar lamps light up more African nights
by Paul Brown
Solar lamps are shining more brightly in Africa, tackling poverty, ill-health and natural hazards, thanks to Chinese…
GMO crops could expect a brighter future
by Paul Brown
Genetically modified (GMO) crops remain controversial, but scientists still have faith that they will help both to…
Planting trees will not slow global warming
by Tim Radford
Nothing, not even the creation of huge plantations of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, is a viable alternative to…
Green energy tips good for business
by Paul Brown
Sharing energy-saving ideas such as using seawater pumps to heat buildings is helping big charities and businesses cut…
Bigger isn't better for energy savings
by Inga Vesper
The desire for more spacious cars and houses is cancelling out energy savings made by environmentally friendly…
Nuclear waste problems start gold rush
by Paul Brown
Staggering sums of money involved in the long-term challenge of solving the world’s nuclear waste problems make it a…

LATEST ARTICLES

How Geo-Engineered Crops May Help And Harm
by Tim Radford,Climate News Network
To cool the world and also boost plant growth, geo-engineered crops might do the trick. But if they work by dimming the…
Scientists Have Known Burning Coal Warms The Climate For A Long Time.
by Joe Romm, Think Progress
On August 14, 1912, a New Zealand newspaper’s “science notes and news” section ran a blurb headlined, “Coal consumption…
The Best Medicine for My Climate Grief
by Peter Kalmus
A climate scientist talks to a psychologist about coping with the crushing stress related to climate change. Here’s…
Climate Models Predict The World Will Be Anomalously Warm Until 2022
by Florian Sévellec
We developed a new prediction system we call PROCAST (PROabilistic foreCAST), and used it to predict the natural…
Holy Dog, It's "Hot As Spain!"
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
Now it's so hot in Europe that dogs are having to wear shoes. While a nice sunny day may seem like the perfect time for…
Why Forest Carbon Emissions Are Set To Grow
by Tim Radford, Climate News Network
The tropical forests could be at growing risk from climate change. And as they die, rising forest carbon emissions…
Is Climate Change Really To Blame For Slower Atlantic Circulation
by Hannah Hickey
Global warming isn’t the cause of slowdown in a huge circulation pattern in the Atlantic Ocean, which is, in fact, part…
Pantheism And How It Could Offer A New Approach To Preserving The Planet
by Tim Lomas
The scientists responsible for the “doomsday clock” moved it 30 seconds closer to midnight – the symbolic point of…