Near-Ground Cooling Efficacies of Trees and High-Albedo Surfaces

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Daytime summer urban heat islands arise when the prevalence of dark-colored surfaces and lack of vegetation make a city warmer than neighboring countryside. Two frequently-proposed summer heat island mitigation measures are to plant trees and to increase the albedo (solar reflectivity) of ground surfaces. This dissertation examines the effects of these measures on the surface temperature of an object near the ground, and on solar heating of air near the ground. Near-ground objects include people, vehicles, and buildings. The variation of the surface temperature of a near-ground object with ground albedo indicates that a rise in ground albedo will cool a near-ground object only if the object's albedo exceeds a critical value. This critical value of object albedo depends on wind speed, object geometry, and the height of the atmospheric thermal boundary layer. It ranges from 0.15 to 0.37 for a person. If an object has typical albedo of 0.3, increasing the ground albedo by 0.25 perturbs the object's surface temperature by -1 to +2 K. Comparing a tree's canopy-to-air convection to the reduction in ground-to-air convection induced by tree shading of the ground indicates that the presence of a tree can either increase or decrease solar heating of ground-level air. The tree's net effect depends on the extent to which solar heating of the canopy is dissipated by evaporation, and on the fraction of air heated by the canopy that flows downward and mixes with the ground- level air. A two-month lysimeter (plant-weighing) experiment was conducted to measure instantaneous rates of water loss from a tree under various conditions of weather and soil-moisture. Calculations of canopy-to-air convection and the reduction of ground-to-air convection based on this data indicate that canopy-induced heating would negate shadow-induced cooling if approximately 45% of the canopy-heated air mixed with ground level air. This critical fraction is comparable to typical downward mixing fractions, so the tree's net heating or cooling effect on near-ground air is small.


Department of Mechanical Engineering

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