Politico (with WFPL’s Erica Peterson) Puts Focus on Louisville and Urban Heat Islands

Politico on Tuesday took a deep look at urban heat islands, an issue that has gotten increasing focus particularly in Louisville—because studies show that the city’s heat struggles are particularly worrisome. Urban heat islands are when city centers get hotter than surrounding areas. Erica Peterson has reported on the urban heat island effect for WFPL, and she is also the author of Politico’s story. Erica writes:

Stone’s research found that Louisville is warming at the fastest rate of any city in the nation, causing summer temperatures in the urban core to be up to 20 degrees higher than surrounding areas. And the gap continues to widen. On average, the disparity in temperatures between Louisville’s city center and outer areas has been growing at a rate of 1.67 degrees each decade—almost twice the rate of Phoenix, which is the second-fastest warming city.

You can read the full story here. The Politico piece sums up the issues urban heat islands create, particularly the hazards to people’s health. The story also points out the steps, such as a focus on planting more trees, that Louisville is taking to address the issue. As Erica has previously reported for WFPL, more trees could go a long way to curbing the urban heat island effect in Louisville.

But Erica’s story for Politico notes that the addition of trees to downtown Louisville wouldn’t completely reverse the issue. She writes:

Realistically, city workers won’t be jackhammering out the black asphalt in privately-owned parking lots anytime soon and replacing them with parklands. The cost would be astronomical: Of the more than 6,600 parking spots in downtown surface lots, only 12 percent are owned by the city’s parking authority. Still, Stone of Georgia Tech says there are ways to keep existing surface parking lots and cool them slightly. You can build islands with trees, for example. But the cheapest, easiest way would be to mandate a more reflective coating on the lots.

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.