Louisville has been growing warmer. In a list of the nation’s fifty largest cities monitored by professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Louisville’s core is warming at faster rates than the surrounding areas—and it’s doing so faster than any other large city in the country.
The problem isn’t entirely Louisville’s fault. Where some cities expand into forests—and keep some of the trees in the new suburbs—Louisville has expanded into agricultural areas without as many trees. And some of the higher temperatures in the city recently can be attributed to the global greenhouse effect, and will take centuries to reverse.
Even so, Georgia Tech professor Brian Stone says there are steps Louisville can take to address the problem in the short term.
“If we want to cool down cities by reducing greenhouse gases, which is a wonderful thing to do, it will still take us hundreds of years at this point,” he said. “We can plant trees and increase surface reflectivity in the matter of a decade or two.”
One of the solutions is planting trees, and augmenting the city’s dwindling tree canopy. Louisville Metro Government has already begun to address this with a newly-formed Tree Commission.
Stone says creating more reflective surfaces can also help keep temperatures down.
“Not only do cities often not have a lot of vegetative cover, which can naturally cool the air, they replace that vegetation with very highly-absorbing materials, and so these materials absorb a great deal of solar energy,” he said.
Stone says if Louisville whitewashes some roofs and parking lots, tackle waste heat emitted from cars and buildings, it should make a noticeable difference in the city’s temperature.
Stone is speaking tomorrow at noon to Louisville’s newly-formed Tree Commission. The meeting is at noon at the Main Library and is open to the public. He’s also speaking at 5:30 as part of the Urban Design Studio’s Sustainable City Series—that event is full, but there is a waiting list.