Thursday, August 21, 2014

Louisville, fastest-warming city in U.S., reaches for the brakes

Umair Irfan in EE News: Two years ago, the home of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Louisville Slugger received an unwelcome distinction: fastest-warming heat island in the United States. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that since the 1960s, urban Louisville, Ky., saw its temperature rise above that of its surroundings at a rate greater than any other city in the country and more than double the warming rate of the planet as a whole.

This trend puts Louisville on track to receive another unwanted crown: most heat-related excess deaths in the United States. A 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that years of rising temperatures due to climate change will lead to an additional 18,988 deaths by the end of the century (ClimateWire, July 9, 2012).

The reports made national news at the time, but the headlines were unwanted attention and a serious headache for Maria Koetter, the city's newly minted sustainability director. "If we can't get it under control, we're going to be jeopardizing the quality of life for the people in our city," she said.

Hired in 2012 as a fulfillment of Mayor Greg Fischer's campaign promise, Koetter was tasked with implementing the city's sustainability plan. The heat island findings soon dominated her radar.

The concept of a heat island is neither new nor unique to Louisville. Urban areas around the world accumulate more heat than their rural surroundings as vegetation yields to sunlight-absorbing pavement and heat-trapping pollution....

The Forecastle festival in 2009, in Louisville, shot by Castletd5, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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