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Reducing the Urban "Heat Island" Effect by using Nature's own Air Conditioner -- Trees!

As cities and urban areas expand (called Sprawl), thousands of acres in naturally vegetated surfaces are being lost each year -- replaced with asphalt, concrete, rooftops and other man-made materials.

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Larger ImageUrban Sprawl not only results in the loss of native habitats (where animal and plant species are becoming extinct or endangered), but creates "Urban Heat Islands" -- where man-made materials such as asphalt store much of the sun's energy producing a dome of elevated air temperatures over the urban area.

According to satellite readings from NASA, average temperatures in cities and urban areas can range 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding areas.

Besides discomfort, "Urban Heat Islands" also heavily contribute to an increase in smog production -- a serious environmental air quality health problem which especially effects breathing for children and seniors.

Smog is formed when pollutants such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) -- mainly coming from cars and power plants -- combine with high outside temperatures, usually during hot summer months. Simply stated, smog formation is directly related to air temperatures -- the higher the air temperature -- the more smog that will be produced.

While many people associate hazy days resulting from smog with with Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta -- this air quality problem is not just limited to big cities. In central Florida, as urban sprawl continues to expand along the I-4 cooridor between Tampa and Orlando, the region is experiencing more and more "Air Quality Alert Days" -- warning children and seniors to limit outside activities or to stay inside.

One unique aspect of our Energy Crop Plantation is its location in an industrial park just two miles from downtown Lakeland. In planting trees last August, we experienced first-hand this "Heat Island Effect" with ground temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit -- similar to temperatures found at a shopping mall's parking lot.

There are many ways to reduce temperatures in "Urban Heat Islands" ranging from using lighter colored asphalts and roof shingles that reflect light -- to planting trees.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a drop in air temperature of just a couple of degrees in urban areas can reduce levels of smog on the order to 5 percent to 10 percent, sometimes up to 20 percent -- by slowing down the cooking rate of smog.

For more information, visit the Urban Heat Island website or the EPA Website on Heat Islands.