The effectiveness of cool and green roofs as urban heat island mitigation strategies

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Mitigation of the urban heat island (UHI) effect at the city-scale is investigated using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model in conjunction with the Princeton Urban Canopy Model (PUCM). Specifically, the cooling impacts of green roof and cool (white/high-albedo) roof strategies over the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area during a heat wave period (7 June-10 June 2008) are assessed using the optimal set-up of WRF-PUCM described in the companion paper by Li and Bou-Zeid (2014). Results indicate that the surface UHI effect (defined based on the urban-rural surface temperature difference) is reduced significantly more than the near-surface UHI effect (defined based on urban-rural 2 m air temperature difference) when these mitigation strategies are adopted. In addition, as the green and cool roof fractions increase, the surface and near-surface UHIs are reduced almost linearly. Green roofs with relatively abundant soil moisture have comparable effect in reducing the surface and near-surface UHIs to cool roofs with an albedo value of 0.7. Significant indirect effects are also observed for both green and cool roof strategies; mainly, the low-level advection of atmospheric moisture from rural areas into urban terrain is enhanced when the fraction of these roofs increases, thus increasing the humidity in urban areas. The additional benefits or penalties associated with modifications of the main physical determinants of green or cool roof performance are also investigated. For green roofs, when the soil moisture is increased by irrigation, additional cooling effect is obtained, especially when the 'unmanaged' soil moisture is low. The effects of changing the albedo of cool roofs are also substantial. These results also underline the capabilities of the WRF-PUCM framework to support detailed analysis and diagnosis of the UHI phenomenon, and of its different mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number055002
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • WRF
  • cool roof
  • green roof
  • urban canopy model
  • urban heat island mitigation


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