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Title: Revisiting the climate impacts of cool roofs around the globe using an Earth system model

Abstract

Solar reflective “cool roofs” absorb less sunlight than traditional dark roofs, reducing solar heat gain, and decreasing the amount of heat transferred to the atmosphere. Widespread adoption of cool roofs could therefore reduce temperatures in urban areas, partially mitigating the urban heat island effect, and contributing to reversing the local impacts of global climate change. The impacts of cool roofs on global climate remain debated by past research and are uncertain. Using a sophisticated Earth system model, the impacts of cool roofs on climate are investigated at urban, continental, and global scales. We find that global adoption of cool roofs in urban areas reduces urban heat islands everywhere, with an annual- and global-mean decrease from 1.6 to 1.2 K. Decreases are statistically significant, except for some areas in Africa and Mexico where urban fraction is low, and some high-latitude areas during wintertime. Analysis of the surface and TOA energy budget in urban regions at continental-scale shows cool roofs causing increases in solar radiation leaving the Earth-atmosphere system in most regions around the globe, though the presence of aerosols and clouds are found to partially offset increases in upward radiation. Aerosols dampen cool roof-induced increases in upward solar radiation, ranging frommore » 4% in the United States to 18% in more polluted China. Adoption of cool roofs also causes statistically significant reductions in surface air temperatures in urbanized regions of China (0.11±0.10 K) and the United States (0.14±0.12 K); India and Europe show statistically insignificant changes. The research presented here indicates that adoption of cool roofs around the globe would lead to statistically insignificant reductions in global mean air temperature (0.0021 ±0.026 K). This counters past research suggesting that cool roofs can reduce, or even increase global mean temperatures. Thus, we suggest that while cool roofs are an effective tool for reducing building energy use in hot climates, urban heat islands, and regional air temperatures, their influence on global climate is likely negligible.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ORCiD logo
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
1340883
Report Number(s):
PNNL-SA-117449
Journal ID: ISSN 1748-9326; KP1703020
DOE Contract Number:
AC05-76RL01830
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Research Letters; Journal Volume: 11; Journal Issue: 8
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English

Citation Formats

Zhang, Jiachen, Zhang, Kai, Liu, Junfeng, and Ban-Weiss, George. Revisiting the climate impacts of cool roofs around the globe using an Earth system model. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084014.
Zhang, Jiachen, Zhang, Kai, Liu, Junfeng, & Ban-Weiss, George. Revisiting the climate impacts of cool roofs around the globe using an Earth system model. United States. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084014.
Zhang, Jiachen, Zhang, Kai, Liu, Junfeng, and Ban-Weiss, George. 2016. "Revisiting the climate impacts of cool roofs around the globe using an Earth system model". United States. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084014.
@article{osti_1340883,
title = {Revisiting the climate impacts of cool roofs around the globe using an Earth system model},
author = {Zhang, Jiachen and Zhang, Kai and Liu, Junfeng and Ban-Weiss, George},
abstractNote = {Solar reflective “cool roofs” absorb less sunlight than traditional dark roofs, reducing solar heat gain, and decreasing the amount of heat transferred to the atmosphere. Widespread adoption of cool roofs could therefore reduce temperatures in urban areas, partially mitigating the urban heat island effect, and contributing to reversing the local impacts of global climate change. The impacts of cool roofs on global climate remain debated by past research and are uncertain. Using a sophisticated Earth system model, the impacts of cool roofs on climate are investigated at urban, continental, and global scales. We find that global adoption of cool roofs in urban areas reduces urban heat islands everywhere, with an annual- and global-mean decrease from 1.6 to 1.2 K. Decreases are statistically significant, except for some areas in Africa and Mexico where urban fraction is low, and some high-latitude areas during wintertime. Analysis of the surface and TOA energy budget in urban regions at continental-scale shows cool roofs causing increases in solar radiation leaving the Earth-atmosphere system in most regions around the globe, though the presence of aerosols and clouds are found to partially offset increases in upward radiation. Aerosols dampen cool roof-induced increases in upward solar radiation, ranging from 4% in the United States to 18% in more polluted China. Adoption of cool roofs also causes statistically significant reductions in surface air temperatures in urbanized regions of China (0.11±0.10 K) and the United States (0.14±0.12 K); India and Europe show statistically insignificant changes. The research presented here indicates that adoption of cool roofs around the globe would lead to statistically insignificant reductions in global mean air temperature (0.0021 ±0.026 K). This counters past research suggesting that cool roofs can reduce, or even increase global mean temperatures. Thus, we suggest that while cool roofs are an effective tool for reducing building energy use in hot climates, urban heat islands, and regional air temperatures, their influence on global climate is likely negligible.},
doi = {10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084014},
journal = {Environmental Research Letters},
number = 8,
volume = 11,
place = {United States},
year = 2016,
month = 8
}
  • The climate warming effects of accelerated urbanization along with projected global climate change raise an urgent need for sustainable mitigation and adaptation strategies to cool urban climates. Our modeling results show that historical urbanization in the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas has increased daytime urban air temperature by 1.3 °C, in part due to a weakening of the onshore sea breeze circulation. We find that metropolis-wide adoption of cool roofs can meaningfully offset this daytime warming, reducing temperatures by 0.9 °C relative to a case without cool roofs. Residential cool roofs were responsible for 67% of the cooling.more » Nocturnal temperature increases of 3.1 °C from urbanization were larger than daytime warming, while nocturnal temperature reductions from cool roofs of 0.5 °C were weaker than corresponding daytime reductions. We further show that cool roof deployment could partially counter the local impacts of global climate change in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Assuming a scenario in which there are dramatic decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century (RCP2.6), mid- and end-of-century temperature increases from global change relative to current climate are similarly reduced by cool roofs from 1.4 °C to 0.6 °C. Assuming a scenario with continued emissions increases throughout the century (RCP8.5), mid-century warming is significantly reduced by cool roofs from 2.0 °C to 1.0 °C. The end-century warming, however, is significantly offset only in small localized areas containing mostly industrial/commercial buildings where cool roofs with the highest albedo are adopted. We conclude that metropolis-wide adoption of cool roofs can play an important role in mitigating the urban heat island effect, and offsetting near-term local warming from global climate change. Global-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way of avoiding long-term warming, however. We further suggest that both climate mitigation and adaptation can be pursued simultaneously using 'cool photovoltaics'.« less
  • The climate warming effects of accelerated urbanization along with projected global climate change raise an urgent need for sustainable mitigation and adaptation strategies to cool urban climates. Our modeling results show that historical urbanization in the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas has increased daytime urban air temperature by 1.3 °C, in part due to a weakening of the onshore sea breeze circulation. We find that metropolis-wide adoption of cool roofs can meaningfully offset this daytime warming, reducing temperatures by 0.9 °C relative to a case without cool roofs. Residential cool roofs were responsible for 67% of the cooling.more » Nocturnal temperature increases of 3.1 °C from urbanization were larger than daytime warming, while nocturnal temperature reductions from cool roofs of 0.5 °C were weaker than corresponding daytime reductions. We further show that cool roof deployment could partially counter the local impacts of global climate change in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Assuming a scenario in which there are dramatic decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century (RCP2.6), mid- and end-of-century temperature increases from global change relative to current climate are similarly reduced by cool roofs from 1.4 °C to 0.6 °C. Assuming a scenario with continued emissions increases throughout the century (RCP8.5), mid-century warming is significantly reduced by cool roofs from 2.0 °C to 1.0 °C. The end-century warming, however, is significantly offset only in small localized areas containing mostly industrial/commercial buildings where cool roofs with the highest albedo are adopted. We conclude that metropolis-wide adoption of cool roofs can play an important role in mitigating the urban heat island effect, and offsetting near-term local warming from global climate change. Global-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way of avoiding long-term warming, however. We further suggest that both climate mitigation and adaptation can be pursued simultaneously using 'cool photovoltaics'.« less