Weatherwatch: overheating cities take steps to cool down

The rooftop garden of a shopping mall in Hefei city, Anhui, China. Photograph: Imaginechina/REX/Shutterstock

Light-coloured roads and rooftop gardens are planning measures being employed to combat rising urban temperatures

ith summer still apparently a long way off, it seems premature to be worrying about heatwaves but they are becoming as great a threat to life as winter cold. Predictions are that, in summer, most European cities could become as much as 10C hotter by the end of this century, testing the old and very young who both have trouble regulating body temperature.

Cities across the world that are already too hot in the summer are taking a variety of measures from insisting new buildings have gardens on their roofs, painting existing roofs white, colouring roads light grey and planting trees in streets and open spaces.

The good news is that all these measures work, reducing land surface temperatures by 2C to 3C in the areas where they are applied. Another rather surprising finding is that solar panels, although black, also reduce the heat island effect by absorbing the sunlight (and turning it into electricity).

Even in rural areas, the type of crops chosen by farmers has an influence – barley reflects 23% of sunlight back into space and sugar beet 26%. Sadly, none of this halts global warming but it does slow it down and buys a little more time.


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