Research Papers: George Ban-Weiss

Systematic Comparison of the Influence of Cool Wall versus Cool Roof Adoption on Urban Climate in the Los Angeles Basin

By Jiachen Zhang, Arash Mohegh, Yun Li, Ronnen Levinson, George Ban-Weiss

Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 52, no. 19


This study for the first time assesses the influence of employing solar reflective “cool” walls on the urban energy budget and summertime climate of the Los Angeles basin. We systematically compare the effects of cool walls to cool roofs, a heat mitigation strategy that has been widely studied and employed, using a consistent modeling framework (the Weather Research and Forecasting model). Adoption of cool walls leads to increases in urban grid cell albedo that peak in the early morning and late afternoon, when the ratio of solar radiation onto vertical walls versus horizontal surfaces is at a maximum. In Los Angeles County, daily average increase in grid cell reflected solar radiation from increasing wall albedo by 0.80 is 9.1 W m-2, 43% of that for increasing roof albedo. Cool walls reduce canyon air temperatures in Los Angeles by 0.43 K (daily average), with the peak reduction (0.64 K) occurring at 09:00 LST and a secondary peak (0.53 K) at 18:00 LST. Per 0.10 wall (roof) albedo increase, cool walls (roofs) can reduce summertime daily average canyon air temperature by 0.05 K (0.06 K). Results reported here can be used to inform policies on urban heat island mitigation or climate change adaptation.

Investigating the Climate Impacts of Urbanization and the Potential for Cool Roofs to Counter Future Climate Change in Southern California

By Pouya Vahmani, Fengpeng Sun, Alex Hall, George Ban-Weiss

Environmental Research Letters


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. 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’.

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