Opportunities for Saving Energy and Improving Air Quality in Urban Heat Islands

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World energy use is the main contributor to atmospheric CO2. In 2002, about 7.0 giga metric tons of carbon (GtC) were emitted internationally by combustion of gas, liquid, and solid fuels (CDIAC, 2006), 2 to 5 times the amount contributed by deforestation (Brown et al., 1988). The share of atmospheric carbon emissions for the United States from fossil fuel combustion was 1.6 GtC. Increasing use of fossil fuel and deforestation together have raised atmospheric CO{sub 2} concentration some 25% over the last 150 years. According to global climate models and preliminary measurements, these changes in the composition of the atmosphere ... continued below

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Akbari, Hashem July 1, 2007.

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World energy use is the main contributor to atmospheric CO2. In 2002, about 7.0 giga metric tons of carbon (GtC) were emitted internationally by combustion of gas, liquid, and solid fuels (CDIAC, 2006), 2 to 5 times the amount contributed by deforestation (Brown et al., 1988). The share of atmospheric carbon emissions for the United States from fossil fuel combustion was 1.6 GtC. Increasing use of fossil fuel and deforestation together have raised atmospheric CO{sub 2} concentration some 25% over the last 150 years. According to global climate models and preliminary measurements, these changes in the composition of the atmosphere have already begun raising the Earth's average temperature. If current energy trends continue, these changes could drastically alter the Earth's temperature, with unknown but potentially catastrophic physical and political consequences. During the last three decades, increased energy awareness has led to conservation efforts and leveling of energy consumption in the industrialized countries. An important byproduct of this reduced energy use is the lowering of CO{sub 2} emissions. Of all electricity generated in the United States, about one-sixth is used to air-condition buildings. The air-conditioning use is about 400 tera-watt-hours (TWh), equivalent to about 80 million metric tons of carbon (MtC) emissions, and translating to about $40 billion (B) per year. Of this $40 B/year, about half is used in cities that have pronounced 'heat islands'. The contribution of the urban heat island to the air-conditioning demand has increased over the last 40 years and it is currently at about 10%. Metropolitan areas in the United States (e.g., Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and New York City) have typically pronounced heat islands that warrant special attention by anyone concerned with broad-scale energy efficiency (HIG, 2006). The ambient air is primarily heated through three processes: direct absorption of solar radiation, convection of heat from hot surfaces, and man-made heat (exhaust from cars, buildings, etc.). Air is fairly transparent to light--the direct absorption of solar radiation in atmospheric air only raises the air temperature by a small amount. Typically about 90% of solar radiation reaches the Earth's surface and then is either absorbed or reflected. The absorbed radiation on the surface increases the surface temperature. And in turn the hot surfaces heat the air. This convective heating is responsible for the majority of the diurnal temperature range. The contribution of man-made heat (e.g., air conditioning, cars) is very small, compared to the heating of air by hot surfaces, except for the downtown high-rise areas.

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  • Report No.: LBNL-751E
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 939493
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc899706

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  • July 1, 2007

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  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Jan. 4, 2017, 5:40 p.m.

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Akbari, Hashem. Opportunities for Saving Energy and Improving Air Quality in Urban Heat Islands, book, July 1, 2007; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc899706/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.