Google announced a new tool, “Tree Canopy Lab,” that can help cities maintain a cool temperature.
The tool will help map out areas where trees are most needed in a community.
In places like Lagos, Nigeria, where houses are built haphazardly without any consideration for proper ventilation, Google’s new technology will be considered invaluable.
How does it work?
The Tree Canopy Lab determines the position and distribution of trees in a city. This is achieved through the use of aerial imagery and Google’s AI.
Having collected this information, Google puts it on an interactive map. The map also contains more details about the city’s population and vulnerability to high temperatures.
Apparently, Google’s strategy is to plant new trees in highlighted areas that will help regulate city temperature.
This means that after the preferred locations for planting new trees have been mapped out, it’s still up to us to do the planting.
Residents or the Ministry of Environment in the concerned state will have to take this information and use it strategically.
Google’s new tool was first released and tested in Los Angeles. The company says that more data on 100 more countries is on its way.
Google posted a form alongside its announcement. Via this form, interested City planners can reach out to Google for access to the new tool.
Currently, Los Angeles uses the traditional method for taking stock of its trees. This method involves sending people to survey each block and count manually.
However, Google claims that it can save the city a lot of time with the new tool.
Los Angeles’ only alternative is LIDAR technology, which has been used by them in the past.
However, as at that time, it was slow and expensive. This makes Google’s new and free tool a more viable option.
Why is this tool so valuable?
Extreme heat is one of the most prominent weather-related death causes in the US. . Scorching temperatures can be more harmful in cities. Why? The urban heat island effect is why.
What’s the urban heat island effect?
For starters, many cities are characterised by tall buildings and paved roads. While these might be pleasing to the eyes and have some upside, they also have some downsides.
For instance, Asphalt/black pavement absorbs so much heat during the day and releases it back into the air later. Tall buildings stagnate city air and prevent it from mixing.
Factories, vehicles, and houses leak out more heat. I guess by now you’re starting to get the picture.
All of these build up more and more heat, and it hardly ever dissipates. As such, urban areas could be 6 Fahrenheit hotter than rural areas on average. And at night, when bodies ought to recover from the day’s heat, the temperature difference can rise to 22 degrees.
Bringing it back home to Nigeria, Lagos residents could start to understand why the heat is so intense at night.
Google posits that trees can help save residents in hot neighbourhoods from the heat in more than one way.
First, they can serve as shades, shielding people from the direct impact of the sun’s rays. And second, they release moisture when the temperature rises.
The second process is called evapotranspiration. It is quite similar to how the human body sweats to cools down.
Although Google’s tool is starting in Los Angeles, hopefully, it will make its way around other cities and countries in time.
What do you think about Google’s approach to cooling cities? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.
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