As cities and urban areas expand
(called Sprawl), thousands of acres in naturally vegetated
surfaces are being lost each year -- replaced with asphalt,
concrete, rooftops and other man-made materials.
Urban Sprawl not
results in the loss of native habitats (where animal and plant
species are becoming extinct or endangered), but creates
Heat Islands" -- where man-made materials such as asphalt
store much of the sun's energy producing a dome of elevated
air temperatures over the urban area.
According to satellite readings from NASA, average
temperatures in cities and urban areas can range 5 to 10 degrees
Fahrenheit hotter than surrounding areas.
Besides discomfort, "Urban Heat Islands" also heavily contribute
to an increase in smog production -- a serious environmental air
quality health problem which especially effects breathing for
Smog is formed when pollutants such as nitrogen
oxide (NOx) -- mainly coming from cars and power plants --
combine with high outside temperatures, usually during hot summer
Simply stated, smog formation is directly related to air
temperatures -- the higher the air temperature -- the more
smog that will be produced.
While many people associate hazy days resulting from smog with
with Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta -- this air quality
problem is not just limited to big
cities. In central Florida, as urban sprawl continues to
expand along the I-4
cooridor between Tampa and Orlando, the
region is experiencing more and more "Air Quality Alert Days" --
warning children and seniors to limit outside activities or to
One unique aspect of our Energy Crop Plantation is its
location in an industrial park just two miles from downtown
Lakeland. In planting trees last August, we experienced
first-hand this "Heat Island Effect" with ground temperatures
exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit -- similar to temperatures found
at a shopping mall's parking lot.
There are many ways to reduce temperatures in "Urban Heat
Islands" ranging from using lighter colored asphalts and roof
shingles that reflect light -- to planting trees.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a drop in air
temperature of just a couple of degrees in urban areas can reduce
levels of smog on the order to 5 percent to 10 percent, sometimes
up to 20 percent -- by slowing down the cooking rate of smog.
For more information, visit the Urban Heat
Island website or the EPA Website on Heat Islands.