Computer Model Simulates the Impact of White Roofs

A construction crew paints a white roof in downtown Washington, DC. (Maria Jose-Vinas/American Geophysical Union)
The first computer modeling study to simulate the impact of white roofs on urban areas worldwide - led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO - suggests there may be merit to the idea of turning roofs white.

Painting the roofs of buildings white has the potential to significantly cool off cities and mitigate some impacts of global warming, but the NCAR researchers caution that there are still many hurdles between the concept and actual use of white roofs to counteract rising temperatures.

"Our research demonstrates that white roofs, at least in theory, can be an effective method for reducing urban heat," says NCAR scientist Keith Oleson, the lead scientist on the study. "It remains to be seen if it's actually feasible for cities to paint their roofs white, but the idea certainly warrants further investigation."

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). "Climate change mitigation research is an extremely important topic," says Steve Nelson, NSF program director for NCAR. "Whether on white roofs or other climate change mitigation subjects, it's important to consider the many feedbacks and complicating considerations that make research in this area very complex."

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