Efficacy of cool roofs at reducing pedestrian-level air temperature during projected 21st century heatwaves in Atlanta, Detroit, and Phoenix (USA)

Ashley M. Broadbent, E. Scott Krayenhoff, Matei Georgescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The air temperature cooling impacts of infrastructure-based adaptation measures in expanding urban areas and under changing climatic conditions are not well understood. We present simulations conducted with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, coupled to a multi-layer urban model that explicitly resolves pedestrian-level conditions. Our simulations dynamically downscale global climate projections, account for projected urban growth, and examine cooling impacts of extensive cool roof deployment in Atlanta, Detroit, and Phoenix (USA). The simulations focus on heatwave events that are representative of start-, middle-, and end-of-century climatic conditions. Extensive cool roof implementation is projected to cause a maximum city-averaged daytime air temperature cooling of 0.38 C in Atlanta; 0.42 C in Detroit; and 0.66 C in Phoenix. We propose a means for practitioners to estimate the impact of cool roof treatments on pedestrian-level air temperature, for a chosen roof reflectivity, with a new metric called the Albedo Cooling Effectiveness (ACE). The ACE metric reveals that, on average, cool roofs in Phoenix are 11% more effective at lowering pedestrian-level air temperature than in Atlanta, and 30% more effective than in Detroit. Cool roofs remain similarly effective under future heatwaves relative to contemporary heatwaves for Atlanta and Detroit, with some indication of increased effectiveness under future heatwaves for Phoenix. By highlighting the underlying factors that drive cooling effectiveness in a trio of cities located in different climatic regions, we demonstrate a robust framework for estimating the pedestrian-level cooling impacts associated with reflective roofs without the need for computationally demanding simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number084007
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • WRF
  • climate change
  • cool roofs
  • cooling effectiveness
  • heat mitigation
  • urban climate
  • urban expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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