If you came to the conclusion that this summer has been extremely hot in Louisville, you now have empirical evidence to back you up. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers conclude that since the 1960s, the Ville is the fastest warming “heat island” in America.
Now, my city is as competitive as the next. We have the greatest two minutes in sports, the best college athletic franchise in the country and the coolest neighborhoods ever, but this heat thing doesn’t exactly draw tourists to your metropolis.
Scientific results show that Louisville temperature is rising faster than the area surrounding us and at a faster rate than any other city compared to their region. In fact, we’re heating up at twice the pace of the rest of the planet.
So why do we all nod our heads when people utter that remark we hear every year: “hot enough for ya?” Part of the reason is common knowledge. We live in a bowl. The Ohio Valley collects pollution, industrial and urban, and traps it over us thereby keeping the heat. Remember when the Vehicle Exhaust Testing was supposed to fix that? Yeah, not so much.
The vast stretches of asphalt and concrete, already swelter centers, are growing with the construction of two bridges and the redesigning of Spaghetti Junction.
Louisville also suffers from a woefully small tree canopy, especially downtown which is a major contributor. Studies show that Louisville’s downtown tree cover is just about 8%. Experts recommend that urban areas have at least 16%. Ever try to find shade on Jefferson Street?
That doesn’t mean Louisville isn’t developing a plan. Maria Koetter, the city’s sustainability director says that she and city officials recognize the severity of the situation. A team led by urban forester Erin Thompson hopes to have a tree canopy assessment done by the end of 2014.
But it’s not as simple as planting new trees. Factors like species and age play in. You don’t want one type of tree to dominate or to have them all be the same age. Trees also need room to grow and access to sunlight at water. Not so easy when you look at the downtown spaces where they are needed.
As city officials look for ways to solve the crisis, the world is watching. What Louisville does could provide a model for the rest of the nation in dealing with the changing climate and the human intervention that caused it. Time to be world class again.
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