Heavy showers may have cooled Atlanta commuters Friday morning, but this city is in for a long, hot season ahead. Atlanta boils every summer and it is now looking to science for long-term relief from the heat and weather extremes, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.
Researchers call cities like Atlanta "Urban Heat Islands" -- cement jungles that get so hot, so often, that they can actually generate their own thunderstorms. And it's all caused by humans. Every year in Atlanta 55 acres of trees are replaced by cement and subdivisions everyday.
With satellite imagery, NASA scientists are documenting the temperature difference between cities and suburbs.
"Atlanta gets quite warm," says Dale Tuttorghi of the NASA Climate Center. "And the city itself on the street level is on the order of about 95 degrees. That's in contrast east of the city in some residential areas where it gets in the order of 59 degrees to 60 degrees."
To fight the heat, colleges and corporations in Atlanta are replacing old blacktop with lighter-colored roofing materials that reflect heat. They're also putting in parking lots with plenty of trees along with pavement.
Say Tuttorghi: "If we can attempt to cool the city by for example planting more trees or installing things like highly reflective surfaces, we can actually bring down the temperature of the urban heat island."
Researchers say this science could lower utility costs, and lower health risks caused by air pollutants.
"If we can bring Atlanta's temperature down on the order of two to four degrees Fahrenheit," Tuttorghi says, "we can potentially drop ozone levels on the order of 10-14-percent, which is significant."
It's an effort now underway in 9-other u.s. cities. Lowering the temperature in an effort to improve the quality of life.
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CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff