Steve Roy
Media Relations Department
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RELEASE: 00-033

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NASA technology developed for use in the cold reaches of space is helping
researchers fight back against sweltering urban heat here on Earth.

Dr. Dale Quattrochi and Dr. Jeff Luvall are “heat hunters” for the Global
Hydrology and Climate Center, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville, Ala. For more than three years, they’ve worked with
other NASA centers and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as
state and local governments and city planners across the country, to
determine ways to make our cities more habitable. Their goal: to create
healthy, sustainable environments for current residents and future

On Monday, Feb. 21, Quattrochi will take part in a press briefing at the
annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of
Science, convening today at the Marriott Wardman hotel in Washington,
D.C. On Tuesday, he will present a paper on NASA’s urban heat research
during a conference session titled: “Heat, Smog and Weird Weather:
Studying the Effects of Urban Sprawl From Space.”

Cities often are dominated by asphalt and concrete and contain little natural
vegetation to shade buildings, block solar radiation and cool the air. Thus,
urban centers get much hotter during the day than rural areas. That heat is
stored and released at night, creating hot-air “domes” that can keep
temperatures in affected cities up to 10 degrees F warmer at night than in
suburbs or neighboring woodlands.

The effects are dramatic. Big cities suffer a marked upswing in ozone
formation — a major pollutant and health threat to human beings. On
sweltering summer days, city power supplies are often taxed by increased
air conditioning use, as citizens struggle to beat the heat. And those domes
of trapped, heated air can actually create their own weather patterns over
urban areas, increasing rainstorms.

Equipped with remote sensing technology developed for the space
program, the heat hunters fly NASA aircraft over urban areas, documenting
patterns of heat formation in large metropolitan centers. This information
helps determine strategies to reduce heat islands, such as installation of
reflective roofing and paving materials to bounce thermal energy back into
the atmosphere.

To date, the heat hunters have conducted studies in Atlanta, Ga.;
Sacramento, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Baton Rouge, La. Further
tests in other metropolitan areas are planned.

“There has to be a change in the mindset — a new awareness about the
environment of our cities,” Quattrochi says. “Education is the key.”

More about the Global Hydrology and Climate Center

The Global Hydrology and Climate Center is a joint venture between
government and academia to study the global water cycle and its effect on
Earth’s climate. Jointly funded by NASA and its academic partners, and
jointly operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the Center conducts research in
a number of critical areas. Satellite tracking of hurricanes promises to
improve global severe-weather forecasting

capabilities; research into lightning activity is providing new insight on the
formation of tornadoes; and NASA remote sensing technologies explore
new ways to improve the health of our cities, aid farm productivity and
identify outbreaks of disease.

More About the Marshall Center

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is NASA’s premier
organization for development of space transportation and propulsion
systems, NASA’s leader in microgravity research — unique scientific studies
conducted in the near-weightlessness of space — and NASA’s leader for
advanced large optics manufacturing technology.

In the past, Marshall played key roles in the development and operation of
the Saturn V rocket, Skylab, the Lunar Roving Vehicle, Spacelab and the
Hubble Space Telescope. Today, the Center’s primary management
responsibilities include Space Shuttle propulsion systems; the Chandra
X-ray Observatory, future large-scale space optics systems; the X-33 and
X-34 rocket planes and X-37 space plane; and all science operations
aboard the International Space Station.

Marshall also is responsible for developing advanced space transportation
systems designed to further humankind’s exploration of space while
slashing the cost of getting there from today’s $10,000 per pound to only
hundreds of dollars per pound, or even less. The Center is working to bring
a future among the stars closer to reality for the people of Earth.