Global climate-driven trade-offs between the water retention  and cooling benefits of urban greening

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Mark Olaf Cuthbert , Gabriel Rau, Adam Bates, Marie Ekstrom, Denis O'Carroll


Heat-related mortality and flooding are pressing challenges for the >4 billion urban population worldwide, exacerbated by increasing urbanization and climate change. Urban greening, such as green roofs and parks, can potentially help address both problems, but the geographical variation of the relative hydrological and thermal performance benefits of such interventions are unknown. Here we quantify globally how climate driven trade-offs exist between modelled hydrological retention and cooling potential of urban greening. Water retention generally increases with aridity in water limited environments, while cooling potential favors lower aridity, energy limited, climates. Urban greening cannot yield high performance simultaneously for addressing both urban heat-island and urban flooding problems in most cities globally. However, in more arid locations, where sustainable, irrigation might be used to improve potential cooling benefits while maintaining retention performance. We demonstrate that as precipitation becomes increasingly variable with climate change, the hydrological and thermal performance of thinner substrates would both diminish more quickly compared to thicker and more deeply vegetated systems, presenting challenges for urban greening strategies. Our results provide a conceptual framework and geographically targeted quantitative guide for urban development, renewal and policymaking.



Civil and Environmental Engineering, Construction Engineering and Management, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Health and Protection, Environmental Sciences, Hydrology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Sustainability, Water Resource Management


hydrological model, urban greening, urban stream syndrome, green roof


Published: 2021-02-23 18:56


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Data will be publicly available once the paper is published

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