In large cities, the temperature is usually 3-4 degrees higher than in rural areas, since buildings and asphalt trap heat. A simple and well-known solution to this problem is to plant more trees in areas with scarcity. To do this, Google has developed a new project, Tree Canopy Lab, to keep cities cool and find places where trees are needed most.
Google's artificial intelligence system uses aerial imagery to locate every tree in the city. This information is fed into an interactive map, which calculates the most densely populated areas that are vulnerable to high temperatures. All maps are regularly updated.
The pilot metropolis for the project will be Los Angeles. The Tree Canopy Lab has already established that more than half of the city's residents live in areas where trees shade less than 10% of the area. This creates the so-called heat island effect. That being said, heatwaves in Los Angeles County have become longer, more frequent, and more intense over the past 50 years. Trees help to cool the environment in two ways: the first is elementary shading, the second is the release of moisture into the air at elevated temperatures.
Last Tuesday, Google launched another mapping tool that gives cities a “tree resilience rating” based on tree cover, surface temperature, and demographics such as income and race of residents. Historically, in the United States, systemic racism has pushed African Americans to less affluent and less well-to-do areas of cities. Today, Los Angeles is working on landscaping some of these areas and plans to increase the canopy area in heat-affected neighborhoods by 50% by 2028.