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Golf courses may cool the desert.

Golf courses may cool the desert

Scientists and urbanites are quite familiar with the "heat island" effect, which makes cities warmer than surrounding lawn-marbled suburbs. Now on the flip side, climate researchers think they have identified a desert locale where urban development has helped cool a city -- what they term a "cool island" effect.

Since the early 1970s, Palm Springs, Calif., has cooled off several degrees relative to nearby towns such as Redlands, apparently because golf course construction has turned the town into a veritable oasis, report Robert Balling and Nina Lolk from Arizona State University in Tempe.

Golf courses and other vegetated urban plots such as cemeteries and parks are known to keep city temperatures lower through evaporation. When radiation from the sun hits a street or building, most of the incoming energy is transformed into heat. However, if the rays strike an irrigated area, part of the energy evaporates water from plants and soil, leaving less energy to create heat, says Balling.

Although many possible reasons could explain why Palm Springs is growing cooler than its neighbors, Balling says the most reasonable explanation is the growing area of turf within the city. At least two-thirds of the approximately 75 golf courses in town were constructed within the 15 years, which is when the cooling trend began, he says.

Microclimatic studies on golf courses in Phoenix have verified this effect on a small scale. "When you walk out on a golf course, you can go from an environment that is 108[deg.] F or 110[deg.] F, and if you take air temperatures right over the golf course on a calm day, it's often as much as 8 or 9 degrees colder than surrounding areas that are not irrigated," says Balling, who has spent several years studying how expanding desert cities such as Phoenix and Tucson are warming with respect to the surrounding deserts.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 24, 1988
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