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Scientists working to beat the Valley heat with painted asphalt

(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

PHOENIX — There is some exciting news in the battle over the Valley’s oppressive heat.

Scientists said they were experimenting with using white paint over black asphalt as a way of cutting temperatures.

Ronnen Levinson, a scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, said it could possibly reduce the heat island effect, a term given to urban areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas.

“If you reduce the absorption of sunlight you can lower its temperature,” Levinson said. “That’s the idea behind the cool pavements.”

The experiment is quite simple: It involves painting black asphalt white.

“The tests that have been done so far have usually been done with paints that are some combination of cement and polymer.”

In other words, you wouldn’t use a common house paint to cover over asphalt.

The experiment with painting over black asphalt has taken place on streets in Los Angeles and parts of Northern California.

Other strategies used in bringing temperatures down in heat islands include planting shade trees and reflecting roofs so sunlight will bounce off.

Scientists said the big payoff will be energy savings and lower power bills.

Other benefits to cutting the outside temperature include decreasing smog formation and ozone concentration.

So far, the cost of painting streets white has not been factored in.

“We don’t have an estimate for you on cost,” Levinson said.

As for when we could see white painted roads in the Valley’s future, that’s likely years off, as scientists continue to study the urban heat issue.

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