More than 30 years ago, a college professor told his class pavement was partially – and considerably – responsible for warming the planet. Every time two-lane country roads are widened to federal specifications – from two barely 8-foot travel lanes bracketed by gravel berms to 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot breakdown lanes – the local temperature increased by a few degrees. And with every new shopping center, with accompanying blacktopped parking lot, the local temperature jumps some more.
This week, I learned a feature of blacktopped parking lots I had not previously even thought of.
“We lost 2,380 fish – the temperature went from 54 degrees to 74 degrees in 25 minutes,” said David Swope, who supervises the student-run fish hatchery behind Fairfield High School.
He said the trout “suffocated because of the temperature change” when a much-heavier-than-usual July 4 rainstorm drained off the school parking lot and into the otherwise spring-fed stream that was a temporary home to more than 4,000 Rainbow and Golden trout.
The program allows interested high school students to learn responsibility and biology while they raise the finned critters to be stocked the following spring in several Adams County streams.
The facility also features a well-and-pump system that can be activated to maintain water level during drought-like conditions, but nobody anticipated either the amount of rain that day, or the effect it would have on pavement in bright sunshine with air temperatures in the 90s. By the time someone arrived to check the system, about a half hour had elapsed and the fish were dead.
When I lived in the Norfolk, Va. area. I regularly drove my motorcycle on Interstate 64, on a section of highway that alternated between black pavement and much lighter colored concrete. The difference in air temperature as I crossed from asphalt to concrete and back was amazing. One moment it was fairly comfortable riding, the next had me passing through a 65 mph mass of terrifically hot air.
It turns out asphalt absorbs up to 95 percent of the sun’s heat, and can make cities more than 20 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas.
Which would partially explain my experience when I retired from the Navy and moved to a rural area to attend college. Even on an early winter evening two-wheeled ride home, I would experience a significant temperature drop as I rounded the last curve out of the college town and headed up the two-lane among the farms. Imagine motorcycling westbound out of Gettysburg, and experiencing the change in passing the seminary. (I will have to try to document that, but experience elsewhere says it will happen.)
There may be a solution coming. Published reports tell of the city of Los Angeles painting its streets with a grayish-white coating known as CoolSeal, dropping the temperature of coated streets as much as 15 degrees below that of untreated streets. The effect is similar to the difference between climbing into a white car or a black one.
Painting parking lots a lighter shade likely would reduce the air conditioning bill in hot months. Maybe the lighter surfaces would allow turning outside lights on later each day, thus reducing that bill.
And cutting back on the heat being washed into area creeks will be good for flora and fauna that live near and in them.
Some areas of our county have received more rain so far this year than they normally receive all year. Temperatures are on the rise; last year set temperature records every month.
Some white paint could prove helpful on building roofs, too. And it can be bought at the local building supplies store.