The Urban Heat Island, Photochemical Smog, and Chicago: Local Features of the Problem and Solution

This project identifies the effect that surface modifications have on the urban heat island phenomenon and related ozone problems in the metropolitan area of Chicago, Illinois.

This analysis reviews how urban, summertime temperatures can be significantly lowered by increasing the vegetative landscape cover and enhancing the solar reflectivity of paved and roofed surfaces within an urban area. This paper also proposes that in addition to a decrease in temperature, the modification of an urban surface to include more vegetative cover and lighter, lower albedo surfaces will also reduce energy consumption, ozone exceedances, and detrimental environmental and human health effects associated with high levels of ozone.

The first section of this report introduces the causes of ground level ozone and its effects in urban areas. The second section is a compilation of the most viable mitigation strategies of urban heat islands: increasing vegetative cover and increasing proportions of light to dark surfaces. The effects, implementation strategies, and specific strengths and weaknesses associated with each approach are described, including a comparison of asphalt and concrete pavements systems using a life cycle analysis approach. The final section provides a case study of the Chicago area. This study entails an examination of the land use, development of an urban fabric analysis in which total vegetative, paved, and roofed surfaces are investigated and quantified, and discussion on the effectiveness of possible mitigation strategies in the Chicago area.

Publication Date: 1999

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Kimberly A. Gray
  • Mary E. Finster

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Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Case study

States Affected:


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