More grass and trees can help with ‘heat islands’ in Swiss cities

As temperatures continue to break records and shade-free parts of cities become increasingly unpleasant during searing summers, scientists in Zurich have developed a simulation program that can predict which pavement and which type of vegetation could help.  Münsterhof is the largest square in Zurich’s old town. Located in front of the Fraumünster church, the square is covered by cobblestones and concrete. There are some cafés and seats but no trees that would provide shade. What’s more, it is surrounded on almost all sides by buildings which absorb the heat of the sun.  City residents – that is, half the world’s population – know the feeling well: in summer, city centres turn into ovens. These are so-called urban heat islands, a phenomenon linked to the density of asphalt surfaces and buildings and to the heat generated by vehicles, industry and heating systems or air conditioning. Last summer Bernese artist Heinrich Gartentor covered Münsterhof with a meadow. Two shady willows …

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