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Many of us would probably agree that planting more trees is a good thing. Cities tend to be warmer than surrounding areas because buildings and asphalt trap heat, resulting in the urban heat island effect. One way to cool urban areas down is to plant more trees in neighborhoods where they are sparse.
The challenge is knowing where to plant trees strategically to benefit those who need them most. As Justine Calma explains in this article, Google has released a tool that can help. Specifically, Google's new Tree Canopy Lab can help cities keep their residents cool by mapping out where trees are needed most.
Tree Canopy Lab uses aerial imagery and Google’s artificial intelligence to figure out where every tree is in a city. The tool then puts that information on an interactive map along with additional data layers on which neighborhoods are more densely populated and are more vulnerable to high temperatures. The idea is that planting new trees in these areas can help cities adapt to a warming world and save lives during heat waves.
Google piloted Tree Canopy Lab in Los Angeles. Data on hundreds more cities is on the way. Tree Canopy Lab found that over half of L.A. residents live in places where trees shade less than 10 percent of their neighborhood. It also found that 44 percent of Angelenos live in places with extreme heat risk. Heat waves in Los Angeles County have gotten longer, more frequent, and more intense over the past 50 years.