Urban Weather Stations, Bee Conservation and Green Roofs

July 16, 2009

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

It seems that every few months I appreciate a new environmental benefit to green roofs. Two that have recently impressed me are: (i) the realization that green roofs are ideal new locations for urban weather stations (as opposed to traditional asphalt roofs with their extreme temperature biases); and (ii) a burgeoning urban beekeeping movement may be a new synergy to tap into with green roofs.

Siting weather stations in urban areas has always been a tricky endeavor. Issues like security and extreme localized heat sources (e.g. asphalt, vehicles, heating and air conditioning sources) are primary concerns. For these reasons, the National Weather Service stations are usually sited in urban parks or airports. Nevertheless many urban weather stations are still located on rooftops, but they can be suspect because of the temperature biases of dark roof membranes which can easily reach 176 degrees F (80 C). Green roofs completely remove the temperature biases of rooftops as they are essentially meadows in the sky! You can look at some of the comparative temperature data at my station ‘dashboards’ (see research stations on right-hand side).

If the number of such green roof weather station locations grow, this will improve data on true micro-climate variations within cities. A recent publication of mine about this is at this link

And then there is the growing interest in urban beekeeping that is perhaps part of the urban agriculture movement here and here. A number of city-dwellers love the idea of keeping hives and harvesting honey, etc.

The worrisome bee colony collapse syndrome, makes this interest in urban beekeeping even more important. I’m pretty sure that any urban beekeepers and their bees would prefer to have a green roof near their hive. The ones we have installed in New York City look to me like pretty strong oases of bee activity.

The recent photo (right) shows one of our native grassland green roofs that was just brimming with bees recently. Top left is a wider shot of the native roof planting.

One comment

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Posted by Environment | Environmental Issues | Report as abusive

This is a great idea, I’ve been thinking about using my roof to grow organic vegetables, the only thing holding me back is fear of damaging the roof (water damage) or the risk of the roof collapsing by the extra weight.

Posted by 12 Weeks Pregnant | Report as abusive