Student’s Corner

Brighter surfaces

As the temperature rises during the summer, a common concept again becomes aware in the minds of many, the idea that one should wear brighter clothes if one wishes to stay cooler in the summer sun. This concept also applies to the Earth. Parking lots are known to be boiling hot during the summer as their dark color absorbs much of the sun’s light. Besides being uncomfortable to walk on, the heat they release is also perfect for the Greenhouse Effect.

When light hits an object, all wavelengths of that light other than the ones matching the colors of the object are then absorbed while the wavelength of the object’s color is reflected. Sunlight contains all wavelengths of the visible light spectrum and some. Therefore, dark surfaces on the Earth have the potential to absorb a vast amount of energy. This energy is released into the air in the perfect form for the Greenhouse Effect.

Brighter surfaces reflect more light. When sunlight is reflected, that radiation is more likely to escape the atmosphere without being part of the Greenhouse Effect. Many people have realized the golden opportunity this gives us and started finding new ways to transform more dark anthropogenic surfaces into bright ones. These include painting parking lots, bike lanes, and more with brighter colors. Even grass fields reflect a large portion of the light that hits them.

There are simple ideas such as painting asphalt all around us, and sometimes they are great solutions too. Finding a way to transform this idea into a longstanding and affordable norm should be the next goal, and is a process worth investing in!

Written by Zein Tynon ’24.


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