On July 12th, with local temperatures reaching a steamy 90 degrees F, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (TBNC) celebrated the Summer Launch of Pier 42 by coordinating an Albedo Scavenger Hunt on the pier and its surrounding areas.
Throughout the day, community members served as citizen scientists, exploring the effects of surface texture and color on light and heat reflectance, a phenomenon known as “albedo.”
- Which colors and/or surfaces reflect light?
- Which colors and/or surfaces absorb light?
- Does the absorption or reflection of light have an effect on temperature?
Typically darker surfaces absorb more light, causing them to have a higher temperature; while surfaces lighter in color do a better job at reflecting light. Have you ever noticed that you stay cooler on a hot summer day when you wear a white t-shirt versus a darker color? That’s the albedo effect in play!
Using laser-guided thermometers, participants in our albedo scavenger hunt measured the temperatures of over 40 surfaces in the ½ acre park.
With the data collected we were able to gauge how much energy was being retained by a given surface, causing it to warm up in the sunlight. Temperatures ranged from a cool 17 degrees C (68 F), to searing temperatures upwards of 61 degrees C (143 F)!
Participants also experimented with different building materials and made suggestions of materials would best suit the needs of visitors to the future Pier 42 park during hot summer months.
You can view all of the average temperatures for The Albedo Scavenger Hunt at Pier 42 recorded by our participants via this link.
Why is it important to study albdeo effect? Albedo is particularly important in urban settings like the Two Bridges / Lower East Side neighborhood, where concrete and pavement reflect less light, causing “urban heat islands” that are much hotter than surrounding suburban and rural areas.
For those interested in further learning and research:
- Are you interested in learning more about albedo and urban heat island effects? Check out the EPA’s website here.
- Want to contribute your data to the project? Print out your own scavenger hunt sheet here!
- You can also check out additional photos from the Paths to Pier Summer Launch on TBNC’s Flickr page.
The Albedo Scavenger Hunt on Pier 42, hosted by Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Two Bridges STEM Education programs, was made possible with support from Climate & Urban Systems Partnership; funding from the Environmental Protection Fund administered by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation; Two Bridgeset Associates LP; and the Verizon Foundation. Curriculum design by Dr. Christine Keefe, Founder, We Grok It! LLC.