Data on materials and surface types that comprise a city, i.e. urban fabric, are needed in order to estimate the effects of light-colored surfaces (roofs and pavements) and urban vegetation (trees, grass, shrubs) on the meteorology and air quality of a city. We discuss the results of a semi-automatic statistical approach used to develop data on surface-type distribution and urban-fabric makeup using aerial color orthophotography, for four metropolitan areas of Chicago, IL, Houston, TX, Sacramento, CA, and Salt Lake City, UT. The digital high resolution (0.3 to 0.5-m) aerial photographs for each of these metropolitan areas covers representative urban areas ranging from 30 km2 to 52 km2.
Major land-use types examined included: commercial, residential, industrial, educational, and transportation. On average, for the metropolitan areas studied, vegetation covers about 29-41% of the area, roofs 19-25%, and paved surfaces 29-39%. For the most part, trees shade streets, parking lots, grass, and sidewalks. At ground level, i.e., view from below the tree canopies, vegetation covers about 20-37% of the area, roofs 20-25%, and paved surfaces 29-36%.