Hot times in the city

Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

One of the things I have persistently wondered about in the debate about climate change, is the role of the urban heat island (UHI) in all the models and calculations.  Heavily developed areas tend to experience higher temperatures than their undeveloped precincts – asphalt and concrete retain heat energy and release it slowly, while air conditioners belch it out constantly – particularly during the warmer months.  This has been noted for at least a century.  Could this be introducing a bias to the historical surface temperature record that supposedly demonstrates a century-long upward drift in surface measurements?

The AGW folks, the ones doing all the modeling, say that the UHI has been taken care of.  Hmm…is that like, “Heyaa, take care of him, okay….”  Or is that like, “We have accounted for that statistical element of the data record and compensated for it to produce an unbiased time-series…”  The latter, they would have us believe, but I have never been convinced, and I have never come across a good explanation of just how they corrected for it.  (This leaves aside measurements that might be flat out garbage because of poor siting conditions.) 

The IPCC often referred to a paper in Nature written in 1990 as demonstrating that the UHI effect was negligible, but now, it seems that there are some problems with that paper.  The GuardianUK is staunchly in the AGW camp, so the linked article above includes an increasingly familiar disclaimer:

The revelations on the inadequacies of the 1990 paper do not undermine the case that humans are causing climate change, and other studies have produced similar findings. But they do call into question the probity of some climate change science.

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2 Responses to Hot times in the city

  1. troutsky says:

    I’m not sure I understand the parameters of the debate. Aren’t urban areas, cities, “man-caused” and the heat they release, quickly ,slowly, whatever, just the product of so many people.Just because it is not direct CO2 production, it is still “de-stabilizing” or change -producing, right?

    I always thought John Sebastion was singing “bend down”.

    • lichanos says:

      I always thought John Sebastian was singing “bend down”.
      So did I! I’m still not convinced, although neither lyric makes a lot sense to me. (Can’t trust these Net sites…)

      Aren’t urban areas, cities, “man-caused..?
      Actually, there is little debate over whether humans are causing climate change – the debate is over the cause and the scope of the changes. I would agree that land use is a major factor in regional climate changes, and urbanization is part of that. (Agriculture is major too, and is most likely the cause of disappearing snowcap on Mount Kilimanjaro). The causal mechanism, however, is totally different, and the current AGW theory is based on the idea that the discharge of CO2 is the driver of the warming, not the changes in heat absorbtion, radiation, etc. on the ground.

      This particular debate is important for a different reason. The surface temperature record is used as evidence that the earth has been warming as CO2 concentrations have increased. If some of that warming is due to biased local conditions around the measurement stations, then the case for a global trend is seriously in question. That’s the issue behind all of this.

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