Hot times in the city

February 2, 2010

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.