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A Brief History Of Dashed UHI Hopes

by Teodoro Georgiadis – slightly romanced English version by Maurizio Morabito

And there I am, at the beginning of March 2010: me and the brand-new, Volume 1, Number 1 , January / February 2010 issue of “Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change (WIRCC)” . Editor in Chief: Mike Hulme.

Wow, a fresh journal on Global Climate Change!

Even better: according to itself, the journal is meant as

a unique platform for exploring current and emerging knowledge from the many disciplines that contribute to our understanding of this phenomenon – environmental history, the humanities, physical and life sciences, social sciences, engineering and economics

Wouldn’t that be a welcome novelty, in a world post-climategate, post-submerged Holland, post-quickly disappearing Himalayan glaciers, post-Amazongate…in short, in a world that has seen an intense and compact series of scientific downpours on concepts perhaps too quickly assumed as established truth.

Downstream of Copenhagen, a new journal following WIRCC’s statement of intent would surely sport a truly different outlook: new style, new peer-reviewers, new structure all with the goal of providing science with the required level of objectivity, sadly and mostly missing in contemporary climate discourse.

I proceed therefore with all enthusiasm to select an article of surefire interest to me:

David E. Parker, “Urban heat island effects on estimates of observed climate change” p 123-133, Published Online: Dec 22 2009 12:42PM DOI: 10.1002/wcc.21

That’s it then! Finally we can leave the “gates du jour” behind and improve our knowledge of climate change.

Or maybe not.

First reference: IPCC. Second reference: Jones et al. (with Wang).

Wait a sec…what’s going on?

OK let’s move forward…alas, only to find something truly amazing:

the influence of urban heat islands on estimates of global warming is limited by the fact that about 70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean and is absolutely unaffected by urban warming

Say what? Oh yes, the Blue Planet, ever the envy of nasty aliens such as those in HG Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. But hang on…most of the network of temperature measuring stations is literally on solid ground…if you place them on a map they’ll be a bunch of dots almost exactly superimposed to cities. As for the ocean temperatures, we know very well how they are derived.

This isn’t looking good.

Anything better?

Exclusion of urban sites, or selective use of rural sites, requires information (‘metadata’) about the site and its surroundings

Yes, yes…ah, that refers to a 2005 J Clim paper by Peterson and Owen…isn’t that the same Peterson unceremoniously criticized for example by McIntyre on Climate Audit, regarding the peculiar classifications of urban and rural stations? There is a truly remarkable definition of “Parking Lot Effect” on that site.

How strange though, of all the past and present discussions and questions on the topic, Parker manages to mention exactly nothing. Well, at least that might explain the article’s conclusions:

The urban heat island has had only a minor impact on estimates of global trends”… The impact is small because assiduous efforts have been made by the compilers of global surface air temperature records to avoid or compensate for urban warming

Assiduous effort“? Amen to that.

Current and EMERGING knowledge?” Not by a long shot.

My conclusions: “Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change (WIRCC)“? New journal, same old story.

0 replies on “A Brief History Of Dashed UHI Hopes”

I see Mike Hulme is up to his Post-Normal stuff again here in this new journal:

“…the future, through scientific predictions and
artistic depictions of climates to come, is making
new incursions into the present. The idea of climate
change is a consequence of this interpenetration of
past, present, and future and is acting as a powerful
and novel motor for cultural change…

Climate change—although starting as a rather esoteric research
question for natural scientists in the middle decades
of last century—has now entrained researchers of all
varieties and of different instincts. Their research is
interacting with politicians, entrepreneurs, celebrities,
campaigners, engineers, priests…

Climate change, then, is having to be understood…
increasingly as an idea that is changing
society and the way people think about the future.
…Social actions are changing the
climate of the future, or at least constraining it, just
as physical climates—and simulated virtual climates
of the future—are changing society in the present. It
is now the turn of climate to reveal the deep entanglement
of nature and culture…

If climate change is an exemplar of what Silvio Funtowicz and
Jerry Ravetz have called ‘post-normal science’, then
revealing the origins and reasons for disputed and
uncertain knowledge is as important for public policy
as is constructing a consensus of ‘agreed’ knowledge.

… ‘The social status of climate
change knowledge’ recognizes that one of the central
questions affecting how climate change is debated in
public concerns the status—the legitimacy, credibility,
and saliency—of knowledge claims about climate
change. We need to understand how such knowledge
comes into being and what types of authority it carries
when it circulates through society…

Business, political, and social worlds are changing in response to climate
change, and for many people climate change is altering
their imaginary worlds…

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