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Friday, October 21, 2011

Shawn Lawrence Otto: Another Climate Denial Argument Bites the Dust -- BEST study says urban areas not skewing global temperature measurements

Another Climate Denial Argument Bites the Dust

BEST study says urban areas not skewing global temperature measurements

by Shawn Lawrence Otto, neorenaissance, October 20, 2011

The classic mark of antiscience thinking is the cherry picking of sciency-sounding bits of data to support a rhetorical argument designed to convince someone of a predetermined conclusion.  Rhetorical arguments are okay and are the way most of us navigate life to get what we need.  But they become antiscience when we use them to attempt to refute data-based arguments by only presenting the data that support our position, instead of also considering the data that do not support it.

The urban heat island effect was first noted in 1833 by Luke Howard, an amateur meteorologist, who noticed that urban London was at night about 3.7 oF warmer than the surrounding countryside.  This was, of course, due to the extra combustion in cities, combined with the extra heat absorption of concrete, asphalt and buildings over trees and fields. 
One of the favorite arguments of climate change deniers is that the urban heat island effect, which has grown with global development, is unduly biasing global temperature readings.  This seems reasonable when you consider that many measuring stations were originally placed outside of cities in the 1800s, but since then the cities have expanded and grown up around them, quite likely affecting their data.  It seemed possible to some that it was urban development, selection bias, and error that were causing the apparent rise in global temperatures in the last fifty years.

Because of this, climate change deniers have been especially excited about the prospects for the BEST project (Berkeley Earth Surface Group, a part of the Novim Group, which is friendly to the idea of geoengineering), headed by physicist Richard Muller Judith Curry is also involved, as is 2011 physics Nobel laurate Saul Perlmutter.  It is funded by, among others, the Koch Brothers. 

The project's goal is to create a separate global temperature estimate, and to carefully examine whether urban heating has had any impact on global temperature readings.  To do this, they analyzed temperature data from 39,028 measuring stations around the world.

locations of temperature data

The bombshell is that this Koch-funded group have not been able to show that the urban heat island effect has had any influence on temperature measurements of global warming.  In fact, the group found in a paper just released that both urban and rural areas "show significant warming."

All sites versus rural sites

This is significant because the BEST group was widely expected to take a contrarian stand.

Another favorite climate change denial argument bites the dust.

Get Shawn Lawrence Otto's important new book: Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, "a gripping analysis of America's anti-science crisis." --Starred Kirkus Review. An "incredible book" -- Starred Publishers Weekly review. Like him on Facebook. Listen to him on Science Friday. Join to get the presidential candidates to debate science.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess you're right, the heat island effect bites the dust. Too bad the deniers have already won.