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Cities' Heat Can Affect Temperatures 1000+ Miles Away

timothy posted about a year ago | from the let's-terraform-earth dept.

Earth 263

Living in dense cities makes for certain efficiencies: being able to walk or take mass transit to work, living in buildings with (at least potentially) efficient HVAC systems, and more. That's why cities have been lauded in recent years for their (relatively) low environmental impact. But it seems at least one aspect of city life has an environmental effect felt at extreme distances from the cities themselves: waste heat. All those tightly packed sources of heat, from cars to banks of AC units, result in temperature changes not just directly (and locally) but by affecting weather systems surrounding the source city. From the article: "The released heat is changing temperatures in areas more than 1,000 miles away (1609 kilometers). It is warming parts of North America by about 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) and northern Asia by as much as 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius), while cooling areas of Europe by a similar amount, scientists report in the journal Nature Climate Change. The released heat (dubbed waste heat), it seems, is changing atmospheric circulation, including jet streams — powerful narrow currents of wind that blow from west to east and north to south in the upper atmosphere. This impact on regional temperatures may explain a climate puzzle of sorts: why some areas are having warmer winters than predicted by climate models, the researchers said. In turn, the results suggest this phenomenon should be accounted for in models forecasting global warming."

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263 comments

Not 1609 kilometers... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713449)

more than 1,000 miles away (1609 kilometers)

Seriously, if you have one rough rounded number you can't do an exact convert and add false precision to the statement...

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713513)

How do you know that it is rounded?

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#42713549)

It says "more than", and it is obvious from context that it doesn't exclude an effect for less than 1000 miles (actually, the absolute biggest effect of a city is at 0 miles distance for sure). Therefore it cannot be an exact number.

Also, how probable is it that a natural phenomenon agrees to four significant digits with a completely arbitrary length unit not based on that phenomenon?

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1)

sco08y (615665) | about a year ago | (#42714025)

It says "more than", and it is obvious from context that it doesn't exclude an effect for less than 1000 miles (actually, the absolute biggest effect of a city is at 0 miles distance for sure). Therefore it cannot be an exact number.

Also, how probable is it that a natural phenomenon agrees to four significant digits with a completely arbitrary length unit not based on that phenomenon?

If you ever work with large sets of data, you'd be amazed at how many events occur precisely at midnight, down to the nanosecond. /sarcasm

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (2, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year ago | (#42713539)

more than 1,000 miles away (1609 kilometers)

Seriously, if you have one rough rounded number you can't do an exact convert and add false precision to the statement...

At least they didn't quibble about the difference between the UK Statute mile and the US Survey mile (the US mile is longer by 3.2mm [unc.edu]), or even the rounding error of over a third of a km in their conversion.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (5, Interesting)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42713561)

I took chemistry a long time ago. The teacher said if you turn in dissociation constants with more than two decimal places, he'd mark them wrong (for those students who did their calculations on digital devices and copied all 10 digits of result.) He explained that these were chaotic events and everything past the second digit was noise.

I think the point of the very specific number above is simply it being a single data point. In fact heat effects may travel tremendously further than even that. More important, if heat is shifting the jet stream, secondary and tertiary effects may be happening downstream many thousands of miles and include drought, flood, or unseasonable weather. As well, the city heat drives low altitude moisture and chemical particulates (soot and industrial dust) into the higher atmosphere (potentially punching a hole in the common inversion layers) and that moisture/nucleation may have significant down wind impacts as well. I'm looking forward to seeing what the models say. If we're lucky, the effect will be more cloud cover, increasing earth's albido, and be a thermal cooling factor over-all. If not, it may be adding to a climate that is growing ever more unstable and that's bad news for everyone.

My question is, why isn't anyone talking about the air pollution problems happening this month in China? Air that's being called lethal by some, over 40x more polluted that world health limits recommend. Here's a story [freerepublic.com] about a factory that burned for 3 hours because nobody could tell the difference between the smoke and the pall of smog. My greatest concern is that over the last ten years there have been several events of smog from China reaching the western U.S., this being the worst smog event in remembrance, there is a real chance it could make it to America. Thankfully, it winter and most likely will be washed into the sea by storm systems. Had this been summer we would certainly be facing serious environmental threat. So why isn't this a HUGE conversation right now, virtually nobody is even talking about it.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (3)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#42713651)

My question is, why isn't anyone talking about the air pollution problems happening this month in China?

I thought we'd been talking about that for years (especially around the time of the Olympics) and haven't stopped.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713673)

Because to talk about it would mean that people would start to point fingers at China as being the biggest economic issue.

What amazes me is that so many like to scream that America is the largest polluter and CO2 emitter. Yet, If America were to stop all CO2 emissions this year, within 3 more years, China would make it all up. China's emissions, along with their pollution, is the single largest source of problems. Any real solution that America makes is worthless unless all of the other top nations join in.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713831)

It's a bit rich to go on about "the other top nations" refusing to join in when the US flatly refuses to join the climate change accords that the rest of the developed (and much of the developing) world have established.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713925)

And how's that going? Considering that the other nations haven't been doing so well on Kyoto, I'm not sure the US not signing makes much difference.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713939)

It's a bit rich to go on about "the other top nations" refusing to join in when the US flatly refuses to join the climate change accords that the rest of the developed (and much of the developing) world have established.

So what? Those accords haven't done jack shit in the past, they are largely a symbolic gesture and none of the nations who did agree to the last ones managed to live up to what they promised. You seem to think that not sitting down at a table in a room full of people is the same thing as doing nothing, which is about as far from the truth as is possible. There is a large and active environmental movement in the US, and we are actively taking steps to reduce emissions. Just because we're not willing to give up our sovereignty and bind ourselves to the whims of a foreign political body doesn't mean we are ignoring the problems.

Meanwhile, as the parent already mentioned, China is pumping out a fucking shitload of pollution at an ever-increasing pace and all you dicks can do is say "But the US did something kind of like that 100 years ago!" Fuck off.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713955)

Perhaps if the US had been a participant in the previous efforts they would've been:

1) Worth a damn scientifically
2) Politically effective

You can't decry other nations for failing to participate in the process, yet justify your own absence by saying the process is pointless.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713989)

So it the United States' fault because they didn't join? The treaty was very biased, punishing more developed countries while letting other ones off the hook. Of course, if the US had joined, Kyoto's failure would have been thier fault too.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713991)

No, I'm saying that:

You can't decry other nations for failing to participate in the process, yet justify your own absence by saying the process is pointless.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713729)

Augh! Talk about teaching a good idea for the wrong reasons. If you can measure your original data to n significant figures, and your conversion factors and constants and so on go to the same number of significant figures, then there's no reason why you can't quote the final value with the same precision. (I'm glossing things over here; addition and subtraction work differently to multiplication and division.)

There's nothing magical about "two decimal places", especially given that the number of decimal places, as opposed to significant figures is entirely dependent upon the units used. 0.123l, and 1.23 dl, and 12.3cl should not be counted as having different precision.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42713807)

Since the dissociation constant is a ratio of dissociated ion vs associated whole dissolved molecules in solution (at equilibrium between between ionization and recombining) the value is completely independent of quantities or units of measure (the ratio between the two at let's say STP would remain constant, ergo Dissociation Constant.). Also because this process is incredibly sensitive to temperature and mechanical motion (including brownian motion), fine scale measurements are very noisy in nature. Which is why most dissociation constants for different substances dissolved in water are given to only 2 significant decimal places. More places would imply greater precision, where no such accuracy exists. Think of the 2 decimal places as meaningful average values of a changing dynaic chemical equilibrium. Any more significant places would be misleading and inaccurate.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713913)

Actually strictly speaking your dissociation constants have units that depend upon the reaction, given that they're a special case of the equilibrium constant. (It seems it's typical to eliminate units by some means or another.) While I understand that the measurements are tricky and noisy (I was never much good at labs) there is no intrinsic physical limit on their precision, and it would be more informative to point out that you can have no greater precision in your final results than you have in your input data.

(To quote 9.32 for one species and 10.47 for another would be to suppose that you can measure the latter ten times more precisely than the former, which is not the case.)

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713743)

Honesty?
NASA had a website that studied the atmospheric effects of aviation.
If you needed to ground all the planes tomorrow, it would have an unacceptable social cost.
Their study was closed down.

No. The worst smog event occurred in Washington state. A fire brought the PM above the 770 of Beijing, to almost 1000. ( 980).

China particulate matter does reach the United States. That was proven by your tax dollars, but the Goddard Institute of Space studies. They proved it takes less than 24 hours for the moisture of aircraft to travel to the poles, where it stables the polar vortex, and causes the destruction of ozone. If an ozone hole opened above the Arctic like one that opened above the Antarctic, then the tail of it would pass over close to 3.4 billion people. If the rates of squasi cell carcinoma remain the same, it could mean close to 21 million deaths. Oh.. sorry, no one is talking about that. why? its much too scary. if the rates increase because of both light skin, and higher rates in incedintial reflection? 60 to 80 million deaths.

How does China's pollution reach the united states? it travels on the tail winds of what brought the radiation from Japan to the U.S. Takes about 7.5 days, and its greatly reduced, but you get to add the pollution of both Korea, and Japan.

Unfortunately the person that made me aware of both of these facts died mysteriously of a heart attack, coming home from a Yoga class.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1)

codeButcher (223668) | about a year ago | (#42713935)

My question is, why isn't anyone talking about the air pollution problems happening this month in China?

Yeah, because what would /. be without dupes? [slashdot.org]

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#42714011)

Hey, You, a student of Dr Swaminathan too? He too would give a D for any lab sheet turned in without calculating the estimate of experimental error, or if the reported result had too many significant digits. But he was doing freshman Physics at IIT-M, not chemistry.

Re:Not 1609 kilometers... (3)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about a year ago | (#42713983)

It reminds me of a joke.

A tour guide in front of the pyramid of Gizah : This pyramid is 4507.5 years old.
A tourist : Wow! Which dating methodology did you use to achieve such a precision?
Tour guide : It's quite simple actually. I got this job in summer 2005, and it was 4500 years old at that time.

I Almost Hate To Say This (1, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#42713465)

... But this directly contradicts those greenhouse-gas warming models that assume that the "heat island" effect is of little or no significance. To the best of my knowledge, that is the majority of them.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713487)

I doubt that.

I'm pretty sure that you completely love to say that and is nowhere close to almost hating it.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713509)

Dont worry, itl be swept under the rug. Nobody wants to hear how our productive model based on centralization is bad for us in yet another way.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713557)

Not really. The overall temperature difference is the same. This is just affecting how the change is distributed. It's notable, and explains a known issue with the models, but it doesn't in any way invalidate the overall predictions, i.e., things are getting warmer.

Seriously, the entire waste heat production of humanity is nothing compared to solar heating. Solar heating is ~170 petawatts. The total energy production of humanity isn't even a tenth of a percent of that. Closer to a hundredth of a percent, really.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (2, Interesting)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#42713657)

Also the vast majority of CO2 production is not man-made. The carbon cycle is massive. We just tipped the balance it was in by chopping down some carbon sinks and burning up some reserves.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (4, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year ago | (#42713841)

Unfortunately tipping the balance is all that is required to mess it up.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#42713593)

The heat island effect has always been taken into account for purposes of observation - when some of your data points are located in cities, you need to either discard them or compensate in some manner. This study shows that the effect covers a far wider area than previously thought. A few minor revisions to the models are needed. That doesn't mean previous predictions are suddenly all wrong - just that they are not as accurate as they will be once these revisions are implimented.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year ago | (#42713681)

Many a times issues like this get brought up, and all of them have turned out to be nothing. Lets wait and see what comes of this.

Re:I Almost Hate To Say This (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713733)

You're talking about local weather versus global climate. It's perfectly natural that an effect might appear at one scale and not the other.

How long until we move out from the sun? (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#42713493)

One of the concepts that interested me in Larry Niven's classic science-fiction work Ringworld [amazon.com] is a civilization having to move its planet out from its sun in order to avoid perishing in their waste heat. I haven't seen that possibility explored so much in the years since. With studies like this, along with Kurzweil-ish woo-woo of extrapolating growth, can we talk an amusing guess at how long until heat waste renders the Earth, or at least certain parts of it uninhabitable?

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713575)

When we are:
a) a Type I civilization, or nearly so
b) stupid enough to use all that power in our own biosphere

The second probably already applies.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713623)

The excellent "Do The Math" blog estimates that we have 400 years [ucsd.edu] until we're consuming as much energy as the planet is receiving from the sun. That's a good rule of thumb I think. Anything beyond that and by definition we can't have our current combination of albedo and surface temperature.

Interestingly that estimate also states we have about 1500 years until we're using as much power as the sun produces in total, and we'll need to use the entire galaxy's power output in about 2500 years.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713715)

Ah, the joys of exponential extrapolation. Are you enjoying your 20 GHz processor, your 10 million wikipedia articles or the km-deep carpet of bunnies covering the surface of the Earth? :-)

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713755)

Right, the whole point is that it's a riductio ad absurdum: the conclusions of the model on a long time scale make it obvious that the model can't be sustained.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#42714043)

ah but if we figure out FTL in 1500 years we will be using that kind of power outputs.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42714053)

Assuming we can create a Dyson sphere, which would require us to consume most of the solar system for building materials.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year ago | (#42714131)

Why would I mess with something so slow? I have 32Ghz (4Ghz * 8 cores).

As for the bunnies, we don't have quite that many here. We've been burning them to keep the steam engines running.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42714213)

Why would I mess with something so slow? I have 32Ghz (4Ghz * 8 cores).

As for the bunnies, we don't have quite that many here. We've been burning them to keep the steam engines running.

twenty vw beetles from 1960 don't go as fast as a single ferrari from 2013, no matter how much arm, intel and amd are trying to convince you.
besides, we're already making energy that doesn't originate from the sun..

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713837)

Population growth has been (approximately) exponential for the last centuries. There are many experts however who say that we might stop expanding at 10 billion people.
If the most important factor for the exponential increase in energy consumption is not expected to follow the current trend for much more than 50-80 years, then you certainly shouldn't be extrapolating the energy consumption trend itself for 400 years.

"Do the math" undoubtedly did the math, but failed to gather good input data.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713975)

That's the whole point. A lot of our more bright-eyed views of the future are based on ideas about economic (i.e. population), scientific, and resource growth that simply do not scale onto long times.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#42714079)

Yeah, esp all that "post scarcity" bullshit.

There may be zero scarcity of smurf berries and farmville farms, but despite GM etc there will be an upper bound of wheat and other food that you can produce on this planet. You might be able to survive on food produced via nuclear energy, but given that there are already significant health differences resulting from merely different diets, I doubt humans would thrive on that.

We might be able to postpone things by developing space colonies - the asteroid belts have quite a lot of resources. But most space agencies seem more interested in doing reruns of 1960s space stuff albeit with fancier technology.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about a year ago | (#42714205)

And we may not be too far from that point where we are no longer able to produce more food. According to estimates there are about 14 million square Kilometers of agricultural land currently on earth. That is roughly the total surface area United States and Canada combined. While there are probably a few more places where farmland could probably be opened up, our current usage area probably represents at least 80% of the possible arable land using current farming practices. While things like urban agriculture, GM crops, and lab grown proteins can probably get us a bit further, it is unlikely that the planet can sustain much over 15 billion people (9-10 billion under current agriculture).

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713635)

http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-04-11/exponential-economist-meets-finite-physicist

400 years until boiling at 2.3% growth rate...

ovo -hoot

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (2)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42713731)

One would think there would be a way to convert the waste heat to let's say microwaves and shoot them at the moon. With a proper array on the moon you could immediately power a lunar civilization and remove earth's waste heat, two birds with one stone. If we created a small device that converted waste heat locally to hydrogen by splitting water, we could reclaim that energy or a reasonable amount of it. Heat concentrators could be used to remove heat from our cities where it would be converted to a frequency that could be radiated into space. Create superconductive heat pipes under superconductive electrical transmission and maglev freeways for robot driven cars? Hey, if your going to think about the future, really think about the future. We now have high quality carbon thread, that has very high conductance (comparable to metal) and in theory could be the material upon which to base a room temperature superconductor (also thermal superconductor), and with the proper infrastructure surrounding cities the problems of power, heat and pollution would be technologically tractable problems.

Of course we need to begin taking carbon our of the air. The good news is we now have a lot of really good ways to do that. The US Navy is funding the largest purchase of biofuel in history, it must not impact food stock so no corn alcohol subsidies, and there are several competing technologies looking to produce fuels that the Navy can use without further processing. If it works, we'll have a way of beginning to move first to carbon neutrality, then negative atmospheric carbon growth. Of course there are probably a slew of things that are bigger immediate threats to humanity than waste heat.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713787)

Currently we use tens of terawatts. The power output of the best continuous-fire lasers or maser (and I use that term loosely) is on the hundreds of kilowatts. Pulsed lasers peak in the mega- to terawatt range but average power output is a lot less.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Genda (560240) | about a year ago | (#42713849)

But what percentage of our industrial process ends up being waste heat, and what is the largest feasible array of transmitter one could reasonable build in, let's say the middle of the desert? Clearly the idea of building arrays of thousands or tens of thousands of high powered emitters would be daunting, however for any society looking to move their planet to accommodate increasing waste heat, it would seem to me should have the where with all to create huge, high efficiency quantum emitters to convert waste heat to a transmissible energy type. Again, its all theoretical or hypothetical. I would just assume projecting the heat would be easier than moving the planet.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42714005)

Yes, and eating a car is easier than eating the moon, but it's still quite daunting even assuming currently energy consumption remains constant.

It's not an issue of waste heat, by the way: thermodynamics demands that every joule of energy we generate and subsequently use winds up as heat eventually.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42714159)

"Waste heat" is an interesting beast. At low levels of waste its not something to worry about, while at high levels of waste its an opportunity to generate electricity from it.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

ibwolf (126465) | about a year ago | (#42713897)

If we could actually capture and convert the waste heat into some form of usable energy, I believe we have plenty of use for it right here on Earth.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713997)

...where it would be dissipated into heat again when used. You can't consume energy without (ultimately) releasing that much energy as heat.

Re:How long until we move out from the sun? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year ago | (#42714211)

With studies like this, along with Kurzweil-ish woo-woo of extrapolating growth, can we talk an amusing guess at how long until heat waste renders the Earth, or at least certain parts of it uninhabitable?

Probably not. You've got to remember, that all this carbon we're currently emitting used to be a part of the carbon cycle. The Cretaceous period had half again as much atmospheric carbon as we do currently. A warming world might inconvenience humanity, and probably a bunch of other species, but it will advantage a whole bunch more. For the world as a whole, it's pretty much unimportant - it's been through such changes before.

This is part of the problem with the semi-religious zeal of the lunatic fringe of the green movement. Climate change isn't some moral problem with the plague of humanity destroying Gaia; it's a climactic shift, which the world has seen many of before. It needs to be looked at as basically an engineering problem that needs to be solved for humanity's well-being, not as a lash to flagellate ourselves with over our evil ways.

Glider pilots already knew this (5, Interesting)

sciencewatcher (1699186) | about a year ago | (#42713545)

Serious, first thing to look for a thermal is the local town, absent mountains or hills. A large parking lot already does do fine. I know of a military airport which has a cemetary nearby, the dense black marble is sufficient.

Re:Glider pilots already knew this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713745)

Mod parent +1 Interesting ( and accurate!)

Re:Glider pilots already knew this (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42714217)

umm which doesn't have much to do with this modelling of if that heat affects temperatures 1000 miles away from said cemetery.

Another city effect: Thunderstorms (3, Interesting)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about a year ago | (#42713577)

I've seen a map of thunderstorm frequency for UK which shows that a majority occur directly downwind (in prevailing wind direction) from cities, and size and frequency of storms is related to size of the city. Thunderstorm frequency and severity also relate to frequency and severity of lightning damage and hailstorms. If I can find that again, I'll post a link (unless someone else gets there first).

Re:Another city effect: Thunderstorms (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#42713629)

That's not the only downwind effect than can be attributed to human activity.
Science News had an article on down wind rainfall being affected by large scale irrigation projects in California.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/347691/description/Watering_fields_in_California_boosts_rainfall_in_Southwest [sciencenews.org]

I wonder how long it will take for someone to research downwind effects of some of the huge wind farms that have been built. Taking that much energy out of the atmosphere should theoretically have an effect that might be measurable.

Re:Another city effect: Thunderstorms (1)

jabuzz (182671) | about a year ago | (#42714091)

Problem with that is in the UK you are almost *always* down wind of a city unless you locate yourself on the west cost of Scoltand.

Re:Another city effect: Thunderstorms (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42714179)

Problem with that is in the UK you are almost *always* down wind of a city unless you locate yourself on the west cost of Scoltand.

that's the thing. where did they find the place to do the study in europe? most places are within 1000km of many cities..

Testing the idea (1, Informative)

john.r.strohm (586791) | about a year ago | (#42713627)

The basis of the scientific method is:

1. Formulate hypothesis.
2. Formulate experiment to test hypothesis.
3. Perform experiment.
4. Evaluate results against hypothesis.
5. If results don't match, start over from step 1, using what you learned from the experiment to refine the hypothesis or make a new one.

How do you conduct the experiment to validate a climate hypothesis, such as the one that is the subject of this article?

Remark: The gold standard for validation of a simulation model is to run it on historical data and see how well it predicts what actually happened. To date, NONE of the "anthropogenic global warming/climate change" simulations have passed this test.

Re:Testing the idea (1, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#42713677)

This crap again? Astronomy fits that narrow "not a science" description as well. I dare you to walk up to Buzz Aldrin and tell him astronomy is not a science. This "debate" is on the same level as the moon landing deniers.
Anyway, from what I've heard there are this things called digital computers (that thing you are using to convey your silly luddite drivel) that can model the theories of the climate scientists, and then the models can be compared with reality. This gives you those five steps.

Re:Testing the idea (1, Insightful)

Bongo (13261) | about a year ago | (#42713797)

Well it is the details. Some claim it is "incontrovertible", "reality", and "truth", when part of what they're talking about is predictions/scenarios stretching 50 years into the future. Question it and they say "it is science!" like because science is so highly respected. And why do we respect science so much? Because it is so rigorous and self-correcting. But that sounds more like: make hypotheses; test hypothesis; correct; etc. steps. Ie what the other poster was quoting. So yeah we can call the field broadly a science, but there's always the question, what specific things did you do to arrive at this specific result?

When the Chairman of the IPCC was asked, what about the scientists who disagree with the human caused catastrophic climate change scenario, he said to a public audience, there are still people who deny the Earth is flat. Now how does he go so easily to such an absolutist position?

Is it science to label all your critics as holocaust deniers and superstitious infants from the dark ages?

So it is healthy to remind ourselves, ok, the scientific method at its best has this rigorous checking, and if you're not doing that, perhaps because it is a very hard thing to check, like human diet, very hard to figure out what's healthy because you just can't experiment on people like lab rats keeping them in a cage and controlling all they eat for generations -- yet we're all told that nutrition is a science and we should take the experts seriously.

The question is always, how do they know? What did they do to arrive at that result?

Well the computer model says the plane is fine so let's just start building a production run and not bother with test pilots.

A lot of stuff is called a science, and generally it is, but the real question is, how high are their standards of quality? If your objective is to study the music of people 6000 years ago, well you can make hypothesis, but as none of their music was written down, if you want to maintain a high standard, you'll have to just say, we have no idea what it sounded like.

Claiming that your model is good for 100 years out when it is still hard to differentiate between it being correct and a lucky guess amongst a flock of simulation runs all with different parameters, and it sort seems to not be too far out today, compared to current climate, does not sound like a high standard.

Asserting climate is the average of weather over the long term, again sounds wooly and not a high standard. It begs the question, why assume you can average the weather over the long term, eliminating chaotic effects? Where's your rigorous testing for that assertion?

Re:Testing the idea (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713811)

So your argument is that even though it's scientifically sound, you're sceptical because you find it politically distasteful?

Don't just hide from ideas (3, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#42713895)

Question it and they say "it is science!"

When questioned with PR company lies that answer is a fairly obvious response.
When one "side" pretends that if the other is not omniscient then everything they say can be rejected and replaced with a handy PR lie that's when you get assertions of certainty in response. Certainty is possible in general terms even if unreasonable levels of precision is not.

Where's your rigorous testing for that assertion?

There is a website called "google scholar" now so there is no longer any reason to pretend there is no rigorous testing just because you can't be bothered to ever set foot in a library before making these wild claims. What is this bullshit about flooding the net with noise to try to shout down anyone with a clue? Do you realise that your anti-expert bullshit is having fallout in other fields, and if you are good at anything at all such a line is going to backfire on yourself if it catches on?

Asserting climate is the average of weather over the long term, again sounds wooly and not a high standard

I think it's about time to graduate from the childrens dictionary Bongo if you are attempting to be credible.

Re:Testing the idea (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42714017)

Climate is by definition the average large-scale atmospheric conditions over the long term! You can't complain about that, any more than you can complain that temperature is a measure of the distribution of kinetic energies of an ensemble of particles.

Your unstated premise that the models are over-fitted and poorly checked against data is simply not true.

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (5, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42714047)

Isn't this comment more or less an archetypal example? Veiled and nonspecific allusions to error, uncertainty, and weakness? No actual substance? Nonspecific accusations that could be leveled at any piece of research? Let's look at the issues you raise.

"The question is always, how do they know? What did they do to arrive at that result?"

It's in the papers. And countless popular accounts.

"...does not sound like a high standard."

That's why your rhetorical scenario is not the standard to which climate science is held. If you're interested it's... in the papers, and in the countless popular accounts.

"Where's your rigorous testing for that assertion?"

It's in the papers, and countless popular accounts. Assuming, of couse, you do not set an arbitrarily strict limit for "rigorous" that excludes them.

Re:Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (1, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42714185)

Isn't this comment more or less an archetypal example? Veiled and nonspecific allusions to error, uncertainty, and weakness?

When the comment is about the veiled and nonspecific "scientific process" of climate science, then no.. its not an archetypal example.

Science is a process. Are climate scientists following the process all the way through? The answer is that no, they are not, and certainly they cannot be blamed for not doing so because they dont have an atmosphere to perform tests upon.

But the lack of blame in no way elevates the process that they do accomplish to a level above what it actually is. The parts of the scientific process that they cannot do are important, and the lack of doing important things is in itself important too. The claim "its science" doesnt carry as much weight when its not the complete method, and you should be ashamed of yourself for not knowing that.

Also, that "Remark" is a blatant lie (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#42713693)

Also your "NONE of the ... simulations" thing is a lie since that is the way these things are tested in the first place! Is it your lie or somebody else's lie?

Re:Testing the idea (1)

ssam (2723487) | about a year ago | (#42713877)

i am sorry sir, though you have all the symptoms of cancer i can't really prove scientifically that you definitely have it. So i can justify giving you this expensive treatment. Come back in 20 years and we'll see if its got any worse.

Great (3, Funny)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#42713647)

Yet another significant factor not accounted for in climate change models.

Also: News flash - Concentrated heat sources effect weather, back to you Tom Tucker.

Re:Great (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713713)

Didn't the Berkley study explicitly evaluate the urban heat island effect and find it had no bearing on the models?

That's a rhetorical quesiton.

Re:Great (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year ago | (#42714207)

I don't know about its bearing on models, but there have been studies that umade claims about data selection that could not have been accomplished due to a distinct and complete lack of the information necessary to make that selection, that have ruled that the heat island effect has no meaningful impact on the temperature record (I'm looking at you Wei-Chyung Wang, bullshit science fraudster.)

Re:Great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42714051)

But... Muh Glowball wurming!

The Real Global Warming? (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#42713701)

Time to destroy the cities before we are all swimming, or over heated, or something.

Belize and the US (0)

Jerry Smith (806480) | about a year ago | (#42713725)

Only countries in the world to still use Fahrenheit.

Re:Belize and the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713971)

And your point is precisely what? Fahrenheit is a perfectly fine unit of measure for things other than science. And considering the article is written for Americans on an American website, I fail to see any problem with that.

I've lived in China for a year using the metric system and, to be blunt about it, there's absolutely no advantage for day to day living that I've been able to find. It's amusing to me how all the dummies outside the US can't comprehend how we could do just fine with the older style British units of measure, but we do just fine.

Precision and accuracy (1, Informative)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about a year ago | (#42713727)

I love it when when, when converting US customary units to SI units, the precision of numbers suddenly increases by orders of magnitude. 1000 miles is obviously an approximation. Let's be charitable and say it means 10x10^2. If you convert it to kilometers the precision should stay the same. 10x10^2 miles is about 16x10^2 or 1600 km.

Re:Precision and accuracy (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#42713793)

You've still got too many significant figures in your output. There's only one in the input, so 2000km.

Re:Precision and accuracy (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#42713963)

You've still got too many significant figures in your output. There's only one in the input, so 2000km.

That's correct, but practically speaking, when you translate some statement about reality you may want to avoid making the statement more surprising than the original statement. In this case you'd be spicing up the story quite a bit if you rounded it up to 2000 km.

Re:Precision and accuracy (1)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about a year ago | (#42714073)

Strictly speaking you're right, but as it is not a scientific article I think you're allowed a little leeway in deciding what the actual precision probably was. After all there is no way to tell whether 1000 really means 1x10^3, 10x10^2, 100x10^1 or precisely 1000.

Thank goodness (1)

illusoryfear (1438201) | about a year ago | (#42713901)

You mean I have large cities to thank for the 20 degree (F) weather instead of 19 degree weather right now? I can live with that.

Megawatts (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about a year ago | (#42713931)

I always thought that anything you plugged into something that was measured in thousands of Megawatts ought to get pretty hot.

I call bollocks on this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42713965)

If it were 1000 miles downstream, and even 0.1C temperature difference, then figure out how much area the power output of a city would be spread out to give that increase in temperature.

Now divide by 1000 miles.

How wide is that?

A few cm. A couple of inches.

Oh dear. I guess that this isn't such a big effect on the GLOBAL FUCKING TEMPERATURES after all.

PS I wonder how it affects the entire bloody pacific ocean. Not a lot of cities for thousands of miles there... But still there's no discernably different trend for ocean temps from satellite and landmass temps from the same satellite.

Okay yes. We can fix this. There. Done. (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about a year ago | (#42714119)

No thanks to Anthony Watts and his dastardly cohorts who have been whining for years about using weather stations sited near the exhaust vents of HVAC units, tennis courts or on blacktop -- for climate modeling purposes.

So instead of moving the stations we had applied a little "hot devil's breath" adjustment to the lot, a dash of cayenne and an extra egg.

Now it looks as if the whole city will need a whole other egg and an extra yolk.

Give us a moment to adjust for this finally-documented urban heat island effect. We have retroactively bumped all temperatures from the network -- up! -- by 1.8 degrees.

"Computer models worse than predicted" "Global Warming Accelerating More Than We Imagined" "Temps rising Faster Than Surmised" "Heat Hotter Than Previously Thought" "Urban Heat Islands will be Completely Underwater by 2050"

This is good news for Oklahoma City and Dallas, whose inhabitants had Previously Thought that the odd prevalence of tornadoes and freakish thunderstorms around the urbanized areas was the act of a vengeful god.

Hm, really? (2)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#42714121)

Think of the impact this would have, if many of the data-recording points for temperature were slowly surrounded by urbanization or in the 'heat shadow' of urban areas?

http://www.john-daly.com/ges/surftmp/surftemp.htm [john-daly.com]

He makes a compelling case, the refutation of which has been on the order of "of course they considered this, they're experts"...when there's no trace of such analysis or correction applied to East Anglia conclusions or IPCC reports through at least 2005 (after which I stopped bothering to read them).

Cities being more Green? (1)

m.shenhav (948505) | about a year ago | (#42714133)

Did anybody else smell something funky when reading the assertion that Cities are more environmentally friendly than the countryside? The first article linked [yale.edu] seemed to talk only about lower emissions resulting from more efficient per capita household energy consumption and transportation costs. I wonder what would happen if we account for all the other goods the urbanite consumes, the emissions for their transportation, etc. After all Industry plays the bigger role in pollution. And that is not even to mention that pollution is not a one-dimensional variable, but a highly complex concept involved intense non-linearities. As we have seen above - again we see shit is more complicated than we gave it credit.

What really made me sick about the article (which you see everywhere these days) is the assertion that since the population will grow to the size of 9 billion people "we must accommodate this growth". Yay! Lets grow the human population until we reach the very boundary of the planet's capacity so that random fluctuations can result in major catastrophes and risk life on the planet for the whole human race!

Its not like I think country side dwellers are saints - I am sure they consume and pollute more than they did a few hundred years ago - its just I recon that the null hypothesis should be "low concentrations of human population are less polluting the high concentrations". Don't mistake this for an argument for everyone going to the countryside - I argue for limiting population growth. The ecosystems we live in are highly non-linear and this means we can be facing extreme fluctuations as the result of relatively small events [complex.upf.es]. This is an argument for environmental conservatism - and the argument made well by Nassim Taleb [wikipedia.org] in his new book is that when dealing with complex systems fraught with non-linearities which evolved over long time we should assume anything we do effects the system adversely, and the opposite assertion is the one that needs proving.

Re:Cities being more Green? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#42714195)

high concentrations are less polluting per capita...

and you'd be surprised about per capita pollution compared to just 50 years ago and even more surprised to 100 years ago when things were a real mess in most big cities still(pumping sewage straight out, burning shitloads of coal within city limits etc..).

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