USA Today: Expanding cities contribute to global warming

From Roger Pielke Sr.

A very good news article titled Expanding cities contribute to global warming by Doyle Rice has been published on USA Today.

The article is based on our paper

Fall, S., D. Niyogi, A. Gluhovsky, R. A. Pielke Sr., E. Kalnay, and G. Rochon, 2009: Impacts of land use land cover on temperature trends over the continental United States: Assessment using the North American Regional Reanalysis. Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.1996.

The USA Today article reads

http://blogs.usatoday.com/.a/6a00d83451b46269e20120a65d9532970b-pi

Photo: Interstate 15 cuts between new homes and mountains in Corona, Calif. (Ric Francis, AP)

The USA’s expanding cities and suburbs are contributing more to global warming than previously thought, says a new study in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology.

“We found that most land-use changes, especially urbanization, result in warming,” said study co-author Eugenia Kalnay of the University of Maryland.

Most scientists believe man-made climate change is primarily the result of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. So, does this mean rising temperatures due to greenhouse gases are less significant? No, say study authors.

“I think that greenhouse warming is incredibly important, but land use should not be neglected,” Kalnay said. “It clearly contributes to warming, especially in urban and arid areas.”

As for how much it contributes, compared to greenhouse gases, “we cannot provide a specific percentage,” writes study co-author Roger Pielke, Sr., of the University of Colorado in an e-mail. “But our results suggest that land-use change can affect surface temperatures as much or more than what has been simulated by the global climate models as being due to added CO2 from human activities.”

The study recommends that the predicted land-use changes be incorporated into the computer models designed to forecast changes in climate conditions. This is key, according to study co-author Dev Niyogi of Purdue University. He said that even with aggressive green emission controls, warming will still continue unless how we use the land is considered.

“Continued temperature changes will occur as long as the landscape continues to be altered,” added Pielke. “The subject of the effect of future land use change on local and regional climate should be a major focus of upcoming climate assessments.”

Among the study’s findings:

– Land use conversion more often results in warming than cooling.

– Urbanization and conversion to bare soils have the largest warming impacts.

– Conversion to agriculture results in cooling, while conversion from agriculture generally results in warming.

– In general, the more the vegetation covers an area of land, the cooler its contribution to surface temperature.

– Deforestation generally results in warming, with the exception of a shift from forest to agriculture

– The temperature effect of planting a new forest is unclear.

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41 thoughts on “USA Today: Expanding cities contribute to global warming

  1. Most scientists believe man-made climate change is primarily the result of increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse
    So some would have us believe. You’re getting sleepy…sleepy.
    I hate to be the one to pour Ice Water down the backside of warm & fuzzy all over green Utopia, but… the temperature record comes now primarily from the concrete jungle.

  2. So, when is Anthony going to release his analysis of the surface stations project, and refute that NASA thing from last spring? I’m so looking forward to seeing him blow the lid off the scam.
    REPLY: One of the co-authors has a delay, so we’ll probably not finish up until end of year. – Anthony

  3. R.P. Sr’s work is an interesting branch of climate science. He has clearly and consistently shown that observed local and regional warming is driven to a great degree by land use rather than CO2.
    Like Svensmark in Denmark, he has been trashed by the AGW faithful for publishing the truth. Also like Svensmark, he has not come out as a skeptic, nor does he trash the believers back. He merely presents evidence of alternative warming mechanisms and backs them up with empirical observations.
    Science has become truly strange in the 21st century. Unverified models based on weak assumptions which don’t perform or compare with the real world are held as revealed truth, while hypotheses based on observations are treated as false because they “might” distract from the message.

  4. OT, but strangely familiar:
    “Red-faced Times abandons fishy eco ad
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/06/times_fishy_ad_abandoned/
    “Maritime conservation researcher Boris Worm had made the claim in a 2006 paper in Science, which despite its reputation as a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, has a weakness for publishing shoddy junk science on environmental subjects. In a note accidentally sent to the press, Worm had said the attention grabbing claim could be an effective “news hook to get people’s attention.””

  5. I think that greenhouse warming is incredibly important, but land use should not be neglected,” Kalnay said. “It clearly contributes to warming, especially in urban and arid areas.

    Nothing new here then.
    DaveE.

  6. So we have a heat sink effect when looking at using concrete and bricks in passive solar design but somehow the AGW lobby then says its not important in climate measurements. Seems like the Hansen effect!

  7. From the header,
    “– The temperature effect of planting a new forest is unclear.”
    Comment:
    “- The atmospheric CO2 effect of planting a new forest is also unclear in the long term.”
    Strange how this has not prevented Copenhagen from devoting a huge slice of agenda to forestry programs. I suppose there have to be some loopholes for the devious blood-suckers who are circling to slice up the carbon taxes. Maybe even some are in cahoots with those putting trees on the agenda.

  8. “But … but … but … doesn’t me having a white roof solve all this????”
    If every single one of those houses in that picture of Corona had a while roof and if the pavement was a “cool pavement”, the temperature there might actually be cooler than before the homes were built. Painting the roofs white can actually go a long way toward mitigating UHI.
    That is one idea I actually support.

  9. Doug in Seattle (20:20:45) :
    “Science has become truly strange in the 21st century. Unverified models based on weak assumptions which don’t perform or compare with the real world are held as revealed truth, while hypotheses based on observations are treated as false because they “might” distract from the message.”
    Not so strange. At one time eugenics was popularly accepted science, as was conversion therapy, astrology, graphology, phrenology, anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, iridology, etc…
    At one time ‘detracting from the message’ of eugenics got you sent to a labor camp and killed in certain countries.

  10. So, Chico is a good example. Set a few thermometers East and West, North and South. And one in the city at the site of your choice. The topography is relatively level but there are dramatic changes in land use.
    Any such study will be ridiculed in all the usual places, but the methodology should easily pass any competent peer review.
    Instant case study in land use and the UHI.
    Chico is ideal because it is still relatively compact, relatively level, and has a mix of Ag and original valley. A few miles should make a world of difference.
    Be interesting to see the changes in the coming solar minimum with a cold phase PDO and Atlantic.
    Don Easterbrook at WWU has done a lot of work on temps and glaciers over the years but does not get much mention. His work goes back to the ’70’s. He sees correlations with BE10, sun spots, solar cycles, temperatures and glacial advance and retreat.

  11. It is good to see the focus shifting to land use (i.e. something that is certainly not a red herring).
    A question that was on the mind of landscape ecologists in the 90s was, “Do different aggregation criteria affect spatial pattern?”
    The short answer: YES.
    Physical geographers know this as MAUP (modifiable areal unit problem). Those familiar with “drilling down” in political polling numbers will probably quickly find the concept very familiar.
    Interesting article Anthony & colleagues – common sense scores points.

  12. The warming from cities and land use changes is regional or local and clearly affects sensor readings in the areas affected.
    It’s then quite a leap to assert that it has any significant effect on GLOBAL warming after accounting for increased upward radiation, convection, cloudiness, rainfall, wind and the globally moderating effects of the oceans.
    Is this just a desperate leap away from CO2 now that it’s supposed effect is being discredited ?

  13. “The study recommends that the predicted land-use changes be incorporated into the computer models designed to forecast changes in climate conditions.”
    Okay, but surely modellers need to sort out basic questions like real feedback values before adding more complications.

  14. Roger Pielke Sr.
    – Conversion to agriculture results in cooling, while conversion from agriculture generally results in warming.
    Not sure about this. Most Gliding advice will include agriculteral land for good souring. It is important to include the amount of moisture in the land which may be another key driver in land temperatures. Agricultural land favours land that is well drained. In gliding wet land will have poorer on no thermals compared to surrounding dryer land. In addition a general lowering of ground water will lessen the cooling effect of evaporation.

  15. If they do incorporate land use in the models, all that will do is show even more warming, and the reason behind it will be forgotten.

  16. If you believe that planting real trees, unless they are managed forever, will have any significant effect on CO2, then I’d be pleased to know. I shudder at the waste of money proposed by those who forget thet when the new trees die, they release the CO2 they had stored. If new trees are not being replanted all of the time, an area of land will revert to something like its pre GHG state and all that will have been achieved is the transfer of money to shysters who are faster on their feet than the regulators/taxers.
    Carbon sinks are only carbon sinks while they hold more carbon than before they were made. Forever.

  17. It’s disappointing that they claim that C02 is still a cause of AGW, but at least the idea that land use is getting some mainstream attention/validity.

  18. Bingo!
    Walk across any mall parking lot in the summer in bare feet – the park lot is nothing but a massive solar panel sucking up energy and not letting that heat go back out into space – now compare that to the park grass right next to the mall. The amount of energy a parking lot can absorb is massive – I did the calculation once (it comes out to be a small power plant in the MWs).
    Even the evening news where I grew up in Seattle shows the UHI. Seattle is generally a few degrees hotter than the surrounding area, especially during the winter.
    You can even see the effect of black top occasionally from the air. Fly over a road when the clouds/fog is very thin and low to the ground with no wind and very often you can see exactly where the roads are because less fog or no fog directly above the road.

  19. Urban warming is a fact but it is also a fact that some of the surface stations are situated in these areas with no adequate temperature correction. So there is a higher average temperature. But if there is a local high temperature so the laws of thermodynamics predict a higher rate of heat loss. This has been shown to be true by Dr. Richard Lindzen in his latest paper. So the Greenhouse Effect Theory is not correct. CO2 may heat up more than O2 but it looses heat faster. Again we know that water vapour is by far the most important gas to help heat exchange, insulate and control temperature by the evapouration of water, the formation of clouds and their role in climate. The exchange of heat due to latent heat is one way that heat can be transferred but this is never mentioned by main stream climate realists.

  20. I like the photo. California living at its finest. 🙂 (Full disclosure – I live in NH on 0.3 ac but am swamped with dead maple leaves, however retirement will be on 95 ac on the side of Mt Cardigan where I don’t have to cart leaves to the dump.) (0,12 and 38 hectares if my math is right.)

  21. “So, does this mean rising temperatures due to greenhouse gases are less significant? No, say study authors.”
    Temperature = A+B
    We now find that B is larger that we thought. Is A then smaller?
    The answer is no according to the USA Today spin.
    Add this effect to the UHI effect on the temperature record from the airport thermometers and what is left?

  22. THANK you, Stephen Wilde. It’s funny, now that the Warmists have “suddenly” discovered UHI, they immediately see it as a significant contributor to global warming, instead of what it actually does – contribute to a warm bias in temperature readings.
    Geo-engineering is sheer insanity. I don’t care if it is cheaper; it is still a huge expense trying to “solve” a non-existent problem, and it could have unintended and harmful environmental consequences.
    Does it ever even occur to these nitwits that localized warming might actually be good, particularly in more northern climes? Also, with a significant period of cooling likely imminent, people will naturally be seeking warmth, meaning a possible population shift towards more urban areas.
    The issue of land use is nothing but a red herring. It is simply one more way the Warmists try to muddy the water, the same way way they do with trying to conflate the mythical idea of AGW/CC with real environmental issues such as pollution, and with the human issues of jobs, hunger, disease, lack of clean water, etc.

  23. Latent heat (and convection) is good at the surface (where it’s needed) for half to a third of the total energy leaving. It seems to practically disappear by tropopause altitude (where it’s not needed).
    I’m forever amazed at the confusing between local effect, UHI, and global effect which goes on. Earth is 70% ocean which dominates the albedo – so far as the surface is concerned. What’s more, the atmosphere (primarily clouds) is responsible for 0.22 of the 0.30 albedo – meaning that the surface supplies only 0.08 of the total. Applied as an average, overall the surface supplies about 27w/m^2 worth of albedo reflected power. The mix of surface albedo is a combination between oceans, with 0.04 or less albedo at 70% of the total contribution and land at 30% contribution which is providing (without doing the math this morning) something between 0.1 to 0.2 for its average contribution.
    I can’t wait until someone figures in the total power solution of the world’s energy by using classical solar panels. I think they’ve got something like a 0.02 albedo and an efficiency of under 10% conversion to energy. Those panels with higher efficiency use light concentration techniques. The size of such panel systems actually might become a problem – if it were possible to build such a thing.

  24. In the context of alarmism, UHI is a powerful effect that will contribute to our heat death.
    But in the context of the effect of UHI on temperature measurements, UHI is insignificant and can be dismissed.
    Perhaps the alarmists should get their story straight….
    Chris

  25. So land use is having more of an effect on global warming than previously thought AND rising temperatures due to green house gases are not less significant. I’m confused.

  26. “I think that greenhouse warming is incredibly important, but land use should not be neglected,” Kalnay said.
    Absolutely, hundreds of thousands of peoples livelihood (people like Kalnay) depend on the gravy train of Global Warming Hysteria.
    Hundreds of millions of tax payers are paying for it.
    Millions stand to lose their jobs as the West further curtails all industrial activity in favor of lower cost production overseas.
    It is all INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.

  27. After leaving church yesterday at noon and at 8 pm, the temp reading in my car dropped 5-6 degrees. The country is cooler for several reasons. We sure do not see them adding weather stations in the country and eliminating city locations.

  28. “In addition a general lowering of ground water will lessen the cooling effect of evaporation.”
    Irrigation.
    Irrigation can lower daytime highs due to evaporation but can increase nighttime lows due to increased humidity. I also saw something recently that I can not locate right now that said the UN had to back off of their global deforestation numbers because they came to notice that there has been a significant reforestation in North America and Europe and the net reduction in forest globally turns out to be much less than they had been saying. Nobody took into account the increase in trees in the Northern Hemisphere before.

  29. “We sure do not see them adding weather stations in the country”
    That is a major issue. Huge numbers of rural reporting stations have been removed from the land-based temperature databases recently.

  30. “The Time Machine” story makes sense now. In the distant future the AGW believers will become the underground-dwelling Morlocks, while the deniers will become the Eloy.

  31. So just how is this a “good news” story? Are we going to ward off dangerous warming by plowing under our cities?

  32. Pat Moffitt (06:01:38) :
    So land use is having more of an effect on global warming than previously thought AND rising temperatures due to green house gases are not less significant. I’m confused.
    ———————-
    It’s a positive feedback that we’re already familiar with; the revelation that CH4 warms “more than we thought” does not mean that CO2 warms less than we thought. The overall warming increases invisibly, since the additional heat slides into the “as much as 30 years of cooling” pipeline. If, when it emerges, the sun happens to be particularly active, it will be worse than we thought, although the sun doesn’t actually have any impact on climate change.
    Is it really clear that agriculture warms or cools? There’s an enormous variability in the circumstances of agricuture around the world. You won’t see thousands of square miles of irrigation across the prairie wheatfields and the transpiration of foliage is very different in the early stages of growth, compared with at its peak.

  33. The photo above is of Horsethief Canyon Ranch(a Corona zipcode but outside the city) and I can attest to the fact that it is a lot warmer in the asphalt parking lot of the school in the upper left side of the photo than in the grass playing field! My church meets in that school! Lurker for several years and very surprised to see my home turf!

  34. Well when you erect efficient energy absorbers and RADIATORS in these urban locations, and then measure the temperatures in the same locations; you would expect the LOCAL temperatures to go up.
    That is a far cry from having the global mean temperatures go up; you know; all those vast areas where they don’t measure the temperatures.
    Why are they building all of these cities and suburbs anyway. I would have thought that we had more than enough cities to absorb all the politicians available in the world to serve as Mayors and city councilpersons.
    Must be something else going on that we don’t know about to cause all these extra cities and suburbs to get built; maybe some sort of new craze.

  35. George E. Smith (10:41:58) :
    “Must be something else going on that we don’t know about to cause all these extra cities and suburbs to get built; maybe some sort of new craze.”
    It’s called a housing bubble. Many of the same folk who are so determined to cap and trade were also so insistant that easy credit make it possible for people who couldn’t afford them, to buy houses, in Chino, Chico, and other parts of the Inland Empire. Many of these houses are empty, with large numbers threatening to become so – not to fear – The Government is here to help.
    I remember the first time I ran into one of the new products of the American Educational System – I was studying Physics in Zurich, and a newly minted post-Doc from Stanford showed up. The phrase “not relevant” kept popping up when discussing certain aspects of hard science – I didn’t understand it then, I still don’t, but I can see what we’re harvesting.

  36. barackalypse,
    the time machine novel was an interesting novel with an interesting warning. The eloy were the brain dead, dumbed down food source for the industrious, hardworking subteranian morlocks. Actually, for HG Wells, the eloy were the descendents of the useless aristocracy, degenerated to animal.

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