Thursday, September 3, 2015

Heat Islands

The process of modeling climate is dependent on accurate measurement and recording of atmospheric phenomenon. Climate models derive their data from observations made at weather stations; some of which are automated (AO2 designation in METAR) and some are "manned", or staffed with an official, trained observer.

Two very important elements involved with recording accurate weather data, and therefor deriving accurate climatological models, must be understood when addressing issues of climate change:
1. Rounding of mean high and low temperatures to nearest whole degree Celsius, and;
2. The phenomenon of Heat Islands, or the Heat Island Effect.

Nearly all models used by the IPCC and climate scientists are 'fed' by these stations and their reported values, and a great number of climate scientists are banging on their desks about the effects of runaway heating. This is, in part, an extremely valuable and crucial issues that demands the utmost attention. However, the issue of climate change has become contentious in part to partisan media mis-representing facts.

My purpose in writing these blogs will be twofold:
1. To explain the effects above, and how they affect modeling, and;
2. To propose a larger evaluation of the heat island effect (HIE) using GIS and satellite capable of heat analysis.

An infrared thermal image showing the change of the urban surface temperatures at 2 pm daytime and 2 am night time in Hong Kong.

Note the contrast from the high density population centers and the surrounding rural and suburban areas.

To my knowledge, a broad scale project to assess how much the HIE impacts our perception of overall trends in warming has not been conducted. However, smaller studies have been conducted on cities for urban planning and other purposes.

Next, I will elaborate on data collection methods and how they impact climatology, and informational overlays, such as GIS data.

Aaron Moyer

Works Cited
Yuguo, L. (2012). Megacity Environments. Retrieved September 3, 2015. 


  1. Are the stations constantly manned?
    Also, I think this review would benefit from making the image included larger, as it is hard to see the legend. Increasing the image size would make it easier for a reader to understand and contrast the daytime and nighttime infrared imaging. In addition, it would be significantly easier to see the differences in infrared thermal imaging between the high population urban centers and the surrounding rural areas.

    1. Rachel,

      Stations with the remark "AOX", where X is a 1 or 2 are unmanned station. Others are limited duty, which means an observer is on shift only during certain hours, but most are manned. Thank you for your suggestions, I'll use them in the future to ensure that my articles are as comprehensive as possible.


  2. If you click the image, it becomes larger and easier to read. Did you elaborate on data collection methods for this study? If so, how does GIS data impact the information found in the infrared thermal image?

    1. Hi Victoria,

      Most of the time Infrared (IR) surveys are done using satellite or Forward-Looking Infrared Imaging (FLIR) devices. I can't say the exact method used for this study, as the Chinese study didn't provide a very good write up on their methodology.

      GIS can assist us in helping identify both the reported value (be it temperature or other) and the type of station (Rural, Suburban, Urban, etc). This would allow us to evaluate the temperatures based on their location, and perhaps make better informed reports on the likely fidelity of the reported value. A big step in the right direction would be record the value to a the first decimal place. This would eliminate a significant amount of the error.

      Thanks for your comment,


  3. What reasons do the media have to misrepresent the data? And when it comes to accuracy does it matter if the weather stations are automated or manned?

    1. Caleb,
      I'd submit there are several reasons for the phenomenon.
      For one, I'd suggest reading the following:

      Press is an extremely powerful political tool, so the first reason is: Politics. Political agendas account for a significant amount of the facile, or misleading information presented by media outlets.

      Second, a great many of the news anchors are scientifically illiterate. This applies more to print journalists than TV news networks, but it's a significant contribution to our overall deterioration of comprehensive thought.

      Third, most viewers and readers are scientifically illiterate. Because there is almost no accountability, and no one willing to hold them to account, it's easy to just present information in whatever light you choose. This extends FAR beyond scientific data, as you no doubt know.

      Thanks for your reply,