Taking the heat

I was 18 years old when Robin Williams hit my awareness level with “Good Morning Vietnam”. He was an instant superstar, not only for me. At the time we still had to go fetch clunky VHS videotapes. That’s a plastic box with a magnetic ribbon inside. It stored and replayed movies – for those who don’t know what I am talking about. No streaming then.

I watched some of the scenes over and over again many times. Most important was one where Adrian debated with a fictional soldier. He and a fictional soldier, Roosevelt E. Roosevelt, talked about the weather. It immortalized the name Robin Williams for me. Let me give you the exchange word by word.

Hey, can you tell me what’s your name? “My name is Roosevelt E. Roosevelt.” Roosevelt, what town are you stationed in? “I’m stationed in Poontang.” Well, thank you, Roosevelt. What’s the weather like out there? “It’s hot! Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.” Well, tell me what it feels like. “Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot! It’s so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It’s that hot! Do you know what I’m talking about?” What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? “It’s gonna be hot and wet! That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle!” Thank you, Roosevelt.



Whats Adrian Cronauer doing on an energy blog – you may ask? You may have lived on Mars for the last 3 months. Because if not, you must have seen all those declarations of “the hottest day”. Add whatever timeframe you fancy. Listening to it all, the planet is roasting in hell. Some weeks you could count many heat records announced every day. 

What does it all mean in the context of Climate? Because that’s what matters, doesn’t it? A little temperature record here and some molten ice there. That’s what gives Climate Alarmists a shot in the arm. 

Not so fast.

Whats temperature? Yes, you read me right. I have asked whats temperature? Easy, you say. I go and see the thermometer and whatever it says – is the temperature. That sounds easy. 

OK, well then lets place the thermometer somewhere specific. How about next to the exhaust nozzle of the compressor unit for the air conditioning. And another one right next to the cooling hatch. Which reading counts for our temperature record?

OK, I am being cheeky now. I do this to produce extreme results. That’s not nice of me.

Let’s do it another way. Place one thermometer in the same room right on the window that gets all the sunshine. Place the other next to the doorway towards the corridor. Do you think both will display the same temperature? Which one shows what our temperature for the record it is?

Oh, still not good? I live in an apartment with high ceilings. 3,5 m to be exact (that’s 11,5 feet for the US readers). Place one thermometer onto the desk and another one close to the ceiling. Which one is going to show the temperature we want to put down for the day?

Let’s note – for good measure – that we have not left the room. Yet, we are already in a pickle on what the temperature is. But it gets worse.

I will record the temperature for every minute for one hour straight. Which one of the 60 different data points is going to represent the temperature of the hour? How do we do that for the day? And which of my many thermometers in the room (remember the locations?) will we use to get the correct readings?

A simple task can be a headscratcher. Like determining the average temperature of the day in one single room. The truth is: every average temperature MUST be the result of a formula. A formula that takes all or some of those data points into account. Depending on what points you deem more or less relevant. It’s a compromise. Humans decide what the temperature is going to be – not unmitigated, soulless readings. 

And this compromise is a complex one. There must be good and transparent filters (reasons)  for which data points to keep.  Or how to weight them against each other. Or what factors to allow influencing the end result to harmonize numbers. This is nothing but a code word for fiddling with the result to make it fit into whatever result one seeks. 

All this complexity for one room only. Now imagine the daily deluge of readings for an entire city or a country. Or, how about the world? The average temperature of the world is a fixture. There must be a gazillion different data points to take into account. And an intricate complex formula to weigh all data points against each other.

Determining those factors is an exercise in clashing opinions. Everyone seeks to find the numbers that support his view of the world.

If your head explodes right now, worry not as it gets worse. Way worse. Because data points don’t remain as they are. They evolve.

How that? Place a thermometer in some location and don’t move it for 100 years. Then go and read the temperature at 12 o clock, noontime every day. This must give us a simple but very clean dataset. Sorry to disappoint but we are far from what’s happening in the real world. 

The same location has been in the wilderness 100 years ago. Now it often is part of an urban setting. Often, large cities have grown around those old stations that were in the wilderness.

A measuring station in an urban environment will take different temperatures.

When I was a little boy, I lived in a small village 60km north of Vienna. The landscape was roughly the same as in Vienna but the weather was not. As kids, we knew that going to the city often meant snow outside but little to no snow inside the city. It often meant freezing outside the city and less freezing inside the city. This is the effect of the urban heat island.

Cities are dark and thus swallow heat. They store it to give it back overnight. Add in human activities which also cause a lot of waste heat that goes into the local environment. You can test this – take a hot summer day and walk barefoot with one foot on the grass while the other one walks on the tarmac. You will burn on one side and the other will be pleasant. Grass evaporates water which takes the energy up into the air and cools the soil. Tarmac can’t do that. Plus its dark and hence absorbs heat better.

During my childhood in the 70ies, summers were sometimes scorching hot. I and the other kids had a lot of fun scratching the almost liquid tar out of the cracks in the street. 

Look at pictures of the Greek Mediterranean coast. You see white villages perched on the hillsides. The old Greeks understood that white surfaces radiate heat away. They don’t store it. But modern cities are very dark. Hence, they are heat stores.

If your measuring station is in an urban setting now as opposed to wilderness 100 years ago. If it has evolved in such a way,  measurements are going to be higher. That’s the effect of the urban heat island.

OK, back to those record-breaking temperatures we have seen over the last couple of weeks. There were measurements next to air ducts and greenhouses. There were others right on the tarmac of a parking lot. No wonder temperatures went out of the window. You could hold a burning lighter under the thermometer and that would be more honest.

Temperatures are a result of circumstances. They are not absolutes like gravity or the speed of light. It takes a human decision to get averages – many decisions actually. In the same way that I decided at the beginning of this text to twist things to produce extreme results. It did this on purpose. When money enters the process, human urges take over.

Temperature is consensus data, not a neutral measurement. But that’s not the story Climate Alarmists want us to believe. 

Image by Peyesces from Pixabay 

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