Urban cooling in Sweden?

Do you know that GISS sometimes correct temperature data for supposed urban cooling? Let us look at examples from southern Sweden.

The three towns Karlstad, Jönköping, and Visby all have small airports. Of these towns, Visby is located on Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea. Karlstad lies on the northern shores of the largest lake of Sweden, while Jönköping lies on the southern shores of the second largest lake. These two lakes are nearby to each other, and it seems unlikely that there could be any climate change at one of them not affecting the other.

These three airports also have associated weather stations, included in the GISS/GHCN global network. Since truly rural sites are non-existent, a small airport station may be one of the best locations to measure climate change. There is often an open horizon for the thermometer and not too much concrete and asphalt nearby, since people do not want to live or work near an airport, due to the noise from the planes and the risk of accidents. If there are changes in the location environment, however, I think it is more likely to have changes that cause urban warming near the weather station than the opposite.

Evidently, GISS does not agree. GISS has corrected the temperature records for the above-mentioned small airports in southern Sweden for urban cooling. Most remarkable is the correction for the Jönköping record (Fig 1). The uncorrected temperature data show no trend at all for the period 1950-2005. The corrected data have a warming trend of slightly more than 2 C/century.

The uncorrected data for Visby shows a barely significant warming trend of 1.4 C/century (Because of the year-to-year variability, a lower limit for a detectable and significant trend is 1.3 C/century), while the corrected version has a clearly significant warming trend of 2.7 C/century. For Karlstad, both the uncorrected and corrected data set show a significant warming trend, but the result of the correction is to increase it from 2.9 to 3.6 C/decade.

Are those corrections realistic? If you ask me, I say no. Maybe it is possible for one out of three to really have an urban cooling trend. Maybe. But three out of three? No way. Furthermore, Karlstad is about 185 km north of Jönköping and both lie beside a large lake. They should have a similar climate and the same climate change. Neither the uncorrected nor the corrected GISS data sets show similar trends at all. Only if we compare the uncorrected data set for Karlstad and the corrected data set for Jönköping do we get something similar.

If we look at the difference in uncorrected annual mean temperatures between Karlstad and Jönköping (Fig 2), we see that it varied around 0.5 C up to about 1980, with Karlstad as the somewhat cooler. Then something happened and since about 1992, Karlstad has been warmer than Jönköping. This something may have started with a jump upwards by half a degree between 1979 and 1980.

Maybe you have realized something important by now. If we believe the uncorrected temperature record from Jönköping airport, there has been no temperature change in southern Sweden since 1950. A correction for urban cooling is needed to get a warming.

But if Jönköping shows the correct trend, then there must be urban warming in the temperature data from Karlstad airport. Visby is located at the coast of the Baltic Sea, so maybe it has reacted to a warming of the seawater (I don’t know if there has been any), which has not affected the inland towns Jönköping and Karlstad.

If we look at the difference between uncorrected annual mean temperatures for Visby and Jönköping (Fig. 3), we see that something happened between 1978 and 1979, as the difference jumps about 1 C in just one year. Maybe there is also a cooling trend in the period 1963-1978. The warming of Visby relative to Jönköping is clearly caused by the 1978-79 jump and not by any gradual trend.


Karlstad airport was moved in 1997, from a location a few kilometres from the centre to about 18 km away. I don’t know if the weather station moved with it, but probably it did. There are 260,000 passenger/year passing the airport.

The airport in Jönköping moved to its present location in 1961. The runway was extended in 1984 and a new terminal was built in 1991. About 140,000 passengers/year pass the airport. I am uncertain whether any of these changes are seen in Fig 2.

Visby airport was ready in 1942 and has 194,000 passengers/year. Since Gotland is an island, you either have to go there by boat or by aeroplane, which is an important reason for the rather large number of passengers for this small airport. It is quite close to the centre of the town, since it takes only 5 minutes to travel by bus or car.

Jönköping is the largest of the three towns, with a population of about 85,000. This is in fact more people than living on the entire island of Gotland, and about 23,000 of those live in Visby. Karlstad has a population of about 58,000, but the movement of the airport in 1997 actually placed it in a nearby town with about 8,000 people.

The latter fact is an indication that there could be an urban cooling in the temperature record for this airport in the last decade, but hardly any support for such a trend all the time since 1950. Karlstad, Jönköping, and Visby all have had slowly growing populations since 1969, which is the oldest census data I have been able to find.

Most southern Swedish cities and towns grew in the 1950’s and 1960’s, both due to an increasing population in general and due to migration from the northern parts of the country. The municapilities of which these towns are center have more than doubled their populations since 1950, and usually urban centers grow faster than the surroding rural areas.

Thus, I can find no support at all for the idea that any of these three temperature records should suffer from urban cooling in the period since 1950. If any urban trends exist in these data sets, it should be urban warming not urban cooling.

8 comments to Urban cooling in Sweden?

  • Adjusting for urban cooling in Sweden

    Over on Warwick Hughes’ blog, a new article by Lars Kamél on the GISS adjusting temperatures for an apparent “urban cooling effect” that mysteriously happens to some small Swedish towns but not others nearby.
    I wonder how deep this…

  • Thomas Bolger

    We will never win this argument if the (epletive) data is mucked about with in this manner!

  • Jean S

    There is a nice, independent Nordic climate data available from NordKlim. It would be nice if someone could compare this data set to , e.g., GISS :)

  • Jean S

    Just to illustrate (I hope I did everything right) I made a picture of comparing annual temperatures for Sodankylä (67 N 26 E) from NordKlim and GISS data sets (here). Data for GISS is from here (I selected the option “after combining…”). Nordklim data is available for 1908-2002, and GISS for 1908-2005. I think NordKlim series is about the same as in this picture from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. I do not know if GISS data is somehow “adjusted”, but the difference seems rather large in my opinion.

    I wish this encourages someone with more skills to really compare those data sets!

    (Oh, if someone notices something odd in my comparison, please indicate it here. I do not want to be responsible for comparing apples to oronges).

  • Hans Erren

    Jean S, Are you aware that GISS annual avearage is Dec-Nov?

  • Jean S

    Thanks Hans! I did not know that, and it did not say it anywhere in the file.

    So people, please ignore the difference plot in my earlier graph, and understand that the value for each year is slightly different in the temperature graphs. I took from the GISS data the last column (which had label ‘ANN’). The reason for not calculating the mean myself was the fact that there are four missing (monthly) values in GISS set (1986/4, 1991/2, 1995/5,10).

    Now I compared data sets month by month, and it is rather interesting! I’ll try tomorrow to produce the graphs, here are the main observations:
    a) either set has been artificially adjusted (period 1908-1927) making GISS around 0.2C warmer for that period.
    b) There is a clear outlier in the GISS set (June/1988, GISS 15.4, (2.4 warmer), this would be 2. warmest June which it is not). For the outlier and missing values -years the annual (Dec-Nov) values reported in GISS set are warmer than those calculated from NordKlim set by 0.29 (1986), 0.20 (1988), and 0.64 (1991)!

  • Steve Sadlov

    Spam alert!

    And very dangerous Spam – the site’s in the PRC – trojan horses and malware waiting to happen.

  • These graphs show some serious statistics. Time to work guys :)

    Fan of Don Lapre
    larisa@larisajoyreilly.com

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