According to veteran meteorologist Anthony Watts, almost all of the recent record-high temperature readings reported for the Los Angeles area were false, having been registered by weather stations “compromised by heat sources and heat sink.” The California-based Watts wrote on his blog Watts Up With That, “In my opinion, the data from these stations is worthless.” 

Temperatures were scorching in recent days in the Los Angeles area, but artificial heat sources and heat sinks produce localized record temperatures at weather stations. Watts said that these conditions provided the added additional degrees to produce record highs. Experts recognize that cities are generally hotter than surrounding country, thus producing an urban heat island effect that stems from the large areas covered by pavement and the relative lack of vegetation.

On July 6, Los Angeles registered a record high of 108 degrees Fahrenheit in the downtown area. Watts noted that meteorologists moved the weather station from the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) to the top of a parking garage in 1999, arguing that it would not be as likely to register extreme swings. Watts wrote, “The ASOS type station used at USC is notorious for producing false record highs where there aren’t any. For example, Honolulu and Tucson.” Noting that the parking area was replete with vehicles, Watts wrote, “Look at all the service vehicles parked around it. One wonders recent record high that was claimed there is just another result of a vehicle being parked to close to it like the Ice Cream Truck debacle that denied a new all-time record high for Scotland a few days ago.”

The airports at Van Nuys and Burbank, as well as the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) registered record temperatures. Questioning their results, Watts wrote, “It’s another ASOS station snuggled between an industrial park, runway, road, and taxiway,” in reference to the Van Nuys Airport station, which recorded 117 degrees Fahrenheit on July 6. Watts wrote that the weather station at Burbank Airport is “virtually surrounded by asphalt runways, taxiways, and aircraft parking ramps.” This means, according to Watts, that the 400 degree jetwash from passing planes would contribute to the readings at the weather station. Vehicle exhaust and other non-natural factors, in addition to jet-wash, can artificially raise temperatures at airports as is also true in cities. 

As for the record 111 degrees Fahrenheit recorded on July 6 by UCLA, Watts pointed out, “UCLA’s weather station is on the roof of the Math Sciences/Atmospheric Sciences building,” Watts wrote. “Why? there’s no place else to put it. There’s hardly a free and open space left.”

Some media outlets, such as the Washington Post, sought to attribute record readings in the U.S. and the U.K. to global warming.

Since 2013, California has enforced a costly so-called cap-and-trade program that is supposed to address fossil fuel emissions and their effect on the environment. In California, residents pay a premium on fuel, food, cement and other goods in order to finance the state's policy on climate change. This will continue until at least 2030, thanks to a landmark bill that extends cap-and-trade program for another 10 years after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) was able to push the bill through the Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2017. 

Cap and trade is a market-based program that discourages industrial companies from emitting so-called greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide), but allows them flexibility in complying with California's climate change regulations. The complicated regulation has been criticized by both the left and right.  Hundreds of firms, including food processors and cement maker, must obtain allowances to send carbon into the atmosphere. California provides most of the permits free of charge. Additional permits must be purchased from auctions held every three months by California Air Resources Board, or from other companies with permits to spare. 

As of July 2017, emissions permits cost about $14 for every ton of carbon emitted. From 2012 to July 2017, California companies had spent around $5 billion combined at the state-run auctions. Cap and Trade added 11 cents a gallon to the price of gasoline in the state, and could add another 20 cents by 2030.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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