October 22nd, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
When Richard Muller launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study (BEST) to “independently” evaluate once and for all if global warming was happening or not, many of us followers of climate science were a bit irritated. Why?
- THIS HAS BEEN CONFIRMED repeatedly. Nearly every overarching scientific body and organization connected with the matter has backed up the clear findings, because it is not just 1 or 2 things telling us the world is warming — about a dozen long-researched factors show us very clearly that the world is warming due to human greenhouse gas emissions.
- The BEST study was partially funded by some of the biggest global warming deniers on the planet.
- Richard Muller was widely known for completely misquoting and misrepresenting both climate scientists and Al Gore on this matter.
Well, even despite the potential bias and flaws, the now-released results of the BEST study reiterate (for the umpteenth time) global warming is happening. The results are nearly identical to the results of so many climate scientists and overarching scientific bodies before it that this really would not be news in a sane world. From the BEST study:
Best results compared to those of leading climate science institutions:
Of course, the climate deniers are none too happy, despite some claims that they would accept whatever the results happen to be. Note this quote from leading global warming denier Anthony Watts in March 2011:
“I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong….the method isn’t the madness that we’ve seen from NOAA, NCDC, GISS, and CRU….That lack of strings attached to funding, plus the broad mix of people involved especially those who have previous experience in handling large data sets gives me greater confidence in the result being closer to a bona fide ground truth than anything we’ve seen yet. Dr. Fred Singer also gives a tentative endorsement of the methods….Climate related website owners, I give you carte blanche to repost this.
Now, note his reaction to the results:
“Both [Fall et al. 2011 and Menne et al. 2010] (and cited by Muller et al) do an analysis over a thirty year time period while the Muller et al paper uses data for comparison from 1950 – 2010….I see this as a basic failure in understanding the limitations of the siting survey we conducted on the USHCN, rendering the Muller et al paper conclusions highly uncertain, if not erroneous….I consider the paper fatally flawed as it now stands, and thus I recommend it be removed from publication consideration by JGR until such time that it can be reworked….it appears they have circumvented the scientific process in favor of PR.”
But what is one to expect, that (all of a sudden!) deniers are going to accept the clear scientific consensus that global warming is happening and is caused by humans?
Oh, if only we lived in such a world!
More explanation of Watts’ ridiculous temper tantrum criticism? Here’s Skeptical Science’s apt summary & rebuttal:
In short, Watts’ complaints are that the BEST papers have been made public prior to undergoing the peer review process, and that their analysis extended 60 years into the past, rather than limiting themselves to the 30-year period during which Watts considers the surfacestation ratings reliable.
There is no validity to these criticisms. Scientific papers are often made available prior to publication (i.e. see arXiv, and by Watts himself), and there’s no reason to believe that limiting their analysis to the past 30 years will change the BEST results (though Watts is welcome to try and demonstrate otherwise); obviously the 60-year period includes the 30-year window. To be blunt, Watts is clearly fishing for excuses to dispute the BEST conclusions and continue denying the accuracy of the surface temperature record. Ironically, Watts is attacking a paper which isconsistent the results of Fall et al. (2011), on which Watts was a co-author:
“None of our conclusions disagree with those of Fall et al.  or those of Menne et al. .”
In my opinion it’s clear what Watts is really upset about — the results from the Berkeley team have confirmed that the other main global temperature estimates (NASA GISS, NOAA/NCDC, and HadCRU) got it right, and that station siting/urban heat island effects are not responsible for any of the observed temperature increase. The real reason all these analyses (including Berkeley’s) show temperature rise is: the globe is warming.
Want to hear more from lead author Richard Muller on the results of the study? Happy to share (via the Wall Street Journal, nonetheless):
Our work covers only land temperature—not the oceans—but that’s where warming appears to be the greatest. Robert Rohde, our chief scientist, obtained more than 1.6 billion measurements from more than 39,000 temperature stations around the world. Many of the records were short in duration, and to use them Mr. Rohde and a team of esteemed scientists and statisticians developed a new analytical approach that let us incorporate fragments of records. By using data from virtually all the available stations, we avoided data-selection bias. Rather than try to correct for the discontinuities in the records, we simply sliced the records where the data cut off, thereby creating two records from one.
We discovered that about one-third of the world’s temperature stations have recorded cooling temperatures, and about two-thirds have recorded warming. The two-to-one ratio reflects global warming. The changes at the locations that showed warming were typically between 1-2ºC, much greater than the IPCC’s average of 0.64ºC.
To study urban-heating bias in temperature records, we used satellite determinations that subdivided the world into urban and rural areas. We then conducted a temperature analysis based solely on “very rural” locations, distant from urban ones. The result showed a temperature increase similar to that found by other groups. Only 0.5% of the globe is urbanized, so it makes sense that even a 2ºC rise in urban regions would contribute negligibly to the global average.
What about poor station quality? Again, our statistical methods allowed us to analyze the U.S. temperature record separately for stations with good or acceptable rankings, and those with poor rankings (the U.S. is the only place in the world that ranks its temperature stations). Remarkably, the poorly ranked stations showed no greater temperature increases than the better ones. The mostly likely explanation is that while low-quality stations may give incorrect absolute temperatures, they still accurately track temperature changes.
When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.
Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.
What’s new for those of us who follow climate science? Nothing much.
What’s new for global warming deniers? Well, probably just one more scientist to pick on and threaten.
What’s new for the global warming political landscape in the U.S.? Hopefully, a lot, but I’m not holding my breath….
But, it can happen. Check out this video of former hardcore skeptic and now climate activist US Navy Chief Oceanographer Admiral David Titley (via Climate Denial Crock of the Week):
Keep up to date with all the most interesting green news on the planet by subscribing to our (free) Planetsave newsletter.