Berkeley temperature study update: colleague says claim was huge mistake

Last week I wrote about Dr. Richard Muller’s BEST (Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature) program and its depiction by the press in the post Press punked by Berkeley temperature study.

Now, another voice has come forward.  The British paper Mail Online says that “Prof Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at America’s prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Prof Muller’s claim that he has proven global warming sceptics wrong was also a ‘huge mistake’, with no  scientific basis.”  (See article here.)  Dr. Curry is a member of the BEST team and co-author of the four papers Dr. Muller released.

The Mail article goes on:

“In fact, Prof Curry said, the project’s research data show there has been no increase in world temperatures since the end of the Nineties – a fact confirmed by a new analysis that The Mail on Sunday has obtained.”

‘There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped,’ she said. ‘To say that there is detracts from the credibility of the data, which is very unfortunate.’

However, Prof Muller denied warming was at a standstill.

‘We see no evidence of it [global warming] having slowed down,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. There was, he added, ‘no leveling off’.

See Dr. Curry’s version of the Mail interview on her blog here.

The Mail Online article included the graph below.  The top panel shows the temperature data, which stopped in 2006, as published by Dr. Muller.  The bottom panel shows the last ten years of BEST data including 2011 so far.  The bottom panel shows a graph with level temperatures in spite of continuing increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mail-online-graph

Dr. Curry, on her blog, says of the graph, “I agreed that the way the data is presented in the graph ‘hides the decline.’”

The phrase “hide the decline” refers to a now infamous part of the Climategate emails where we learned that in the construction of the Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph, tree ring proxy temperature data that had been used for most of the graph started to decline. It  was therefore truncated and surface temperature data was substituted in order to hide the decline and make it appear that warming was accelerating.

Dr. Curry adds in her criticism of the BEST graph, “There is NO comparison of this situation to Climategate.  Muller et al. have been very transparent in their methods and in making their data publicly available, which is highly commendable.”

Meteorologist Anthony Watts says on his blog, referring to the flatness of the temperature during the last ten years versus what was depicted on the BEST graph:

Indeed Best seems to have worked hard to obscure it. They present data covering .. almost 200 years… with a short x-axis and a stretched y-axis to accentuate the increase. The data is then smoothed using a ten year average which is ideally suited to removing the past five years of the past decade and mix the earlier standstill years with years when there was an increase. This is an ideal formula for suppressing the past decade’s data.

Watts also comments on how Muller handled the press and peer-review in the post: The BEST whopper ever.

To get the full story to date, read my last post, the Mail article, and Dr. Curry’s article, all linked above.  There are additional links of interest within Dr. Curry’s post.

I will reiterate that the BEST study dealt with only (rather unreliable) surface temperature data and does not attribute causes to temperature change.

For my perspective on climate change see:

A Perspective on Climate Change a tutorial

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27 comments

  1. Yep, all that stuff spewing out of power plants and tailpipes has no affect on climate whatsoever.
    And smoking is perfectly good for your health too.

  2. Jon, You must know that in any regression analysis you can find periods that appear (visually) to be “flat” when in fact the trend line has not been broken at all. Every few years AGW deniers trot out this trick knowing well that the average person hasn’t studied statistical probability. Just look at the top chart. I can see at least eight ten year periods (some overlapping) just since 1950 that show the same supposed decline without ever breaking below the trend line. In fact, eight years in the lower graph break ABOVE the prediction interval line! Jon, since our recent correspondence I believe you to be an honest person and because of that I will assume that this type of analysis is just not something that you’ve studied (certainly no shame in that). I don’t believe you would intentionally deceive anyone here. And please do as Joe mentioned above; as, although I don’t agree with her, Ms. Curry’s position is not accurately reflected in the article. Dr. John Parsons

    1. First, Dr. Curry’s latest statement came after I had written this, but since Joe provided the link, the reader can go there.  My article reflected her position at the time of writing.

      Second, Dr. Parsons is correct, the time interval is everything.  If the BEST   analysis could have gone back 1000 years  to the Medival warm period, we would see a much different picture.

  3. Temperatures today are already far warmer than during the Medieval Warm Period – which in any case was a localised event affecting Western Europe and the North Atlantic.

    It has nothing to do with the current forcing which is mainly from CO2. Prattling on about the MWP is a sure sign of ignorance about climate change and it’s causes. 

    1. See the Medieval Warm Period Project here: http://www.co2science.org/
      The data show MWP was warmer and world wide according to data published by 1016 individual scientists from 584 research institutions in 44 different countries.

  4. The media portrays Dr. Muller as a former skeptic who found religion. However, in a 2008 interview he  openly proclaims a long-held belief in man-caused global warming, cites IPCC claims to consensus on AGW, derides the use of fossil fuels as pollutants that cause warming, and encourages use of renewable fuels and energy efficiency  as ways to prevent global warming.   So, Dr. Muller, a “skeptical review” of climate data, or more like the fox guarding the henhouse?http://www.grist.org/article/lets-get-physical

    1. Richard, You are confusing “skeptic” and “denialist”, Dr. Muller has been the former. John Parsons

      1. You need to look up the definition of skeptic, ie: one who frequently questions widely accepted ideas and religion.  By his own words, he is a long-term mainstream believer in AGW religion,  not a skeptic.  As such, his objectivity is in question. 

      2. You need to do more research on Dr. Muller. Had he not been skeptical of consensus research he would not have have done the study. John

      3. I might have reasonably assumed as you have re: Dr. Muller.   But as a skeptic, I find his comments in the Grist interview to be troubling at the very least.  

  5. It’s always interesting to look to the motivations of the authors of AGW denialist articles. In this case “The Mail Online”, the online subsidiary of London’s Daily Mail. Owned by DMGT (Daily Mail and General Trust.” The company understands that creating a controversy re: AWG gets eyeballs to their paper. The company however, also knows the truth. On the holding company’s disclosure to it’s stockholders it states unambiguously how they are identifying “…the key risks [to] and the opportunities for the group presented by future climate change.” When it comes to putting their money where there mouth is…they aren’t. Just like the world’s largest reinsurers (the real big money that insures insurance companies) and virtually every multinational corporation (including energy companies like Duke Energy and Oil giants like BP) see the facts. And the facts are these: at the very outside there is a five percent chance that human carbon dioxide emissions will have little impact on our climate. Even that slim chance is essentially an artifact of describing mathematics in words. Do you feel lucky? John Parsons

    1. Hey Dr.John,   your assertion is a no-brainer.  Assuming both of us live long enough to see it through, I’d be willing to put a wager  on your 5%,  given the absence of any hard evidence that human emissions have a significant impact on climate.   I agree with your comment that headlines do sell.   Need I mention the outrageous fear driven propaganda produced  over the past couple of decades by climate alarmists?   Multinational companies like BP and Duke and GE “get it” because they see the huge profit incentives in going green,  with forced governmental policies as their enabler.  However, this green  form of crony capitalism can lead to disasterous results, as  Enron found out.  Do you feel lucky,  Dr. John?

      1. Richard, I noticed that you left out the insurance companies. How do they benefit in your conspiracy scenario? John

      2. No conspiracy, John, just good ol’ boy politics in a mixed economy.  In case you might be interested in reading beyond the headlines,  I would suggest “Capitalism at Work” (Business, Government and Energy) by Robert L. Bradley Jr.

      3. Richard, I’ll take a look at that. I can assure you that I do indeed look behind the headlines. I don’t, however, look to bloggers with an axe to grind or authors pandering to fellow ideologues. I am a scientist who trusts in empirical data. I’m still wondering what’s in it for the insurance companies? Why are they part of this grand scheme? The Rothschilds? The Illuminati? John

      4. Richard, The Bradley book looks interesting. Although I generally look at CATO work as great fodder for dorm room bull sessions, I do enjoy the Randian theoreticians. I’m reading “The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money And Power”, by Daniel Yergin. You might enjoy it. Dr. John

      5. Richard, Maybe—I understand how you might believe that Duke and BP just pretend that AWG is a reality so they can sell green products, but want’s in it for the insurance companies like Munich RE. Why are multinationals paying to protect themselves from the effects of climate change and doing so using IPCC reports as the basis for their actuarial studies? These companies (insurers and reinsurers) invented statistical modeling (literally) and they are putting their money where the statistical climate models tell them to. I don’t see how that fits your “green conspiracy” theory. John

      6. Richard, I will be happy to take your bet. We will put the money in escrow until 2050 and if we’re not around, our heirs can pick up the check. I’m serious. Jon knows how to get in touch with me. Give him your contact info. Our heirs will get a big kick out of it. I don’t need luck on this one. It’s a sure thing. Dr. John

      7. You’re on, Doc.  I believe JD already has my contact info, and look forward to working out the details with you. 
        Good luck, you’ll need it.

      8. Richard, I’m delighted. I want my grandchildren to know that I tried my best. Who knows, maybe if we put our wagers in a good stock, they’ll have enough buy a nice place in Greenland. John

  6. Jon, Please give my contact info to Richard, who apparently knows you. I’m also working on your challenge to “provide evidence that human CO2 emissions have a significant effect on climate”. The issue that immediately comes up is whether or not you meant to say ‘evidence’, or did you really mean to say ‘proof’? Before answering your challenge, I’d like to be clear on that, as well as whether or not you’ve reviewed the IPCC Synthesis Report. Thanks Jon — Doc

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