Berkeley Earth Project supports global warming trend

In the wake of the much touted UEA “climategate” emails, climate change denial took on a new confidence. Although shown to be a storm in a teacup, denialists still claim that data was manipulated to show exaggerated anthropogenic global warming – AGW.

Other concerns thus spread to the IPCC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other climate scientists about secretly reviewing each others data. These claims have and do attract genuine concern. In effect this arguably limited opportunity for criticism prior to publication, watering down the veracity of peer review. It also gave a ready weapon for politically motivated denialists and conspiracy theorists alike to dismiss on an ad hoc basis conclusions of global warming, regardless of data origin.

Aiming to deal directly with both the stain of climategate and a number of misconceptions seized on by denialists is the Berkeley Earth Project. Established by University of California physics professor Richard Muller the project was funded by a number of groups including those lobbying against action on climate change such as the Koch brothers. Muller was “deeply concerned” that discordant data had been concealed. According to the BBC;

Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming.

Physicist Saul Perlmutter, who won the Nobel Physics Prize this year for research on the accelerating expansion of the universe was one of a team of ten. Broadly speaking the Berkeley team has validated the warming trends documented before, reinforcing a global temperature rise of at least 1 ℃ since the mid 1950’s. This followed a review of 40,000 weather recording stations, looking at the global temperature trend over land since 1800.

Global warming is real according to a major study released today (October 20th, 2011). Despite issues raised by climate change skeptics, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study finds reliable evidence of a rise in average world land temperature of approximately 1 ℃ since the mid-1950s.

Comparison of NASA GISS, NOAA and Berkeley temperature anomaly data

More so, they have addressed some standards amongst the cynics camp, such as islands of warmth distorting a global view. This rather logical criticism of an urban heat island effect, notes that weather stations are located close to or within cities thus cannot be a reliable reference point for global temperatures. Only 1% of the globe’s surface is industrialised.

It’s arguably a slightly selective criticism because another flawed criticism of a warming globe is that over the last 50 – 70 years many weather stations have shown a decrease in temperature trends. However, the ratio of warming sites to cooling sites is roughly 2:1. This global trend was mimicked in the USA. Clumping is evident yet it’s possible to find “long time series with both positive and negative trends from all portions of the USA”. The authors stress that detection of long term trends should never rely on individual records.

USA and surrounding weather stations: Red – Net warming. Blue – Net cooling.

A comparison of all weather sites (blue line) and very rural (red line) that would be immune from the heat island effect yields a striking challenge for proponents of this criticism of AGW data. It was also noted that weather stations ranked as “poor” showed the same overall trends as stations ranked as “OK”.

Recorded Temperature: All sites and rural sites from 1800 – present

In general their findings have been summarised as:

 ¤ The urban heat island effect is locally large and real but does not contribute significantly to the average land temperature rise. That’s because the urban regions of the earth amount to < 1% of land area.

 ¤ About 1/3 of temperature sites around the world reported global cooling over the past 70 years. Bur 2/3 of the sites show warming. Individual temperature histories reported from a single location are requently noisy and/or unreliable and it is always necessary to compare and combine many records to understand the true pattern of global warming.

The large number of sites reporting cooling might help explain cynicism toward global warming. Humans can’t feel global warming and information suggesting your local temperatures are the same or cooler than a century ago can be mistaken for representative of the entire globe. It is difficult to measure weather consistently over decades or centuries. Sites reporting cooling is a symptom of the noise and variation that occurs. A good determination of global land temperature takes hundreds or thousands of stations to detect and measure the average warming. Only when many nearby thermometers reproduce the same patterns can we know that measurements were reliably made.

 ¤ Stations ranked as “poor” in a survey by Anthony Watts and his team of the most important temperature recording stations in the USA, (known as USHCN – the US Historical Climatology Network), showed the same pattern as global warming as stations ranked “OK”. Absolute temperatures of poor stations may be higher and less accurate, but the overall global warming trend is the same, and the Berkeley Earth analysis concludes there is not any undue bias from including poor stations in the survey.

The Berkeley Earth Study authors are anxious for open and honest discourse, peer review and criticism of their work. To this end it will be available on their website for review:

The Berkeley Earth team has now submitted four papers for peer review. We are making these preliminary results public, together with our programs and data set, in order to invite additional scrutiny. The four papers are:

The aim of the Berkeley Group was to confirm AGW and the extent to which this is occurring. This appears to have been done. Some conclusions differ from earlier views of annual climate changes in that global temperature correlates more strongly with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index. This is a measure of north Atlantic sea surface temperature. Whilst El Nino Southern changes have traditionally been attributed to annual changes, the team now want to examine long term AMO cycles for impact on the rise-fall-rise seen over the 20th century.

As the final touches were being put to this report popular “theatrical” shock jock Alan Jones (left) was dodging questions and pushing ye olde climategate email conspiracy line on the ABC.

Under a heading Time for Apology the BBC write:

Prof Phil Jones, the CRU scientist who came in for the most personal criticism during “Climategate”, was cautious about interpreting the Berkeley results because they have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

“I look forward to reading the finalised paper once it has been reviewed and published,” he said. […]

In part, this counters the accusation made during “Climategate” that climate scientists formed a tight clique who peer-reviewed each other’s papers and made sure their own global warming narrative was the only one making it into print. […]

Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the warming of the Earth’s surface was unequivocal.

“So-called ‘sceptics’ should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities,” he said. “More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for ‘sceptics’ to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that the CRU land temperature record had been doctored.

“It is now time for an apology from all those, including US presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists.”

Given the nature of denialism and creatures like Jones, I would suggest reasoning with the rusted on cynics is futile. Any apology will only be forthcoming from those with an appreciation for science, not faith based movements.

I predict regular stormy seas ahead for this manufactured “debate”, for some time to come.