New independent surface temperature record in the works

Good news travels fast. I’m a bit surprised to see this get some early coverage, as the project isn’t ready yet. However since it has been announced by press, I can tell you that this project is partly a reaction and result of what we’ve learned in the surfacesations project, but mostly, this project is a reaction to many of the things we have been saying time and again, only to have NOAA and NASA ignore our concerns, or create responses designed to protect their ideas, rather than consider if their ideas were valid in the first place.  I have been corresponding with Dr. Muller, invited to participate with my data, and when I am able, I will say more about it. In the meantime, you can visit the newly minted web page here. I highly recommend reading the section on methodology here. Longtime students of the surface temperature record will recognize some of the issues being addressed. I urge readers not to bombard these guys with questions. Let’s “git ‘er done” first.

Note: since there’s been some concern in comments, I’m adding this: Here’s the thing, the final output isn’t known yet. There’s been no “peeking” at the answer, mainly due to a desire not to let preliminary results bias the method. It may very well turn out to agree with the NOAA surface temperature record, or it may diverge positive or negative. We just don’t know yet.

From The Daily Californian:

Professor Counters Global Warming Myths With Data

By Claire Perlman

Daily Cal Senior Staff Writer

Global warming is the favored scapegoat for any seemingly strange occurrence in nature, from dying frogs to hurricanes to drowning polar bears. But according to a Berkeley group of scientists, global warming does not deserve all these attributions. Rather, they say global warming is responsible for one thing: the rising temperature.

However, global warming has become a politicized issue, largely becoming disconnected from science in favor of inflammatory headlines and heated debates that are rarely based on any science at all, according to Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley physics professor and member of the team.

“There is so much politics involved, more so than in any other field I’ve been in,” Muller said. “People would write their articles with a spin on them. The people in this field were obviously very genuinely concerned about what was happening … But it made it difficult for a scientist to go in and figure out that what they were saying was solid science.”

Muller came to the conclusion that temperature data – which, in the United States, began in the late 18th century when Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin made the first thermometer measurements – was the only truly scientifically accurate way of studying global warming.

Without the thermometer and the temperature data that it provides, Muller said it was probable that no one would have noticed global warming yet. In fact, in the period where rising temperatures can be attributed to human activity, the temperature has only risen a little more than half a degree Celsius, and sea levels, which are directly affected by the temperature, have increased by eight inches.

Photo: Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley physics professor, started the Berkeley Earth group, which tries to use scientific data to address the doubts that global warming skeptics have raised.

Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley physics professor, started the Berkeley Earth group, which tries to use scientific data to address the doubts that global warming skeptics have raised. Javier Panzar/Staff

To that end, he formed the Berkeley Earth group with 10 other highly acclaimed scientists, including physicists, climatologists and statisticians. Before the group joined in the study of the warming world, there were three major groups that had released analysis of historical temperature data. But each has come under attack from climate skeptics, Muller said.

In the group’s new study, which will be released in about a month, the scientists hope to address the doubts that skeptics have raised. They are using data from all 39,390 available temperature stations around the world – more than five times the number of stations that the next most thorough group, the Global Historical Climatology Network, used in its data set.

Other groups were concerned with the quality of the stations’ data, which becomes less reliable the earlier it was measured. Another decision to be made was whether to include data from cities, which are known to be warmer than suburbs and rural areas, said team member Art Rosenfeld, a professor emeritus of physics at UC Berkeley and former California Energy Commissioner.

“One of the problems in sorting out lots of weather stations is do you drop the data from urban centers, or do you down-weight the data,” he said. “That’s sort of the main physical question.”

Global warming is real, Muller said, but both its deniers and exaggerators ignore the science in order to make their point.

“There are the skeptics – they’re not the consensus,” Muller explained. “There are the exaggerators, like Al Gore and Tom Friedman who tell you things that are not part of the consensus … (which) goes largely off of thermometer records.”

Some scientists who fear that their results will be misinterpreted as proof that global warming is not urgent, such as in the case of Climategate, fall into a similar trap of exaggeration.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study was conducted with the intention of becoming the new, irrefutable consensus, simply by providing the most complete set of historical and modern temperature data yet made publicly available, so deniers and exaggerators alike can see the numbers.

“We believed that if we brought in the best of the best in terms of statistics, we could use methods that would be easier to understand and not as open to actual manipulation,” said Elizabeth Muller, Richard Muller’s daughter and project manager of the study. “We just create a methodology that will then have no human interaction to pick or choose data.”

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Adam Gallon

Oh please!
“We intend to provide an open platform for further analysis by publishing our complete data and software code. We hope to have an initial data release available on this website in early 2011.”
What sort of science is this? (Big winky!)

Area Man

This is a wonderful development. Congratulations on your (large) role.
Minor typo – “… protest their ideas” should be “… protect their ideas” I believe.
REPLY: Fixed, thanks, Hansenian-Fruedian slip I suppose – Anthony

RickA

This is great news.
I await their report eagerly.
Personally, I think we should also be setting up new automated stations to obtain more uniform coverage, which we can use to build 30-60 years worth of high quality new data.

Jack Maloney

“We just create a methodology that will then have no human interaction to pick or choose data.”
In creating a methodology, human interaction to pick or choose data is inevitable. One can only hope that the BEST Study methodology is more transparent than the current ones. And that its authors are more open to constructive criticism.

sharper00

“but mostly, this project is a reaction to many of the things we have been saying time and again, only to have NOAA and NASA ignore our concerns”
Aren’t your concerns supposed to be have been published as a proper analysis a long time ago? It’s now two years since you published your conclusions in “Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?” and one year since the Menne analysis.
Where is the actual analysis that demonstrates the concerns that NASA and NOAA should be paying attention to?
REPLY: We have a paper in peer review, note the difficulties encountered by O’Donnell et al with a hostile reviewer, Steig, and perhaps then you’ll understand why skeptical papers can take much longer to run the gauntlet. Besides, it took us three years with volunteers to get a large enough sample. Menne used preliminary data (mine against my protests), and a sample that was not spatially representative nor contained enough class1-2 stations. That paper was pure politics.
If you can do a better job with zero budget, herding volunteers, in your spare time, for no pay, against a well funded government sponsored consensus, by all means do it. Otherwise wait for our paper. – Anthony

Doug Proctor

Finally! With all the talk of dropped stations, uncorrected UHIE, inappropriate and biased correction so rural stations, older stations, the changed bias of urban for rural and loss of high altitude and high latitude data – finally a group with no (apparent) financial connection to the IPCC or Chevron (/sarc!!) will create a database. I think.
If the group started first with New Zealand as a “test”, we would know the way of the future. NIWA and BOM (Australia) have a discarded dataset followed by a result that looks just the same, and not at all like the raw datasets that we were shown by the NZScCoalition. Hmmm.
I’ll sure look to the New Zealand subset with interest. If NIWA is supported, then we’ll have to wonder if the GISTemp is all that bad ….

dp

On the face of it this is not what I expect from the denizens of my old home town. Be prepared to learn that any 1000 randomly chosen thermometers selected from the full set and calibrated over time tell the same story as all 39,000 thermometers similarly calibrated. The alarmist science will, at the end of the day, stand. ±0.1 ºC

JimBrock

Being as how we are in an interglacial warming period, the earth SHOULD be getting warmer. As it has in earlier interglacial periods.
Sometimes I think a PhD replaces common sense. A number of years ago, a VP of our company brought me a memo prepared by one of his PhD team. It was an analysis of a proposal we had received from an outside expert. The analysis was cogent, complete and … negative. The PhD clearly showed, through analysis, that the proposal could not work. Then he concluded with his recommendation: that we put the guy on a consulting contract to work on it.
The VP and I had a good laugh over it. I told him I thought the PhD was doing good until he got to the end…where he had to exercise good judgment … and common sense.

Anthony, I look forward to reading your impending public vindication. Many thanks for this site.
REPLY: Here’s the thing, the final output isn’t known yet. There’s been no “peeking” at the answer, mainly do to a desire not to let preliminary results bias the method. It may very well turn out to agree with the NOAA surface temperature record, or it may diverge positive or negative. We just don’t know yet. – Anthony

Patrick Davis

I call this BS.
“The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study was conducted with the intention of becoming the new, irrefutable consensus, simply by providing the most complete set of historical and modern temperature data yet made publicly available, so deniers and exaggerators alike can see the numbers.”
Is this just US based? Or global? How is this possible considering the cat ate the raw, real, unadjusted, data? Also the use of the word “deniers” along side “exaggerators”. To me this seems their “program” is set firmly in the AGW, alarmist, camp.

pat

“Some scientists who fear that their results will be misinterpreted as proof that global warming is not urgent, such as in the case of Climategate, fall into a similar trap of exaggeration.”
You would think they would be happy if “urgency” was not needed.

Ken G

Eh…
What happens if the results they get don’t fall somewhere between the “deniers” and “exaggerators” as expected?
They already making value judgments on others’ positions and it sounds like they are starting off with an expected conclusion before they’ve even begun. I’m betting they will find exactly what they are looking for, and that it will fall right in line with this “consensus” view they mention….and we will be nowhere closer to the truth.
The comments in the article give me little hope this will be an unbiased approach.

Oslo

Unfortunately, I have my doubts.
Of all places in the world, and of all Universities in the world, how likely is it that a policy-free and objective temperature record would come out of Berkeley, San Fransisco, the perennial hotspot of left-wing activism.
Of course nothing wrong with left-wing politics. Being Scandinavian, I share many of their ideas, but not their ideas on AGW.
Could this be the outcome of the soul-searching of the warmists in the wake of Climategate: lets make another temperature record, this time seemingly objective, seemingly open and cooperative towards the deniers, but ultimately confirming the good old story.
I don’t know. I have seen too much to be gullible.
Afterall – being a skeptic means not believing until there is a very good reason to.
I still prefer it that way.

the_Butcher

“They are using data from all 39,390 available temperature stations around the world ”
By that they mean those dodgy weather stations behind Jet engines?

DJ

Sorry, but I think we’re off on the wrong foot already, if the article itself isn’t biased towards AGW.
The statements ” the skeptics – they’re not the consensus”, “..intention of becoming the new, irrefutable consensus”, and “not as open to actual manipulation..” Not AS open?? But still open to manipulation, and by whom?
I love the pretext of the project, but it smacks of a built in bias, and has all the colors of a new premise for a grant proposal machine.
Now if there was a consortium of scientists from Both sides of the discussion, I’d be less concerned.

Cold Englishman

How about starting with a little less inflamatory language viz. deniers deniers deniers.
Not a very good start if I may say so.

Robb876

….”Global warming is real, Muller said, but both its deniers and exaggerators ignore the science in order to make their point.”…..
Nice phrase…

commieBob

Even just having all the raw data in a well organized, easy to use format would be a great improvement.
Once everyone can use the raw data, there can be an intelligent discussion on how to use it.

SSam

I don’t have a lot of hope for this. I see it as yet another justification for a job. Why do I say that? Here, take a look:
“conducted with the intention of becoming the new, irrefutable consensus
Science is not the consensus of a group of people. That is a “collectively perceived reality.”
Science is data. Data either supports an idea, or destroys it. It does this whether you do or do not agree.

sharper00

@Anthony
“Otherwise wait for our paper. – Anthony”
Well yes that was my point! I have been waiting for the paper for a long time! The only updates I get on its status are when you occasionally make reference to it in comments here.
If the paper is done and submitted (to where?) then that’s great news and I look forward to reading it.
To go back to your initial complaint about NASA and NOAA – the publication of your analysis showing there’s a problem for them to be concerned about is the starting point to them addressing it. It seems unreasonable to me to criticise them for not fixing a problem you (or anyone else) have yet to demonstrate.

wsbriggs

Congratulations Anthony! A good dataset is a requirement to understand our globe.
There are a number of things in the description of their methodology which caused me an involuntary flinch, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see the results. One particular item was treating local datasets with differences as lower weighted outliers after the areas of agreement were removed. After the examples which we’ve seen on this site, I’m not sure that lower weighting is appropriate. Still, this is a major step toward forcing a real focus on the physical basis of climate, and the data which documents it.

R. Gates

So long as the data is gathered and applied consistently, this can only be a good thing. More accurate information is always better than less. I look forward to seeing the data. It is interesting to note that Dr. Muller is not denying the existence of global warming, but wants to counter the extremes at both ends of the AGW debate with more accurate data.

Feynman

Sorry, it seems that they ‘know’ in advance what the result will be, so the result will be biased. That’s no science
Quote: “Global warming is real, Muller said”

Espen

Are they going to publish yet another “global mean temperature”? I’m surprised that physicists are willing to work with that kind of metric: Since the actual heat content (the enthalpy) of the air depends on its water vapor content, it’s highly temperature dependent – which means that a world that has a large region of +10 anomaly in the Canadian Arctic has not been heated much less than a world that has an equally large +10 anomaly in the tropics or subtropics. But if they both come out the same if you calculate the mean temperature.
(See also http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2005/07/18/what-does-moist-enthalpy-tell-us/ )

steveta_uk

This is going to get exciting – there’s no chance that everyone will simply say “well, now we know” and act rationally on the information.
If the data confirms Hansenesque warming, most sceptics simply won’t believe it. And if it shows negligible warming, and in particular shows no accelerated warming in recent decades, then the hockey team et al won’t believe it.
So will it resolve anything?

David Davidovics

Anthony,
I have my doubts too. With words like ‘consensus’ and ‘denier’ along with phrases like “global warming is real”, its hard for me to be optimistic even if they are offering you a seat at the table so to speak.
As Steve McIntyre would say; Watch the pea under the thimble (very – VERY closely!!!!)
It could simply be that language like this was used to get the attention from a biased media and scientific community but whatever you do, don’t let your guard down.
REPLY: The word “deniers” was added by the reporter. And global warming “is” real. We expect some warming, my view is that it is exaggerated for political purposes. The key is find out what the true signal is. – Anthony

Oslo

Once the “deniers” are aboard, take them for a ride through the bushes and back to the “consensus”.

Larry Hamlin

In reading the methodology material I was unable to determine how the Urban Heat Island (UHI) impacts are going to be addressed in this study. I would hope that this critical issue is to be evaluated in this independent temperature data study.
Is that the case? If so can someone please explain where this issue is addressed in the methodology. Thanks.

Elizabeth

Conclusions about bias must be drawn until the report is published. This article was published in The Daily Californian, not written by the researchers. The fact that these researchers will publish all of their data and code and, as well, attempt to resolve issues uncovered in surface stations project is a good start. Rather than criticize this attempt at objective scientific inquiry, the sceptics’ job is to later critique their methodology.

Claude Harvey

Re:Feynman says:
February 11, 2011 at 8:46 am
“…it seems that they ‘know’ in advance what the result will be….”
That one jumped out at me as well. I was feeling really good about the prospects for “truth”, whatever it may be, coming out of this exercise until the professor made is “warming is a fact” statement. Hopefully, the mechanisms promised for removing the biases of the observer from the results will serve to make the professor’s stated bias irrelevant.

klem

I think this is fantastic. The data will be collected openly we hope and anyone who wants access will have it, allowing them to spin it anyway they want (as expected). At least it will be available. The problem here though is the same problem that has always existed, thermometers will provide evidence that the climate changes, they will not be able to show that CO2 is the cause. It’s good though.

DonS

So what’s new here? Apparently the globe is warming and the seas have risen and neither of those is what the fight is about anyway.
“There are the skeptics – they’re not the consensus,” Muller explained. “There are the exaggerators, like Al Gore and Tom Friedman who tell you things that are not part of the consensus … (which) goes largely off of thermometer records.”
What science is going to be done when the top dog is already using “consensus” twice in one paragraph?
BS

Oslo

If any trusted “denier or “skeptic” is receiving any sort of grant or “compensation” for participating in a project such as this, it should be publicly declared beforehand.
Otherwise we will have “Deniergate” next.
Choose your friends well, brothers and sisters of “denialism”.

I suggest that there will be at least 4 factors that will determine whether or not this new effort will have any merit:
1/ How will the UHI effect be handled for cities? UHI “corrections” present a prime opportunity to introduce fudge factors to get the results one would like to see.
2/ Will so-called homogenization be used allowing temperature to differ from the actual measurements made at specific sites? The correct approach would be to constrain any fit to reproduce temperatures actually measured at all input sites.
3/ Will the data be interpolated over vast regions for which there is no site data? Integrating over such regions to calculate a “global temperature” can result in large systematic biases.
3/ Will the global heat content [the moist enthalpy as Espen pointed out above quoting Dr. Pielke] be reported along with the global temperature?

Roger Knights

Cold Englishman says:
February 11, 2011 at 8:35 am
How about starting with a little less inflammatory language viz. deniers deniers deniers.

I propose Scam Scoffers.

bobbyj0708

I’ve read Muller’s book “Physics for Future Presidents” and I enjoyed it quite a bit, that is until I got to the chapter on global warming. Up to that point the book had been a fine presentation on our abilities and limitations in energy, space, terrorism, etc based upon actual physics but when I got to the global warming chapter it was “AGW is real, trust me I know what I’m talking about”.
Color me skeptical on Muller’s ability to remain impartial and not be swayed toward the AGW corner.
But there is a youtube video showing a lecture from Muller where he talks about how the Hockey Team lied and he seemed to be quite disgusted with them and that he’d relied upon what they said to form his opinions on AGW so maybe he has turned a corner. But he also starts the lecture with a bunch of AGW stuff so who knows…

Spen

As discussed many times previously surely ocean heat content is the key metric not surface temperatures.

Alan Clark

RickA says:
February 11, 2011 at 8:09 am
Personally, I think we should also be setting up new automated stations to obtain more uniform coverage, which we can use to build 30-60 years worth of high quality new data.

I agree completely Rick. Individuals have the ability today to have a home weather station feeding data into their home computers that could be feeding data to a commingled base elsewhere, freely accessible by all. Ten years from now and beyond, we would have some serious raw data that would be very useful in establishing trends and verifying current projections.

kwik

If the database is open for anyone to read (maybe a small fee), then it the raw data can be checked.
And if anyone then can write a program to plot the data, then why not?
And if that organisation wants to do their own plots, and their software for doing so is accessible for all to compile and run, then I’d say, this is good news.
What is there not to like? The language above is just to be accepted by today’s AGW camp, me thinks.
They are in the same situation as being a Darwinian scientist under Lysenko.
How to get a plan approved, with the whole apparatcnik watching you?

Richard S Courtney

sharper00
Your comments to Anthony Watts at February 11, 2011 at 8:15 am and February 11, 2011 at 8:39 am are offensive in the extreme. You owe him an apology.
Your first post questioned why Anthony Watts’ paper on the NASA and NOAA global temperature data sets had yet to be published. And he answered that completely. I copy that answer here in full to save others the task of finding it: his reply said;
“We have a paper in peer review, note the difficulties encountered by O’Donnell et al with a hostile reviewer, Steig, and perhaps then you’ll understand why skeptical papers can take much longer to run the gauntlet. Besides, it took us three years with volunteers to get a large enough sample. Menne used preliminary data (mine against my protests), and a sample that was not spatially representative nor contained enough class1-2 stations. That paper was pure politics.
If you can do a better job with zero budget, herding volunteers, in your spare time, for no pay, against a well funded government sponsored consensus, by all means do it. Otherwise wait for our paper. – Anthony”
Your second post ignored that and complained at Anthony Watts by saying;
“To go back to your initial complaint about NASA and NOAA – the publication of your analysis showing there’s a problem for them to be concerned about is the starting point to them addressing it. It seems unreasonable to me to criticise them for not fixing a problem you (or anyone else) have yet to demonstrate.”
Say what!?
Anthony Watts had told you that “We have a paper in peer review”. In other words, his demonstration of the “problem” is submitted for publication, so he HAS demonstrated a “problem”. Furthermore, he has repeatedly presented aspects of the “problem” on this blog and a few minutes search would have shown them to you. And if you were to accept his words you would wait for the submitted paper to be published and then – in the unlikely event that you were capable – you could dispute it.
Put another way, you are calling Anthony Watts a liar by claiming he has “yet to demonstrate” a “problem” when he told you he has demonstrated it.
To use your words, It seems unreasonable to me for you to criticise him for your unjustified and unjustifiable refusal to believe his veracity, and your public statement that you do not believe him castes aspersions on his veracity. To my mind that means your behaviour is despicable.
Richard

Allen

Sheesh people! You’re reacting to a media article written by a non-scientist with some rhetorical flair. What did you expect from her?
Let’s give our colleagues the time to report on the results of their work. Then we can unleash our examination of the science.

Scottish Sceptic

A cautious welcome, but I still have my doubts, because garbage in, garbage out, and if the global temperature station network still is full of unknown errors, it will not be reliable, and there’s no sign of validating the effects of e.g. manual -> automation when a lot of stations were moved closer to power source and therefore closer to heat.
On the good side: An institution like Berkeley can’t afford to get it wrong (unlike the UEA)
On the bad side: so many other institutions who ought to have known better have just fluffed the science, so what’s to stop this being another one?

Dave W

I didn’t see how the urban heat island effect was to be addressed. Was it there somewhere? Also I think that avoiding all gridding removes some problems but creates a whole lot of others.
Still at least if they publish their raw data and tell us exactly what they have done with it, they are way ahead of most of the others in this field.

beng

*****
“We believed that if we brought in the best of the best in terms of statistics, we could use methods that would be easier to understand and not as open to actual manipulation,” said Elizabeth Muller, Richard Muller’s daughter and project manager of the study. “We just create a methodology that will then have no human interaction to pick or choose data.”
*****
Lofty goals — I hope they try to fulfill them. The devil will be in the details.
One wonders, tho, if the cultural-conformity conditions at Berkeley U (or most any other university) would permit this. Any results other than the party-line would stir up a green-hornet’s nest.

Oslo

Kwik:
What is “raw data” anyway?
Who reads thermometers, and in what way? Who gathers the results, who plots them, who sends them over to CRU and NOOA?
In Mozambique: how hard is it to let it shine through that you implicitly would like to see warming, and that a certain small grant depends on fulfilling a few simple expectations?
Afterall: most of the warming seems to happen where there is a) few people living or b) poor people living.
Is this a coincidence?

don

I’m sorry, but why is NASA doing climate change measurements and Muslim outreach? Looks to me like an expensive duplication of efforts that already occur at NOAA and the State Department: let me guess, Bizerkley is now getting in on the climate change gravy train too? No wonder we’re not getting more bang for the buck and going to the moon where the climate never measurably changes.

GregP

I already have my doubts about the project based on my reading of their methodology found here:
http://www.berkeleyearth.org/methodology
http://www.berkeleyearth.org/Resources/Berkeley_Earth_Summary.pdf
No discussion on UHIE that I can find.
Also Judith Curry is named as a member of their team.

David

Wether they are biased or not, as long as their data, code and methodology is made public, it will be possible to determine the validity of their result, and even (from those that have the time and will) to come up with alternatives that addresses concerns that might have been missed. That would be a big step forward indeed.

Ian L. McQueen

Minor typo:
“I can tell you that this project is partly a reaction and result of what we’ve learned in the surfacesations project” – should be “surfacestations project”.
Moderator: This note may be deleted.
IanM

“There are the skeptics – they’re not the consensus,” Muller explained. “There are the exaggerators, like Al Gore and Tom Friedman who tell you things that are not part of the consensus … (which) goes largely off of thermometer records.”
OK, if this is an accurate quote then I’m also very concerned.
“There are the skeptics – they’re not the consensus,” ???
Huh? Is this implying that “the skeptics”, one of which I believe I am, do not accept the “consensus” that the globe has been warming since the end of the LIA?
I believe the majority of skeptics agree with the following (which we’ve all seen from here – http://www.petitionproject.org/ ) :
“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmsopheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth. ”
We’ve run into one of those define “skeptic” and “warmist” problems again. In my opinion, only a non-skeptic states or implies that skeptics do not beleive that the planet has been warming. What we deny is that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the primary cause and may not even be a minor contributor.
Good, meaningful global temperature data will show what we skeptics have somewhat consensually agreed – that the planet is warming as it recovers from the LIA and has been doing so in a very natural manner.