Expect the BEST, plan for the worst

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Clarification on BEST submitted to the House

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Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Well, I had hoped for the best from BEST, the new Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project looking at the global temperature record. I was disheartened, however, by the Congressional testimony of Dr. Richard Muller of BEST.

Photo Source He said (emphasis mine):

Global Warming

Prior groups at NOAA, NASA, and in the UK (HadCRU) estimate about a 1.2 degree C land temperature rise from the early 1900s to the present. This 1.2 degree rise is what we call global warming. Their work is excellent, and the Berkeley Earth project strives to build on it.

Human caused global warming is somewhat smaller. According to the most recent IPCC report (2007), the human component became apparent only after 1957, and it

amounts to “most” of the 0.7 degree rise since then. Let’s assume the human-caused warming is 0.6 degrees.

The magnitude of this temperature rise is a key scientific and public policy concern. A 0.2 degree uncertainty puts the human component between 0.4 and 0.8 degrees – a factor of two uncertainty. Policy depends on this number. It needs to be improved.

Why do I think his testimony doesn’t help in the slightest? Well, to start with, I’ve never heard anyone make the claim that the land surface air temperature (excluding oceans) of the earth has warmed 1.2°C since 1900.

He cites three land temperature datasets, NOAA , NASA (GISTEMP), and HadCRU (he presumably means CRUTEM, not HadCRU).

Here’s the problem. The actual land surface air temperature warming since 1900 according to the existing datasets is:



CRUTEM: 0.92°C

So Dr. Muller, in his first and most public appearance on the subject, has made some of the more unusual claims about the existing temperature datasets I’ve heard to date.

1. Since the largest temperature rise in the three datasets is 30% greater than the smallest rise, their work is not “excellent” in any sense of the word. Nor should the BEST team “strive to build on it.” Instead, they should strive to understand why the three vary so widely. What decisions make the difference? Which decisions make little difference?

2. Not one of the three datasets shows a temperature rise anywhere near the 1.2°C rise Muller is claiming since 1900. The largest one shows only about 3/4 of his claimed rise.

3. He claims a “0.2 degree uncertainty”. But the difference between the largest and smallest calculated warming from the three datasets is 0.2°C, so the uncertainty has to be a lot more than that …

4. He says that the land warming since 1957 is 0.7°C. The records beg to differ. Here’s the land warming since 1957:



CRUTEM: 0.93°C

Note that none of them are anywhere near 0.7°C. Note also the huge difference in the trends in these “excellent” datasets, a difference of half a degree per century.

5. He fails to distinguish CRUTEM (the land-only temperature record produced by the Climategate folks) from HadCRU (a land-ocean record produced jointly by the Hadley folks and the Climategate folks). A minor point to be sure, but one indicating his unfamiliarity with the underlying datasets he is discussing.

It can’t be a Celsius versus Fahrenheit error, because it goes both ways. He claims a larger rise 1900-present than the datasets show, and a smaller rise 1958-present than the datasets.

I must confess, I’m mystified by all of this. With his testimony, Dr. Muller has totally destroyed any credibility he might have had with me. He might be able to rebuild it by explaining his strange numbers. But to give that kind of erroneous testimony, not in a random paper he might written quickly, but to Congress itself, marks him to me as a man driven by a very serious agenda, a man who doesn’t check his work and who pays insufficient attention to facts in testimony. I had hoped we wouldn’t have another temperature record hag-ridden by people with an axe to grind … foolish me.

Perhaps someone who knows Dr. Muller could ask him to explain his cheerleading before Congress. I call it cheerleading because it certainly wasn’t scientific testimony of any kind I’m familiar with. I hear Dr. Muller is a good guy, and very popular with the students, but still … color me very disappointed.


PS – Muller also said:

Let me now address the problem of

Poor Temperature Station Quality

Many temperature stations in the U.S. are located near buildings, in parking lots, or close to heat sources. Anthony Watts and his team has shown that most of the current stations in the US Historical Climatology Network would be ranked “poor” by NOAA’s own standards, with error uncertainties up to 5 degrees C.

Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.

The Berkeley Earth analysis shows that over the past 50 years the poor stations in the U.S. network do not show greater warming than do the good stations.

Thus, although poor station quality might affect absolute temperature, it does not appear to affect trends, and for global warming estimates, the trend is what is important.

Dr. Muller, I’m going to call foul on this one. For you to announce your pre-publication results on this issue is way, way out of line. You get to have your claim entered into the Congressional Record and you don’t even have to produce a single citation or publish a paper or show a scrap of data or code? That is scientific back-stabbing via Congressional testimony, and on my planet it is absolutely unacceptable.

That is taking unfair advantage of your fifteen minutes of fame. Show your work and numbers like anyone else and we’ll evaluate them. Then you may be able to crow, or not, before Congress.

But to stand up before Congress as an expert witness and refer solely to your own unpublished, uncited, and un-verifiable claims? Sorry, but if you want to make that most public scientific claim, that bad siting doesn’t affect temperature trends, you have to show your work just like anyone else. If you want to make that claim before Congress, then PUBLISH YOUR DATA AND CODE like the rest of us mortals. Put your results where your mouth is, or if not, leave it out of your Congressional testimony. Why is that not obvious?

Anthony’s unpublished and unverifiable claims are as strong as your similar claims. That is to say, neither have any strength or validity at all at this point … so how would you feel if Anthony trotted out his unverifiable claims before Congress to show that Dr. Richard Muller was wrong, and didn’t show his work?

Like I said … color me very disappointed, both scientifically and personally. Dr. Muller, I invite you to explain your Congressional testimony, because I certainly don’t understand it. I am totally confident that Anthony will be happy to publish your reply.

I also urge you to either a) publish the data and code that you think shows no difference in trends between good and poor stations, or b) publicly retract your premature and unverifiable claims. You don’t get to do one without the other, that’s not scientific in any sense of the word.

PPS – Does any of this mean that the BEST analysis is wrong or their numbers or data are wrong or that the BEST folks are fudging the results? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am disappointed in Dr. Muller’s claims and his actions. The math and the data analysis is an entirely different question. Theirs may be flawless, we simply don’t know yet (nor would I expect to, it’s early days). I look forward to their results and their data and code, this kind of initiative is long overdue.

I want to be very clear than the validity of their actual methods depends only on the validity of their actual methods. The problem is, we don’t even know exactly what those methods are yet. We have rough descriptions, but not even any pseudocode, much less code. Which in part is why I find Dr. Muller’s testimony unsettling …

RELATED: See the rebuttal letter to congress:

Clarification on BEST submitted to the House

Pielke Sr. on the Muller testimony


UPDATE: in apparent response to Willis Eschenbach, BEST has added this below to their FAQs page. For fairness, I reproduce it here. – Anthony

NEW (4/1) – It appears that in Dr. Muller’s testimony he shows a temperature rise greater rise than others had previously published. Is this so? Can you explain?

The Berkeley Earth plot is for the land data only, since we have not yet begun analysis of ocean temperatures. Because we only analyze land, that was the fair comparison to make. The ocean temperature rise is less, and when included in, it reduces the value of the total temperature rise.

We started with the land data for several reasons:

  1. It is the data that is affected most by the most contentious issues: data selection bias, urban heat island, and station integrity issues. These are big concerns and we wanted to address them.
  2. The temperature rise on land is greater than on the oceans, mostly because the ocean distribute the heat over the mixed layer and thereby reduces the temperature rise. Land keeps the heat mostly on the surface. So the land temperature is actually more sensitive to greenhouse gases than is the world temperature.
  3. The land issue, with 1.6 billion measurements, was a huge one to tackle. It made sense to divide the effort into two stages.

The land only data for the other three groups are available on their websites, and agree with the plot provided in Dr. Richard Muller’s testimony.


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Holy cow. I cant believe what I’m reading. Wasn’t the purpose of BEST to let only the data do the talking? What has happened here? Was there any indication at all that this Miller guy was going to pull a fast one?
Thanks Willis

James Sexton

“Does any of this mean that the BEST analysis is wrong or their numbers or data are wrong or that the BEST folks are fudging the results? ABSOLUTELY NOT.”
Agreed. But, given his statements today, he’s destroyed the goodwill of the people giving him the benefit of doubt. Berkeley………… I never did have much optimism with that lot.

Comparing NCDC, GISTemp, and Hadley land-only records is problematic, as they all use somewhat differing definitions of land areas.
Per chapter 3 of the AR4:
“Most of the differences arise from the diversity of spatial averaging techniques. The global average for CRUTEM3 is a land-area weighted sum (0.68 × NH + 0.32 × SH). For NCDC it is an area-weighted average of the grid-box anomalies where available worldwide. For GISS it is the average of the anomalies for the zones 90°N to 23.6°N, 23.6°N to 23.6°S and 23.6°S to 90°S with weightings 0.3, 0.4 and 0.3, respectively, proportional to their total areas. For Lugina et al. (2005) it is (NH + 0.866 × SH) / 1.866 because they excluded latitudes south of 60°S. As a result, the recent global trends are largest in CRUTEM3 and NCDC, which give more weight to the NH where recent trends have been greatest”
Most of the difference between land records lies in the way they are defined, not the underlying station data. Indeed, if you take GHCN data and use the GISTemp zonal weights, you get something effectively identical to GISTemp: http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Picture-9.png
If you do not apply zonal weights, and instead use simple gridding (with a land mask), you get something identical to NCDC: http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Picture-475.png
This post goes into a bit of detail about solving the land temp difference mystery: http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/the-great-gistemp-mystery/
I’m not sure where Muller gets his 1.2 C numbers; my analysis of the data since 1900 gets trends similar to yours.

Joe Lalonde

Does it even make sense to be pushing temperature data of 110 years out of 4.5 billion years???

Joshua Corning

“Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.”
He is only talking about the 2% test BEST ran.
BEST’s website states pretty clearly that the 2% test is not to be taken very seriously:
“However, the preliminary analysis includes only a very small subset (2%) of randomly chosen data, and does not include any method for correcting for biases such as the urban heat island effect, the time of observation bias, etc. The Berkeley Earth team feels very strongly that no conclusions can yet be drawn from this preliminary analysis.”

William Larson

WE: “…and on my planet it is absolutely unacceptable.” I always like your writing, and again here, but to my way of thinking you punted on that statement. It is not “unacceptable” (What a euphemism!), it is WRONG. I don’t think I am being over-the-top in saying that. Thank you for this enlightening post.


“The Berkeley Earth analysis shows that over the past 50 years the poor stations in the U.S. network do not show greater warming than do the good stations.”
Is this true of stations that were “good” in 1961 and “poor” now?

Karen D

Has anyone from NASA or NOAA provided anything to either substantiate or refute the claim that they “estimate about a 1.2 degree C land temperature rise from the early 1900s to the present?”
That should be pretty straightforward to show, I would think.


The “B” in BEST should have been fair warning.
Berkley isn’t exactly known to be an apolitical town and most people are impacted by their surroundings. If the doctor’s study produces inconvenient results, nobody will invite him to dinner anymore.

Paul Deacon

Well said, Willis – this reeks of bias.

Joshua Corning

He also states in his testimony that their preliminary analysis did not include work to check for bias caused by UHI and other effects:
“Berkeley Earth hopes to complete its analysis including systematic bias avoidance in the next few weeks. We are now studying new approaches to reducing biases from:
1. Urban heat island effects. Some stations in cities show more rapid warming than
do stations in rural areas.
2. Time of observation bias. When the time of recording temperature is changed,
stations will typically show different mean temperatures than they did previously.
This is sometimes corrected in the processes used by existing groups. But this
cannot be done easily for remote stations or those that do not report times of
3. Station moves. If a station is relocated, this can cause a “jump” in its
temperatures. This is typically corrected in the adjustment process used by other
groups. Is the correction introducing another bias? The corrections are
sometimes done by hand, making replication difficult.
4. Change of instrumentation. When thermometer type is changed, there is often an
offset introduced, which must be corrected.”

When one looks at what he actually said it appears that you fears amount to not what he said but the fact that you do not like the way he said it.
You and Watts are blowing his testimony way out of proportion as well as missing some pretty important stuff.
Take a breath, relax…then go back and read what he actually said, rather then what you think he said.

Roy UK

Let’s assume the human-caused warming is 0.6 degrees.
Let’s assume the human-caused warming is -0.6 degrees. Fixed for the last 10-15 years.
Never assume, it makes an ass out of u and me
This time you are not going to make an ass out of me.
You (Dr. Richard Muller) took advantage of the good and trusting nature of Mr Watts. You should be ashamed. Truly, I am sick of all of this posturing.
I would love to see a reply here on WUWT (No1 Science blog on the internet) from Dr. Richard Muller and see how he copes with real Peer review.
@Dr. Richard Muller I dare you to come on this website and defend what you have said. You believe in it so strongly you should be able to defend it. Here. Not at Fake Climate.

Gil Dewart

If the “good” data and the “bad” data show the same thing – maybe we can just dispense with data altogether and call it as we want it!

Ian George

Can someone explain what is going on at GISS. Just checked their global temp graph and it appears that there are 4 years warmer than 1998. Last time I checked GISS, 2005 was warmer and 2010 was as warm. I understand that 1998’s data was ‘cleaned up’ recently which resulted in a drop in mean temp but have 2007 and 2009 been adjusted.
I know they use a different method of obtained their temps but the other global monitors still show 1998 the warmest (2010 equal in some).

Roy UK

Sorry for a second post, but after a fourth read it seems that Dr. Richard Muller is after more funding for more research into his assertions.
I still want him to come on here and defend his testimony.
The man is a charlatan and the worst type of plagiarist.

Jeff Carlson

“Does any of this mean that the BEST analysis is wrong or their numbers or data are wrong or that the BEST folks are fudging the results? ABSOLUTELY NOT.”
actually the answer should be, DON’T KNOW … because you don’t … they haven’t published anything so you have no way of saying ABSOLUTELY NOT … that is not a yes, no question … it is a yes, no, don’t know …

Dr A Burns

Let me guess … the BEST result will be “worse than we thought “… or am I too much a sceptic ?

Andreas De Bruin

Even if Muller’s claim was right and it did not impact on trend but only on absolute temperature – would that not skew the total increase (depending on when the data quality decreased) and therefore overstate the size of the issue? So you would have a step jump at some point?

Temperatures have risen slightly since the end of the Little ice age. Who woud have thought it?

I have never believed for a moment that BEST is anything but a prop to support the evidence-free belief that more CO2 is a problem. Note that Muller is already throwing out conclusions. That is not science, that is an agenda.
If they want credibility, they must have complete transparency, as the scientific method requires. That means publicly archiving all raw data, codes, methodologies and metadata in real time, starting right now.
The fact that they’re already playing their cards close to the vest indicates that they want to do the talking, instead of letting the data do the talking.
More smoke and mirrors.

Richard deSousa

Didn’t Muller also say the surface based temperature stations (USHCN network) not warm biased??? According to Anthony’s research, only 15% of the stations meet the NOAA specifications.

We all had high hopes for a thorough and transparent investigation from the BEST group and the most that can be said is that – so far – it is disappointing. Disappointing that anything has been said prior to completion.
Anomalies by year http://diggingintheclay.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/an-indication-of-the-growth-of-station-bias/ show an intriguing shift over the century that suggests a proportion of stations is warming.


I’m not sure why anybody is surprised.
While I can appreciate that many had high hopes for this “revolutionary” new venture, the “leaks” and public statements should have sounded the alarm long ago. All we have now (without even a first run) is yet another “confirmation” of everybody else’s work. This time of course we can now claim that we have incorporated the sceptical POV into our analysis.
Bottom line… hands up anybody who thought BEST wouldn’t end up somewhere between CRU and GISS? Seems that Muller had stated this as “the outcome” long ago. Put another way, do you really think that they would have published anything if the result looked like being either -1C or +2C over the 1950-80 baseline? Too low, Too high…end of grant! It looks like science…..

Mike Bromley

“Scientific Back-stabbing”…and then some. It would appear to me the Muller is looking a gift horse in the mouth, and the prospects of losing a place at the research trough is too awful to bear. The man caved in to self-preservation and opportunistic, sideways self promotion, to a panel too far removed from the scientific method to notice. Sort of a perverted reverse sting. All the BEST, Dr. Muller.

Based on Dr. Muller’s quote above, he is clearly a Warmist.
“The magnitude of this temperature rise is a key scientific and public policy concern.”
“Public policy concern” as in “we must stop doing what we are doing” or as in “we should prepare for the weather change”?
If prepare, then why make statements such as he has. If “do something” (to include CO2 emission reduction), then his statements to Congress simply strengthen the position.

Sorry Anthony, I’m a tad confused. You say:
Here’s the problem. The actual land surface air temperature warming since 1900 according to the existing datasets is:
CRUTEM: 0.92°C

But then later:
4. He says that the land warming since 1957 is 0.7°C. The records beg to differ. Here’s the land warming since 1957:
CRUTEM: 0.93°C

Seems to be at odds with each other
Yours slightly mystified


The term “being sandbagged” comes to mind. Sorry Anthony, it looks like you’ve been had. In climate science “scientific integrity” appears to be an oxymoron, but then so does the term climate science.

“Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.
“The Berkeley Earth analysis shows that over the past 50 years the poor stations in the U.S. network do not show greater warming than do the good stations.”
-Such an analysis need to confirm that:
A) poor stations now was poor then and that good stations now was good then
B) Falsify the obvious null-hypothesis, that if temperature readings are affected by the use of energy and laying of asphalt etc now, we should expect that an INCREASE of energy use and road pavement INCREASES the effect it has on temperature readings.
C) Take account of all those remote stations that closed after the cold war

I think it depends on the starting year. Maybe this will help.

Roger Knights

It’ll be difficult for him to back down even if he later realizes he made a misstep.

Peter Miller

In these days of ever-increasing government budget cuts, dodgy science projects are at the top of the list of unnecessary funding to be culled.
If you are a dodgy scientist with iffy facts/statistics/models, your only recourse is to make the conclusions of your ‘research’ ever more scary.
Such is the reaction of climate ‘scientists’ to potential cuts in the size of government grant troughs.
IPCC Version 5 is destined to be the scariest document on global climate ever produced – sadly, there will be many who will believe its contents.

Gary Pearse

1.2C vs 0.7C …… 0.7C is approximately 1.2F do you think he may have “F-ed” up? For those who seek to be apologists or nuancers of the statement of Muller, if on his web he says … but oh, we have just looked at 2% of the record, why would he be so unequivocably supportive of the amount of warming and the good work of those that went before when the next 98% of the record might show the record wrong? There is only one answer to that question – he has already made up his mind. The uncompleted work of a fellow who has just joined the debate is about as valuable as the opinions of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. With the latter, we at least know how much weight to attach to their arguments.
There can be no question that this BEST is another clever stunt of the cornered AGW tricksters. Willis, you are too accommodating in your gentlemanly prose.

Tom Bauch

Um, “Berkeley”
Nuff said…..

Willis: The 1.2 deg C rise in global Land Surface Temperature since the early 1900s (not the year 1900) cannot be based on linear trends. It has to be a trough to peak value based on 2- or 3-year smoothing. In other words, it’s contrived.


You guys were very naive in expecting BEST would anyway answer the question as if this whole exercise had a climatological significance. Basically you just walked in the trap…

Fred Harwood

Keep the heat on.


WEll done Anthony I have changed my mind too. I don’t believe a word of this maybe we’ve been conned on purpose?

R. de Haan

You’re conned.
I.M.O. BEST and Dr. Richard Muller just came out of the closet as a ‘Warmist Agenda Supporters’ pur sang.
I haven’t seen such an incredible act of back stabbing behavior since Mann’s ‘tricks’ and the white wash of Climate Gate.

J. Knight

Anthony, in my opinion these people knew you were on to something, and now they are in the process of marginalizing you. Because if you don’t go along with them, after they’ve bent over backwards to accommodate you, then you must be nothing more than a troublemaker. I’m pretty sure they’ve already done enough research to know that you are correct, and that badly-sited stations have contributed to the global warming statistics. That’s why this project was started in the first place, for no other reason than to take over your surface station project, and to interject a warm bias. I truly believed this from the very start, and I didn’t trust this guy any further than I could throw him, even if he is a runt and I could throw him further than the average.
Careful, here, Anthony, I believe you are about to be had.


Can we call it WORST now? Let’s find a backronym…
Wondrous Ongoing Relentless Scientific Travesty.

Jimmy Haigh

Academic trying to keep himself in a job.


Let’s see a bit more before we conclude anything significant.


I watched the hour-long lecture of Muller that contains his criticism of the Hockey Stick. What i found striking is that Muller talks freely about *all* the uncovered mistakes in the IPCC report, emphasizes that the uncertainty is much greater than they conclude yet still is convinced that his (the warmist) side has the basic science right – including the questionable, never observed global positive water vapor feedback.
I find his attitude wholly unconvincing… i got away with the feeling of watching an actor playing after a script with some gaping plotholes in it.


What I find even more disturbing than the bungled numbers is the utter lack of scientific insight into the crux of the issue: the secular bias of UHI and land-use changes manifest in the majority of station records, particularly outside the USA. Indiscriminantly throwing all records into the bin, calculating average anomalies, and fitting a linear trend just doe’nt cut it. But you’d never know it by that pixie smile on Muller’s face.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

From AndiC on March 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Sorry Anthony, I’m a tad confused. You say:

From Stephan on March 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm:

WEll done Anthony I have changed my mind too.

Umm, this was a Willis post, not an Anthony post.


mm…someone has been doling out the red meat tonight! Get real, guys! You can try to engage or just come across like rednecks….your choice

Tom in Florida

If Jim Hansen’s testimony before Congress was good, and Al Gore’s was better, than this is obviously BEST.


Muller has to hew to the party line. And that is, among other things, that the locations of those pesky poorly sited stations do not matter in analyzing the trends. This is the line out of NOAA/NWS and their Regional Climate Services Directors, as well. The way it was explained to me (by a Regional Climate Services Director), only trends matter, that is why they look only at anomalies, and those stations that do not behave the same way as nearby stations, well, they get dropped out as outliers. So apparently, a group of poorly sited stations (perhaps those that move from rural to urban or where urbanization is increasing) that all show an upward trend will be used to determine the validity of a single nearby well-placed station and the well placed station will be dropped from the dataset. They never actually look at the individual stations, because location doesn’t matter, only at the data they get from them. This is called “quality control.” Honestly, this is what he said. My jaw almost hit the floor.


I, like AndiC’ at 1:53 pm, am confused by your numbers since 1957.
CRUTEM: 0.93°C
When the total warming since 1900 was…
CRUTEM: 0.92°C
…how do the first numbers you quote make sense?
Did temps drop from 1900 to 1957 and then shoot up to make up the average?
Perhaps you’ve slipped in the wrong numbers for land temps since 1957?
The over all point of your post stands.
He seems to be very sure of a big increas before he has even seen the numbers.
Very discouraging indeed.

Bryan A

I don’t quite understand just what was stated.
It sounds like
“The actual land surface air temperature warming since 1900 according to the existing datasets is:
CRUTEM: 0.92°C”
But …
“the land warming since 1957:
CRUTEM: 0.93°C”
Was it cooler in 1957 than it was in 1900″ How can a 110 year increase be less than a 54 year increase (1/2 as long)?