Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
With altogether far too much fanfare for my taste, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project has not released its preliminary results.
Or at least I can’t find them. I just wanted the month-by-month data that their hotrod new computer program spits out at the end of its run. The results they’re all hot and bothered about.
But despite releasing a massive database, 39,000 stations, along with the code in Matlab (which does me no good at all), I can’t find anywhere their freakin’ results. You know, the actual results of their work? The monthly average global temperature, the stuff that they mangled to produce things like their PR graph shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1. Purports to show that the BEST temperature record, and all the others as well, are all going “in one direction”, nowhere but up.
I’m sure you remember the Climategate mantra, “hide the decline”? Keep that in mind as we proceed.
So … that will show those shifty skeptics, even BEST says it’s warming nonstop, evidence is right there before your eyes.
What’s not to like? How can you argue with that? The science is in.
Since I couldn’t get their results, I did the next best thing, and digitized their results. Even then, I was frunstrated. As far as I could tell, they never showed their actual results. The closest I found is in Figure 1 of their paper here:
Figure 2. Figure 1 of BEST’s “Decadal Variations” paper. Everybody’s going up, up, up, although you can’t really see what anyone is doing.
I blew that Figure up, and digitized it. Sixty years, 720 data points, boooring. Plus I hate it that they’ve smoothed the data, that makes it useless for statistical work. But it could have given us an idea of what’s going on in each of the records … if they hadn’t printed them atop one another in confusing colors. Enough of the spaghetti graphs already, you mad scientist persons, they show nothing! Figure 3 shows the BEST dataset along with the other datasets, this time displaced from each other so that we can actually see what’s happening:
[UPDATE: An alert reader noticed what I did not, that this is a subset of the BEST dataset that does not contain the stations used by the other groups (NOAA, etc). He points out that the full dataset is again different, in that it in fact rises more than the partial dataset. I have updated the figure and struck out some text to include that.
However, this doesn’t fix the questions. The post 1998 record from all of the BEST data is much more poorly correlated with the current records (~0.65) than prior to 1998 (~0.90). So this does not verify or validate the current groups datasets.
Hmmm … that gives a very different picture than Figure 1. Even with the bizarre 12-month moving average, the BEST record is clearly the outlier since 1998. You would think that in the modern era, the BEST would agree more closely with the other records. And indeed, from about 1975 to 1998 they were moving in something like lockstep. But both before and after that time period, the BEST results are a clear outlier. And since 1998, BEST has been in a slow decline … funny how that didn’t show up in Figure 1. Yes, I know, a ten-year moving average shouldn’t show anything within five years from the end of the dataset. And I’m sure folks will argue that it’s just coincidence that they chose that exact smoothing length, and that it was the chance selection of colors that jumbled up the spaghetti graph so it’s unreadable … but y’know, after a while “coincidence” wears thin. I’m going with a more nuanced explanation, that it was a “deliberately unconscious choice to hide the decline”, although certainly you are welcome to stick to the story that it’s all just an unfortunate chain of events …
Conclusion 1. It is extremely sneaky to send a truncated, smoothed result like Figure 1 out to the media to announce your results. That’s advocacy disguised as science. They did it to make it look like the temperature was headed for the sky and that BEST agreed. Instead, BEST actually disagrees with the other datasets by claiming that over the last decade, land temperatures are dropping, not staying stable or rising as per the other datasets. Using a graph that didn’t show that is … curious. As Gollum would say … “Oooooh, tricksy”. Including you, Judith. Figure 1 was nothing but “hide the decline” PR spin. Bad scientists, no cookies.
Conclusion 1. The correlation between the old data points used by the current groups, and the new data used only by BEST, is quite poor after 1998. This is visible in the plots of both the partial and full BEST datasets. The reasons for this are not clear, but it provides no support for the current datasets.
Conclusion 2. First point. The raw terror point, the thought that has the AGW alarmists changing their shorts, is the dreaded 2°C rise that is forecast from CO2. That is supposed to be the mythical “tipping point”. Second point. If we look at the 10-year smoothed data in Figure 1, BEST says that in the last two centuries, the temperature has risen about two degrees.
Let me note that over that two-century time period there have been:
a) No known increase in extreme weather events.
b) No known increase in catastrophes (other than from increased populations and property in vulnerable areas).
c) No major costs, deaths or damage from sea level rise. And don’t bother me with Katrina. A Category 3 hurricane took down ancient poorly maintained levees on a city below sea level. Absent that, no problem.
d) No climate-related spread of various infectious diseases.
e) No known increase in droughts or floods.
f) No loss of Tuvalu or other coral atolls.
g) Actually, none of the horrendous outcomes or biblical plagues of frogs and the like which are supposed to accompany the Thermageddon™ of a two degree temperature rise occurred over the last two centuries. To the contrary, the increased warming seems to have been a net gain for most humans, animals, and plants. Nobody likes freezing their asterisk off, after all, and the warming has mostly been in extra-tropical winter nights. That’s the theory, at least, although the BEST data should be able to tell us more.
Conclusion 3. BEST has done the world a huge service by collating and collecting all the data in one place, and deserves credit for that.
But they have done the world a huge disservice by becoming media whores
, by putting out a shabby imitation of science in Figure 1, and by making a host of claims before peer review is complete.
This last one astounds me, that they’ve done it before peer review is finished. Doug Keenan and William Briggs have both raised separate and cogent arguments that the BEST analysis contains flaws. That would make me nervous, they’re kinda heavyweights, although any man can be wrong … but no, the BEST folks are making a host of claims as though their paper has already passed peer review. It’s the same publicity circus that Muller put on for Congress. And what three-ring media circus would be complete without their own brand new personalized “hide the decline” poster?
Since they have held out for extreme transparency, or at least given lip-service to the idea, I would be very interested to find out the names of the reviewers.
Because certainly, one possible explanation of their brazen trumpeting of their results before the peer review process is finished is that the fix is in. Why else the confidence that the reviewers will not find fault with their work? It is extreme hubris at a minimum, which is reputed historically to have unpleasant sequelae involving wax and feathers …
PS—The world is warming. It has been for centuries. Rather than saying anything about anthropogenic global warming, all the BEST dataset does is confirms that. How that’s gotten twisted into some supposed “victory” for the AGW crowd escapes me.