Uh oh: It was the BEST of times, it was the worst of times

Alternate title: Something wonky this way comes

I try to get away to work on my paper and the climate world explodes, pulling me back in. Strange things are happening related to the BEST data and co-authors Richard Muller and Judith Curry. Implosion might be a good word.

Popcorn futures are soaring. BEST Co-author Judith Curry drops a bombshell:

Her comments, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, seem certain to ignite a furious academic row. She said this affair had to be compared to the notorious ‘Climategate’ scandal two years ago.

Here’s the short timeline.

1. The GWPF plots a flat 10 year graph using BEST data:

2. The Mail on Sunday runs a scathing article comparing BEST’s data plotted by GWPF and the data presented in papers. They print this comparison graph:

Note: timescales don’t match on graphs above, 200 years/10 years. A bit naughty on the part of the Sunday Mail to put them together as many readers won’t notice.

3. Dr. Judith Curry, BEST co-author, turns on Muller, in the Mail on Sunday article citing “hide the decline”:

In Prof Curry’s view, two of the papers were not ready to be  published, in part because they did not properly address the arguments of climate sceptics.

As for the graph disseminated to the media, she said: ‘This is “hide the decline” stuff. Our data show the pause, just as the other sets of data do. Muller is hiding the decline.

‘To say this is the end of scepticism is misleading, as is the  statement that warming hasn’t paused. It is also misleading to say, as he has, that the issue of heat islands has been settled.’

Prof Muller said she was ‘out of the loop’. He added: ‘I wasn’t even sent the press release before it was issued.’

But although Prof Curry is the second named author of all four papers, Prof Muller failed to  consult her before deciding to put them on the internet earlier this month, when the peer review process had barely started, and to issue a detailed press release at the same time.

He also briefed selected  journalists individually. ‘It is not how I would have played it,’ Prof Curry said. ‘I was informed only when I got a group email. I think they have made errors and I distance myself from what they did.

‘It would have been smart to consult me.’ She said it was unfortunate that although the Journal of Geophysical Research  had allowed Prof Muller to issue the papers, the reviewers were, under the journal’s policy, forbidden from public comment.

4. Ross McKittrick unloads:

Prof McKittrick added: ‘The fact is that many of the people who are in a position to provide informed criticism of this work are currently bound by confidentiality agreements.

‘For the Berkeley team to have chosen this particular moment to launch a major international publicity blitz is a highly unethical sabotage of the peer review  process.’

5. According to BEST’s own data, Los Angeles is cooling, fast:

BEST data graph from Steve McIntyre

Steve McIntyre emailed me the graph above tonight as part of a larger discussion.

But compare it to the GISS station record, and you get a whole different story:

Overlay: Combined to fit scale and time:

Here’s the GWPF article:

Best Confirms Global Temperature Standstill

Saturday, 29 October 2011 23:55 Dr. David Whitehouse

Contrary to claims being made by the leader of the Best global temperature initiative their data confirms, and places on a firmer statistical basis, the global temperature standstill of the past ten years as seen by other groups.

Many people have now had some time to read the papers issued in preprint form from the Best project. My strong impression is that they are mostly poorly written, badly argued and at this stage unfit for submission to a major journal. Whilst I have made some comments about Best’s PR and data release strategy, I want to now look at some aspects of the data.

When asked by the BBC’s Today programme Professor Richard Muller, leader of the initiative, said that the global temperature standstill of the past decade was not present in their data.

“In our data, which is only on the land we see no evidence of it having slowed down. Now the evidence which shows that it has been stopped is a combination of land and ocean data. The oceans do not heat as much as the land because it absorbs more of the heat and when the data are combined with the land data then the other groups have shown that when it does seem to be leveling off. We have not seen that in the land data.”

My first though would be that it would be remarkable if it was. The global temperature standstill of the past decade is obvious in HadCrut3 data which is a combination of land and sea surface data. Best is only land data from nearly 40,000 weather stations. Professor Muller says they “really get a good coverage of the globe.” The land is expected to have a fast response to the warming of the lower atmosphere caused by greenhouse gas forcing, unlike the oceans with their high thermal capacity and their decadal timescales for heating and cooling, though not forgetting the ENSO and la Nina.

Fig 1 shows the past ten years plotted from the monthly data from Best’s archives. Click on the image to enlarge.


It is a statistically perfect straight line of zero gradient. Indeed, most of the largest variations in it can be attributed to ENSO and la Nina effects. It is impossible to reconcile this with Professor Muller’s statement. Could it really be the case that Professor Muller has not looked at the data in an appropriate way to see the last ten years clearly?

Indeed Best seems to have worked hard to obscure it. They present data covering more almost 200 years is presented 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.

When examined more objectively Best data confirms the global temperature standstill of the past decade. That the standstill should be present in land only data is remarkable. There have been standstills in land temperature before, but the significance of the past decade is that it is in the era of mankind’s postulated influence on climate through greenhouse gas forcing. Predictions made many times in the past few years suggest that warming should be the strongest and fastest in the land data.

Only a few years ago many scientists and commentators would not acknowledge the global temperature standstill of the past decade. Now that it has become unarguable there has emerged more explanations for it than can possibly be the case.

To explain the combined sea-land temperature hiatus some have suggested that the oceans are sucking up the heat, as professor Muller outlines in his radio interview. This explanation is strained in my view if the land temperature stays constant. Could we really have the very special situation whereby the oceans sequester just enough heat at just the right time to keep the land temperature flat? Aerosols, postulated by some to be coming from China, don’t provide an explanation for the land temperature hiatus either. In fact, the constant land temperature puts a strain on all of the explanations offered for why the land-sea combination hasn’t warmed in the past decade or so.

We make a big deal of the temperature going up. In my view we should make a bigger scientific deal about temperature flatlining for a decade or more in the face of rising CO2 levels. If further scrutiny of the Best dataset confirms this finding we will have new questions about the nature and balance of oceanic and land warming.

The fact that Best confirms the global temperature hiatus and shows that it is apparent in land only data is significant, and in my view its major scientific finding, so far. It is puzzling that they missed it.


UPDATE: 10/30/2011 7AM PST  Judith Curry says the “climategate” comparison was indirectly attributed to her, she gives her take on the story: http://judithcurry.com/2011/10/30/mail-on-best/

She does reiterate that: ‘I agree that the way the data is presented in the graph “hides the decline.”‘ and adds, “I thought the project was a great idea, and I still do, but it currently has a tarnish on it.  Lets see what we can do about this.”

Jeff Id has written a critique of the data processing algorithms:

Overconfidence Error in BEST

He writes in WUWT comments: “To be clear, I believe I have identified a specific mathematical error which will require a re-write of the CI portion of the methods paper.”


UPDATE2: 10/30/2011 10:20 AM PST Paul Clark of Woodfortrees completes his analysis of BEST data here. Outlier seems an appropriate description. He writes:

BEST and other land-only temperature data

I’ve now added the preliminary analysis data from the Berkeley Earth project – here is a smoothed plot of the whole dataset with overall and last 30-year trend:

BEST, smoothed with overall and 30-year trends

BEST is a land-only dataset, so for fair comparison I’ve also added a whole bunch of other land-only data from GISS, CRU, RSS and UAH. To compare these properly I did the same alignment to a common baseline as I did with the global baselines, fetching the means within the 1981-2011 UAH baseline:

Source Mean
BEST 0.60
CRUTEM3 0.40
RSS-land 0.14
UAH-land 0.00

Using these gives us the following comparison plot, rebased to UAH with 30 year trends:

Land temperature comparison 1981-2011, smoothed with trends

The trends from the data dump are as follows:

Source Trend °C/century
BEST 2.79
CRUTEM3 2.25
RSS-land 2.25
UAH-land 2.01

BEST still looks like an outlier here, even compared to other land-only datasets that show bigger trends than the land-ocean ones, which cluster around 1.5°C per century on a 30 year trend.


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Of course they missed it. They cannot possibly afford to notice and display it.


error estimates on those plots if you please !!
Yes, yes, I know they would dwarf the “average” — that IS the point.


Dr Muller.
The sound you hear ring in your ear is the S**t hitting the fan.
Was it worth it?

This has never been about data, or science. This is all been about politics and control. AGW is Lysenkoism.
Look it up.

Theo Goodwin

Muller is a Loose Cannon on Deck. There, I have said it for the umpteenth time. I am extremely pleased to read that Dr. Curry used the “hide the decline” line. Her name is on the paper with Muller. But she was not consulted and is faulting Muller for his pre-peer-review antics.

Anthony, do you honestly believe this is about the science. This has the reek of amateurish politics all over it. They do a media blitz with favorable outlets before peer review along with the purposeful intent of hamstringing the reviewers from comment.
By the time the fraud/incompetence is exposed, the damage is supposed to already be done with a false truth established in the minds of the general public. We skeptics are supposed to be behind the curve and put on the defensive. This is amateurish in that it is old school. Muller needs to crawl out from under his rock every now and then and take a look at the real world of information technology. They only damage he will succeed in doing is to his own reputation and tenure will be the only thing that keeps him his job.

mike g

I look at that temperature graph for Los Angeles and wonder how much of the portrayed 1ºC rise is do to UHI? I suspect more than 1ºC is. Puts a whole new perspective on climate-gate’s hide the decline, doesn’t it? Maybe the One Tree was right. Maybe we just have a hard time accepting what it tells us about the last 50 years?

Rob E

Holly Molly.

Or, he (they) knew they had results they didn’t like, and figured they get ahead of the game and unleash the propaganda early, hoping the truth would be obscured by the holiday season. Hey, when you’ve only got one shot, it’s best to get it off first. But they missed…..

Aw heck. The trolls were just starting to settle down, then a loose connection to the router, a bit of quiet, snow ten hours earlier than predicted here in Southern New England, and then THIS?

a jones

Ah Anthony what an exciting life you lead.
Not only a ringside seat at what promises to be a serious bout of Academic fisticuffs but one in which you have, to mix my metaphors, a dog in the fight.
Forget the work, sit back and enjoy.
Kindest Regards


Couldn’t happen to a nicer, more deserving guy.

Rhoda Ramirez

It’s been all about Durbin. If they could squeek the idea that the skeptics were wrong about station data until Durbin they won. After that, who would care if the graphs were proven to be junk or the articles were sunk under the weight of misinformation.

Paul Coppin

Poor Judy. Sleep with dogs, wake up with …


Now the BEST is worsening…..

Curtis J.

Erm, on the subject of misleading graphs… that graph from the Mail could be worse I guess. They put the 10 year flat line against the whole century’s temperature. The first impression, and the one they intend, is hockey stick versus flat temps. No call for that kind of misrepresentation.

Re Los Angeles cooling rapidly: it’s not just Los Angeles, but the entire U.S. West Coast, as shown in the NCDC data (link below). One can select State/Region as California, then Climate Division as 1, then 4, and then 6 (north coast, central coast, and south coast) and look at the rapid drop in the temperatures for the past 7 to 8 years. The same is true for selecting State/Region = Oregon and Climate Division = 1. Same is true for Washington State and Climate Division = 1. The average of all the West Coast regions is approximately a decline 10-11 deg C per century.
Seems that the colder Pacific Ocean and sea level decline is also affecting the land-based temperatures. Meanwhile, CO2 continues to rise and rise and rise.

Leon Brozyna

Just when things were quieting down and you thought it was safe to turn on the fan …


My hypothesis:
1. The surface temperature has arisen due mainly to urbanization.
2. Urbanization is approaching saturation these years, in many cities globally.
An example is Tokyo: its surface temp rose by ca. 3 degC from 1880-2000, but remains nearly flat thereafter.

Curtis J. says:
October 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm
Erm, on the subject of misleading graphs… that graph from the Mail could be worse I guess. They put the 10 year flat line against the whole century’s temperature. The first impression, and the one they intend, is hockey stick versus flat temps. No call for that kind of misrepresentation.
Curtis, these are news people…… they obviously don’t know any better or they wouldn’t have fell for the first graph….. as I recollect it ended in 2006 or some crap. This is why I know Muller doesn’t know his head from his …… And this is why we saw some of the alarmist pan his work. They couldn’t accept it. It was even more flawed and intentionally misleading than what they usually do. It was too obvious.
BTW, about 40 hrs ago……. http://suyts.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/best-proves-that-the-earth-is-warming/ I’m not saying……. I’m just sayin….. 🙂


This makes no sense to me. Muller’s no dummy and he’s rightly, and in my view bravely, made a public stink about Mann’s decline hiding antics. That he would leave himself open to a similar charge (from one of his own co-authors yet) boggles the mind.

I will now summarize the follow up stories by the liberal media including the UK Guardian, Washington Post, NY Times, etc. concerning this little bit of criticism of the veracity of the BEST study and the methods of the scientists involved.
There you have it.


Judy, Judy, Judy! Come to the dark side, we have cookies 🙂
Anthony get back to work and don’t read this!

Ben U.

Judith has nothing to be embarrassed about in a “lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” way. She made a good-faith cooperative effort of the kind that she stands for, and she has the gutsy honesty to call the results as she sees them. It’s Muller who has some splainin to do.
And yes, it does boggle the mind. I can’t help thinking that fuddlesome forces behind the scenes are turning the science into a sitcom.

Pablo an ex Pat

This is a side show to the actual main event, we have unusual deep early season snow in NYC and where’s Al Gore ?
I have no idea where he is but if he’s in the Big Apple this evening I’d say it’s game, set and match.


Muller is one scientist whose papers I won’t read anymore. I can’t say the same for Dr. Curry whose integrity is arching over the team of jackals that dominate this sport. I don’t envy her for the calamity now headed her way but she now has a special and unique place in climatology called the high ground.

Ryan Maue says:
October 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm
I will now summarize the follow up stories by the liberal media including the UK Guardian, Washington Post, NY Times, etc. concerning this little bit of criticism of the veracity of the BEST study and the methods of the scientists involved.
There you have it.
IDK, Ryan, it’s going to be hard for some of them. I don’t think Muller let them in on this little game he was playing. And, while I doubt that child writer for HuffPo (that kept deleting my profile) will back track, others may be a bit miffed. We’ll see.


I posted earlier that Dr.Curry would be wise to disassociate herself from Muller as her reputation would get spoiled if she stood with these liars. I’m glad she has come out and denounced Muller’s chicanery. It’s time that Muller gets his comeuppance and I hope that the papers get rejected in peer review.

Dan Pangburn

A simple equation based on the physical phenomena involved, with inputs of only sunspot number and ppmv CO2, calculates the average global temperatures (agt) since 1895 with 88.4% accuracy (87.9% if CO2 is assumed to have no influence). The equation, links to the source data, an eye-opening graph of the results and how they are derived are in the pdfs at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&linkbox=true (see especially the pdfs made public on 4/10/10, 3/10/11 and 9/24/11).
As shown in the 9/24/11 pdf, the equation accurately predicted the temperature trends for the last 20 years.
The future average global temperature trend that this equation calculates is down. The huge effective thermal capacitance of the oceans (about 30 times everything else) will cause the decline to be only about 0.13°C per decade. The decline may be as much as 0.22°C per decade if the sun goes really quiet.
This trend is corroborated by the growing separation between the rising CO2 and not-rising agt. From 2001 through September, 2011 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 23.7% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001 while the average global temperature has not increased. The 23.7% CO2 increase is the significant measurement, not the comparatively brief time period.
Without human caused global warming there can be no human caused climate change.


Wow! LA has cooled 3C since the mid-80’s. I believe it; our daughter was born in 1984 and it was the hottest year anyone could remember (the BEST LA data confirms it). Some anecdotal memories:
It was so hot in late September 1984 my wife and I drove one night from Tustin to Laguna Beach to get get relief from the hot weather. Didn’t help, it was 102F (39C) on the beach at midnight. She broke down in tears because it was as hot at the beach as it was at home. I remember people flocking to grocery stores and congregating in the frozen foods aisles to get relief from the heat outside.
Our daughter was born on Sept 23 ’84 and the climate here has been on a downhill slide since then. We have had year after year of progressively more “years without a summer”. Normally the LA area has an overcast and cool May and June locally called “June Gloom” where for weeks the sun doesn’t shine and temperatures are in the low ’60s (17C). Normally July brings an end to the cool marine overcast and brings sunny, hot days that last through October. The kind of weather Southern California is famous for.
Instead, “June Gloom” increasingly stretches into July, August and even September now. Temperatures are well below the climatic norms, -3C fits with my memories of summers gone by.
If the HADCRUT3 data is to believed, it is a world-wide phenomena and not just here in SoCal. The climate has cooled this century. It certainly has cooled a lot here in California since my now 27 year-old daughter was born.

Al Gored

“to have chosen this particular moment to launch a major international publicity blitz is a highly unethical sabotage of the peer review process.’
With the best informed critics gagged, “unethical”barely describes it.
Who would buy a used car from such people, let alone a used climate theory?
Judith Curry is a hero.

David Ball

Must have been a large window in Mullers office for all that credibility to fly out at once, ……..
Malice or incompetence, neither is acceptable.

David Ball

By the way, did anyone see Muller on Bill Shatner’s show, Weird or What?


Well, this seems to me to be an attempt on the part of Muller to “get ahead of the story”. Had the data been released without comment and coaching, the story would eventually have been “no global warming for the past decade”. To minimize that happening, you play a very well-known propaganda game.
What you do is widely disseminate information very early that says the study basically “confirms” global warming and you do that to very powerful media outlets. So everyone hears on the news at the top of the hour on the local traffic report station during their drive in to work that the BEST study “confirms” global warming. Now this comes out. It, of course, will get zero media attention or it might be buried on page 63 of a paper. It will not be broadcast on the top of the hour news broadcast during commute hour on the traffic report station. So if you ask someone six months from now what the BEST study showed, if they remember, they will say it “confirmed” global warming when in fact it did the opposite.
It looks to me like Muller knew what was in those data and consulted with someone on how to game the media to minimize the impact of it. I wonder who he consulted with as this is a fairly slick game that most academics wouldn’t know how to play. He was coached on exactly how to do this, in my opinion, and coached by someone with a lot of media savvy and connections with all the “right” people. I smell a rat.


The fact that the second lead author claims the lead author is – well – fabricating the results – tends to destroy the consensus.
Plus 0ne for Judith.


the sound you hear ring in your ear is the S**t hitting the fan.

Nope. I doubt there will be any discernible sound at all in the major US media. They will be dead silent on this discovery because it is counter to their agenda.


I believe I already pointed to the site of Muller & Associates , which will make money if AGW is true and lose it if it is false, and then there is this post showing that Muller is not now and never has been a “skeptic” (titled “WaPo’s “skeptic” actually has backed global warming for 30 years”). Then there is this from the site you pointed to “The BEST project, which has been lavishly funded”.
Follow the benjamins.

Doug in Seattle

“It is puzzling that they missed it.”

I suspect Muller didn’t miss the lack of trend over the last 10 years.
I also suspect he is playing a clever game with the press. And perhaps even testing the skeptics. Not sure what games are being played, but I think it is interesting that the RC crowd is moving quickly away from him.
I think we need to sit back and wait a while longer before this plays out.


Dr. Curry has guts and integrity. I extend a grateful congratulations for her courage. She must have been embarrassed by this skullduggery to say the least.


“The oceans do not heat as much as the land because it absorbs more of the heat
Is he saying that the oceans are cooler because they “absorb” more heat (and therefore remove it)?


Our daughter was born on Sept 23 ’84 and the climate here has been on a downhill slide since then.

We are saved! We have solved global warming! Don’t mind us as we tramp through your house at all hours focusing all kinds of annoying scientifical(ish) instruments on your diughter to see exactly how she does it. Or may she doesn’t, maybe it’s you.
Heck, now we can make all the CO2 we want! Weee!


Ventner said:

It’s time that Muller gets his comeuppance and I hope that the papers get rejected in peer review.

You misspelled pal review.


dp says:
October 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm
Muller is one scientist whose papers I won’t read anymore. I can’t say the same for Dr. Curry whose integrity is arching over the team of jackals that dominate this sport. I don’t envy her for the calamity now headed her way but she now has a special and unique place in climatology called the high ground.
Imo, Dr. Curry is saving her self! In a good way. I was trying to tell her here way back when she first came on WUWT that she had a choice and to make this kind of choice, if she was capable of perceiving it, and for her own good, but have no idea how it actually happened. But you could see it happening! Starting her own blog and persisting was big. I do think her interaction here with Willis was very important and with Steve McIntyre going further back. High quality, straight shooters.
Now this! She was obviously already out of the fold, but Muller thought he could sucker her. Wrong!


There is nothing inappropriate about the graphs printed by the Mail
They were illustrating what BEST hid. BEST printed the 100 yr timeline graph in their paper. The Mail replicated that graph. With the second graph, the Mail is showing the inconvenient truth that is hidden by BEST’s choosing to only display the data at that scale. The Mail demonstrates that by showing the detail of the last ten years. This is no different than showing a blow-up of the post 1960 period on Mann’s graphs, to demonstrate how “Mike’s Nature Trick” worked to hide the decline by tucking a truncation behind small scale spaghetti.

Oh No, it’s worse than I thought…for Prof. Muller that is!


Andy Revkin ran a thread cheering on the BEST papers on his NYTimes Dot Earth blog. I posted notice of the Mail interview with Judith Curry and challenged him to contact her and start a separate thread based on her comments. It has not cleared moderation yet but it is very early in the morning where he lives. IIRC, he lives in a semi-rural area outside of NYC and is probably experiencing some mid-fall global warming.


Rearcher bias is alive and well.

Bad Manners

You’ve got to love the introductory paragraph from Muller & Associates home page:
“Muller & Associates bridges knowledge gaps to demystify complex technical issues so that clients can make educated decisions. We are able to quickly cut through the “sales talk” and help our clients select the best option for their specific needs.”
( http://www.mullerandassociates.com/ )
Enough said!!!!!!!!!!!


I suggested the lag time effect of solar cycles on planetary climate what seems a lifetime ago, but I was wondering, how is that study going?
The recent early snow storms in the North East seem to be evidence of it.

Jeff D

Sanity at last.
Now I wonder if the world will ever hear it.
The framers of our Constitution missed an item. We have separation of Church and State, they needed to add Separation of Science and State.