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:
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:
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:
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 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:
Using these gives us the following comparison plot, rebased to UAH with 30 year trends:
The trends from the data dump are as follows:
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.