2011-02-13 18:40:31Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project
John Brookes


WUWT has a post about the Berkely Earth Surface Temperature project.  It seems that Anthony has been involved in setting this up, and that at least one well known skeptic (Judith Curry) is on board.  However, the aims of this group seem good.  What is interesting at WUWT is that a lot of the skeptics are very much against the project.  Its like a split between those who are interested in data, and those who have made up their minds and don't want any more data.

2011-02-13 19:16:01spelling

"Berkely" => "Berkeley"
2011-02-13 20:01:49Interesting
James Wight


It will be interesting to see what they come up with. They certainly seem to have a “lukewarm” bias but that doesn’t necessarily affect their methods.

I have heard of Richard Muller before – in the 1980s he came up with a theory that the Sun has a dark companion star which periodically disturbs the orbits of comets so they enter the solar system and hit the Earth, causing mass extinctions. This is actually more plausible than it sounds – binary star systems are not unusual and there are dark “brown dwarf stars” which are sort of failed stars. But at this point it is very unlikely that even a dark companion star to the Sun could have gone unnoticed. If I recall correctly Muller has accordingly moved on.

It seems pretty myopic of him to say everything hinges on the data he is analyzing. I think we would have noticed global warming with or without thermometers – from the melting ice in nearly all parts of the globe, increasing ocean heat content, increasing humidity, migrating species, etc.

2011-02-13 23:19:10


I know of Rich Muller from Berkeley. He was a protegé of Luis Alvarez.

He's a good physicist, a bit self-aggrandizing: but not abnormally so.

2011-02-14 02:33:30comment
Robert Way

This project will be the best surface temperature record I'm guessing. They're incorporating much more data and the appropriate methods. They are using Roman M's temperature reconstruction method which is vastly superior to any of the others (slightly better than Tamino's). Oddly enough RomanM's method was used to show that hadley reduces the warming that is actually there. This will certainly be a vindication of all the things we have said before about 1998.
2011-02-14 06:59:28

Not that I'm against the study of new and better methods to come up with a global surface temperature dataset, but I have a few problems with this project.

- it generically states that criticisms have been risen on the current methods without saying a word on the validity of these criticisms. This implicitly means that there are good reasons to suspect that current datasets are in some way biased. Indeed, it has been interpreted in this way at WUWT.

- they're trying to keep as many records as they can, records that have been rejected before because of their shortness or other reliability issues. A larger number of stations by itself does not garantee better quality. But in their short summary of the project they introduce a weighting function which in turn depends on an uncertainty term which "would incorporate weights based on the reliability of the station and the changes it exhibits". If I understand it correctly, they will end up with a larger uncertainty despite the larger number of stations.

- in their criticism they ignore that there's not just GISS and NOOA. They do not mention the japanese, the europeans, UAH, RSS and the various reanalisys, apart from saying that GISS, HAdley and NOOA use gridding while they don't.

- As far as we know, Muller has talked with Watt but not with the other people who provide the other datasets. Not sure about this, we'll probably know soon.

- apparently the only climatologist in the group is Judith Curry, the others are statisticians and physicists. This means that they think the community unable to correctly deal with the temperature record.

- on one side they criticize the political bias of the scientists, on the other they are not just proposing a new method to analize the station records but they're explicitly backing the "third side" of the debate, the lukewarmers.

In the end, I do not expect anything good from this story.

2011-02-15 06:19:58



FWIW, it's my distinct impression that Rich Muller is very much linked in to the mainstream scientific establishment. I doubt that he will do anything that another legitimate scientist could later point to as a methodological error.

2011-02-15 09:20:53CP
Dana Nuccitelli

Romm makes a pretty good case to the contrary, neal.   Apparently Muller is in the "hockey stick is broken" group.  And this project has gotten funding from the Koch brothers, which is a really, really bad sign.  Not to mention that Curry is the only climate scientist involved, and has said that she's barely done anything for the project.

I have to agree with Riccardo - I don't expect anything good to come out of this.

2011-02-15 10:54:16


As I recall, Muller's politics are a little to the right for Berkeley, and this would incline him to the skeptical end (based on our already well-discussed connection between skepticism and political conservatism). However, conducting a study is different than having an opinion, or even than putting together a book on some topic: I think the discipline of doing that will fix some problems.

Another point is that they're going to have to make everything super-available, so someone should be able to access and re-analyze for different assumptions. 

I think it will be a net good; maybe there will be some controversial moments. My bet is that, although Muller's basic attitude is "cowboy," he will care more about getting the answer right than supporting his political preferences - particularly when he knows that people will be looking over his shoulder.

2011-02-15 17:56:38

neal, your is just a hope and the personal trust in Muller. I didn't know anything about him when I wrote my comment and the facts I list tell another story.
2011-02-15 18:14:14


In the end, we have to hope that not everyone just caves in to their political leanings. The progress of science works on the basis of human incentives and weakness, not just in their absence; in that way, it is kind of like capitalism. I believe Muller will prefer that his career contain the "definitive" study of the global temperature trajectory, not just the one that confused the issue the longest. 

Well, we shall see.


2011-02-16 03:31:28I don't buy the disapproval
Robert Way

I disagree with some of the assessments here. I don't really care who does the combination whether they be a skeptic or a proponent to be honest. The answer is ultimately the most important thing in all this and they will get the best answer. The incorporation of more data, making the Matlab code available and using the best station combination method will give the best answer.

I read through the methods and have contacted the authors and I feel safe in assuming that they will get a good result. Lets remember that RomanM is the one who developed their station combination method, he is a skeptic and he found that Hadley underpredicts the warming and his method showed more warming than most when using the mathematically correct terms.
2011-02-16 04:00:16


Hey Robert, we finally agree about something!