Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

Weather station at airport Weather stations are giving a true picture of global warming, the group found

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The Earth's surface really is getting warmer, a new analysis by a US scientific group set up in the wake of the "Climategate" affair has concluded.

The Berkeley Earth Project has used new methods and some new data, but finds the same warming trend seen by groups such as the UK Met Office and Nasa.

The project received funds from sources that back organisations lobbying against action on climate change.

"Climategate", in 2009, involved claims global warming had been exaggerated.

Emails of University of East Anglia (UEA) climate scientists were hacked, posted online and used by critics to allege manipulation of climate change data.

Fresh start

The Berkeley group says it has also found evidence that changing sea temperatures in the north Atlantic may be a major reason why the Earth's average temperature varies globally from year to year.

Saul Perlmutter The group includes physicist Saul Perlmutter, a Nobel Prize winner this year

The project was established by University of California physics professor Richard Muller, who was concerned by claims that established teams of climate researchers had not been entirely open with their data.

He gathered a team of 10 scientists, mostly physicists, including such luminaries as Saul Perlmutter, winner of this year's Nobel Physics Prize for research showing the Universe's expansion is accelerating.

Funding came from a number of sources, including charitable foundations maintained by the Koch brothers, the billionaire US industrialists, who have also donated large sums to organisations lobbying against acceptance of man-made global warming.

Start Quote

Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously”

End Quote Richard Muller Berkeley group founder

"I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data," Prof Muller told BBC News.

"Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared."

The group's work also examined claims from "sceptical" bloggers that temperature data from weather stations did not show a true global warming trend.

The claim was that many stations have registered warming because they are located in or near cities, and those cities have been growing - the urban heat island effect.

The Berkeley group found about 40,000 weather stations around the world whose output has been recorded and stored in digital form.

It developed a new way of analysing the data to plot the global temperature trend over land since 1800.

What came out was a graph remarkably similar to those produced by the world's three most important and established groups, whose work had been decried as unreliable and shoddy in climate sceptic circles.

graph The Berkeley group's record of global land temperature mirrors existing ones closely

Two of those three records are maintained in the US, by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).

The third is a collaboration between the UK Met Office and UEA's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), from which the e-mails that formed the basis of the "Climategate" furore were hacked two years ago.

"Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK," said Prof Muller.

"This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions."

Since the 1950s, the average temperature over land has increased by 1C, the group found.

They also report that although the urban heat island effect is real - which is well-established - it is not behind the warming registered by the majority of weather stations around the world.

They also showed that in the US, weather stations rated as "high quality" by Noaa showed the same warming trend as those rated as "low quality".

'Time for apology'

Prof Phil Jones, the CRU scientist who came in for the most personal criticism during "Climategate", was cautious about interpreting the Berkeley results because they have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"I look forward to reading the finalised paper once it has been reviewed and published," he said.

Professor Phil Jones The findings so far provide validation for Phil Jones, targeted during the "Climategate" affair

"These initial findings are very encouraging, and echo our own results and our conclusion that the impact of urban heat islands on the overall global temperature is minimal."

The Berkeley team has chosen to release the findings initially on its own website.

They are asking for comments and feedback before preparing the manuscripts for formal scientific publication.

In part, this counters the accusation made during "Climategate" that climate scientists formed a tight clique who peer-reviewed each other's papers and made sure their own global warming narrative was the only one making it into print.

But for Richard Muller, this free circulation also marks a return to how science should be done.

"That is the way I practised science for decades; it was the way everyone practised it until some magazines - particularly Science and Nature - forbade it," he said.

"That was not a good change, and still many fields such as string theory practice the traditional method wholeheartedly."

This open "wiki" method of review is regularly employed in physics, the home field for seven of the 10 Berkeley team.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the warming of the Earth's surface was unequivocal.

"So-called 'sceptics' should now drop their thoroughly discredited claims that the increase in global average temperature could be attributed to the impact of growing cities," he said.

"More broadly, this study also proves once again how false it was for 'sceptics' to allege that the e-mails hacked from UEA proved that the CRU land temperature record had been doctored.

"It is now time for an apology from all those, including US presidential hopeful Rick Perry, who have made false claims that the evidence for global warming has been faked by climate scientists."

Ocean currents

The Berkeley group does depart from the "orthodox" picture of climate science in its depiction of short-term variability in the global temperature.

The El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is generally thought to be the main reason for inter-annual warming or cooling.

But by the Berkeley team's analysis, the global temperature correlates more closely with the state of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index - a measure of sea surface temperature in the north Atlantic.

There are theories suggesting that the AMO index is in turn driven by fluctuations in the north Atlantic current commonly called the Gulf Stream.

The team suggests it is worth investigating whether the long-term AMO cycles, which are thought to last 65-70 years, may play a part in the temperature rise, fall and rise again seen during the 20th Century.

But they emphasise that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) driven by greenhouse gas emissions is very much in their picture.

"Had we found no global warming, then that would have ruled out AGW," said Prof Muller.

"Had we found half as much, it would have suggested that prior estimates [of AGW] were too large; if we had found more warming, it would have raised the question of whether prior estimates were too low.

"But we didn't; we found that the prior rise was confirmed. That means that we do not directly affect prior estimates."

The team next plans to look at ocean temperatures, in order to construct a truly global dataset.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Most scientists accept that warming since ~1970 is attributable to man-made causes, i.e. CO2 and other particulate emissions. The tracking of CO2 emissions with temperature rise is compelling. Many models taking into account all man-made and non-man-made effects bear this out. Skeptics first attack the data, now they will attack the models, until there's nothing left to attack but logic itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Well what a shock!! NOT - we keep concreting over the earths surface, drill holes in the earth to extract whatever we feel like. Duh its not rocket science to realise whats wrong. Everyone wants to tarmac or cover their drives, gardens, build new houses etc. The earth must resemble swiss cheese and we expect everything to stay the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    People its only a look at 200 years! In the classical era and medieval era the climate was much more unstable in europe! It was easily hot enough in England to grow grapes and in the winter it was snow covered the entire time. The earth is always going through temperature fluxes, ice ages and/or global warming is inevitable regardless of our Co2 outlet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    It is no coincidence that those organisations funding the climate sceptics are those with most to lose with the acceptance than man is causing the problem (e.g. Exxon).

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Everyone accepts the Earth is warming what needs to be understood is why. Is down to 'greenhouse' gases or part of much bigger climite cycle that we do not yet understand.
    This report does little to help move the debate forward except I suspect it will be sued to justify more 'green' taxes

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    So it's warming - BUT this does not PROVE that the warming is anything whatsoever to do with anything that man is doing: that must be remembered. The charlatans that say it's warming so it is ONLY due only to man-made CO2 need to justify their (outlandish) claims! Further they need to justify that reducing MM CO2 WILL certainly reduce the temperature. ( I'm a solar radiation as cause myself.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    greed = hunger for fossil fuel = invade countries for oil/waste money on wars = burn more fossil fuel = the governments get richer, the rest get recession and we all destroy the earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Humankind may possess a degree of intelligence, but greed and envy have alway been a much bigger motivator of our actions. This I fear is why we will act too little and too late in the face of over riding evidence from science, our own observations and pure common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    This won't shift the position of climate change denialists - you can't, through reason, evidence or logic, change the mind of people who reached their conclusions for illogical or dogmatic reasons

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    A quick look at WUWT dispels any AGW credence attached to the Berkeley Earth Project.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Maybe now we can get back to discussing the real question of whether there is anything that we can actually do about it. Frankly, I think we have left it far too late and we would be better off planning on how to live in a warmer world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The critics are already lining up to bash the scientists who used "biased analysis and misinterpreted data". In other words, they prefer their own prejudices over carefully conducted and overseen work. They probably believe the earth is flat, too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    gironaut "Some people will dismiss this data. Either because they have a Political agenda or possibly because they are dysfunctional idiots who can't read a graph, or listen to the opinion of someone with scientific qualifications who actually studies climate data."

    I dont find your argument very scientific. More the rantings of a primitive zealot .

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Unfortunately climate change reports have been contaminated by governments who have seen it as a way of raising taxes and I could even believe that funding was only given providing reports supported government action. Let science get on with the job and let us understand the facts before making political decision although I still believe that we should still treat mother earth with respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    "Weather stations are giving a true picture of global warming, the group found"

    Especially those, like the one illustrated, that are actually IN a jet exhaust.!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The climate is changing, as it has been doing since before human beings existed and as it will be doing after they've gone. We're in a period of warming now, coming out of an ice age. Eventually there'll be a cooling. It's natural, it's the climate.

    Humans being responsible for climate change is just a way of aristocratic, freemason MP's and MEP's getting more money from the peasants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Global warming, in my mind, isn't in doubt. There's enough independent research to back up claims.

    The bigger question, however, is why. Its easy to blame pollution but Earth's temperature has fluctuated to greater degrees for millions of years.

    I'm not saying it's definately not emissions, but I'm not convinced just yet. There is, after all, lots of money to be made in 'green technology'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    This seems like conclusive data. However, the whole business proves that a great many of us, possibly even a majority, find it impossible to understand complex issues and frequently just replace evidence with wishful thinking. Ignorance can be very seductive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.


    Wrong way round, the earth used to be a giant fireball in space...

    are you related to Lord Monckton by any chance ?


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