Global warming 'confirmed' by independent study

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

Related Stories

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.

Follow Richard on Twitter


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • Comment number 197.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    I do have to say though to those here quoting that 97% of CO2 is natural.

    That may be the case but that extra 3% of man made CO2 might be all that it takes to throw the cycle out of balance.

    Just like it's that last pint down the pub that get's you drunk when you forget the fact that you've been drinking all afternoon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    So the graph shows an increase in 150 years of nearly 1.5c. So what if the temperature is rising. This is just a normal blip in the rise and fall of the earth's natural temperature gradient and, so far, no proof has been shown which places man at the centre of this rise. When the met office cannot predict what the weather is like in a week's time, how can they tell us what will happen in 50 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Fact: We burn fossil fuels, which are mostly made from vegetable matter which bound atmospheric CO2 millions of years ago, when the whole earth was much warmer.

    Fact: Burning fossil fuel releases the CO2 which was trapped at that time.

    Fact: This has the effect of returning atmospheric CO2 levels to the same level as million of years ago when the earth was much warmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Re the comments on population control - what right do we in the rich countries have to demand that poorer countries have fewer children? Who made us the world's police?

    Strange how the greens seem to be more draconian than the rest of us: demanding that we stop flying, driving etc. Next they'll say that culling the population is a good idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    "Sidney Monroe
    CO2 in the atmosphere = 0.032 per cent."

    Please read:

    Arguing that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are too small to matter is not an argument any "sceptic" scientist uses.

    "With scientists who told us the Maldives vanished six years ago. Right."

    Please cite any peer reviewed scientific paper that ever predicted that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    I agree with those who say we should do something about pollution even if AGW is utter nonsense. But unfortunately many of them are so politically correct they say also say we can't do anything about overpopulation, which is the biggest problem facing the world. And how many of them take a bag out with them to pick up litter?

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    What these findings show above all else is the vindication of the erstwhile scientists at UEA who clearly were NOT making their data up or any other silly nonsense. All the accusations and deceit can be laid at the door of the evermore vociferous deniers who want 'business as usual' at whatever cost to our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Unfortunately most people demand absolute proof and science can rarely deliver absolute proof.
    Balance of probability, allied to peer review, allied to weight of evidence.
    A little greenhouse effect is a very good thing, runaway greenhouse effect will kill us all, just look at our near neighbour, the planet Venus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Can anyone hazard a guess as to how accurate the weather recordings were during the 1800's and early part of the 1900's. From what I have read they were very haphazard - and that's being kind. I don't doubt global temperatures are rising but no one up to now can link the rise to the activities of mankind. Go figure. At least King Canute admitted he couldn't stop the tide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Haven't we been told this before? Then, weren't we told that it's actually getting colder? Now, we're being told it's getting warmer again? I think the powers that be should decide which story serves their agenda best, and stick with it. It's all tosh anyway. The earth as been heating and cooling for millenia, long before the industrial revolution. Climate change is not man made!

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    The issues surrounding climate change will always be open to debate due to the time frames involved. Sceptics will continue to try and disprove the fact that the planet is warming due to human activities causing the release of GHG. However, the socila, economic & environmnetal cost of climate change will increase over time resulting in poor living conditions for millions of people

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    'Vested interests' don't give a cuss for anything but profits - they don't care for their own children so I wouldn't expect anything but a repetition of this OLD news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    @161 old person
    'If this were only presented in terms of conservation of resources and control of pollution I doubt anyone would have a problem with it

    Instead it is a pseudo-moral crusade of the Left with the RIght in their trench opposite'

    Agreed, we need more sensible old people like yourself

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Whether the increase is man made or not. Whether the time scale of measurement is reflective of historical climatic change is also a moot point. Ok!
    But how do we reduce human population? Clearly we are buggering up the planet and breeding beyond what is sustainable in a finite world. Where are the politicians offering solutions? Why does the elephant keep getting bigger whilst being ignored?

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    This study was NOT rubbish. But Richard Black is WRONG to say that Skeptics do not believe the world has warmed - most DO. There was and still is criticism for not making data available to check - no due diligence. It is notable that the graph does not continue to show the lack of rise in temperature since 2002 - in fact there has been slight cooling. Visit Dr Curry's site for a balanced appraisal

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Plain and simple fact is that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is higher than at any point since the early Cenozoic. It is much higher than at any point in the Holocene and still rising.

    the climate change doubters won't be happy untill we are drowning in flash floods and evacuating the soon to be inundated coast lines...........

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    "Sidney Monroe
    This is the sort of highly scientific approach we have come to expect from the warmist lobby."

    And your scientific credentials derive from where, exactly? The "warmists" have a mass of evidence and explnanations founded on fundamental physical principles. You contrarians have a set of soundbites, rhetorical arguments and a resistance to facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I am still not totally convinced about mans input into this problem, one huge volcanic eruption would produce more troublesome gasses than the entire global man made output since man evolved. There is too much polictical/fiscal hype, governments make money with nonsense based 'green' taxes. However there is far too much theoretical context than will fit in this box!

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    It's pretty obvious to anyone with even half a brain that the earth's climate fluctuates naturally throughout history, primarily between ice ages approximately every 50,000 years. The 'fact' (and I use the term loosely) that the climate may have warmed 1 degree in the last 50 years is essentially irrelevant, and there is certainly no evidence that this is anything to do with human activity.


Page 45 of 54


More Science & Environment stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.