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 397.

    I don't think this study will make much difference to climate denier's because they're not really interested in scientific evidence.
    The rest of us have to move on and start holding governments to account for failing to meet their targets rather than simply paying lip-service to green issues or cynically using it as justification for an expansion nuclear power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    " rideforever
    Scientists are people.
    That's the problem.
    They also need funding and have families to feed."

    Scientists do not get funded for flawed research; they do not win Nobel prizes by supporting a false orthodoxy; they get funded for fields that are uncertain (so claiming false certainty works against them). Above all they can make much more money in other careers needing their skills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Wow - sceptics on the comments thread! A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest - talk about willful ignorance! "I'm not a scientist but I don't agree with the scientists so they must be (scientifically) wrong". Er... you are simply advertising your stupidity and prejudices :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    383. ProfPhoenix
    And I thought that global warming had been scientifically proved, settled and beyond dispute. Why waste money proving the obvious? Move on.
    You thought wrong. Plus the term now used is 'climate change'. 'Global warming' was popular ten years ago when Britain had red-hot summers. Given the past few damp summers & freezing winters its not a convincing term any more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    In just the same way that Man has an impact on the planet, so too do animals and plants. The Earth beneath our feet also has an impact. I'm actually more concerned about the effects of a massive volcanic eruption which can decimate the planet within a few weeks with it's toxic gases and ash clouds than Man's feeble attempts to do the same with car exhausts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    358. ProfPhoenix

    ... over 2000 people in the UK are dying because of inadequate heating.


    Are they really? Any proof to back up that absurd claim. Copies of death certificates would do.

  • Comment number 391.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Please can we not see politicians using this survey as an excuse to increase taxes. I'm all for changing our behaviour to reduce polution of all types - self evidently a good thing - but it won't happen by making us poorer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    how nice of the koch brothers to finance the research that will silence the rational sceptics.

    clearly there are still many irrational sceptics out there in whatsupland but hopefully they too will come to their sense eventually.

    i would say it's time to direct our efforts to building a greener global economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    The simple fact is that fossil fuels are a finite resource. We are going to burn every last ounce that we can, whatever the greenies say. The choice is not one of burn it or don't burn it. It is just burn it in fifty years or burn it in a hundred. In the millions of years this planet has supported life, and will continue to do so, fifty years is nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    I think most people (sceptic or not) can agree that global warming exists. The question is how much humans are causing this, with sceptics refusing to act until we are proven beyond doubt to be responsible.
    Surely the onus should be on the sceptics to prove that we are not responsible, whilst proper precautions are taken, by governments and individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Is there a reason why the x axis ends around 2004?

    Kurt in Switzerland

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    This is almost a nothing article. Most climate experts agree that the Earth is warming (we have only recently - in Earth terms - come out of a very cold period). The problem is that climate change is natural. The temp of the Earth goes up and down all the time. What this will be used to do is say that its humans that are making this happen when there is no proven link.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    I think some folks should read this article again.

    But for those who didn't get it - the report was funded by skeptics.

    So what we will have now is an acceptance of climate change, but a denial of the causes.

    My message to all those people who do not know who to believe on climate change - read this book!!!!

    Lovelock, James (2009). The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    And I thought that global warming had been scientifically proved, settled and beyond dispute. Why waste money proving the obvious? Move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Some scientists, looking at climate throughout history, solar maxima/minima etc. conclude we are almost overdue for another ice age. Could some of these greenhouse gases now be holding off the glaciers once more advancing as far south as Watford?

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    I must confess i am bit of a sceptic myself, i am comfortable with the idea that Nature is capable of balancing the act herself. Having said that I have been eyewitness to significant warming of urban areas when the green belt in them have been destroyed in the name of "development". Bangalore in India is a shocking example, Nature is capable of curing itself, but we need to give it a chance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    @Skye (368): We can't all investigate every scientific claim from first principles. So we rely on trained experts to do it for us. We rely on other trained experts to pick their data and methods apart, and to replicate results. Once that's been done a clear pattern emerges. That's how I decide what to believe. So Skye: how do you decide?

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Global warming saves lives, eh moderators."

    Is it right to make life unbearable for peoples in tropical and low lying areas (even around the Med) so that we can "save" 2000 people a year, when we could save them via better insulation and other policies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Sceptics out there, yes temp variation is a natural process, what isn't so 'natural' is the speed at which change is taking place. Other graphs out there show the changes over the last 1000+ years, you will see the fluctuations but in the last 200 or so years there has been a massive spike.


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