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 437.

    The world's population estimated at almost 7billion? How many trillions have been pumped into the world's banks with no 'phyical' or tangible return for Earth's future?

    If only 7billion trees were planted for every person on Earth everyday for a year - in all the most vulnerable places first, it would be a step in the right direction?

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    I find it stunning that people are still so ignorant about the changes that they (yes they, it is everyone's responsibility) are causing to our planet. Is it simply denial or genuine stupidity, the data is there, what more does it take?

    The data is indeed there. The problem is that you haven't read where it came from, or what the "scientists" did to it. I have. It is shocking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Already I do not beleive this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    Imagine you are told tomorrow that evidence suggests environmental factors MAY be putting your child at greater risk of cancer. The evidence is not remotely precise however the experts think that making a few lifestyle changes could reduce the risk. What would you do?? Silly question huh? I don't know what to believe but I'll keep cycling, recycling and not eating meat until I know for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Plus the term now used is 'climate change'. 'Global warming' was popular ten years ago"

    Yet the Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change was formed in 1988, so it has been known as "climate change" for rather longer than you think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    @413.David Horton

    That's the spirit, David. When life gives you lemons, and all that. You're one of the lucky ones, though. My house will still be ages from the sea. Are you sure it's only 90ft? Oh, well, best continue being used to inland food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    "Andrew Morton
    Nor can I understand why the UK Government has scuppered the proposed carbon-capture scheme for Longannet in Fife."

    The sceptics tend to use examples like this to say "the policies to address AGW won't work, so AGW must be wrong". That's a bogus argument.

    However, it may well be true that in the near term policies and technologies may not work. But let's debate those.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    The Earth does not rotate the Sun in a perfect circle. It has periods when it is closer and periods when further away. Why do these self serving Climte scientists discount the biggest heat source in our solar system? Most people fully agree the Earth's tempereture constanly changes, it is the imput of Man on that change that creates the debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Surely you don't really think that the feeble human race can compete with nature's ability to maintain a chemical balance and allow life to survive.
    What makes you think there is such a thing called 'nature' that's holding a balance, and that if there is, that it wants 'life' to survive? Climate's cyclical, and by our stupidity we're probably speeding-up a warming cycle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    @396 TMR

    Scientists are just people, just people. That's all. They have all the flaws of people, blind belief, arrogance, herd mentality, greed, emotionality - there are no 'Scientists' actually ... humans are not actually objective by nature.

    Can you deny any of that ? It's not rational to deny it.

    Science in this era is guided not by faith, but by Money.

    Science is a Big Money Game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    When I was in school we were taught that the Earth naturally goes through a warming/cooling cycle.

    Then politicians realised they could use this to guilt trip people into paying more taxes.

    So now schools teach that it's "man made".

    Ka-ching! Quids in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    #395 justageezer

    you're spot on, in fact there is a name for the behaviour of many sceptic's, it's called the dunning-kruger effect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    And there's no such thing as global warming or Disney land and Mother Goose, no nursery rhymes.
    And God didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summer time.
    But boy, there’s sure wishful thinking and day dreaming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    "There has always been climate change - it's called WEATHER" . John Shropshire, may I suggest you search Google for Meteorology 101, and then do a bit of reading. These are long term trends. We have GOOD data for many decades now. And a reasonably good ability to speculate past climates. Put these two together and you can evaluate changes in climate. This has nothing to do with WEATHER at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Has this project been peer reviewed? Which scientific journal was it published in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    @John shropshire.

    No. Weather is refers to DAY-TO-DAY changes in our atmosphere. This is a debate about climate... You don't need a scientist to tell you that, just a dictionary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    I'm an athiest and I accept the world is warming up. I don't accept that we are the reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    The Berkeley group is the source of this story. That group is funded by the US government and its conclussions are what you would expect from the US government. Global firms are making astronomical profits from the climate change scaremongering. Humans are doing nothing to the planet that the planet has not done to itself repeatedly for millions of years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    Climate change has been going on for millions of years, and will surely continue for the rest of the life of the planet. We never used to have as much oxygen as we now have for example. man made? Who really knows, but when we talk of saving the planet aren't we just really wanting to save man? Most species to have ever existed are extinct; that is ultimately our fate too. Sorry, but it's true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Colonel Gadaffi's gold gun is the latest example of ridiculous indulgence and misbehaviour.

    As long as wasteful luxuries are measured as real achievements then there will be no proper policies to tackle climate change.

    Big ego, greed, and boasting are the main obstacles in the way of sensible progress.


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