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 917.

    'A good example is Norwegian Nobel Laureate Ivar Giaever recently left the American Physical Society due to it's stance on global warming being 'incontrovertible' (i.e. not to be disputed). I wonder why the BBC didn't cover that story?'

    Er, because he's a mechanical engineer turned materials scientist who knows as much about climate as I do about golf (which is not a lot).

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    If it wasn't for 'climate change' I wouldn't be getting paid large sums of money to produce solar power.

    May the sun always shine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    call me niave on this subject but isnt prevention better then cure? if it does prove down the line that we have accerlerated global warming its going to be harder to tackle then rather then now. but i suppose if i owned a fossil fuel company & earning lots of pound notes i wouldnt give a monkeys either way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    900.Total Mass Retain
    10 Minutes ago
    "Vladimir Tepes
    858.Sidney Monroe
    How about the Millennium Bug.

    I worked helping to sort that one out."

    I'd love to see a computer is actually affected. No-one has ever produced one Italy spent vitrually nothing on ''sorting out' the Millennium Bug. Funny, but it didn't seem to affect their computers either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    Re 897. nickjs
    "Most of the last 10,000 years has been hotter than now."

    I don't think that is the case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    "nieuw divil
    Th only thing that is warming the planet is the flatulence masquerading as scientific arguments being spouted by all the tree huggers."

    So, you are saying that the known laws of physics are wrong? You know, the very same laws of physics from whose knowledge has produced the massive leaps forward in living standards and economic prosperity you talk about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    897. nickjs

    If you were truly a scientist you would be taking your views from peer reviewed primary science or trustworthy sources that depended on it, not conspiracy theory bloggers and sources that have nothing to do with the research in question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    This study is simply one more in a long chain of propaganda and was released without peer review. This is just another whitewash of "climategate" by self-interest groups who rely on the billions of taxpayer funded gravy -train grants that are dished out each year in the name of man-made catastrophic global warming.

    Donna Laframboise's book reveals how reviews like the above are conducted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    The only thing that is warming the planet is the flatulence masquerading as scientific arguments being spouted by all the tree huggers.

    Let's ignore these idiots and get on with the serious job of developing our economies and thereby increasing propserity and improving the lives of the human population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    Robert@891. You are absolutely correct in that it is not the atmospheric temperatures which are important, but the deep sea temperatures. Incredible amounts of Methane Hydrate (a super-greenhouse gas) are locked away on the ocean floor. A 2 million square km volcanic event (the Siberian traps) warmed the ocean enough to release this, causing the Permian extinction, wiping out 80% of life on earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    I think one must accept the evidence that global temperatures are rising. However, I cannot yet be convinced that human activity is a significant contributor, or that reducing man-made CO2 will have any impact (probably impossible anyway given rising fossil fuel burning by developing nations like China). So let's plan for continuing temperature increases, because we won't prevent them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    @882, jasonsceptic..

    You dogmatically state, "A couple of days ago it was basically proven that the ozone hole is driven by temperature, and that cfc's may have been a red herring."

    Yea? Please cite chapter and PEER-REVIEWED source for that assertion. Until then...we remain....*sceptical*.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    Between media misrepresenting research and laymen being unable to understand journal articles,is anyone surprised by this whole pseudo-debate?

    People with out any training in relevant fields and their sycophant armies love running their mouths in public arena but no one important takes them seriously, just like anti evolution or vaccine people.

    My advice. Ignore them, they're not worth it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Grumpyoldman@802 'Which of man's activities heated up the planet in the 10 years from 1815-1825 by as much as it has heated up in the last 30 years?'

    That's a non-sequiter; just because we are causing warming now doesn't preclude other causes both now and in the past. Even if your claim is right it casts no light on current events. Similar errors also pervade your blog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    Those who keep arguing against man's activities as a cause of GW, often seem to love citing how historically earth has seen much greater swings in temperature than currently. That would be relevant if the cases sited were restricted to those occurances in the thousands of years since humanity evolved - what happened millions of years ago tells us nothing about what will happen to us in this era...

  • Comment number 902.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    Of all the arguments put forward in this discussion surely the most deeply flawed is the one that says climate has varied naturally in the past, therefore any variation we observe can only be natural. It has no basis in science or logic, and does not stand up to even the simplest critical scrutiny. Yet it gets trotted out time after time after time . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    "Vladimir Tepes
    858.Sidney Monroe
    How about the Millennium Bug.

    I worked helping to sort that one out."

    Me too: on mainframe systems with old Cobol code going back decades that would have resulted in major financial disruptions if not remediated. I think Sydney only experienced Windoze systems that had had the patches applied or where a quick reboot fixed (nothing new there then).

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    @ 889.CapnSim
    3 Minutes ago

    That's true, but look at the photograph at the top of the article showing the location of a weather station. It's photos like this that lead them to believe that the data might be wrong, and they are perfectly entitled to believe that, and neither you nor I can say for certain whether or not they're right/wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    there was recent evidence showing there hadn't been global temp rise over the last 10 years?! If they're using the same data as UEA, this is irrelevant."

    you mean the evidence that the 2000s was the warmest decade on record? Or every year in that decade, except 2008, was warmer thathe one 10 years before? "Hide the decline" does not refer to anything in this period.


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