BEST Temperature Results Reaction

October 21, 2011


The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team has reported the results of their first studies of surface temperature records. They have submitted four papers for publication, you can get copies of them here.

Ironically, Anthony Watts has already posted about one of the papers, roundly criticizing their efforts. In a textbook example of “sour grapes,” he complains that they’re making results public before acceptance in a peer-reviewed journal, and about their use of trends over a 60-year period rather than a 30-year period which would match the analysis in Fall et al. Neither objection has any merit. The choice of a 60-year period has only one drawback: it gives Anthony Watts an excuse to whine. The pre-acceptance release is actually rather standard practice in the physics community (that’s one of the things the ArXiv is for).

.. it’s clear what Watts is really upset about — the results from the Berkeley team have confirmed that the other main global temperature estimates (NASA GISS, NOAA/NCDC, and HadCRU) got it right, and that station siting/urban heat island effects are not responsible for any of the observed temperature increase. The real reason all these analyses (including Berkeley’s) show temperature rise is: the globe is warming.

They also graph the difference between the “all stations” and “very rural” stations averages, which shows that “all stations” actually show less recent warming than indicated using only “very rural” stations. That kind of blows the “global warming is due to UHI” argument right out of the water.

James Hrynyshyn:

There’s this notion among the climate denial community that somehow the entire professional climatology community has overlooked an obvious flaw in the science behind anthropogenic global warming. Their hypothesis is that too many of the thermometers used to record temperatures over the last 200 years have been located in or near cities, and so have produced a warming bias produced by the waste heat generated in urban areas.

It sounds plausible. The problem with the notion, of course, is that it’s so obvious a potential bias that climatologists long ago learned to take the “urban heat island” effect into account. Still, the idea persists, and so a bunch of still-open-minded-despite-reams-of-solid-evidence-scientists, known collectively as the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, and all but one of them new to the field, decided to conduct their own independent analysis of the data that NASA, NOAA and HadCRU say shows unequivocal evidence for global warming.

Today, that team released its findings. Can you guess what they found?

We observe the opposite of an urban heating effect over the period 1950 to 2010, with a slope of -0.19 ± 0.19 °C/100yr. This is not statistically consistent with prior estimates, but it does verify that the effect is very small, and almost insignificant on the scale of the observed warming. And that result  supports the key conclusion of prior groups that urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change.So, will this be the nail in the coffin of the UHI canard? Probably not. Comparable analyses that show a complete lack of correlation between solar output and global temperature change has failed to shut down the pseudoskeptical argument that it’s really all about the sun.


One of the favorite arguments of climate change deniers is that the urban heat island effect, which has grown with global development, is unduly biasing global temperature readings.  This seems reasonable when you consider that many measuring stations were originally placed outside of cities in the 1800s, but since then the cities have expanded and grown up around them, quite likely affecting their data.  It seemed possible to some that it was urban development, selection bias, and error that were causing the apparent rise in global temperatures in the last fifty years.

Because of this, climate change deniers have been especially excited about the prospects for the BEST project (Berkeley Earth Surface Group, a part of the Novim Group, which is friendly to the idea of geoengineering), headed by physicist Richard Muller Judith Curry is also involved, as is 2011 physics Nobel laurate Saul Perlmutter.  It is funded by, among others, the Koch Brothers.

The project’s goal is to create a separate global temperature estimate, and to carefully examine whether urban heating has had any impact on global temperature readings.  To do this, they analyzed temperature data from 39,028 measuring stations around the world.

The bombshell is that this Koch-funded group have not been able to show that the urban heat island effect has had any influence on temperature measurements of global warming.  In fact, the group found in a paper just released that both urban and rural areas “show significant warming.”

Greg Laden:
Here is the abstract from the paper1:

The effect of urban heating on estimates of global average land surface temperature is studied by applying an urban-rural classification based on MODIS satellite data to the Berkeley Earth temperature dataset compilation of 39,028 sites from 10 different publicly available sources. We compare the distribution of linear temperature trends for these sites to the distribution for a rural subset of 16,132 sites chosen to be distant from all MODIS-identified urban areas. While the trend distributions are broad, with one-third of the stations in the US and worldwide having a negative trend, both distributions show significant warming. Time series of the Earth’s average land temperature are estimated using the Berkeley Earth methodology applied to the full dataset and the rural subset; the difference of these shows a slight negative slope over the period 1950 to 2010, with a slope of -0.19°C ± 0.19 / 100yr (95% confidence), opposite in sign to that expected if the urban heatisland effect was adding anomalous warming to the record. The small size, and its negative sign, supports the key conclusion of prior groups that urban warming does not unduly bias estimates of recent global temperature change.

There are several interesting and disturbing things about this study. First, it appears that the Urban Heat Island Effect does not explain the Hockey Stick. This is very disappointing because I was really hoping that Global Warming was not for real, or at least, not as bad as I had thought it might be. No such luck. Second, to the extent that this study may have had “Anti-Warmist” biases, and that in general, the scientists would have benefited career-wise by overthrowing the orthodoxy (that’s always a good science move these days, gets you all sorts of grants and awards …. nobody ever got the Nobel for reproving the proved) they still came up with a pro-Warmist conclusion. This has been happening for some time now … Anthropogenic Global Warming Denialists have been trying to disprove Global Warming and instead accidentally either prove it or show how bad they are at doing science, or just come up with some remark like “Oh, so if it’s real, that’s OK we just move the cities” and so on. Third, I am shocked … SHOCKED! … that there is not only no Urban Heat Island Effect, but that over recent years, the effect has been REVERSED from what we expect.

Anthony Watts: (for those that don’t know – a prominent climate change denier.)

“And, I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise. So let’s not pay attention to the little yippers who want to tear it down before they even see the results.” – March 6, 2011

“This is sad, because I had very high hopes for this project as the methodology is looked very promising to get a better handle on station discontinuity issues with their “scalpel” method. Now it looks just like another rush to judgement, peer review be damned.” – October 20, 2011

Joe Romm:

Four new papers confirm that “the world is warming fast,” as theEconomist summed it up.  One paper finds that “the effect of urban heating on the global trends is nearly negligible.”  Another finds that the work of the scientist-smearing denier Anthony Watts is pure BS.

Okay, that’s all “dog bites man” stuff, which is to say, not news in the least.  The news is that this work was funded in part by Charles Koch, a leading funder of deniers, and two of the key authors are well-known smearers of climate scientists, Judith Curry and Richard Muller.  Hot dog!


12 Responses to “BEST Temperature Results Reaction”

  1. sinchiroca Says:

    I must say, the two quotes from Anthony Watts certainly reveal his hypocrisy in the starkest terms.

    • Good to see you say this ……. although it’s similar to throwing the fat man out of the leaking dirigible. A sensible tactic for deniers.

      A calculating denier would also abandon the ‘Bimbo Weatherman’ and the ‘Looney Lord’ and ‘Baby Face Morano’.

      I think we will see much more of the ‘deniers eating their young’ in the coming months and years…… a constant game of ‘retreat and defend’.

  2. […] piece on the news in the Wall Street Journal. For the best round-up of reactions, check the post at Climate Crocks. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  3. […] BEST Temperature Results Reaction « Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  4. mrsircharles Says:

    Nature has a quite neutral article on the BEST study => Different method, same result: global warming is real

    I personally like this comment on that page:

    “Bloggers with a vested interest or predetermined view of the outcome of these studies fail to answer the observed movement of animals and plants into higher altitudes, or higher latitudes. What about these biological observations?

    Three studies are now reported which affirm the “hockey stick” pattern of global warming. I don’t believe that people with an agenda can be taken seriously when they claim there’s no proof or when they claim they’re being impartial. I’m very certain that they understand the scientific process but they are in fact trying to confuse people who do not understand science and cannot make up their own minds based upon the best available technology.

    The time for listening to the deniers is over. The time to throw out the policy makers who use their arguments is here.”

    Says it in one.

    • sinchiroca Says:

      Was that ‘comment on that page’ from the editors or from an anonymous commentator?

      • Why do you ask? Scientific truth is scientific truth. Why distract with who said it?

        • sinchiroca Says:

          My question concerns this sentence:

          “The time for listening to the deniers is over. The time to throw out the policy makers who use their arguments is here.”

          This is not a scientific truth; it is a political opinion that I happen to agree with. My curiosity is piqued by the strong wording. Nature is very much a prim and proper scientific publication; such strong wording strikes me as uncharacteristic.

  5. […] it to the skeptics on their home media turf, John Abraham does it again on the BEST results. Rate this: Share this:FacebookTwitterPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Posted […]

  6. […] John Abraham on “this Crazy Argument” (the BEST temperature results) « Climate Denial Crock of the Week  Taking it to the skeptics on their home media turf, John Abraham does it again on theBEST results. […]

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