Does Muller deserve the climate blog beatdown?

03 Apr

On March 31 Dr. Richard Muller testified before Congress about the initial findings of the BEST project. He showed the following graph:

He also made a few statements:

Based on the preliminary work we have done, I believe that the systematic biases that are the cause for most concern can be adequately handled by data analysis techniques. The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends.

Many temperature stations in the U.S. are located near buildings, in parking lots, or close to heat sources. Anthony Watts and his team has shown that most of the current stations in the US Historical Climatology Network would be ranked “poor” by NOAA’s own standards, with error uncertainties up to 5 degrees C. Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We’ve studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.

Despite potential biases in the data, methods of analysis can be used to reduce bias effects well enough to enable us to measure long-term Earth temperature changes. Data integrity is adequate. Based on our initial work at Berkeley Earth, I believe that some of the most worrisome biases are less of a problem than I had previously thought.

The inclusion of that graph and these statements have unleashed a stinging response from several climate blogs.

Anthony Watts wrote this to Congress, to be entered into the record. Here are excerpts:

Normally such scientific debate is conducted in peer reviewed literature, rather than rushed to the floor of the House before papers and projects are complete, but since my team and I are not here to represent our work in person, we ask that this letter be submitted into the Congressional record.

It is our contention that many fully unaccounted for biases remain in the surface temperature record, that the resultant uncertainty is large, and systemic biases remain. This uncertainty and the systematic biases needs to be addressed not only nationally, but worldwide. Dr. Richard Muller has not yet examined these issues.

Willis Eschenbach wrote this:

I must confess, I’m mystified by all of this. With his testimony, Dr. Muller has totally destroyed any credibility he might have had with me. He might be able to rebuild it by explaining his strange numbers. But to give that kind of erroneous testimony, not in a random paper he might written quickly, but to Congress itself, marks him to me as a man driven by a very serious agenda, a man who doesn’t check his work and who pays insufficient attention to facts in testimony. I had hoped we wouldn’t have another temperature record hag-ridden by people with an axe to grind … foolish me.

Perhaps someone who knows Dr. Muller could ask him to explain his cheerleading before Congress. I call it cheerleading because it certainly wasn’t scientific testimony of any kind I’m familiar with. I hear Dr. Muller is a good guy, and very popular with the students, but still … color me very disappointed.

Dr. Muller, I’m going to call foul on this one. For you to announce your pre-publication results on this issue is way, way out of line. You get to have your claim entered into the Congressional Record and you don’t even have to produce a single citation or publish a paper or show a scrap of data or code? That is scientific back-stabbing via Congressional testimony, and on my planet it is absolutely unacceptable

Pielke Sr. made these remarks:

All his study has accomplished so far is to confirm that NCDC, GISS and CRU honestly used the raw observed data as the starting point for their analyses. This is not a surprising result. We have never questioned this aspect of their analyses.

The uncertainties and systematic biases that we have published in several peer-reviewed papers, however, remain unexplored so far by Richard Muller and colleagues as part of The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project.

We have explored most of these issues in peer-reviewed papers and found them to be important remaining uncertainties and biases. Richard Muller and his colleagues have not yet examined these concerns, yet chose to report on his very preliminary results at a House Hearing.

Steven Goddard at Real Science has devoted multiple posts to the issue:

What Muller Isn’t Saying – i.e. The Critical Points

Where’s Waldo?

Republicans Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

Muller Claims 1C Warming Since 1977

Dr. Muller Demonstrates That UHI Contaminates The Temperature Record

Dr. Muller Explains His “Most Important Problem” Statement

Greenie Watch says this:

Dr Muller of the Berkley Earth Surface Group is a tangle of contradictions. He knows all the faults of Warmist “science” and dissects them ably. Yet he goes on to say that he believes in Warmism despite all that. And he does not say why. What the heck is going on?

If we follow the old advice “Follow the money”, however, we have an answer. He is the front man for a geoengineering organization. And they want to say that theirs is the only means of controlling the earth’s temperature. So they employ Dr. Muller to rubbish all the carbon control proposals — which he ably does.

Lubos Motl at the Reference Frame said this:

Richard Muller has presented preliminary results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST). Let me say that I am utterly disappointed by the reality of the transparency that’s been promised to us. In fact, BEST hasn’t offered anything at all – even though it’s already presenting its result to the U.S. Congress. I can’t even get a single page of the overall data.

I am still waiting to download a few gigabytes with all the raw data – plus all the algorithms that realize their promised quality standards (so far many of them haven’t been done).

Marc Morano has had no less than 20 links posted about Muller since the testimony. He also has posted his e-mail address.

There are others, but those seem to be the main group who has an issue with Muller’s actions. A few have showed mild support for Muller, such as Judith Curry.

I think Anthony Watts might have reason to be upset. He apparently has been personally involved in the BEST project, and he shared his data with Muller. Watt’s claims that Muller wasn’t going to release any findings until certain bias-reduction techniques had been applied. He says that it is not right for them to release results without applying those techniques first.

While Watt’s claim is legitimate, that is an issue between Watts and Muller. In my opinion, it is not a valid reason to dog-pile on Muller and claim he is dishonest, nor is it a valid reason to disregard the findings of the BEST project (which haven’t come out yet).

Some may argue that it is irresponsible to release preliminary findings at all. I disagree, because there are only two possible outcomes:

1. The published and peer-reviewed results match up with the preliminary findings.

In this case, Muller was justified in using the preliminary results as they were representative of the final results.

2. The published and peer-reviewed results do not match the preliminary findings.

In this case Muller has only himself to blame. We laugh at him and anyone who used his preliminary results as evidence for anything.

In the end using preliminary results may be questionable, but it is his project and he can release them if he wants to. If he’s right, then there was nothing to complain about. If he’s wrong, then he’ll be taken to task for it. It’ll all turn out right in the end.

Let’s not discount the BEST project. It is an attempt to have an open and transparent temperature reconstruction free of biases. Yes, it got off to a bit of a rocky (and not exactly transparent) start, but let’s give it a chance. Disregarding the entire project due to one poor decision seems unfair.



Posted by on April 3, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Does Muller deserve the climate blog beatdown?

  1. Hwan

    April 4, 2011 at 12:30 am

    How could you reanalyze the many years of work that went into these curves in such a short time frame? Sounds like a whitewash.

  2. Sam

    April 4, 2011 at 5:56 am

    They aren’t re-analyzing them, it is a separate temperature reconstruction.

    Their reconstruction looks similar to the others (so far), so that’s why Muller believes they have integrity.


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