Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BEST project at Berkeley

According to the headline in the Los Angeles Times, Berkeley scientists' climate data puts them at the center of national debate.

The LA Times interviews physicist Richard Mueller. The BEST project is accumulating lots of temperature data.

Their critics are quoted also:

in addition to rising temperatures, data that BEST is not collecting includes: melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and receding sea ice.
Kevin Trenberth is quoted, being critical of BEST, especially because BEST is funded in part by Koch.
I'd say that they're on the periphery of the national debate. And the debate among scientists is about the details, not about whether or not global warming is happening at all. The debate among the lay public is about whether or not global warming is happening, a fact which represents a triumph for the deniers.
- John


Magnus Westerstrand said...

Again where are all the journalists... getting the thoruth out there?

Anonymous said...

It is dispiriting, but being "at the centre of public debate" is exactly what Muller wants, not to get at the truth.

I expect Muller to have many interviews on Fox News, and many op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. His "statements" will fuel the faux-"debate" the media think is happening.

Joe Romm thinks BEST will support consensus climate science and be a disaster for deniers - I hope he is right.


bluegrue said...

And all of that with PR announcements only. They have yet to come up with any presentable scientific results.

Belette said...

Well, it is all pretty weird, if you believe they are doing it for science. If they were doing it for science, they would keep fairly quiet until they had some actual publishable results, which they would present, together with the transparent software they say they are developing. Then there would be something to talk about, or at least, something to look at.

OTOH if they were going for publicity and trying to fan the flames in the blogosphere, they would go public early and only give coy hints about their results.

My guess is: they have the results, and those results are "the same" as the existing series: ie, the familiar same-on-average but varying-in-detail. Result, if presented honestly: boredom and no media coverage. So they can't do that, they need to tease.

Neven said...

And all of that with PR announcements only. They have yet to come up with any presentable scientific results.

Which is probably why they involved Watts. He's the expert at shouting conclusions from rooftops before publication.

J Bowers said...

In some [begrudging, I freely admit] fairness, Watts was there to advise on the data. Another Menne et al moment could be on the way.

Anonymous said...

When Muller says

""Global warming is a serious problem," Muller said in a lecture at UC Berkeley last week. "But people simply don't believe the story anymore because the story was exaggerated.... Not a single polar bear has died because of receding ice.""

he reveals what a very stupid person he is. This is just the start of the warming. If the temperatures we have now were as bad as it was going to get, we would not have had all this fuss. His logic is that of the most moronic denier.


Tom Curtis said...

"Not a single polar bear has died because of receding ice."

My first question when I saw that was, "How does he know?" Has he tracked every single polar bear death over the last 20 years? Is he aware of research that has done that?

The simple fact is he made it up because he wanted it to be true. Given that is his standard of epistemology, I hold little hope for the BEST project.

BCC said...

I don't quite understand the animosity toward Muller. I never heard of the guy until a couple days ago, and am now playing catch-up.

I watched ~90 minutes of him last night ( ). While he doesn't toe the party line, and said a few things I strongly disagree with, on the whole I think he makes some key arguments that are worth consideration.

Per the polar bear / start of warming comment, Muller states clearly in this talk that the warming that we've seem so far is just the start. And his argument about exaggeration is, I think, valid. One reason the skeptics are winning the PR battle is that they can point to all these claims made in the past ~20 years that aren't apparent, or don't seem valid at this time. They can make a lot of noise about those claims while ignoring the fact that the temperature continues to rise, more or less according to prediction.

I think it's almost refreshing to hear someone acknowledge some of the skeptical arguments that aren't complete crap, but totally smack down the more bogus claims. I think Muller gives credence to more skeptical arguments than I think deserve merit, but generally takes defensible positions.

I know I'm sounding like a sock puppet here, but I think the animosity I'm seeing toward Muller seems a bit over the top. Maybe there's past history here that I'm missing.

Lazar said...

Agreed provisionally and cautiously with BCC. Muller is not best informed at times but he otherwise seems reasonable and honest. He doesn't give me the impression of being a slimy PR merchant. I don't get the same cold-sweat as when listening to Pat Michaels. Let's not make enemies where we potentially don't need to.
"There is a consensus. And science really does go by consensus".
And he openly calls global warming a danger.

Plus, BEST results could be another popcorn moment.

Anonymous said...

...his argument about exaggeration is, I think, valid. One reason the skeptics are winning the PR battle is that they can point to all these claims made in the past ~20 years that aren't apparent, or don't seem valid at this time.

All these claims? To which claims are you referring?

-Adam R.

Marion Delgado said...

BCC like Mullen is simply giving us talking points without any references or citations - and that fits the pattern of a delaying campaign:

Start by denying, then as you're cornered, move some of your people to "it's exaggerated" then some to "it'll cost too much" and to "we should wait and fix problems afterward" moving towards "we delayed long enough that now there's nothing to be done, so we should be allowed to profit from disaster cleanup."

No history is needed, BCC. We simply don't accept these sloppy attacks on climate science. It really is that simple. Specify, or it's propaganda.

Lazar: why not evaluate this project based on something besides feelings.

Is it necessary? What evidence is there that it's necessary?

Is it data averse? Considering what they're NOT monitoring, I think there's considerable evidence that it is.

Does it resemble other fossil-fuel and/or tobacco-funded doubt-creation vehicles? In terms of funding and publicity, it does, which is evidence it's yet another one.

J Bowers said...

This is just Lomborgian style crap, usually based on a bloggered USGS 2002 study and has been utterly debunked in context of the past six years.

Ari's list of Papers on polar bear populations. For instance...

Rebuttal of "Polar Bear Population Forecasts: A Public-Policy Forecasting Audit". Amstrup et al (2009)

"...We evaluate the AGS audit and show how AGS are mistaken or misleading on every claim. We provide evidence that general circulation models are useful in forecasting future climate conditions and that corporate and government leaders are relying on these models to do so. We clarify the strict independence of the USGS from the listing decision. We show that the allegations of failure to follow the principles of forecasting espoused by AGS are either incorrect or are based on misconceptions about the Arctic environment, polar bear biology, or statistical and mathematical methods. We conclude by showing that the AGS principles of forecasting are too ambiguous and subjective to be used as a reliable basis for auditing scientific investigations. In summary, we show that the AGS audit offers no valid criticism of the USGS conclusion that global warming poses a serious threat to the future welfare of polar bears and that it only serves to distract from reasoned public-policy debate."


Effects of Earlier Sea Ice Breakup on Survival and Population Size of Polar Bears in Western Hudson Bay. Regehr et al (2007)

"...Survival of juvenile, subadult, and senescent-adult polar bears was correlated with spring sea ice breakup date, which was variable among years and occurred approximately 3 weeks earlier in 2004 than in 1984. We propose that this correlation provides evidence for a causal association between earlier sea ice breakup (due to climatic warming) and decreased polar bear survival.”

Anonymous said...

Poor Dr Muller and the GEST project... it seems to be caught in the cross-fire.
Its instructive to compare this thread with the one on the subject at WUWT...!


Anonymous said...

And of course, the denier-bots have been leaving their steaming turds in the comments over there...

Lazar said...


"why not evaluate this project based on something besides feelings"

My feelings as such were toward Richard Muller, not *the project*. The project includes the man behind the excellent Robert Rhodes as lead scientist, and a serious and rather famous time-series guy in David Brillinger. I would not wish to evaluate the project before their results and methodology have been published, would you?

"Is it necessary?"

Necessary for what ends and judged by what metrics? I don't think we need another analysis to get a handle on global average temperature, and Richard Muller has said that results are unlikely to show substantial divergence at the global level from what we already know. Might denser sampling and new algorithms provide useful information at the local and regional levels? Possibly. I don't know. I think it's worth a shot.

"Is it data averse? Considering what they're NOT monitoring"

Well, you could claim that *every* global surface temperature analysis is "data averse" for not monitoring global sea levels, and that global sea level analyses are "data averse" for not monitoring global surface temperatures... if this is what you mean... but I think that is not useful. It should be *acceptable* to do science without having to throw in for political reasons some PR caveat about 'but the sea ice is declining' and 'but the satellites show warming' and 'but global warming is still happening' every single time.

"Does it resemble other fossil-fuel and/or tobacco-funded doubt-creation vehicles? In terms of funding and publicity, it does, which is evidence it's yet another one."

Publicity, yes there has been relatively good coverage. Science needs more publicity like this.

Funding. In addition to $150,000 from the Koch foundation, they received $188,587 from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and $100,000 from Bill Gates' "Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research". What do I make of that? Nothing, unless it can be shown or hinted that funding has influenced results... and the results ain't even out yet! Do the Koch brothers hope BEST will show substantially less global warming? Very probably. So what. Take their money and run. Use it to produce good science. That's what I'd want to do.

Anonymous said...

"Not a single polar bear has died because of receding ice"?

Not a single person has died as a result of a radiation leak from Fukushima, either.


seamus said...

Exaggerated? That's the Big Lie. It's actually worse than we thought.

Copenhagen Diagnosis: "...several important aspects of climate change are already occurring at the high end, or even beyond, the expectations of just a few years ago. ice sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea ice is thinning and melting much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast."

seamus said...

"Denier" is such a weak, ineffectual term. Have some backbone, people. The proper label for these types is denialist, as in creationist, or even propagandist. "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."

Anonymous said...

The hypocrisy of Muller is breathtaking. While fuming at the supposed poor standards of climate scientists, he casually drops clankers that are only worthy of an 'A' grade denier, that he has no scientific evidence for. He should be held to account for his Polar Bear statement, because it is just a bald assertion that he does not and cannot have any evidence for, and that ignores the coming warming that is already drastically changing their habitat.

All I am doing is holding him to the standards that he goes out in public and DEMANDS of other scientists. In his speeches, he makes it clear that anything less is simply unnacebtable and, from the tone of his voice, unforgivable.


BCC said...

Let me be clear: I am not a delayer. My quals: MS from MIT studying deep-ocean CO2 sequestration (dodgy). Founded and chaired town Sustainable Energy Committee. Allocated $7 figures of funds for town building energy retrofits. Helped get 40kW PV on my kids' school (at <$5/W!). Advocated for in-town MW-scale PV project, which town voted in favor of, and is now in permitting. Currently serve on board of muni utility, where I push for more renewables & less consumption. If anything, I'm an accelerator.

If you think I'm the enemy, you have a problem, because your tribe must be very small.

I contend that our credibility problem is ~1/4 exaggerated claims, ~3/4 skeptics' exaggeration of those exaggerations. Examples? Here's one:
This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions."

Yes, he said "could be" and "at this rate", but all that matters is the phrase "ice-free at the end of summer by 2012"

Do I think the Arctic is melting? You betcha:
Ice-free in 2012? Not likely:

But now the skeptics get to carry on about how we exaggerate, can't predict a damn thing, there's plenty of ice, etc. And they're frickin' winning. And the wound is partially self-inflicted.

I think everyone, even the good guys, need to be less tribal.

If Muller ends up taking Koch money to basically affirm the temperature record, that's a win in my book!

Lazar said...

BCC has a rather nice blog on solar power and climate change.

Let's make more effort to understand individuals before squeezing them into categories and jumping down their throats. Let's not be Watts. Let's not make enemies where we potentially don't need to.

Neven said...

I have strong libertarian leanings and I say: let's wait till the end of the melting season of 2012, okay? A repeat of 2007 conditions and anything is possible.

If you want a good example, try the one of the lone British scientist who many, many years ago said kids would eventually stop experiencing snowy winters. Denialists love that one.

If you want to control thousands of scientists (and some will be whacky) because otherwise the denialists will exploit aggressive statements, I don't think you're going about it the right way. The denialists will exploit anyhow, no matter what you do or don't do.

Anonymous said...

BCC: "I contend that our credibility problem is ~1/4 exaggerated claims, ~3/4 skeptics' exaggeration of those exaggerations."

Not calling you the enemy, BCC, but that ratio itself is a gross exaggeration. Dividing the number of occasional imperfect choices of words by climate scientists by the avalanche of mendacious sound bites from the denialists would actually yield a figure requiring negative exponents to express economically.

Sorry, but I'm not buying your argument; you imply a sizable body of unwarranted, debunked alarmism that is in fact minute.

-Adam R.

Lazar said...

You're both wrong, it's 1/8 :-P

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

Deniers make up exaggerations where there are none. Recent example: The claim that a specific scientist said that the Japan earthquake/tsunami is due to melting of the Arctic ice due to global warming. No scientist would confuse slippage along a subduction zone with isostatic rebound. No scientist said that. One did publish a paper last(!) year that earthquakes may occur sometime due to deglaciation and trigger tsunamis. The writeup on the denier website left out the date of the paper, implying it referred specifically to the Japan event.

The original poster doesn't have to lie; they just shade around the truth. The echoers blow it up.

I think accusing climate scientists of causing a problem by exaggerating is a distraction. On balance, they have understated the problem and been too conservative with warnings. Glaciers are melting faster than expected due to unforeseen mechanisms; positive feedbacks are occurring that weren't thought of; and most of all, humans are excreting CO2 faster than first thought.

Steve Bloom said...

BCC, what you seem to be advocating is that scientists not discuss the worst-case aspects of climate projections. I think that would be a mistake.

Anonymous said...

In BCC's milieu he probably gets an earful of alleged exaggerations or worse. He's holding up quite well. Meanwhile here is a note on Muller.

Pete Dunkelberg

willard said...

> One reason the skeptics are winning the PR battle is that they can point to all these claims made in the past ~20 years that aren't apparent, or don't seem valid at this time.

If the game is set in those terms, anti-establishment will always win.

Nobody forces anyone to frame the game like that.

Paul Daniel Ash said...

"In fact, in our preliminary analysis the good stations report more warming in the U.S. than the poor stations by 0.009 ± 0.009 degrees per decade, opposite to what might be expected, but also consistent with zero. We are currently checking these results and performing the calculation in several different ways. But we are consistently finding that there is no enhancement of global warming trends due to the inclusion of the poorly ranked US stations."


Rattus Norvegicus said...

You should see the cow that Watts is having over that one!

Paul Daniel Ash said...

The BEST guys have clearly not learned from the mistakes of the alarmofascists.

Horatio Algeranon said...

As Jim Morrison once presciently noted (decades before Anthony got his "Best Science Blog" award):

"The watts is the best".

Who are the rest of us to question that?

This is the end...

Marion Delgado said...

Doubt is Muller's product.

Hank Roberts said...

"Opposite to what might be expected, but also consistent with zero."

I like that. I may find uses for that.

David B. Benson said...

Somewhere I read a report, based on observations, from which one easily infers the death of a polar bear cub from dearth of sea ice.

Marion Delgado said...

SCIENTISTS have for the first time [NOTE: MORE THAN FIVE YEARS AGO] found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.

The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.

Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.

According to the new research, four bear carcases were found floating in one month in a single patch of sea off the north coast of Alaska, where average summer temperatures have increased by 2-3C degrees since 1950s.

The scientists believe such drownings are becoming widespread across the Arctic, an inevitable consequence of the doubling in the past 20 years of the proportion of polar bears having to swim in open seas.

“Mortalities due to offshore swimming may be a relatively important and unaccounted source of natural mortality given the energetic demands placed on individual bears engaged in long-distance swimming,” says the research led by Dr Charles Monnett, marine ecologist at the American government’s Minerals Management Service. “Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice continues.”

Horatio Algeranon said...

The Muller's Tale