Archive for March, 2011

A little bit more on BEST and Watts

March 31, 2011

I wrote a short post recently about the hot air surrounding the new surface temperature record being compiled at Berkeley.

One of the issues was the data sample that was used in preliminary BEST analysis that was being discussed.

UPDATE (31/3/2011 11:58am): Carbon Brief have some graphs to show how similar the 2% sample is to NOAA, GISS and HadCRU.

It seems that Watts was mistaken about the 2% sample of BEST data being from Japan. He updated his post in the last few days:

“ERRATA: I made a mistake regarding the 2% figure, I misheard what was being presented during my visit with the BEST team at Berkeley. As many of you may know I’m about 80% hearing impaired and the presentation made to me was entirely verbal with some printed graphs. Based on the confidentiality I agreed to, I did not get to come back with any of those graphs, notes, or data so I had to rely on what I heard. I simply misheard and thought the 2% were the Japan station analysis graphs that they showed me.

I was in touch with Dr. Richard Muller on 3/28/2011 who graciously pointed out my misinterpretation. I regret the error, and thus issue this correction about the 2% figure being truly a random sample, and not just stations in the Japan test presentation shown to me.”

It’s just a shame that he didn’t notice the contradiction between the BEST statement (“random”) and his own understanding (“Japan”) before writing his post and shouting down commenters asking for clarification (i.e. “Ah I see you are immediately back to wasting everyone’s time…“).

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Spectator Climate Debate – The Results!

March 31, 2011

I mentioned the Spectator debate last week but I didn’t go along as I was giving a talk in Manchester on Antarctic climate.

Someone from Climate Brief went along, though, and they have written a report.

Anyway, the motion was “The global warming concern is over. Time for a return to sanity.”

The results are quite interesting, which I guess I can comment on without having been there:

If the point of the debate was to change people’s minds then the “Against” panel clearly did a better job, so well done King, Singh and Palmer.

However, the clear message from the results is that the majority of people that go along to debates organised by The Spectator are not that concerned about global warming. I suppose you could also conclude (from the lack of change in the “For” votes and the make up of the panels) that this group of people are more interested in the policy implications of climate change than the science behind it.

I’m also wondering why Delingpole wasn’t on the “For” panel. He’s a Spectator contributor and has an interest in climate change. Any thoughts?

The BEST mess

March 23, 2011

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project aimed to do something quite useful: clear up any confusion regarding land surface temperature trends.

But it seems to have become a mess.

Some have questioned the impartiality of the project team (and its funders and advisers in particular). I’m not sure how concerned I was about this – if this project showed that the 3 established global temperature datasets were more-or-less sound then that would surely put the issue to bed for all but the most detached from reality.

There are many problems with long records of temperature and maybe the best outcome for the “skeptics” would be a stronger judgement on uncertainty.

But it seems that just doing the work and then publishing it without making the most of the limelight is too much too ask.

I only really took notice of the project when Richard Muller (BEST Chair) gave an interview in the Guardian in February.

More recently, Climate Progress “revealed” the outcome of the BEST analysis via an email from Ken Caldeira (who “helped fund the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, but didn’t participate in it” – CP).

This came after Muller had given a talk on the Current State of Climate Change – a Non-Partisan Analysis at Berkeley, which appears to be getting ahead of himself.

At some point the BEST “Findings” page was updated to say:

A preliminary analysis of 2% of the Berkeley Earth dataset shows a global temperature trend that goes up and down with global cycles, and does so broadly in sync with the temperature records from other groups such as NOAA, NASA, and Hadley CRU. However, the preliminary analysis includes only a very small subset (2%) of randomly chosen data…

…and then Watts criticises Caldeira for jumping to conclusions from 2% of randomly chosen data, which according to Watts all comes from Japan.

I’m not really sure what to make of all this, well, other than that everyone looks a bit daft when commenting on the outcome of projects before they’ve even got their results.

Spectator Climate Debate

March 22, 2011

The Spectator have organised a debate about climate change on Tuesday 29 March at the Royal Geographical Society, London, SW7 (1800-2030hrs).

The motion is:

The global warming concern is over. Time for a return to sanity.

The number of people in the UK who do not believe in global warming has doubled in the last two years, according to a poll from the Office for National Statistics. Does this represent an alarming success in a war against science? Or the common sense of a British public who can see the claims of the climate alarmists dissolve before their eyes?

My first impression was: £30 a ticket!?! You must be joking.

My second was the unbalanced make up of the “for” and “against” speakers:

The “for” panel is made up of a politician (with a chemistry degree), an ex-politician and a social anthropologist. The latter two now represent the same organisation.

The “against” panel constitutes a climate physicist, a science writer (with a physics PhD) and an ex-Government Chief Scientific Adviser (academic career in physical chemistry).

What are they actually going to be debating? I don’t see enough of an overlap between the panels (one very political, the other very scientific) for there to be much room for constructive debate.

In fact, I’m quite surprised that it is the Spectator that have organised this event. Given their previous on climate issues, these panels look skewed towards the case for climate change.

By this, I mean that the “for” panel looks a bit limited and homogeneous – if they stray too far into scientific territory they’ll be in danger of looking out of their depth. By contrast, the “against” panel are more diverse and have much more up-to-date experience on the key issues (climate science, science communication and science informing policy).

I assume it’ll end up just being a lot of rhetoric about “climategate”-this and “hide the decline”-that but I’ll be very interested to read reports after the event.

OPAL Weather Roadshow at the Big Bang

March 15, 2011

I went along to the Big Bang fair in London last week to help out in the OPAL (OPen Air Laboratories) Weather Roadshow trailer.

They’ve got some pretty cool stuff in the trailer: a blue screen and camera for pretending to be a TV weather forecaster (I got a bit too exciting about this!); a metre high tornado (a bit like this one); a professional standard weather station to have a look at; and lots of other cool gadgets and weather demos to play with.

If you want to go along and see the roadshow for yourself, then its going to be at these places:

14-17 March 2011: Newcastle Science Fest
21-27 March 2011: Manchester Climate Week
29 April – 2 May 2011: BBC Discover Nature Weekend, Lincolnshire
21-25 May 2011: Plymouth
31 May – 5 June 2011: Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
8-12 June 2011: Cheltenham Science Festival
17-19 June 2011: East of England Show
20-23 June 2011: Bruce Castle Museum, London
12-14 July 2011: Great Yorkshire Show

More generally, the Big Bang fair was pretty interesting even though it seems to be half way between a careers fair and a science festival. I particular enjoyed the flying silver penguin-esque balloons. No idea what they were for but they were so strange – it almost felt like you were underwater if stared at them for too long!