The BEST of times, the worst of times

Climate skeptics’ opinions about global temperatures and the BEST project are a moving target:

August 27, 2010 (D’Aleo & Watts), there is no warming:

1. Instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically, and uni-directionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant “global warming” in the 20th century.

February 11, 2011 (Watts), an initial lovefest with the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project:

Good news travels fast. I’m a bit surprised to see this get some early coverage, as the project isn’t ready yet. However since it has been announced by press, I can tell you that this project is partly a reaction and result of what we’ve learned in the surfacesations project, but mostly, this project is a reaction to many of the things we have been saying time and again, only to have NOAA and NASA ignore our concerns, or create responses designed to protect their ideas, rather than consider if their ideas were valid in the first place. …Note: since there’s been some concern in comments, I’m adding this: Here’s the thing, the final output isn’t known yet. There’s been no “peeking” at the answer, mainly due to a desire not to let preliminary results bias the method. It may very well turn out to agree with the NOAA surface temperature record, or it may diverge positive or negative. We just don’t know yet.

February 19, 2011 (Fred Singer @ wattsupwiththat):

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Project aims to do what needs to be done: That is, to develop an independent analysis of the data from land stations, which would include many more stations than had been considered by the Global Historic Climatology Network. The Project is in the hands of a group of recognized scientists, who are not at all “climate skeptics” — which should enhance their credibility….

I applaud and support what is being done by the Project — a very difficult but important undertaking. I personally have little faith in the quality of the surface data, having been exposed to the revealing work by Anthony Watts and others. However, I have an open mind on the issue and look forward to seeing the results of the Project in their forthcoming publications.

March 6, 2011 (Watts):

… The approaches that I’ve seen during my visit give me far more confidence than the “homogenization solves all” claims from NOAA and NASA GISS, and that the BEST result will be closer to the ground truth that anything we’ve seen.

… I think, based on what I’ve seen, that BEST has a superior method. Of course that is just my opinion, with all of it’s baggage; it remains to be seen how the rest of the scientific community will react when they publish.

In the meantime, never mind the yipping from climate chihuahuas like Joe Romm over at Climate Progress who are trying to destroy the credibility of the project before it even produces a result (hmmm, where have we seen that before?) , it is simply the modus operandi of the fearful, who don’t want anything to compete with the “certainty” of climate change they have been pushing courtesy NOAA and GISS results.

But here’s the thing: I have no certainty nor expectations in the results. Like them, I have no idea whether it will show more warming, about the same, no change, or cooling in the land surface temperature record they are analyzing. Neither do they, as they have not run the full data set, only small test runs on certain areas to evaluate the code. However, I can say that having examined the method, on the surface it seems to be a novel approach that handles many of the issues that have been raised.

As a reflection of my increased confidence, I have provided them with my dataset to allow them to use it to run a comparisons against their data. The only caveat being that they won’t release my data publicly until our upcoming paper and the supplemental info (SI) has been published. Unlike NCDC and Menne et al, they respect my right to first publication of my own data and have agreed.

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. I haven’t seen the global result, nobody has, not even the home team, but the method isn’t the madness that we’ve seen from NOAA, NCDC, GISS, and CRU, and, there aren’t any monetary strings attached to the result that I can tell. If the project was terminated tomorrow, nobody loses jobs, no large government programs get shut down, and no dependent programs crash either.  That lack of strings attached to funding, plus the broad mix of people involved especially those who have previous experience in handling large data sets gives me greater confidence in the result being closer to a bona fide ground truth than anything we’ve seen yet. Dr. Fred Singer also gives a tentative endorsement of the methods.

My gut feeling? The possibility that we may get the elusive “grand unified temperature” for the planet is higher than ever before. Let’s give it a chance.

March 22, 2011 (Watts):

I still believe that BEST represents a very good effort, and that all parties on both sides of the debate should look at it carefully when it is finally released, and avail themselves to the data and code that is promised to allow for replication.

March 31, 2011 (Watts), beginning to grumble when the results don’t look favorable to the no-warming point of view:

There seems a bit of a rush here, as BEST hasn’t completed all of their promised data techniques that would be able to remove the different kinds of data biases we’ve noted. That was the promise, that is why I signed on (to share my data and collaborate with them). Yet somehow, much of that has been thrown out the window, and they are presenting some results today without the full set of techniques applied. Based on my current understanding, they don’t even have some of them fully working and debugged yet. Knowing that, today’s hearing presenting preliminary results seems rather topsy turvy. But, post normal science political theater is like that.

… I’ll point out that on the front page of the BEST project, they tout openness and replicability, but none of that is available in this instance, even to Dr. Pielke and I. They’ve had a couple of weeks with the surfacestations data, and now without fully completing the main theme of data cleaning, are releasing early conclusions based on that data, without providing the ability to replicate. I’ve seen some graphical output, but that’s it. What I really want to see is a paper and methods. Our upcoming paper was shared with BEST in confidence.

Oct. 20, 2011 (Watts):

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project puts PR before peer review

… [Lots of ranting, primarily about the use of a 60 year interval] …

So now (pending peer-review and publication) we have the interesting situation of a Koch institution, a left-wing boogy-man, funding an unbiased study that confirms the previous temperature estimates, “consistent with global land-surface warming results previously reported, but with reduced uncertainty.

Oct. 21, 2011 (Keenan @ wattsupwiththat), an extended discussion of smoothing, AR(1) noise and other statistical issues, much of which appears to be founded on misconceptions*:

This problem seems to invalidate much of the statistical analysis in your paper.

Oct. 22, 2011 (Eschenbach @ wattsupwiththat), preceded by a lot of nonsense based on the fact that he’s too lazy to run BEST’s Matlab code:

PS—The world is warming. It has been for centuries.

* Update: or maybe not. Still, the paper has nothing to do with the validity of the BEST version of the observational record.

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