Study of temperature data confirms warming trend, scientist tells House panel

Preliminary results from a controversial study of global temperature data confirm the overall warming trend long reported by government scientists in the United States and the United Kingdom, the study's director told a House panel today.

The warming trend detected by scientists involved in the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study -- a rise of 0.7 degree Celsius since 1957 -- "is very similar" to the findings of independent analyses by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.K. Hadley Centre, study Chairman Richard Muller said.

"The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine temperature trends," said Muller, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Muller's testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee comes in the midst of climate skeptics' sustained attack on the accuracy of the world's surface temperature data, collected by thousands of weather stations around the world.

Skeptics have alleged that many of the weather stations are located in areas that would bias their observations. They have also pointed to emails taken from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and posted on the Internet last year as evidence that analyses of the weather station data have been skewed.


Those skeptics include House Science Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas). "For many of us here, these emails were evidence that the trust in the underlying process was misplaced," he said. "I may not be a scientist, but as a politician, I can tell when someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes."

But those claims have been rebutted. A study by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, published last year, found evidence that some weather station temperature data are of poor quality -- but it found the data would add a slight bias toward cooling in climate analyses.

Meanwhile, five independent reviews have found no evidence of scientific misconduct by scientists whose emails were taken from the University of East Anglia's server.

Muller's study, overseen by the nonprofit Novim Group, aims to create a new analysis of global surface temperature data that avoids what it deems to be problems with the existing analyses.

The effort is funded by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and several foundations, including a group set up by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and another funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, which has also supported efforts opposing mainstream climate change science.

Although the BEST group's final results remain to be seen, Muller said he was surprised to find that early results agree with existing temperature analyses.

"The Berkeley Earth agreement with the prior analysis surprised us, since our preliminary results don't yet address many of the known biases," he testified today. "When they do, it is possible that the corrections could bring our current agreement into disagreement."

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