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Berkeley scientist previews temperature analysis on Capitol Hill

berkeley graph.JPGThe buzz about the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature analysis is growing, and today we got our first peak into what that might entail during a hearing by the US House Science and Technology Committee. For those who have not yet heard, this is a new analysis of the historical temperature record by independent scientists who say they are ready to upset conventional wisdom if need be. The preliminary and partial upshot, plotted at the right and available in PDF form here in the testimony of Richard Muller, is that mainstream science holds up.

“This agreement with the prior analyses surprised us,” says Muller, an outspoken physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who is chairing the project. But the results are preliminary, he stressed. They are based on a random sample of 2 percent of the roughly 39,000 stations on land where temperature has been collected over time, he said, and they have not been corrected for known biases such as the urban heat island effect.

The next step, due out in the coming weeks or months, will be to adjust the land data and then fold in ocean data. Once that is done, Muller said in a subsequent interview, the team will submit its findings for peer review and post the preliminary results as well as the entire record of 1.6 billion temperature readings in a single database for anybody to download and use.

One thing Muller’s team is not planning to analyze is the paleoclimate record and the famous hockey stick graph (background here and here). Muller is skeptical of the value of that data but believes the primary question is not what happened then but what is happening now and what will happen in the future. “I’m just not that interested in the proxy data,” he says.

Whether or not this message got across at the hearing is another matter. Skeptical Republicans once again entertained skeptical witnesses and blasted climate science, climate scientists and scientific organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Muller said some of the skeptics (including Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit, who has his own take on the hearing) should be taken more seriously. To that end, he proposed the creation of a “Climate Advanced Research Projects Agency” that provides rapid science funding to worthwhile projects regardless of whether they support or challenge the current science.

Representing mainstream climate scientists was Kerry Emanuel, who said every scientific movement has maverick holdouts who keep everybody else vigilant. “While usually wrong, such mavericks are indispensable to the activity of science,” Emanuel said. But making mascots of scientific mavericks or shooting the mainstream scientific messengers, he added, “are not rational options.”


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