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Critics' review unexpectedly supports scientific consensus on global warming

A UC Berkeley team's preliminary findings in a review of temperature data confirm global warming studies.

April 04, 2011|By Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times

On the project's website, in a public lecture and in statements to the media, Muller had portrayed the Berkeley effort as rectifying the "biases" of previous studies, a task he compared with "Hercules cleaning out the Augean stables." He said his study would be "more precise," analyzing data from 39,000 stations — more than any other study — and offering "transparent," rather than "homogenized" data.

Kevin Trenberth, who heads the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a university consortium, said he was "highly skeptical of the hype and claims" surrounding the Berkeley effort. "The team has some good people," he said, "but not the expertise required in certain areas, and purely statistical approaches are naive."

The project team includes UC Berkeley statistician David Brillinger and UC Berkeley physicists Don Groom, Robert Jacobsen, Saul Perlmutter, Arthur Rosenfeld and Jonathan Wurtele. The group's atmospheric scientist is Judith Curry, chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Science at Georgia Tech, who has suggested that temperature data were "airbrushed" by other scientists.

One full-time staffer, Richard Rohde, a who recently earned a doctorate in statistics, is doing most of the work, Muller said.

Although in his testimony Muller praised the "integrity" of previous studies, he said estimates of human-caused warming need to be "improved." And despite his preliminary praise for earlier studies, he said further data-crunching "could bring our current agreement into disagreement."

Other scientists noted that temperature is only one factor in climate change. "Even if the thermometer had never been invented, the evidence is there from deep ocean changes, from receding glaciers, from rising sea levels and receding sea ice and spring snow cover," Thorne said.

"All the physical indicators are consistent with a warming world. There is no doubt the trend of temperature is upwards since the early 20th century. And that trend is accelerating."

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