Weekend Climate Drama: Climate Skeptic Says He’s Been ‘Converted’ to Global Warming Camp as Study Finds NOAA ‘Exaggerated’ Data

Richard Muller, left, and his daughter, Elizabeth Muller, hold a globe as they talk about their study on climate at their home in 2011. (Photo: AP/Paul Sakuma)

Over the weekend, University of California-Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller, a once avid “climate skeptic,” came out in a New York Times op-ed saying that he was “converted.” But the climate science community that supports warming as man-made, instead of welcoming Muller with open arms, is criticizing him to an extent.

Muller admits himself that he had in the past been critical of some climate change studies, but instead of complaining about it, he and his daughter, Elizabeth, founded the Berekley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project. TheBlaze reported the first inklings that Muller was changing his position on the state of global warming last fall when draft studies of his analysis from this project was released. He now writes in the Times he believes “humans are almost entirely the cause”:

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.


The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis.

Muller also claims in his op-ed that the data from the BEST is “stronger” than that used in the reports by the International Panel on Climate Change.

Andrew Revkin, who maintains the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog, draws attention to the fact that the papers submitted from the BEST program have not yet been peer reviewed and formally published. Revkin notes that at the time of Muller releasing some of these papers last fall, he drew criticism from climate scientists, like climate modeler William Connolley, for some of the findings being “rubbish.” Revkin also points out that some scientists who reviewed the papers and were invited as co-authors declined.

Judith Curry from the Georgia Institute of Technology was one of them. Revkin received this response from Curry:

I was invited to be a coauthor on the new paper.  I declined.  I gave them my review of the paper, which was highly critical.  I don’t think this new paper adds anything to our understanding of attribution of the warming….

I really like the data set itself. It is when they do science with it that they get into trouble.

What does Revkin think is going on here, especially with the latest paper from BEST?

It appears that Muller has pushed to get the new findings submitted now because Tuesday is the deadline for journal submission for research to be considered in the next climate science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Responding to Revkin’s post and Curry’s criticism within the post Elizabeth Muller, who also works with the BEST program, defended the pre-peer review publication of the studies for various reasons:

I believe the findings in our papers are too important to wait for the year or longer that it could take to complete the journal review process. We believe in traditional peer review; we welcome feedback the public and any scientists who are interested in taking the time to make thoughtful comments. Indeed, with the first 4 papers submitted, many of the best comments came from the broader scientific community. Our papers have received scrutiny by dozens of top scientists, not just the two or three that typically are called upon by journalists.


Regarding Judith Curry, there is broad general agreement that the results released today give a new and improved estimate of the global land temperature going back 250 years. Judith also agrees that the findings on volcanoes and changed to the diurnal temperature range (both discussed in the results paper) make useful contributions to the field. The disagreement comes only over Berkeley Earth’s use of a simple model fitting the temperature record for the past 250 years to human CO2 emissions and volcanoes to conclude that the best explanation for the observed warming is greenhouse gas emissions.

Read Revkin’s full post for more details on Elizabeth Muller’s response and other details regarding climate scientists thoughts on papers from BEST here.

Just as Muller was making his announced conversion to believing global warming is human-caused, Anthony Watts, who runs the “Watts Up With That” blog, which is notoriously critical of mainstream climate data and many environmental studies, released a study of its own that announced “half of the global warming in the USA is artificial.”

Watts drew media attention early into the weekend when he posted on his blog that he would be suspending posting — as well as postponing his vacation — to make an important announcement. The announcement was the culmination of a five-year study by Watts and other contributors reanalyzing data from NOAA that found a doubling of temperatures previously reported was due to “NOAA station siting problems and post measurement adjustments.” According to Watts et al, 92 percent of this overestimation is based on problems with “adjustments of well-sited stations.”

James Delingpole for the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph blog clarifies this as meaning NOAA “has systematically exaggerated the extent of late 20th century global warming.”

(Image via Watts Up With That)

Others have reanalyzed this NOAA data before, including Muller who Watts cites in his announcement, but all were “inconclusive in finding effects on temperature trends used to gauge the temperature change in the United States over the last century.” Here’s Watt’s response to that in light of the findings within his new study:

“I fully accept the previous findings of these papers, including that of the Muller et al 2012 paper. These investigators found exactly what would be expected given the siting metadata they had. However, the Leroy 1999 site rating method employed to create the early metadata, and employed in the Fall et al 2011 paper I co-authored was incomplete, and didn’t properly quantify the effects.

The new rating method employed finds that station siting does indeed have a significant effect on temperature trends.”

Watts explains that the conclusions of this most recent study were reached using a new methodology to review station siting.

Check out Watt’s full announcement for more details on the study’s findings here.