The BBC's Richard Black can't see the wood for the trees

He has been doing his best to score points out of the preliminary findings of the Berkeley climate project but is having trouble. The Berkeley people have noted that changes in the Gulf Stream could be responsible for many of the temperature changes observed so he checks with an expert on the Gulf Stream and finds that he too says that changes in the Gulf Stream account for huge tracts of the temperature record. Pesky!

His expert tells him, rather predictably, that human induced CO2 steps in and does the warming when the Gulf stream is not doing much but how plausible is that? What is the switch that suddenly turns on human influences when the Gulf Stream takes a nap?

Black then attacks Anthony Watts and his well-known project of investigating the integrity of U.S. temperature measurements. Black has a bit of a crow -- as the Berkeley temperature graph is similar to the existing big three. The Berkeley people however come to their conclusions by relying on "good" temperature measuring stations. But that is an intrinsically difficult enterprise -- since Watts has found fault with about two thirds of all U.S. stations -- and the U.S. measurements are "good" compared to most of the rest of the world. So it seems possible that the Berkeley people come to the same conclusion only because they use the same crappy data.

Black then asserts quite wrongly that most skeptics have always denied that warming is going on. To the contrary, Warmists have repeatedly pointed out that the recorded warming over the last century or so is trivial and of a piece with previous natural fluctuations. Why do skeptics make such a big thing about the Medieval Warm Period if they deny that there is any warming? Black is just trying to revise history.

As Lubos Motl pointed out in his article that I excerpted yesterday, the issue is the CAUSE of the slight warming we have seen. Is it natural or man-made? And "THE SCIENCE" is very much on the side of the warming being natural. Al Gore always speaks of "THE SCIENCE" as something that supports his extravagant predictions but science does no such thing. Science is all about prediction. Making accurate predictions is the test of any theory. But THE WAY scientists make predictions is by saying that things in the future will work just as things have worked in the past. So a continuation of a tiny warming trend is what "THE SCIENCE" predicts. It is the Warmists who are departing from science by saying that nature will suddenly do something quite different from what it has so far been doing and start generating big temperature changes. Warmism in highly speculative prophecy, not science. An excerpt from the Green Mr Black:
The Berkeley project poses a scientific challenge with its contention that water temperature changes in the north Atlantic - perhaps related to the Gulf Stream, as it's commonly known - are driving year-to-year changes in global temperature.

Even more so, when the authors suggest that a greater part of the warming-cooling-warming history of the 20th Century could be down to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) than is recognised.

(Clarification for putative cherry-pickers; the scientific work behind the papers doesn't examine this idea or even back it, but the authors suggest it as an avenue for further research.)

I had a chat with Michael Schlesinger, the University of Illinois professor who discovered the AMO along with Navin Ramankutty in 1994.

Research he and others have done since shows clearly, he said, that "while the AMO was the dominant influence on global mean temperature during 1904-1944 and 1944-1976, it is not the dominant influence over the entire observational record, 1850 to 2010.

"Over this time period, it is the increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases caused by humanity's burning of fossil fuels that is the dominant cause of the observed warming."

That, I think, is the conclusion that the majority of climate scientists is likely to make, although the whole issue is made more complex by the fact that greenhouse warming can perturb natural cycles such as the AMO.

Claims that US weather station quality affected diagnosis of global warming was rejected. So it's interesting to see what those who would shape opinion are making of the Berkeley results.

The sceptical blogosphere has been unusually quiet - disappointingly quiet, you might say. James Delingpole, Jo Nova, ClimateAudit... nothing.

One who has waded into the fray, inevitably, is Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That. I say "inevitably", because his criticisms of weather station quality were among the factors that persuaded Prof Muller to get his project off the ground.

The Berkeley group concluded that although a high proportion of weather stations in the US might not be high quality - for example, if they're situated in the middle of an expanding city - it doesn't matter.

High-quality stations show the same warming trend as low-quality ones; so this issue can be taken off the table.

Mr Watts, in his recent postings, isn't impressed. He argues that the Berkeley team used too long a time period for its analysis. He says it made a few other basic errors.

There's a fair bit of revisionism going on too, some of it visible in the comments on my news story. "Sceptics don't say the world isn't warming," this narrative goes - "we just debate how much of it is caused by greenhouse gases."

There are some "sceptics" who do take this line, it's true. But if the Earth's temperature record wasn't an issue, why has so much energy been expended in attempting to discredit it and the scientists behind it?


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