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Thursday, 9th February 2012

The reality of the inconvenient truth

In November 2009, shortly before the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, a server of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, UK was hacked and thousands of emails were released on the Internet. Some of these emails were cherry-picked by the climate change denier community to challenge the integrity of the CRU data and the reliability of the global temperature trend. Since the global temperature dataset maintained by the CRU[1] is a widely used dataset in the climate science community in assessing the long-term temperature variation of the Earth, speculations and commentaries trying to disprove global warming were quickly spread all over the world via the Internet and snowballed by the enthusiastic media. This incident was labelled as the "Climategate"[2].

Investigations on this incident were later conducted by several independent bodies or committees. All investigation reports found that there is no evidence of fraud or misconduct in the work of CRU[3-6]. Disappointingly, the important findings of these vindicating reports did not receive much attention by the media. Also, the basic media coverage to repudiate the previous wrong allegations was disproportionally less than that for the outbreak of the event[7]. As a result, the "Climategate" is still sometimes wrongly quoted as a conspiracy in climate science in the blogosphere and some news columns.

Apart from the CRU dataset, the NOAA[a] dataset and the NASA GISS[b] dataset are frequently used to assess the global temperature trend[8]. Recently, a group of scientists, including Saul Perlmutter, the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, published on the Internet the results of an independent study entitled "Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature"[9], aiming to resolve criticism of temperature analyses raised by climate change skeptics. The scientists analyzed 1.6 billion temperature data records from 39000 stations, more than five times of stations considered in previous climate studies. What they found about the long-term trend of average world land temperature was that there was a rise of approximately 1oC since the mid-1950s, in good agreement with the previous findings of NOAA, NASA and Hadley Centre/CRU[c] (Figure 1). The recent findings of the Berkeley study reaffirm the reality of global warming.



S M Lee and T C Lee


Notes:

[a] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[b] Goddard Institute for Space Studies, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

[c] Hadley Centre is part of UK Met Office and UK's foremost climate change research centre. It works jointly with CRU to compile the global temperature dataset.


Figure 1     Anomalies of 10-year moving average of land surface temperature, relative to the Jan 1950 - December 1979 mean. The grey band indicates uncertainty interval. Source: Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project.
Figure 1      Anomalies of 10-year moving average of land surface temperature, relative to
the Jan 1950 - December 1979 mean. The grey band indicates uncertainty
interval. Source: Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project.


References:

[1] Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/

[2] Climatic Research Unit email controversy, Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_email_controversy#cite_note-SAP-Report-59

[3] Oxburgh Report Clears Controversial Climate Research Unit, ScienceInsider, April 2010.
http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/04/oxburgh-report-clears-controvers.html

[4] The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review. http://www.cce-review.org/pdf/FINAL%20REPORT.pdf

[5] Final Investigation Report Involving Dr. Michael E, Mann, The Pennsylvania State University.

[6] Report of the International Panel set up by the University of East Anglia to examine the research of the Climatic Research Unit. http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/CRUstatements/SAP

[7] The Fake Scandal of Climategate, Skeptical Science. http://www.skepticalscience.com/fake-scandal-Climategate.html

[8] WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate 2010, World Meteorological Organization, March 2011.
http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/wcp/wcdmp/statement/documents/1074_en.pdf

[9] Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project. http://berkeleyearth.org/index.php



Last revision date: <17 Jan 2013>