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Monday 30 July 2012

Watts Up With Watts?

Today brings yet more supposed revelations on the subject of climate change, and, like so many London bus stories, it’s a case of waiting for ages only to see two coming at once. This is not a coincidence. Nor is the routine crowing from the denialist lobby at what they are hailing as yet another of those magic bullets that never end up convincing the scientific mainstream that it is wrong.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, led by Richard Muller, has released a pre-review report which effectively confirms previous reports of warming, with Muller concluding “While this doesn't prove that global warming is caused by human greenhouse gases, it is currently the best explanation we have found, and sets the bar for alternative explanations”.

Given Muller’s previous scepticism, and the hostility of the denialists towards him, there was always going to be a backlash, and this has come from Anthony Watts, who had at first said of BEST that “I'm prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong”. Now Watts has asserted “New study shows half of the global warming in the USA is artificial”.

How so? Well, this reprises the argument over heat island and other distorting influences on temperature recording stations. It is an argument that Watts has ventilated at some length previously. This time, however, he claims to have used “A WMO-approved Siting Classification System devised by METEO-France’s Michel Leroy” to produce “A new improved assessment”.

Moreover, Watts claims that “The pre-release of this paper follows the practice embraced by Dr Richard Muller”, giving the impression that his study is as valid as that from BEST. However, and with Watts and Co there is inevitably a however, he does not tell how or where his study is to be peer reviewed (the BEST study is to be peer reviewed by the Journal of Geophysical Research).

Also, given the reference to Michel Leroy, one might expect, if not endorsement, at least some comment from him in the Watts study. There is none. And the team behind the Watts study consists only of known sceptics John R Christy, Stephen McIntyre, and Evan Jones, which latter you may find hard to find any information for, although I have unearthed a comment contribution from him at the Watts blog.

Both the Muller and Watts studies need to pass muster at peer review before anyone sounds off about their significance. Only one of them so far is going to be thus submitted, and it isn’t the Watts one. So before the denialist lobby call “game over”, they need to wait until the result of that peer review.

If there is one.

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