BEST busts Urban Heat Island Myth

Read time: 3 mins

Richard Muller not a Koch lackey after all …

During all the bad days when people were coughing up chunks of lung while the TV still touted Camels, it was never news when the Surgeon General drew the link between smoking and cancer. But it would have been BIG news if Philip Morris had funded and publicized a major study confirming the carcinogenic nature of its product.

That's pretty much what's happened - except with a climate twist - with the publication of a paper with the snappy title: Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average Using Rural Sites Identified from MODIS Classifications. Update: The revised version of the paper can be found here and is attached.

The paper was partly funded by the Koch brothers, famous for the pollution their industries spew and for the money they spend funding everything from climate change denial to the founding of the Tea Party. “Leading scientists” involved in the paper included people such as Richard Muller and Judith Curry, a man apparently out of his depth in climate science and a woman dangerously in love with her growing reputation as a contrarian. Many people took one look at the funder and the guest list and concluded that anything produced by their Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) group was going to be tainted fodder for the denier hoards.

We were wrong.

The BEST paper, an effort to confirm or debunk whether the urban heat island (UHI) effect was skewing climate records, has affirmed - again - that global temperature records are accurate and worrisome. In doing so, they also confirmed that UHI fan Anthony Watts is, well, a silly man who refuses to let solid, peer-reviewed science get in the way of his enthusiasms. (This is purest extrapolation. BEST really IS conducting serious science and thus there would be no occasion in which they might mention Anthony Watts' name.)

Muller himself has promoted the BEST paper in a Wall Street Journal article. Typically, he begins by cosying up to the denier crowd - “Are you a global warming skeptic? There are plenty of good reasons why you might be.” - before breaking down and admitting that none of those “good reasons” is supported by actual data.

That said, Muller and Curry deserve credit for standing by good science. And the other contributors to the paper (Charlotte Wickham, Don Groom, Robert Jacobsen, Saul Perlmutter, robert Rohde, Arthur Rosenfeld and Jonathan Wurtele) deserve an equally enthusiastic round of applause for keeping the ship of science steady even with Koch money rattling around in the hold.

The risk they took, accepting that money and associating with Muller and Curry when the two seemed not to care about their professional reputations, has been well-rewarded. We have, again, decisive confirmation of the obvious - that anthropogenic global warming is undeniable. And we have it from the unlikeliest source.

At some point, you might even think that this would inspire someone in government to take seriously the notion that we should do something about it … no? We live in hope.

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Jim Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said he had not read the research papers but was glad Muller was looking at the issue, describing him as “a top-notch physicist”. “It should help inform those who have honest scepticism about global warming.

“Of course, presuming that he basically confirms what we have been reporting, the deniers will then decide that he is a crook or has some ulterior motive.

“As I have discussed in the past, the deniers, or contrarians, if you will, do not act as scientists, but rather as lawyers.”

“As soon as they see evidence against their client (the fossil fuel industry and those people making money off business-as-usual), they trash that evidence and bring forth whatever tidbits they can find to confuse the judge and jury.”

Source: “Global warming study finds no grounds for climate sceptics’ concerns,” The Guardian (UK), Oct 20, 2011

To access this article, go to:

My guess is that the denier community will not find much difficulty with this study. It’s more likely that they’ll use it as a vindication of other industry-funded “investigations”. They’ll point to the BEST report and say “See? We TOLD you fossil-fuel money doesn’t influence the science!”

They’ll happily give up the Heat Island Myth as a sacrificial lamb if it means being able to suggest that industry financing hasn’t corrupted the rest of the denial “science”.

I hope I’m wrong. :-)

“I hope I’m wrong. :-)”

Unfortunately, on the denier blogs, deniers as expected, simply deny.


Benny Peiser is already cherry-picking and spinning Richard Muller’s report:

Sceptical Berkeley Scientists Say, “Human Component Of Global Warming May Be Somewhat Overestimated”’ (1)

Notice how Peiser uses all capital letters for each word in his headline. That is not uncommon but in this case it also conveniently makes it appear as if the entire phrase quoted appears as such in the report. It doesn’t.

Here’s what the phrase of the BEST’s report actually says:

In that case the human component of global warming may be somewhat overestimated.”

The full, correct quote obviously should leave real skeptics wondering what exactly “in that case” refers to. One has to look at the previous phrases to understand what it is all about:

“If the long‐term AMO [Atlantic Mutidecadal Oscillation] changes have been driven by greenhouse gases then the AMO region may serve as a positive feedback that amplifies the effect of greenhouse gas forcing over land. On the other hand, some of the long‐term change in the AMO would be driven by natural variability, e.g. fluctuations in thermohaline flow. In that case the human component of global warming may be somewhat overestimated.” [Page 12, BEST “Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures” (2)]

One has to be either extremely naive or have the intention to distort to turn the full quote into the claim that BEST believes human contribution may be overstated.




turns out to be a poor proxy for anything.  A properly done revision of the AMO, ‘new’ AMO, turns out to be a non-predictor.

Tamino stated of the traditional AMO that it just was global warming.  After some looking into the literature I am inclinded to agree.  The BEST group is years behind in the literature on this.

This is hilarious watching on the net, the whole thing unravel for Watts & the deniettes.

The continuous contradictions must be confusing for the denial faithful. Watts rages against the machine & so often demands that we listen to blog scientists that are not peer reviewed, or says the peer review process is dead or corrupt……….but then when the BEST report is released, says it is not peer reviewed. His own surface stations investigation was not peer reviewed, but yet he demanded that we pay attention to it.

Climate realists are playing by the rules & winning. Deniers are constantly shifting the goal posts & are getting pwned by their own game, lol.

Good day! I’m interested in this topic. I want to buy an essay. And I think that all human actions can be analyzed in different ways. Everyone is entitled to his opinion. Thank you for the fact that I have the opportunit to learn yours.