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Curry on BEST

Popcorn time. Read this in the Mail on Sunday:

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that a leading member of Prof Muller’s team has accused him of  trying to mislead the public by hiding the fact that BEST’s research shows global warming has stopped.

Prof Judith Curry, who chairs the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at America’s prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, said that Prof Muller’s claim that he has proven global warming sceptics wrong was also a ‘huge mistake’, with no  scientific basis.

Prof Curry is a distinguished climate researcher with more than 30 years experience and the second named co-author of the BEST project’s four research papers.


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Reader Comments (214)

This will go on for a while so I'll need something more nutritious than just popcorn :)

Oct 30, 2011 at 6:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Muller's business, "Muller & Associates" (our trademark is "Impartial Energy Expertise" ), has an interesting first paragraph on its home page ( ) :

"Muller & Associates bridges knowledge gaps to demystify complex technical issues so that clients can make educated decisions. We are able to quickly cut through the “sales talk” and help our clients select the best option for their specific needs."

I'm speechless!!

Oct 30, 2011 at 6:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge

What a hornet's nest. It will be interesting to see the BBC (Richard Black) response to this controversy. I won't be holding my breath.

Oct 30, 2011 at 6:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The Atlantic Magazine, a prominent US publication, lists Richard Muller as oneof their "Brave Thinkers 2011" (a list they do annually) in the November 2011 issue.

Strap Line: "A scientist, suspicious of manipulated climate-change data, bucks expectations and presents evidence for man-made global warming."


Oct 30, 2011 at 7:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Judith Curry....

Looks like climate science has just entered a whole new dimension.

Oct 30, 2011 at 7:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

Looks like a surprise attack from Judith. I wouldn't have expected it from what she's written on her blog so far.

Oct 30, 2011 at 7:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterDagfinn

Well despite his attempt to play the innocent scientist in the PR machine, he is not exactly in a position to complain about JC being quoted in the press.

My sum up of Miller? Shifty b******.

Oct 30, 2011 at 7:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Muller's business, "Muller & Associates" (our trademark is "Impartial Energy Expertise" ), has an interesting first paragraph on its home page ( )
I'm speechless!!
Oct 30, 2011 at 6:30 AM George

Did you know Muller's daughter Elizabeth, who's CEO of his company, organised the PR launch for the BEST papers?

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

There are two things that will happen;

1. Mann Made Global Warming (Tim) alarmists will dismiss the entire Daily Mail article because the two graphs used have different scales, so they will claim it as misleading (while conveniently ignoring the naughty misleading going on by muller and co!

2. The BBC will completely and utterly ignore this story until Black has received a rebuttal from "The Team".


Oct 30, 2011 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Not fair!

I had other plans for today. Now I have to stay in and watch this drama unfold!

And I thought my biggest excitement of the month had been seeing Aldershot Town give a decent account of ourselves against Manchester United.

Now Mullergate Live threatens to come a close second.

Which side has the equivalent of Berbatov, Owen or McGlashan? My money says that JC is suitably fired up - and has slowly been adopting a more sceptical stance over the last year. She also has the cojones to break the consensus that many male climatologists so pitifully fail to display.

Popcorn at ready, armchairs suitably comfortised, adoring dogs at feet, roast pork in oven. Leaves wil just have to remain on the grass till tomorrow. HMRC can wait. Bring it on!

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

A quick flick through the comments reveals the following one from Philip Bratby:

"Man-made climate change (aka anthropogenic global warming) is a huge scam. There is no basis in physics for the hypothesis of carbon dioxide trapping heat and warming the atmosphere and there is no evidence for it. The climate has changed naturally for over 4.5billion years. If there is warming, we should welcome it as we thrive in warmth. If, as appears likely, we have started cooling, then we should be afraid, very afraid."
- Phillip Bratby, Tiverton, England, 30/10/2011 6:45

There's a lot of grumbling on this blog about the denier term. Most of you try and style yourself as sceptics. I'd be interested to see what some of you think of this comment though. Because it couldn't be any clearer that Philip is outright denying basic physics and evidence. How is that not being a denier?

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

ZDB - you should ask Bratby to explain himself if it exercises you.

You could also ask the Mail why it chose the font it did for the article, a question with the same level of relevance to substance of the article as yours.

Do you have any comment to offer on the criticism offered by one of the principle authors of all 4 papers?

Why not allow yourself a day to settle down (and of course for confirmation independently of the Mail)

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

*principal* - gah.

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

Zed: Nice strawman. Did it take long to construct?

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects.

-- J William Fulbright, Speech (April 21, 1966)

Faith is much better than belief. Belief is when someone else does the thinking.

-- Bucky Fuller, in Playboy magazine (1972),

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

BEST can argue what they did because they used very conveniently decade averaged data. They simply didn't want to go there

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterundertoner

Anthony has an excellent new post summarising the BEST fiasco........

with an cute headline too .........

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

This doesn't sound like Judith Curry. Her tone is usually much calmer and more even-handed as regular readers of her excellent blog will know.

But that I was surprised at Muller's media-dancing too. His you tube destruction of Jones, Schmidt, Trenbath et al led me to think he was his own man. The results his team got seem unsurprising considering the data they used, but something odd went on with the pre-release media campaign.

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

With apologies to Les Johnson.

Zed: Nice strawman. {Snip- unnecessary. BH]

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

Bugger, the old ae-ea inversion strikes again.

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

The usual way a high-profile project such as BEST would publish its results would be in a scientific journal, following a rigorous ‘peer review’ by other experts in the field.
The more eminent journals that publish climate research, such as Nature and Science, insist there must be no leaks to the media until this review is complete and if such leaks occur, they will automatically reject the research.
Earlier this year, the project completed four research papers.
As well as trends in world temperatures, they looked at the extent to which temperature readings can be distorted by urban ‘heat islands’ and the influence of long-term temperature cycles in the oceans. The papers were submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research.
But although Prof Curry is the second named author of all four papers, Prof Muller failed to consult her before deciding to put them on the internet earlier this month, when the peer review process had barely started, and to issue a detailed press release at the same time.

Q. Will the research be rejected by the Journal of Geophysical Research with presumably the summit in Durban rolling on regardless?

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Saw this mentioned on unthreaded and have to repeat this observation I made there (which I notice mailman has referenced)

The two equal width graphs showing a hundred years versus the leveling off over the last 10 years, each also with diff range of temp, will become a legend I think in pictorial legerdemain.

It's got to be a certainty that Judith Curry won't be happy with the story as well, this is going to become a typical DM stirring up the hornets nest exercise. Get the popcorn out. ;)

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Geez, the graphs are actually 200 years versus 10 years - rubs eyes,

Oct 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

@ Leopard etc...
Yes that and the temperature scale is shifted downwards too. Perfect chance for raising straw man arguments.

Oct 30, 2011 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

It's got to be a certainty that Judith Curry won't be happy with the story as well, this is going to become a typical DM stirring up the hornets nest exercise. Get the popcorn out. ;)
Oct 30, 2011 at 8:50 AM The Leopard In The Basement

Although she normally comes across as measured, Judith has proved her herself feisty before - when attacked on (sur)Real Climate. I think she knows exactly what she's doing with The Mail - fighting fire with fire.

Oct 30, 2011 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

I thought this Muller quote from the Mail article pretty well summed up the depth of his perception:-

Yesterday Prof Muller insisted that neither his claims that there has not been a standstill, nor the graph, were misleading because the project had made its raw data available on its website, enabling others to draw their own graphs.

However, he admitted it was true that the BEST data suggested that world temperatures have not risen for about 13 years. But in his view, this might not be ‘statistically significant’, although, he added, it was equally possible that it was – a statement which left other scientists mystified.

Read more:

Oct 30, 2011 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Curry’s choice of David Rose for her scoop is interesting. The Mail is a lightweight newspaper, universally sneered at by lefties like me, but Rose is an excellent writer on technical subjects. See:
He was the subject of a pathetic failed hatchet job by Monbiot last year at
The Guardian have changed tack on climate change articles. The BEST press conference was covered by their science correspondent, without the normal fanfare articles by the environment regulars, and without comments. I expect a deafening silence.

Oct 30, 2011 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The BBC environmental journalists can't say anything just yet as Jo Abbess hasn't told them what they should say

Come on Jo your sheep await

Oct 30, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadtheSailor


I agree I've personally been leaving off my layman judgement about what Muller is all about. But when it comes to his PR responses it seems easy to see that he has misjudged his percieved role. It is not enough for him to claim that he gets it in the neck from either side so "he must be right", he seems to be trying to gain the moral high ground by finessing a hand that everybody is laughing at.

Oct 30, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

It will be alarming for alarmists to observe their alarmism being shredded so quicky in other parts of the mass media. The image showing the montage of headlines exposes four of our most biased mass media outlets to ridicule: The Guardian, the BBC, The Economist, and The Independent. More of this would be a good thing since they have apparently disengaged the reasoning sections of their brains, but no doubt still have more vulnerable emotional sections up and running.

Oct 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

For those who might have missed it... In Judith's "BEST (?) PR" thread, on Oct. 26, I had written inter alia:

Another issue that I find somewhat disconcerting .. the Press Release indicates that the team consists of inter alia “climatologists” [note the plural!]. Yet, if one views the credentials attributed to “The Berkley Earth Team”, you are the only person who is identified as a climatologist. And all four papers (as you had previously indicated) have your name as a co-author (notwithstanding your stated limited involvement).

Unfortunately, this reminds me of an incident that occurred – many, many moons ago in a completely different field! An academic was persuaded to participate in an organization’s project, in which the person had a strong professional and personal interest.

However, it subsequently became apparent that the project’s principals had selected this individual only to provide academic cachet ‘n cover (for journal publication purposes) to (what turned out to be) their considerably less than ethically conducted research. Had their methodology ever come to public light, it would have destroyed the academic’s professional reputation.

It was only by chance that the academic became aware of the methodology – at which point (to make a long story short), since the principals refused to acknowledge the error of their ways (or take the professionally recommended corrective action) the academic withdrew from the project, and severed all ties with the organization.

The parallel** I draw from this incident is that, while you were fortunate not to have been used by the IPCC, I’m not entirely confident that you may not have been used by BEST. Not to mention that ever since I learned of Muir Russell’s endorsement of the “team-work” sidestep, I have reservations about how easily responsibility and accountability become foggily diffused when I read/hear that “this was a team effort”, OWTTE. [emphasis not in original -hro]

** There's another parallel: the invocation of "confidentiality" to silence any who might shine a light on the principal's lack of principles. IOW, I've seen this movie before :-(

And, while I have no doubt that Judith was "not in the loop", I do not believe Muller's claim that he did not know what was in the press release. OTOH, maybe he "didn't know" what he wrote in the WSJ, either.

And speaking of Muller's "principles", as I posted in the thread at Judith's a few hours ago, here's what he wrote in 2003:

In most fields of science, researchers who express the most self-doubt and who understate their conclusions are the ones that are most respected. Scientists regard with disdain those who play their conclusions to the press. [...]
When a conclusion is attractive, I am tempted to lower my standards, to do shoddy work. But that is not the way to truth. When the conclusions are attractive, we must be extra cautious.
Present results with caution, and insist on equivocating. Leave it to the president and his advisors to make decisions based on uncertain conclusions. Don't exaggerate the results. Use both hands. We cannot afford to lower our standards merely because the problem is so urgent. (emphases added -hro) [Source]

But, no doubt, that was then ... and this is now.

Oct 30, 2011 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

LA - "MULLERGATE", that about sums it up.

Richard Muller has been caught spinning the science in order to directly profit from it.

It would appear that Richard Muller had only one thing on his mind when he set up BEST - Money, and lots of it.

BEST was meant to be the Gold Standard - now it transpires all that glitters is not neccessarily science.

Again climate science brings out the worst in people. This just another grubby little story in a whole line of grubby little stories.

Oct 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Funnily enough the BBC actually covered the Mail on Sunday article in their 8am News & Papers bulletin:

It was No 2 in the review of the papers.

No doubt the miscreant within their midst has already been blacklisted for the post of Science Editor, and as we speak Bob Ward and Steve Jones will be demanding a retraction from future bulletins. We can't have the public knowing the truth can we? And we wouldn't want to put the mockers on Richard Black's and Roger Harrabin's jolly to the IPPC bash in Durban would we?

Oct 30, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterWellers

Would you agree that what you said about Judith in this context could apply also to Anthony Watts?
I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that Muller would deliberately attempt to undermine Anthony's credibility but in both cases (and perhaps also in the unrelated example you quoted) it's a question of being reckless, in its literal meaning of not really caring one way or the other what the effect is on the people concerned.
On the principle that there is no such thing as bad publicity Muller (and perhaps more importantly Muller & Associates) has won this round which — for all we know — could be all he really cares about.

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

I think Hilary is on target. Hell hath no fury.

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

And thus the flip side of Hide The Decline.

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

Zed, as a former ardent and sometimes very vocal supporter of the AGW hypothesis I have become thoroughly disillusioned by it all. There is clearly something very not right with it. I am also scientifically literate (albeit not in the climate field as, I suspect, neither are you, but that is not to criticize) and have been angered by the blatant hypocrisy of the most prominent figures in this long-running play.

My guess is that you will be feeling the foundations of your own belief system being shaken and the support it gives your own current world view and it is a horribly gut-wrenching sensation to hold. I know. Science, however, cannot advance under the regime we see in action with the scientifico-political (not a real word ..yet) 'axis' that has an agenda that has little to do with the welfare of the planet or it's people and much to do with vested interests and control.

I am not out to score points with your stance nor attack you in any way and have, in months gone by, asked you for a private debate which you have seen fit to not even acknowledge (you might not have spotted it of course).. That is fine as I feel no bruising of my ego. I'm just trying to help and understand.

Why you?...why not? My guess is that you are a genuinely decent human being and it pains me to see the road you're on.

Take care.

It has been asked above whether you have a view on Prof Curry's statement? Is that a fair question at least?

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Using the link Foxgoose provided I noticed an interesting sentence on one of their Webpages

"Real science is non-partisan; and we have found that when presented in a neutral manner, knowledge can help bridge the gap between conflicting parties."

Good job BEST papers were so neutral!

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterCinbadtheSailor

It's hard to say whether the graph is misleading or not.

The claim is that the graph as presented by BEST is misleading WRT the *last decade*; this is made clear in the running text and in the horizontal label for each axis. These axes are also very clearly labelled. I think demonstrating that the BEST graph presents a misleading picture of the last decade *necessitates* showing how BEST presented it (with the full 200-odd years) and how this "hides" recent "stalling" (by zooming in on the last decade) and comparing the two.

However it isn't clear whether or not the divergence between the official BEST graph and the zoomed in section of the BEST data graphed independently is helped or hindered by this format as far as evaluating by eyeball.

If the last decade of the BEST graph is rescaled to match that of the independent graph, it may appear to diverge more and not less.

What I think it's missing is a 3rd graph - the last decade plotted using BESTs method, but at the same scale as the GWPF's graph.

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

Dr David Whitehouse has an interesting article (on the GWPF website here) contesting Prof Muller's conclusions re the global temperature standstill of the last decade. He refers to the BBC interview with Prof Muller, of which I've now written up the full transcript here.

Oct 30, 2011 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull


Oct 30, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Curry on Mail on Curry on BEST

Oct 30, 2011 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

Dr.Curry has come out with a measured pot on this issue stating what exactly she said and where she felt the reporter could have exaggerated. But she stands by the meat of her arguments.

Oct 30, 2011 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenter

Yes, as mrsean2k and Venter have noted, Dr Curry has now commented. She confirms that, although the direct quotes attributed to her are correct, "other sentiments attributed to [her] are not quite right". Specifically:

1. "“Hiding the truth” in the title is definitely misleading". and

2. "I did not say that “the affair had to be compared to the notorious Climategate scandal two years ago,” this is indirectly attributed to me. ... There is NO comparison of this situation to Climategate. Muller et al. have been very transparent in their methods and in making their data publicly available, which is highly commendable."

She goes on to say

My main point was that this is a very good data set, the best we currently have available for land surface temperatures. To me, this should have been the big story: a new comprehensive data set, put together by a team of physicists and statisticians with private funds. Showing preliminary results is of course fine, but overselling them at this point was a mistake IMO.


... this is NOT a new scandal. An important new data set has been released. Some new papers have been posted for comments, which are not surprisingly drawing criticism and controversy. The main issue seems to be Richard Muller’s public statements. All this does not constitute a new scientific scandal in any way.

So it seems the MoS may have slightly overcooked this and maybe it's not quite such big story after all. But the line taken by the Guardian, Economist, Washington Post etc. was absurd in any case as (a) Muller confirmed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the researchers made no assessment of the anthropomorphic component of the warming and (b) in the Decadal Variations paper they nonetheless observe that,

"... some of the long-term change in the AMO could be driven by natural variability, e.g. fluctuations in thermohaline flow. In that case the human component of global warming may be somewhat overestimated."
[My emphasis]

I suggest that that's a significant observation.

Oct 30, 2011 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

It is definitely about what Muller has said and how he delivered his enthusiastic affirmation of 'warming as usual' in the 21st century

Has he been asked yet what he meant in his response to Justin Webb?

Justin Webb: And have you also answered the question which is raised, again, by sceptics, about whether or not global warming has stopped in the last ten years?

Richard Muller: In our data, which was only on the land, we see no evidence of it having slowed down.

Oct 30, 2011 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPKthinks

It will be interesting to see if Dr. Curry is joined to future publications. At first, i thought this would be the end of her appearances at the head of any papers for which she wasn't the principal author. On reflection, her name is much more likely now to be seen as the "seal" of integrity and her participation will be much sought out for papers with honest intent.

It does seem to me that the BEST work itself is not at issue, only its politicization by Muller.

Oct 30, 2011 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

On 27 October Pielke, Sr. repeated comments various climate scientists made trying to explain the lack of warming this century. For any knowledgeable person to claim there has been no pause in warming is just madness. Dr. Curry is just stating the obvious.

Oct 30, 2011 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

Curry's position is in contrast to our own James Delingpole or the great Anthony Watts who said: 'The issue of “the world is warming” is not one that climate skeptics question' . So advocates positioned as skeptics say both 'the world is warming but its not anthropogenic' and 'the world isnt warming'.

Oct 30, 2011 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist

Following the BEST story (which is now the Muller-Whitehouse-Curry-Rose story) here and at WUWT, I’ve been surprised that no-one has mentioned the four notes by McIntyre on BEST, two of which deal with the inability of the BEST algorithms to pick up unexplained step jumps in the data. You don’t have to be a statistician of Steve’s calibre to understand what’s happening here - scientists relying on computer programmes rather than the evidence of their eyes - and in a venture which was set up precisely to test the computer-produced data which Watts and others have been criticising for so long, using the evidence of their eyes.

Lots of accusations are being thrown at Muller, from venality to ignorance. These were top scientists setting out precisely to defend the reputation of science (and, indirectly, their own). Stupidity, ignorance and venality are not possible as explanations. Muller and his colleagues just don’t seem to have understood the nature of the scepticism which surrounds climate science. It’s like watching a team of phrenologists bashing their heads against a brick wall, trying to come up with ever more interesting bumps.

Oct 30, 2011 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

The real ugly fisticuffs to come will probably not involve Muller or Judith Curry. It will be between the BBC and its associated servile lapdog media on the one hand, and Paul Dacre, the Mail's fearless editor, on the other, for giving oxygen to scepticism and debate on Europe and Global Warming.

Oct 30, 2011 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

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