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Climate study, funded in part by conservative group, confirms global warming

The latest global warming results confirm those from earlier, independent studies by scientists at NASA and elsewhere that came under fire from skeptics in an episode known as 'climategate.'

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The work makes no attempt to attribute the rising temperatures to any particular cause. Nor does it include ocean temperatures, the subject of a future study.

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Still, this confirmation could help move the discussion toward solutions, suggests Caspar Ammann, another climate scientist at NCAR.

With minor differences, trends in all four independent study groups' temperature records match up well from about 1900 on, with the Berkeley and NOAA analyses showing a slightly higher level for the mid-2000s than the NASA and Hadley analyses.

"The rather irrational doubt and claims of a hoax simply don't make sense, and this work might help restart the discussion about what is next," Dr. Ammann says.

The team Muller assembled is not built from the usual cast of climate-science suspects, although Judith Curry, who head's Georgia Tech's department of earth and atmospheric sciences, is a member of the team.

Instead, Muller says he drew heavily on scientists from astrophysics and particle physics with expertise in teasing convincing, reproducable evidence from enormous masses of hard-to-analyze data.

Among them: Saul Perlmutter, who earlier this month shared a Nobel Prize in Physics with two other scientists for discovering that the universe is expanding at an increasing pace. The data Dr. Perlmutter and his colleagues used to stun the world of cosmology – results that others later confirmed – were far less abundant and far harder to analyze than temperature records, Muller says.

The team's independence and its willingness to devise its own analytical methods to provide a reality check on the three other groups' results sold the Koch foundation on the project, Muller adds.

Beyond the immediate results, the group is trying to make such work more transparent to other scientists than critics say has been the case in recent climate science.

The team posted the four papers on the website in advance of their publication, or even acceptance for publication, in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, the team posted the data and the computer programs used to process and analyze them.

That move has drawn criticism from some climate skeptics who intially supported the group's efforts, arguing that the team was more interested in publicity than in following proper scientific protocol of submitting to a journal and awaiting the verdict of anonymous reviewers.

But for more than a decade, researchers in physics, astrophysics, astronomy, and other disciplines have routinely posted papers-in-progress on public websites for review by colleagues. It's a way of getting an initial reality check on research before engaging the formal publication process.

Some researchers say they doubt this approach will work well for climate science, despite criticisms surrounding what some see as the difficulty of getting other researchers' data or access to the programs they used.

Although the approach can lead to overloaded e-mail inboxes, "I'm quite in favor of these new ways of getting work out and allow a broader set of eyes to provide feedback," says Ammann at NCAR.

[Editor's note: The original headline was changed to correct an inaccuracy about who funded the new climate study. Moreover, the original headline inferred that the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation may not have funded the research if it had known what the outcome would be, although there is no indication that is the case.]

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