Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Met Office and CRU argue for open data and open code

Regular readers of this blog will recall that back in 2009 I looked at data released by the Met Office and CRU and found some errors and software bugs in the land surface temperature record known as CRUTEM3.

That experience led to a collaboration between myself and two professors and a joint paper in Nature entitled The Case for Open Computer Programs which used my experience with the closed Met Office code as one example. Our paper argued for the open release of data and code with all academic papers.

Today comes the news of a new paper from the Met Office and CRU describing an update to CRUTEM3 (called CRUTEM4). The paper is Hemispheric and large-scale land surface air temperature variations: An extensive revision and an update to 2010. It contains a couple of pleasing, if slightly surprising, paragraphs (my emphasis):
Given the importance of the CRUTEM land temperature analysis for monitoring climate change (e.g. Trenberth et al. 2007), our preference is that the underlying station data, and software to produce the gridded data, be made openly available. This will enhance transparency, and also allow more rapid identification of possible errors or improvements that might be necessary (see e.g. the earlier discussion of homogeneity adjustments in the SH).
As a result of these efforts, we are able to make the station data for all the series in the CRUTEM4 network freely available, together with software to produce the gridded data (http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/ and http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/).
The Met Office site says the following of the code release:
The code required to produce the CRUTEM4 fields and timeseries will soon be made available. Note that code previously released for CRUTEM3 cannot be used to exactly reproduce CRUTEM4 temperature series due to changes in processing methodology.

Let's hope that this becomes a trend in science.


Francis Turner said...

Hurray indeed. If anyone in the future should ask what good came of "Climategate" then this will be one clear answer. And if it helps make other climatescientists do the same then even better.

But it's all somewhat ironic. If they'd done this 5 years ago then there might not have been a Climategate because it seems like at least one of the drivers for that leak was the persistent stonewalling of FOIA requests to get precisely this information.

Paul Matthews said...

It is good to see all the data for CRUTEM4 released.

The change of attitude is not really surprising if you are familiar with the recent history.
The people to be thanked for this are Jonathan Jones and Don Keiller, who put in requests for CRU data and continued to appeal after CRU's refusals, and the information commissioner who in June last year over-ruled CRU's objections and ordered them to release the data within 35 days.