As expected, there have been increasing volumes of hot air expended on the blogosphere about this. RC's post seems pretty reasonable as ever and so is this comment they point to. There is probably little point in speculating in too great detail about the implications, but then again, if one is not going to speculate pointlessly on a blog, there seems little point in having one.
Steve McIntyre was quick to present a hypothetical new surface temperature record, based on slowly phasing out buckets over the 2nd half of the century.
This gives a greatly reduced warming trend over the last 50 and even 30 years, which got Roger Pielke very excited. However, even though Steve may be right about the buckets themselves, his analysis (which, to be fair, he did not present as anything authoritative) ignores the fact that SST observations have increasingly come from other sources such as satellites and buoys. (Furthermore, that graph above seems to show a change of 0.3C for the global mean temperature, which is hard to justify since the adjustment under discussion is only 0.3C for the SST measurements made by some ships, albeit most of them.) I happen to have used some satellite SST data in previous research, and on checking the details I see that the Pathfinder AVHRR were flying from late 1981 (there may even have been older missions for all I know, but I would guess not). This fleet of satellites has provided hi-res global coverage on a regular basis from 1985 (and probably something from the few years prior), so although I do not know the details of the global SST analysis it seems inconceivable that bucket measurements from ships played much of a part subsequent to that date. Turning to buoys, Wikipedia tells me that the US National Data Buoy Development Program started in 1967 and the National Data Buoy Center was formed in 1970, so it seems that at least some data was coming from this source back then too (and note that even if the volume of data was quite small, its relative accuracy may make it outweigh a lot of ship measurements).
So I don't know exactly what the charges will be, but I suspect that the graphic here attributed to CRU is a reasonable first guess.
As you should be able to see at a glance (although Roger apparently cannot), the maximum change in the smoothed record shown there is a little short of 0.2C globally, which is just as expected given a maximum change of no more than 0.3C for the ocean (70% of the earth's surface).
So how does this affect the IPCC's latest report? Well, in the Technical Summary, there is a nice figure (Figure TS.6) which gives 25, 50, 100 and 150 year trends. So let's give this a little update shall we?
Actually, I cannot reproduce either that graph or the Independent's one precisely, as I do not know exactly how they did the smoothing, or (in the case of the IPCC) which data set they used. But this seems acceptably close to both (click for larger version):
The original data are the crosses and the blue line (5 year boxcar smooth), with the new smoothed data forming the dotted blue line which trends down more slowly from 1945-1960. The adjustment I used was a linear term which falls from 70%*0.3C in 1946, to 0 in 1960. Obviously I don't claim this is authoritative but I do believe it is more plausible than a number of other graphs I have seen on the intertubes...
The solid straight lines are the trends plotted by the IPCC. The dotted ones are equivalent trends of the adjusted data. With the help of a bit of rounding, the 50 year trend (1956-2005) changes from 0.13 to 0.12C/decade. By cherry-picking the start date to be 1946 I can get a change as large as 20%, from 0.11C/decade to 0.09C/decade. Woohoo. Let the blogorrhea continue...
Update. It certainly looks like the Independent graphic attributed to CRU is smoothed over rather more than 5 years. Roger says it is a 21y binomial filter, and if that is correct then the adjustment presented in that graph there must be just a hand-drawn guess rather than the results of any realistic calculation, since a 21y smooth would smudge out any adjustment over a rather longer interval than indicated. It's even possible that the attribution to CRU is just for the original data, and the adjustment was drawn on by a journalist. So don't take any of this too seriously for now. I would guess that the data analysts may take this opportunity to have another look at the various assumptions underlying the splicing together of different data sources, and by the time they are done there may be a whole bunch of minor adjustments throughout the time series.