Former NOAA scientist: Colleagues manipulated climate change data for political reasons

Former NOAA scientist: Colleagues manipulated climate change data for political reasons
More than 1,000 demonstrators protesting a variety of causes — police shootings, global warming, low wages, opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline — march through the streets of San Diego on Nov. 29, 2016. (BILL WECHTER/AFP/Getty Images)

One former scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is stepping forward to blow the whistle on his former colleagues’ alleged political effort to manipulate scientific data published just ahead of the United Nations’ 2015 Climate Change Conference.

Dr. John Bates, who led NOAA’s climate-data records program before retiring last year after a 40-year career in meteorology and climate science, shared his stunning insights in a Daily Mail story published Saturday.

The crux of Bates’ claim is that NOAA, the federal government’s top agency in charge of climate science, published a poorly-researched but widely praised study with the political goal of disproving the controversial global warming hiatus theory, which suggests that global warming slowed down from 1998 until 2012 with little change in globally-averaged surface temperatures — a direct contrast to global warming advocates’ claim that the earth’s temperature has been constantly increasing.

Bates accused the NOAA study’s lead author, Thomas Karl, of using unverified data sets, ignoring necessary agency procedures and failing to archive his research in a “blatant attempt to intensify the impact” of the study ahead of the climate conference. According to Bates, there is no way to replicate Karl’s data because the computer used to store the research “suffered a complete failure.”

The study — “Possible Artifacts of Data Biases in the Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus” — was published by Science magazine in June 2015 and pushed back against assertions from other research groups that found a pause in rising global temperatures from 1998 to 2012, which goes against climate change advocates’ insistence that the earth’s temperature has been on a steady incline for decades. A pause would, at least in part, discredit arguments for global warming and lend credence to skeptics who argue the climate goes through a natural cycle of changes.

At the time, some climate change advocates were concerned by a 2013 determination by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that “the rate of warming over the past 15 years … is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951.” Ultimately, the IPCC “concluded that the global surface temperature ‘has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.'”

In his effort to disapprove this so-called “hiatus,” Karl claimed he had developed a way to increase the temperature readings that had, over the years, been collected by buoys. Scientists had been testing water temperatures to make the case for global warming and Karl decided to adjust the readings from the buoys by using higher temperature readouts of sea water collected by ships.

“In regards to sea surface temperature, scientists have shown that across the board, data collected from buoys are cooler than ship-based data,” one of the study’s co-authors wrote, adding, “Scientists have developed a method to correct the difference between ship and buoy measurements, and we are using this in our trend analysis.”

With raised temperatures, the National Review pointed out, there was no longer a discernible difference between data collected from the 1950s to 2014, seemingly disproving the “hiatus” theory:

This dubious methodology concluded that the warming trend for 2000 to 2014 was exactly the same as it was for 1950 to 1999: “There is no discernable (statistical or otherwise) decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th century and the first 15 years of the 21st century.” The study then concluded that the IPCC’s statement about a slower rise in global temperature “is no longer valid.” (It takes a lot of chutzpah to out-climate the international climateers.)

But, according to Bates, the study has a lot of cracks.

“They had good data from buoys,” he told the Daily Mail. “And they threw it out and ‘corrected’ it by using the bad data from ships [a natural warming source]. You never change good data to agree with the bad, but that’s what they did so as to make it look as if the sea was warmer.”

And the problems don’t stop with just this report. Bates wrote in a post at the blog Climate Etc. that government scientists often fail to preserve any of their work. “The most critical issue in archival of climate data is actually scientists who are unwilling to formally archive and document their data,” he wrote.

Bates wrote that he finds “great irony” in the fact that climate change advocates are now up in arms about President Donald Trump’s retooling of the Environmental Protection Agency, expressing fears that data might be lost in the new administration’s scrubbing of climate change research.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, has been asking for all the data from Karl’s 2015 report, but NOAA has refused to cooperate. Smith is now praising Bates for “courageously stepping forward.”

“The committee thanks Dr. Bates, a Department of Commerce Gold Medal winner for creating and implementing a standard to produce and preserve climate data, for exposing the previous administration’s efforts to push their costly climate agenda at the expense of scientific integrity,” Smith said in a statement on the matter.

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