Tuesday, February 21, 2017

BatesMotel#4 - US Rep Lamar Smith - Feb 5th Press Release, his NOAA smear campaign dissected.

I’ve taken the liberty of examining Congressman Lamar Smith’s Feb 5th press release about supposed scientific manipulation.  Though under the banner of the US House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the text reads more like a melodramatic PR stunt than any serious effort at understanding.  It’s goal being to hoist up Dr. John Bates as some national hero, while maliciously slandering Dr. Tom Karl and climate scientists’ good reputation.

Smith’s arguments stink of the self-certain prosecutor who refuses to acknowledge that anything exists outside of his bubble of reality.  Which is why I’ve decided to take on the role of defending advocate, so I can cross-examine and share comments with the Congressman, and then I will call up authoritative witnesses to share their story.

Hopefully it will help you better understand the malicious game being played by US Representative Lamar Smith, since they are playing for keeps.

In reading the following keep in mind Lamar’s new age Republican mindset.  Namely that Personal Truths and self-interest allows them to disconnect from recognizing fundamental Universal Truths, such as the geophysics that made Earth the boundless cornucopia that humanity discovered not all that many generations ago.  It’s spooky scary and too few dare call them on it.  More need to pitch in.  Can you help?

Admittedly I can imagine how easily Lamar’s self-certain slander and derision is embraced by people who are too preoccupied getting through their own day to days, scared people with little time or sympathy for worrying about what’s happening to the planet that we depend on for everything.  But that doesn’t make it right or honest or honorable.   Certainly doesn’t make it correct no matter how much they lie to themselves and others.

I did not change or rearrange any of his text, I simply inserted a paragraph break at every item of note.  Sometimes commenting but often simply sharing relevant quotes from a dozen authoritative sources.  

I’ve collected all of them in an appendix that includes long quotes and links.  Since the whole thing got unwieldy I’ve split it off into it’s own post so the two can be viewed side by side, an abbreviated appendix is listed at the end of this post.  I’ve also linked the author’s names to their stories.  Please think about what the GOP is trying to pull here.  

I’m just a working guy doing this in what scattered spare time I can manage.  It probably leaves a lot to be desired.  It is what it is, still look through it, bet you'll find some interesting thoughts. Please think about it because your future hangs in the balance. How successful Trump and the GOP are in the next weeks and months and year or two, will make all the difference in the world to your future.

If We The People keep allowing them to believe their fantasy, its hello Orwell like you never imagined.  Only hope is getting some of those self-certain imaginary bubbles to pop.

If you’re still reading think about how you can improve on this.  How could you better manage these sorts of gold mines worth of information.  I’m not concerned about attribution, my concern is trying to inspire some to do this a hell of a lot better and to figure out how to have an impact on people.  All this information I’ve collected is a few hours worth of effort, homework projects.  The evidence is out there! To be found everywhere for the critical thinking student.

Feel free to copy, share, and use the following and please include attribution where appropriate.
{last edit 8:30 pm, Mtn. time, Feb 21}
Now to the Press Release that started everyone talking about the Bates Hotel mystery.

Congressman Lamar Smith: 
Feb 5, 2017. -  Press Release

BatesMotel#4B - US Rep Lamar Smith - Feb 5th Press Release, his NOAA smear campaign dissected - APPENDIX

This is the appendix (perhaps lesson plan would be better?) to my examination of Congressman Lamar Smith’s February 5th press release where he impugned the integrity of a highly respected scientist Tom Karl and NOAA climate scientists in general.  Smith did this based on the hearsay of an archivist with a personal ax to grind.  Furthermore, Smith’s aggressive self-certain faith-blinded insistence that the Global Warming “Hiatus” must be a real thing reveals a terrifying ignorance of physical realities.  It is yet another indication the man lacks the tools for being chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee and science oversight.  He’s a faith-blinded partisan out to vandalize institutions and he should be recognized for it.

His willingness to ignore all the science that doesn’t fit his ideology and his willingness to attempt character assassination for political gain inspired me to do this exercise and to act as Advocate for the accused and to call forth the following parade of witnesses, along with my own questions and observations regarding Congressman Smith's gross misrepresentation.

The first three items and the last one are not referenced in the dissection, but I thought they belonged here for background information.  I split this off from the main text in order to make it possible to view side by side.  Find the main text at:

{1}    Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus

Thomas R. Karl, Anthony Arguez, Boyin Huang, Jay H. Lawrimore, James R. McMahon, Matthew J. Menne, Thomas C. Peterson, Russell S. Vose, Huai-Min Zhang

Much study has been devoted to the possible causes of an apparent decrease in the upward trend of global surface temperatures since 1998, a phenomenon that has been dubbed the global warming “hiatus.” Here, we present an updated global surface temperature analysis that reveals that global trends are higher than those reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, especially in recent decades, and that the central estimate for the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a “slowdown” in the increase of global surface temperature.


{2}    The Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus

new study published online today in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or “hiatus” in the rate of global warming in recent years.

Quick Links
Download the Data via FTP


{3}    Tracking the Missing Heat from the Global (Surface!) Warming Hiatus
By Christina Reed | May 21, 2015 | Earth Observation Systems

At the end of the 20th century, climate scientists noticed what they thought at first was an anomaly: a slowdown in the pace of global warming in the lower atmosphere. Today it is a recognized trend that has lasted more than 15 years. Perplexed, oceanographers are on a hunt to find where this missing heat has gone.

In the latest report out of Nature Geoscience this week, University of Miami physical oceanographer Sang-Ki Lee and colleagues may have found some of this missing heat: The Pacific Ocean is keeping its cool by sending heat over to the Indian Ocean. This heat redistribution, the researchers say, could play a role in regulating the rate of global warming.


{4}    Article names “whistleblower” who claims that NOAA manipulated data 
Scott K. Johnson - 2/6/2017 - arstechnica.com
Allegations in a Daily Mail article seem more office politics than science.

Bates recently retired from NOAA after a career working primarily on satellite measurements used for weather forecasting. Recently, he was also in charge of data-archiving efforts for satellite and surface temperature records. Bates alleges that NOAA's Tom Karl and the rest of the team behind the paper failed to adequately follow NOAA’s internal processes for archiving their data and stress-testing the updated databases they used. …

Bates also questions the way in which some sea surface temperature measurements were adjusted to sync them up with the rest of the measurements, falsely claiming that the technique alters the warming trend.

In a blog post, Maynooth University research Peter Thorne—who worked on both the land and sea databases underlying the Karl paper but not the Karl paper itself—disputed many of Bates’ claims. First off, Thorne notes that Bates was not personally involved in the research at any stage. And while Bates claims that Karl made a series of choices to exaggerate the apparent warming trend, Thorne points out that this would be difficult for Karl to do since he didn’t contribute to the underlying databases. Karl’s paper simply ran those updated databases through the same algorithm NOAA was already using.

Ars talked with Thomas Peterson, a co-author on the Karl paper who has since retired. Peterson provided some useful context for understanding Bates’ allegations. The satellites that Bates worked with were expensive hardware that couldn't be fixed if anything went wrong after they were launched. The engineering of the software running those satellites sensibly involved testing and re-testing and re-testing again to ensure no surprises would pop up once it was too late.


Bates expected the same approach from his surface temperature counterparts, but Peterson explained that their work with weather station data was not nearly so high-stakes—problems could easily be fixed on the fly. The engineering-style process NOAA was using for endlessly double-checking the software for all dataset updates could drag on for quite a long time—years, in fact—and Bates opposed any attempt to speed this up. Peterson and other scientists were naturally anxious to incorporate changes they knew were scientifically important.

Bates alleges that the Karl paper was “rushed” for political reasons, but Peterson said the reality was that NOAA was well behind the times, waiting to include known improvements like additional recording stations in the rapidly warming Arctic. “I had been arguing for years that we were putting out data that did not reflect our understanding of how the temperature was actually warming—[for] literally years we slowed down to try to account for some of these processing things that we had to do,” Peterson said. (At the time of the Karl paper, NOAA’s dataset showed less warming in recent years than other datasets, like NASA’s.) …


{5}    How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study
By Warren Cornwall, Paul Voosen   Feb. 8, 2017 

… John Bates, who retired from NOAA this past November, made the claims in a post on the prominent blog of Judith Curry, a climate researcher who recently retired from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and has walked the line between science and climate contrarians over the past decade. Bates’s complaints were also the centerpiece of a story published Sunday by David Rose of the United Kingdom’s The Mail on Sunday, a tabloid, which claimed that national leaders “were strongly influenced” by the “flawed NOAA study” as they finalized the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Rose's story ricocheted around right-wing media outlets, and was publicized by the Republican-led House of Representatives science committee, which has spent months investigating earlier complaints about the Karl study that is says were raised by an NOAA whistleblower. But Science Insider found no evidence of misconduct or violation of agency research policies after extensive interviews with Bates, Karl, and other former NOAA and independent scientists, as well as consideration of documents that Bates also provided to Rose and the Mail

Instead, the dispute appears to reflect long-standing tensions within NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), based in Asheville, North Carolina, over how new data sets are used for scientific research. The center is one the nation’s major repositories for vetted earth observing data collected by satellites, ships, buoys, aircraft, and land-based instruments.

In the blog post, Bates says that his complaints provide evidence that Karl had his “thumb on the scale” in an effort to discredit claims of a warming pause, and his team rushed to publish the paper so it could influence national and international climate talks. But Bates does not directly challenge the conclusions of Karl's study, and (Bates) never formally raised his concerns through internal NOAA mechanisms.  …


Posted by Eric Davidson | February 4, 2017 | American Geophysical Union]

UPDATE (5 February): I want to clarify – AGU’s position on the scientific consensus on climate change and the need for openness and transparency in science is firm. As we stated “while climate science knowledge is evolving, these reports do not change our fundamental understanding of climate change,” and “AGU remains committed to serving as a leader in data and transparency in science.”

As to the merits – or lack thereof – of the allegations made in John Bates’ post about data mismanagement, within NOAA, that discussion is and will continue to unfold in dialogue among scientists, such as in this article by Zeke Hausfather from Berkeley Earth and this blog post from the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units.

AGU has been and will continue to be a vocal voice in support of scientific integrity in the new Administration:

AGU believes that the merits of the Karl et al. (2015) should be and have been discussed in appropriate peer-reviewed scientific journals. We note that the main results of that study have since been independently replicated by later work. In the meantime, we will continue to stand up for the credibility of climate science, the freedom of scientists to conduct and communicate their science …

… I also want you to know that, while climate science knowledge is evolving, these reports do not change our fundamental understanding of climate change. The Karl study updated the NOAA global temperature record, but there have been many other studies, using other, independent global temperature records, that have improved our understanding of the climate system and anthropogenic climate change since then. For example, all independent records now show that the past two years were the warmest years on record. …


{7}    Seepage: The effect of climate denial on the scientific community
By Stephan Lewandowsky | May 7, 2015
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol

The article is authored by me and Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson.

It is open access and can be found here.

Seepage: The Executive Summary

We initiate our argument with the known fact that vested interests and political agents have long opposed political or regulatory action in response to climate change by appealing to scientific uncertainty. We know from earlier work that uncertainty is no cause for inaction—on the contrary, greater scientific uncertainty should make us worry more, not less, about the potential consequences of climate change. 

Alas, those actual scientific implications are often inverted in public discourse where uncertainty often invites wishful thinking and hence inaction. In this new article, we examine the effect of contrarian talking points that arise out of uncertainty on the scientific community itself. We show that although scientists are trained in dealing with uncertainty, there are several psychological and cognitive reasons why scientists may nevertheless be susceptible to uncertainty-based argumentation, even when scientists recognize those arguments as false and are actively rebutting them. …


{8}    Recent Ocean Warming has been Underestimated

Published on Jan 4, 2017
In a paper published in Science Advances, we used data from buoys, satellites, and Argo floats to construct separate instrumentally homogenous sea surface temperature records of the past two decades. We compared them to the old NOAA ERSSTv3b record, the new ERSSTv4 record, the Hadley Centre’s HadSST3 record, and the Japanese COBE-SST record. 

We found a strong and significant cool bias in the old NOAA record, and a more modest (but still significant) cool bias in the Hadley and Japanese records compared to buoy, satellite, and Argo float data. The new NOAA record agrees quite well with these instrumentally homogenous records. This suggests that the new NOAA record is likely the most accurate sea surface temperature record in recent years, and should help resolve some of the criticism that accompanied the original NOAA study.


{9}     Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise
By Zeke Hausfather | CarbonBrief.org

This is a guest post by Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and energy systems analyst at Berkeley Earth, an independent temperature analysis project.

In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose makes the extraordinary claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”, accusing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of manipulating the data to show more warming in a 2015 study by Tom Karl and coauthors.

What he fails to mention is that the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results.

NOAA’s results are independently verified …


Look at David Rose’s deliberately deceptive tabloid attack piece. 

{10}    NOAA Scientists Falsely Accused of Manipulating Climate Change Data
A tabloid used testimony from a single scientist to paint an excruciatingly technical matter as a worldwide conspiracy.
By Alex Kasprak | February 8, 2017 | Snopes.com

On 4 February 2017, the British tabloid Mail on Sunday (and the Daily Mail‘s online site) published an article by David Rose — a longtime proponent of climate change conspiracy theories whose analyses the scientific community widely regards as flawed and deceptive — alleging that scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used misleading data in order to rush publication of a groundbreaking climate study and thereby “dupe” world leaders: …

The allegations made against Karl and his co-authors fall into three general groups:

1) That the team unethically selected flawed data that was supportive of their cause.

2) That they failed to archive their data as required by both NOAA and the journal Science.

3) That they rushed through the required internal review process to get the paper published before the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. 


{11}    On Mail On Sunday article on Karl et al.
PeterThorne  |. February 5, 2017
On the Mail on Sunday article on Karl et al., 2015

There is an "interesting" piece (use of quotes intentional) in the Mail on Sunday today around the Karl et al., 2015 Science paper.

There are a couple of relevant pieces arising from Victor Venema and Zeke Hausfather already available which cover most of the science aspects and are worth a read. I'm adding some thoughts because I worked for three and a bit years in the NOAA group responsible in the build-up to the Karl et al. paper (although I had left prior to that paper's preparation and publication). I have been involved in and am a co-author upon all relevant underlying papers to Karl et al., 2015.

The 'whistle blower' is John Bates who was not involved in any aspect of the work. NOAA's process is very stove-piped such that beyond seminars there is little dissemination of information across groups. John Bates never participated in any of the numerous technical meetings on the land or marine data I have participated in at NOAA NCEI either in person or remotely. This shows in his reputed (I am taking the journalist at their word that these are directly attributable quotes) mis-representation of the processes that actually occured. In some cases these mis-representations are publically verifiable.

I will go through a small selection of these in the order they appear in the piece:

1. 'Insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minised documentation' 

Dr. Tom Karl was not personally involved at any stage of ERSSTv4 development, the ISTI databank development or the work on GHCN algorithm during my time at NOAA NCEI. At no point was any pressure bought to bear to make any scientific or technical choices. It was insisted that best practices be followed throughout. The GHCN homogenisation algorithm is fully available to the public and bug fixes documented. The ISTI databank has been led by NOAA NCEI but involved the work of many international scientists. 

The databank involves full provenance of all data and all processes and code are fully documented. The paper describing the databank was held by the journal for almost a year (accepted October 2013, published September 2014) to allow the additional NOAA internal review processes to complete. The ERSSTv4 analysis also has been published in no fewer than three papers. It also went through internal review and approval processes including a public beta release prior to its release which occurred prior to Karl et al., 2015.

2. 'NOAA has now decided the sea dataset will have to be replaced and revised just 18 months after it was issued, because it used unreliable methods which overstated the speed of warming' 

While a new version of ERSST is forthcoming the reasoning is incorrect here. The new version arises because NOAA and all other centres looking at SST records are continuously looking to develop and refine their datasets. The ERSSTv4 development completed in 2013 so the new version reflects over 3 years of continued development and refinement. All datasets I have ever worked upon have undergone version increments. 

Measuring in the environment is a tough proposition - its not a repeatable lab experiment - and measurements were never made for climate. It is important that we continue to strive for better understanding and the best possible analyses of the imperfect measurements. 

That means being open to new, improved, analyses. The ERSSTv4 analysis was a demonstrable improvement on the prior version and the same shall be true in going to the next version once it also has cleared both peer-review and the NOAA internal process review checks (as its predecessor did).

3. 'The land temperature dataset used by the study was afflicted by devestating bugs in its software that rendered its findings unstable' (also returned to later in the piece to which same response applies)

The land data homogenisation software is publically available (although I understand a refactored and more user friendly version shall appear with GHCNv4) and all known bugs have been identified and their impacts documented. There is a degree of flutter in daily updates. 

But this does not arise from software issues (running the software multiple times on a static data source on the same computer yields bit repeatability). Rather it reflects the impacts of data additions as the algorithm homogenises all stations to look like the most recent segment. The PHA algorithm has been used by several other groups outside NOAA who did not find any devestating bugs. Any bugs reported during my time at NOAA were investigated, fixed and their impacts reported.

4. 'The paper relied on a preliminary alpha version of the data which was never approved or verified'

The land data of Karl et al., 2015 relied upon the published and internally process verified ISTI databank holdings and the published, and publically assessable homogenisation algorithm application thereto. This provenance satisfied both Science and the reviewers of Karl et al. It applied a known method (used operationally) to a known set of improved data holdings (published and approved).

5. [the SST increase] 'was achieved by dubious means'

The fact that SST measurements from ships and buoys disagree with buoys cooler on average is well established in the literature. See IPCC AR5 WG1 Chapter 2 SST section for a selection of references by a range of groups all confirming this finding. ERSSTv4 is an anomaly product. 

What matters for an anomaly product is relative homogeneity of sources and not absolute precision. Whether the ships are matched to buoys or buoys matched to ships will not affect the trend. What will affect the trend is doing so (v4) or not (v3b). It would be perverse to know of a data issue and not correct for it in constructing a long-term climate data record.

6. 'They had good data from buoys. And they threw it out [...]' 

v4 actually makes preferential use of buoys over ships (they are weighted almost 7 times in favour) as documented in the ERSSTv4 paper. The assertion that buoy data were thrown away as made in the article is demonstrably incorrect.

7. 'they had used a 'highly experimental early run' of a programme that tried to combine two previously seperate sets of records' 

Karl et al used as the land basis the ISTI databank. This databank combined in excess of 50 unique underlying sources into an amalgamated set of holdings. The code used to perform the merge was publically available, the method published, and internally approved. This statement therefore is demonstrably false.

There are many other aspects of the piece that I disagree with. Having worked with the NOAA NCEI team involved in land and SST data analysis I can only say that the accusations in the piece do not square one iota with the robust integrity I see in the work and discussions that I have been involved in with them for over a decade. …


{12}    Serving up a NOAA-thing burger
Gavin Schmidt  @  February 9th, 2017  |  RealClimate.org

I have mostly been sitting back and watching the John Bates story go through the predictable news-cycle of almost all supposed ‘scandalous’ science stories. The patterns are very familiar – an initial claim of imperfection spiced up with insinuations of misconduct, coordination with a breathless hyping of the initial claim with ridiculous supposed implications, some sensible responses refuting the initial specific claims and demolishing the wilder extrapolations.
Unable to defend the nonsense clarifications are made that the initial claim wasn’t about misconduct but merely about ‘process’ (for who can argue against better processes?). Meanwhile the misconduct and data falsification claims escape into the wild, get more exaggerated and lose all connection to any actual substance. 

For sure, the technical rebuttals to the specific claims compete with balance of evidence arguments and a little bit of playful trolling for the attention of anyone who actually cares about the details. None of which, unfortunately, despite being far more accurate, have the narrative power of the original meme.

The next stages are easy to predict as well – the issues of ‘process’ will be lost in the noise, the fake overreaction will dominate the wider conversation and become an alternative fact to be regurgitated in twitter threads and blog comments for years, the originators of the issue may or may not walk back the many mis-statements they and others made but will lose credibility in any case, mainstream scientists will just see it as hyper-partisan noise and ignore it, no papers will be redacted, no science will change, and the actual point (one presumes) of the ‘process’ complaint (to encourage better archiving practices) gets set back because it’s associated with such obvious nonsense.

This has played out many, many times before: The Yamal story had a very similar dynamic, and before that the ‘1934‘ story, etc. etc. 
~ ~ ~

Unfortunately, Bates and Curry, perhaps deciding that judgement calls about where on a complex maturity matrix (right) (Bates et al, 2014) any specific dataset should be placed, was not likely to generate much attention, decided to over-egg their pudding: Bates added obviously wrong claims to his litany (like the claim that ASCII data on an ftp site was neither an archive nor ‘machine readable’), and let his imagination run beyond what he could actually show (‘thumbs on the scale’ for instance). David Rose, certain that he had a juicy data tampering story didn’t bother to check his graph when it seemed to show a big difference between analyses. Note that the graph did not actually use the data from the Karl et al (2015) paper at all.

Thus a perhaps interesting claim about process, got turned instantly into a claim about misconduct, and another hammer to be used to undermine independently replicated conclusions (Hausfather et al, 2016). In Bates’ later interviews, he tried to close Pandora’s box – for instance saying that “The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was”. Well, whoop-dee-doo.

Weirdly he also claimed that he is wary of his critique becoming a talking point for those skeptical of human-caused climate change and that “I knew people would misuse this”.

Which kinda makes my point but also raises some obvious questions!


{13}   'Whistleblower' says protocol was breached but no data fraud
Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter | Climatewire: February 7, 2017

The federal climate scientist hailed by conservatives as a whistleblower for allegedly revealing manipulated global warming data said yesterday he(Bates) was actually calling out a former colleague for not properly following agency standards for research.

In an interview with E&E News yesterday, former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration principal scientist John Bates had a significantly more nuanced take on the controversy that has swirled since a top House Republican hailed his blog post as proof that the agency "played fast and loose" with temperature data to disprove the theory of a global warming “pause."

Bates accused former colleagues of rushing their research to publication, in defiance of agency protocol. He specified that he did not believe that they manipulated the data upon which the research relied in any way.
"The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was," (Bates) said.

… Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has issued subpoenas and has for nearly two years attempted to obtain scientists' emails involved in the global warming pause research. A Science Committee aide yesterday said Bates' revelation was evidence that NOAA needed further investigation because its own employees were identifying significant policy breaches. … 

… another round of subpoenas could be issued or scientists might be forced to testify in front of the committee. …

'An incredibly bizarre claim’ … {quite the story.}
…Whether the research was published to influence the Paris climate talks is a moot point, said Andrew Light, a senior member of the State Department's climate talks negotiating team in 2015. He said the talks had already been underway for about four years when the paper was published and that 188 nations were relying on a tremendous amount of research to support their goal of reducing humans' carbon emissions to slow the warming of the planet. They had also already crafted proposed reductions by the time the research was published, he said….

Bates: Be careful of bias … {worth the read.}
The reports do not change the fundamental understanding of climate change science, AGU President Eric Davidson wrote in his blog yesterday.
"These types of statements by policymakers that attempt to take one study/dispute and blow it out of proportion are both unhelpful and misleading,” …
I wonder if Bates has ever considered his own considerable biases?  

Keep in mind: Unidirectional Skepticism Equals DENIAL.


{14}    What’s the Deal with Rep. Lamar Smith’s Subpoena to NOAA over Climate Science? An FAQ Resource

Concern is growing about the broader implications of House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s subpoena to NOAA and subsequent actions. Chairman Smith is misleading the public about what he is asking for and how NOAA updated its long-term climate dataset. As a result, some inaccurate headlines and articles have been published. As a result, I thought a post of Frequently Asked Questions on the topic would be timely. So here goes:

On October 13, the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Lamar Smith issued a subpoena to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asking for all correspondence, notes, and other materials from the last seven years related to the work of certain NOAA climate scientists, motivated by their authorship on a paper published in Science earlier this year. The move was one of the first uses of the Chairman’s newly granted subpoena powers, which allow him to issue subpoenas without the consent of both parties. On October 27, NOAA sent a letter back to Smith outlining the publicly available data and research methods, resources, and other communications that Rep. Smith already had access to.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, the ranking member on the House Science Committee, sent a scathing letter to Chairman Smith condemning the “illegitimate harassment” by Rep. Smith on October 23. Then on November 4, the American Meteorological Society echoed this sentiment in its own letter to the Chairman, disapproving of his actions. …

Some headlines have implied that NOAA is concealing scientific data and research methods, but this isn’t the case. As NOAA detailed in its letter to Rep. Smith, the Science Committee (and anyone with an internet connection) has access to the data and methods used to produce the results in the study. This is all he needs to be able to assess the quality of the science under discussion. Still, NOAA went the extra step and met several times with committee staff to provide them with the (again, already publicly available) data, explain the science, and answer numerous questions. But Smith continued with the subpoena regardless. ...

A good question. The study under discussion analyzes surface observation data for temperature, one input (but not the only input) into scientists’ measuring the rate at which climate change is occurring. (For a full summary of the paper and its implications, check out my colleague Roberto Mera’s post). In recent years there was an apparent hiatus or slowdown in the rate of global warming observed from surface temperature observations, a point that climate contrarians have (inaccurately) used repeatedly to make the case that climate change is either not happening or has been exaggerated.

Karl et al. 2015 updates NOAA’s global temperature dataset using a larger weather station database and gives new understanding of temperature biases in sea surface temperature raw observations collected from sources like buoys and ships. …

To be clear, the updates that the NOAA scientists made to the global temperature dataset were normal and routine, as scientists need to account for all kinds of changes to how temperature observations are taken over time and all over the world. Taking temperature measurements from ships has evolved over the last century, ... (More explanation of this concept is here)

An inquiry like Smith’s that dives deeper, asking for internal communications between NOAA scientists is invasive and unnecessary for a legitimate investigation of scientific validity. As I and my colleagues have documented extensively before (and again here and here), communications among scientists on scientific topics should be protected from public scrutiny. Such privacy for scientific deliberations is necessary for scientists to have the freedom to share ideas, talk frankly with colleagues, and let scientific understanding evolve. This is how science works. ..

Last week, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) sent a letter to Rep. Smith, echoing this point. “Singling out specific research studies, and implicitly questioning the integrity of the researchers conducting those studies, can be viewed as a form of intimidation that could deter scientists from freely carrying out research on important national challenges,” wrote the AMS.

Doesn’t Congress have the authority to conduct oversight of federal agencies, which use taxpayer dollars?

Indeed, Congress has the authority to conduct oversight of federal agencies, and this is what Rep. Smith is invoking to target the NOAA scientists. 

Specifically, Rep. Smith is exploiting his new (worrisome) unilateral subpoena powers that don’t require agreement from both parties on the committee. ...

There are of course many situations where Congressional oversight is warranted and helpful for understanding actions taken by the executive branch and for seeking out waste, fraud, and abuse within the government. This is why Congress was granted this authority by our forefathers. But here we have a different case. First, there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the scientists.  

The paper in question used publicly available data and methods, was peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in a top journal, and is widely accepted by the scientific community. Nevertheless, the issuance of a subpoena, and public misrepresentations of science suggesting that NOAA has “altered data” and is hiding information, suggests guilt. Rather transparently, this demonstrates that Smith’s subpoena is not about the science; it’s about politics. ...

Disturbingly, we are seeing Congress now take on the tactics that were previously reserved only for industry and fringe politically active nonprofits. As my colleague Michael Halpern points out, witch hunts for scientists’ emails are an increasingly common intimidation tactic used by industry groups to cast doubt on evidence that is viewed as contrary to their interests. In order to access scientists’ internal exchanges, other entities and public officials have used subpoenas (see British Petroleum and Woods Hole or former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli), open records laws (see many examples), and theft (see Climategate). But a congressional committee chairman using that tactic takes it to a new level.

Let’s take a step back and look at what we are talking about here. Scientists at NOAA are using publicly available data and have shared their methods. Their work has stood up to scrutiny from their peers in the scientific community. In the world of science, this gives the work credibility. 

Disagreements with the approach or findings of the study should be battled out in the scientific literature. Other scientists with concerns about the study are free to re-analyze the data and publish their own findings. This is how scientific work is scrutinized, challenged, and made more robust over time.

As an agency, NOAA is no stranger to scientific integrity. In fact, NOAA has one of the strongest scientific integrity policies of any federal agency.  A recent survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that many NOAA scientists agree that the scientific integrity there is top-notch. 

Rep. Smith’s actions raise alarms in the scientific community, especially when taken in conjunction with his other recent actions targeting scientists. In sum, Rep. Smith’s actions serve to intimidate scientists studying the climate. What’s especially disturbing in this case, is that the Chairman is now employing intimidation tactics that have until now been reserved for the tobacco industry, front groups and the like. This is a troubling trend and one that should be watched closely.

NOAA scientists collect temperature observations from land and sea all over the world. To make these measurements comparable to detect trends over time, scientists need to adjust for differences in temperature readings from buoys, ships, urban and rural areas, among other factors. Photo: NOAA


{15}     David Rose doubles down on #climate disinformation about NOAA. Let's get some perspective
SOU  |  FEBRUARY 13, 2017

There is almost no difference to speak of between NOAA and other data sets

John Bates is a meteorologist turned computer data person whose nose was out of joint because he didn't always get his way when he used to work at NOAA. It was a sour grapes whine from someone who wanted attention. That's all. However his attention-seeking moan had major repercussions through the deniosphere.

In his latest article, David Rose finishes with this:
We cannot allow such a vital issue for our future to be mired in half truths and deceptions.

Which raises the question - why is David Rose himself so mired in half truths and deceptions? His article doesn't just contain half truths, he's a bald-faced liar! …

… John Bates slagged off scientists at Judith Curry's blog first, then to anti-science David Rose at the tabloid rag, Mail on Sunday. He walked back some of his worst defamatory comments in an interview at E&E News, reportedly specifying "he did not believe that they manipulated the data upon which the research relied in any way"

This was after making ludicrous claims at Judith Curry's blog, where he wrote, with no evidence whatsoever, and all the evidence showing otherwise:

So, in every aspect of the preparation and release of the datasets leading into K15, we find Tom Karl’s thumb on the scale pushing for, and often insisting on, decisions that maximize warming and minimize documentation. 

Then he went even further with David Rose, who quoted him lying that NOAA scientists threw out data. Of course they did nothing of the sort. John Bates also showed that he's not as clever as he probably likes to think he is. …

There is almost no difference to speak of between NOAA and other data sets …

 Next one is a bonus from

So close they are almost identical

The linear rates of warming over that 1975 to 2014 period, from fastest to slowest are shown in the legend at the bottom of the charts. (Click the arrow on the bottom right to see all the trend numbers. Move the cursor over the chart to see the trends/temperatures at different times):
GISTemp and HadCRUT4 and BEST and NOAA's Karl15 all have a trend of 1.7 C/century
NOAA old version had a trend of 1.6 C/century.

See the odd one out? Yes, it's the old version from NOAA. In other words, the most recent updates just bring NOAA more into line with other data sets. Contrary to what disinformers try to make out, it's based on rigorous research from NOAA scientists - it's not a conspiracy, nor is there any "fudging".

Similarities are be expected in the case of GISTemp and Karl15, because they both use the Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN) for land and ERSST v4 for the ocean.  …

Waiting seven whole years for climate research

… The crux of his complaint is that the data from Karl15 was in the research stage and hadn't been through Bates' full and complete archiving process. But to do that takes a very long time. It can take five years just to get to what he calls the IOC phase, and a full seven years to get to what he calls "full operations". Bear in mind that these data have been up on the NOAA's ftp server since June 2015, the month Karl15 was published (h/t Nick Stokes). This is from his paper:

As of October 2015, the CDRP [Climate Data Record program] has transitioned 30 CDRs [Climate Data Records] from research to initial operations and 1 to full operations. The average time from initial grant award to a principal investigator to the IOC phase was approximately 60 months and about 84 months to full operations. The transition from initial to full operations has been difficult and variable, as detailed below.

Yep. Not just a seven year wait, but "difficult and variable". In fact, as John Bates confessed at Judith Curry's blog (see, I can use loaded words, just like David Rose):
I spent the last decade cajoling climate scientists to archive their data and fully document the datasets. 

His incredibly complex archiving system may have been suitable for some purposes, but it clearly was a thorn in the side of users. …

David Rose is up to his old defamatory disinformation tricks …

More data to show up the lies of the climate disinformers …

Lots more that could be said …

David Rose calls Scott K. Johnson of Ars Technica a “snob" …

References and further reading …


{16}    Letter From: Eddie Bernice Johnson
Ranking Democrat Member
House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

To: Lamar Smith
House Committee on Science, Space and Technology
October 23, 2015

Dear Chairman Smith,
On Tuesday, October 13, you unilaterally issued a subpoena to NOAA Kathryn Sullivan. This subpoena appears to be furthering a fishing expedition, rather than engaging in focused oversight with legitimate goal in mind.  Unfortunately, this is reflective of …

Easy reference list
(The first three and last one, are not referenced during the dissection - I share them for background.)

By Christina Reed  -  May 21, 2015
Scott K. Johnson  -  2/6/2017
By Warren Cornwall  -  Feb. 8, 2017
Posted by Eric Davidson  -  February 4, 2017
Stephan Lewandowsky | May 7, 2015
By Alex Kasprak  -  February 8, 2017
PeterThorne  |. February 5, 2017
Gavin Schmidt  -  February 9th, 2017
Scott Waldman - February 7, 2017
SOU  | February 13, 2017
To: Rep. Lamar Smith  -  October 23, 2015


The following may become a post of it’s own after I get caught up on neglected real life chores.   Until then I’ll park it here.  It’s a response to the Congressman's idiotic notion that ignoring climate science is good for the economy.
Lamar Smith says:  "the previous administration’s efforts to push their costly climate agenda at the expense of scientific integrity.

US Representative Lamar Smith, while you have your faith-shackled blinders on, this is what’s going on in the greater world outside of your bubble:

The US Economic Impacts of Climate Change and the Costs of Inaction
A Review and Assessment by the Center for Integrative Environmental Research (CIER) at the University of Maryland | October 2007

1.1 Introduction
As science continues to bring clarity to present and future global climate change, policymakers are beginning to respond in earnest and proposing policies that aim to curb greenhouse gas emissions and help society adapt to the impending impacts triggered by past emissions Although these policies are gaining momentum, their importance is not understood by many, including Congress, the public and the media  All too frequently, inaction is motivated by the perceived high cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions The costs of not taking on the challenges posed by climate change are frequently neglected and typically not calculated 

Lesson 1: economic impacts of climate change will occur throughout the country.
The effects of climate change will be felt by the entire nation:
• all sectors of the economy - most notably agriculture, energy, and transportation - will be affected;
• essential infrastructures that afford us reliable services and high standards of living (such as water supply and water treatment) will be impacted; and
• ecosystems, on which quality of life relies (such as forests, rivers, and lakes), will suffer 

Lesson 2. economic impacts will be unevenly distributed across regions and within the economy and society.

Lesson 3. negative climate impacts will outweigh bene ts for most sectors that provide essential goods and services to society.

Lesson 4. Climate change impacts will place immense strains on public sector budgets.

Lesson 5. secondary effects of climate impacts can include higher prices, reduced income and job loss.


The National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.
Explore the overview.

Infrastructure around the country has been compromised by extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Power outages and road and bridge damage are among the infrastructure failures that have occurred during these extreme events. A disruption in any one system affects others. For example, a failure of the electrical grid can affect everything from water treatment to public health.


So, the Earth's average temperature has increased about 1 degree Fahrenheit during the 20th century. What's the big deal?

One degree may sound like a small amount, but it's an unusual event in our planet's recent history. …

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.
Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves. …

The United States is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and these effects will be much worse without action to sharply curtail our global warming emissions. …

This fact sheet provides specific examples from that and numerous other studies of the projected damages from climate change, and their costs. These studies show that climate change will have costly effects on our coasts, our health, our energy and water resources, our agriculture, our transportation infra- structure, and our recreational resources. There are other costs, not included here …


Climate Change in the United StatesThe Prohibitive Costs of Inaction

The United States is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and these effects will be much worse without action to sharply curtail our global warming emissions. …


Scientists and economists are beginning to grapple with the serious economic and environmental consequences if we fail to reduce global carbon emissions quickly and deeply. The most expensive thing we can do is nothing.

Damage to property and infrastructure. …
Lost productivity. …
Mass migration and security threats. …
Coping costs. …


Global warming, rising seas and coastal cities: Trends, impacts and adaptation strategies