Stream: NOAA Whistleblower Claims Data Were ‘Adjusted’ to Make Global Warming Seem Worse

tangle of power cables and communication wire on the pole, silhouete shot

Stream: NOAA Whistleblower Claims Data Were ‘Adjusted’ to Make Global Warming Seem Worse: Climatology, Not The Planet, Is Running A Fever.

A scientist-whistleblower has accused the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration of diddling with temperature data, adjusting it so that it better accorded with political desires.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Dr John Bates, a now-retired climate data expert, late of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), a branch of NOAA, claimed the agency “breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.”

Bates said that Thomas Karl, who was until recently the director of NCEI, was “insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minimised documentation…in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy” (ellipsis original).

The data, Bates claimed, was never “subjected to NOAA’s rigorous internal evaluation process”. When Bates complained, “His vehement objections to the publication of the faulty data were overridden by his NOAA superiors in what he describes as a ‘blatant attempt to intensify the impact’ of what became known as the Pausebuster paper.”

Karl and eight others authored the “Pausebuster” paper “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus” which reported “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 which claimed “These results do not support the notion of a ‘slowdown’ in the increase of global surface temperature.” …

How dramatic are the adjustments? As the Daily Mail reports, “the Pausebuster paper said while the rate of global warming from 1950 to 1999 was 0.113C per decade, the rate from 2000 to 2014 was actually higher, at 0.116C per decade.”

This is three-thousandths of a degree higher….

Karl “admitted” to the Daily Mail that “the data had not been archived when the paper was published”, making replication by colleagues impossible or difficult. Karl also said “the final, approved and ‘operational’ edition of the [data] would be ‘different’ from that used in the paper’.”…

Even assuming all is aboveboard, what most don’t realize is that surface temperature measurements are not static; they change year to year. These changes induce uncertainty, which has so far been badly underestimated. This is why claims of thousandths of a degree change are, at best, dubious, and are more likely subject to large uncertainties.

Hurry and click before the earth melts!

Addendum: Is this an unlikely scenario? You are sure there must be warming in the record, because every other scientist you know says there should be, and every model should be. So that when you come across data that indicates warming didn’t take place, you naturally suspect there is something wrong with that data. You thus give preference to data to better conforms to what you know is true. Now every empirical scientist does this, and more often than you’d think this is a good move, because the suspicious data was right to be suspected. But sometimes the suspicions are wrong. How can you tell the difference?

33 Comments

  1. Bates has a full post on Judith Curry’s blog: https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/04/climate-scientists-versus-climate-data/

    – Is there a reason why the raw data is not disseminated to various organizations around the world (or even the public); but instead has to go through select organizations to be cleaned before being released? Or am I wrong?
    – Given that climate change is a “global” problem, one would think that the raw (untouched) data would be made available to every country on the planet. Other countries have scientists too.

  2. The claims from NOAA that data adjustments are insignificant are part of the scam. Examples of some insignificant adjustments are trotted out as red herrings to hide the big adjustments, which include infilling of missing data with biased model-based data. The fabricated model-based data always assume significant warming correlated with CO2 levels. The result is a data set that matches the politically-based model results rather than reality.

  3. I didn’t pay much attention when the Daily Mail printed their story detailing how our current First Lady worked for a while as a prostitute. Because I didn’t think they had much credibility. But if Briggs thinks otherwise, maybe the story is worth another look.

  4. And you’re not going to see a U.S. government agency “suing the DM for a retraction and damages”. But you are going to see them pointing out exactly how this story is a load of rubbish:

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2017/02/07/bogus-daily-mail-story-spearheads-latest-right-wing-assault-climate-change-science/215257

    Any competent researcher spending 10 minutes on this could have uncovered the smell coming from this story, and avoided Briggs’ fate.

  5. Oh, I should probably warn that nobody who would be offended by a photograph showing the First Lady’s naked buttocks should visit that link. She’s been in more pornographic images than that one, of course, which is just a tacky nude, but still, I should have mentioned it.

  6. How do you tell the difference? That’s a big question. I’d point at a body of evidence. As close to actual instrument measurements as possible. For instance, I think Roy Spencer is the guy with the eye in the sky, and Roy claims that it is occasionally possible to measure quick reactions and longer reactions of the climate system to changes like a sudden shock from a volcano. If he’s right (and I read Roy right), he has actually measured climate response to changes like a CO2 doubling to be under one degree at ground level. That would mean the rest is normal, natural variation, which is being mischaracterized as a straight line to impending doom. And in that scenario the doom case won’t hold up as time goes by.

  7. All,

    Funny I haven’t noticed anybody clicking on the last link in the Stream article, about temperature uncertainty.

    All these plots, all these claims stated as if there were zero or negligible uncertainty. Three-thousandths of a degree? Instead we have links to pictures of a woman buttocks. Hilarious.

    Global climate cooling will kill us all! I meant warming. I meant change.

  8. Briggs, I, for one, didn’t have to click on it because I’d already seen it, over a year ago. Back then I still had some hope that you cared about finding the truth, so I warned you that what you call “Willis Eschenbach’s gorgeous piece of statistical detective work” had been discovered to be a lie (see “Willis Eschenbach caught lying about temperature trends” by Tim Lambert at http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/12/09/willis-eschenbach-caught-lying/). Not a mistake, nor an exaggeration, but an obviously deliberate falsification. Something that he’s done elsewhere, as well. Since you still refer people to it, knowing it to be a lie, tells us all we need to know about you.

    Hilarious? No. Depressing, though, how much those who helped to get Trump elected have directly contributed to the immediately consequent coarsening of our society.

    Now I fully expect you to, if you deal with this at all, to deal with it with a flippant remark, by belittling the character of the man who pointed out Eschenbach’s lies, or by uttering more mistakes and non-sequiturs in an apparent belief that you’ve dealt with the criticism.

  9. Phillips,

    Obviously, whether Echenbach is a saint or is “literally Hitler” with respect to the detective work mentioned, is utterly irrelevant—i.e. it is completely meaningless—to the statistical criticisms I raise. To use Eschenbach’s alleged misdeed as a way to evade the force of my criticism is bad science; it is advocacy.

    About whether Eschenbach lied, you can take it up with him. It is beside the point here. It was beside the point in my original article, too.

    For others who also “don’t have to click” because they are sure they already know the answer, I used Eschenbach in the first paragraph (and very briefly in the third) of a 4,000+ word article about temperature homogenization, as a hook. At the time I wrote it, there was no charge of impropriety. But, as I say, let him be the world’s biggest liar. I have to change nothing in my article: the criticisms still stand. Phillips is just being lazy, and hoping to get away with it.

  10. Briggs now:

    “About whether Eschenbach lied, you can take it up with him. It is beside the point here. It was beside the point in my original article, too.”

    Briggs then:

    “First, surf over to Willis Eschenbach’s gorgeous piece of statistical detective work of how GHCN “homogenized” temperature data for Darwin, Australia. Pay particular attention to his Figures 7 & 8. Take your time reading his piece: it is essential.”

    What new wonders will the Briggs of tomorrow bring?

  11. All,

    See what I mean? Phillips quotes from the piece where I quote from Eschenbach (as I said I did), and completely ignores where I say that you can throw out the reference to Eschenbach; indeed that you can assume Eschenbach is a liar (again, when I wrote that piece, Eschenbach had not been accused).

    And then he ignores (again) all the criticisms and suggestions I make about temperature homogenization.

    Like I say: bad science, pure advocacy. These are the ploys of activists or lawyers, not scientists.

  12. Sure, we see what you mean. That something is both “beside the point” and “essential”.

    So were you playing scientist or advocate when you based your latest Stream article on fake news from the Daily Mail, swallowed whole?

  13. All,

    Notice (again) how Phillips evades the force of the homogenization criticisms? Swallow whole? Notice the addendum to the original article? Whether Bates’s charges play out, nobody knows. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Here (again) is the link to the series. What sweet plots in part five of that series, eh? Eh?

  14. Briggs,

    No one should, and I’m not, blaming you for your initial reference to lying Eschenbach’s lying paper, because he did a smooth enough job of lying there, and one usually doesn’t expect something so brazen. But the lie was exposed a long time ago, and I know that you know about it, and have known for over a year. Yet your reference to his “gorgeous piece of statistical detective work” remains, and you keep sending people there, with not even a warning footnote, that you could add if you chose. Why would anyone do such a thing? Is the purpose science, or advocacy? (That was a rhetorical question.)

    I have no idea what you’re going on about otherwise – some notion of me avoiding, or evading, some brilliance of yours. Do you have any idea how much crackpottery is out there? The internet is really quite large nowadays. And I don’t need to seek it out; sometimes it comes to me in email, on birdbrained wings. When I have taken the time to read carefully any piece you’ve written on a scientific topic, I have been left – one still somehow wants to be polite – left with a lack of eagerness to devote more of my time on your attempts any time soon.

    What I’m saying is, get in line.

  15. Phillips,

    You’re a terrific modern scientist, Lee, old fellow. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Don’t look into the telescope.

    Oh, as far as removing history and expurgating my original article because of accusations of Eschenbach lying, well that would be very Ministry of Truth, don’t you think?

    All,

    Notice his argument? “There are crackpots out there. You might be a crackpot. Therefore you are a crackpot and I won’t read your crackpot theories.” Not even in the proper syllogistic form. Sigh. Kids these days.

  16. Adding a footnote or something similar is not expurgating. Correcting the record is not “Ministry of Truth”, it is truth. Which we have established is not high on your list of priorities.

    The faulty argument you’ve constructed has nothing to do with what I actually wrote, but I can see where you might prefer your version. Apparently I need to belabor it. Here goes. I have read enough of your other stuff to know that you are, at least a great deal of the time, a crackpot. There is a lot of crackpottery out there. Why should I give yours priority? What is the point of entreating me to do so? Is that clearer?

  17. “In an interview on Monday with E&E News, Dr. Bates appeared to distance himself from some of what he wrote in the blog post, and from the way his criticisms were portrayed in the Mail on Sunday article.

    “The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data,” he said, “but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was.””

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/science/2015-climate-study-data.html?_r=0

    JMJ

  18. Lee Phillips
    FEBRUARY 7, 2017 AT 10:04 PM

    Briggs,

    No one should, and I’m not, blaming you for your initial reference to lying Eschenbach’s lying paper, because he did a smooth enough job of lying there, and one usually doesn’t expect something so brazen. But the lie was exposed a long time ago, and I know that you know about it, and have known for over a year.

    You seem to think that if you repeat the word “lying” enough times, it will somehow magically come true. That’s just throwing mud, Lee, and here’s my rule of thumb:

    When a man starts throwing mud, it’s a sure sign he’s out of real ammunition.

    I was accused of “lying” by the resident charming fellow at Deltoid because he did not like the fact that I had started two anomaly data series at the same point in a certain year. The gentleman in question thought they should be set as anomalies around a different year.

    Now, both you and he describe this as “lying” on my part. It was nothing of the sort. He disagreed with me on a scientific point, and since he couldn’t make his case scientifically, he called me a “liar”.

    I am more than happy to leave it to the reader to decide whether you are making these ugly false accusations from stupidity or cupidity … it’s of no interest to me. I know that I did not lie about anything, my conscience is clear.

    My best to everyone,

    w.

  19. The thrust of this recent discussion is on the generation of the results in the Karl et. al. 2015 (call it K15) paper. In particular, the question is what analysis and data were used in that paper, i.e. was the analysis correctly and consistently done in K15. This is distinct from what may or may not be the trend based on subsequent analyses or other data. It is also distinct from the personalities, motivations, or employment histories of anyone.

    Let’s look at the K15 sea surface temperature (SST) adjustments a bit. The second paragraph of K15 states they give the buoy data more weight, as they should since the buoy data is both more accurate and less noisy. However, they do this only after they have “adjusted” the buoy data, artificially warming it +0.12 deg C to agree with the less accurate and more noisy ship data. In a paragraph above, they state “To make the buoy data equivalent to ship data on average requires a straightforward addition of 0.12°C to each buoy observation.” So the “additional warming” is exactly the artificial “warming” added to the buoy data. As stated below, satellite data of sea surface temperature has also been deleted in K15 because it adds cooling, more in agreement with the unadjusted buoys.

    It is well established that the buoy data is intrinsically more accurate and less noisy (otherwise the relatively expensive buoy program would be a waste of money), e.g. from Emery and Schluessel 2001, available online by googling “Accuracy of in situ sea surface temperatures used to calibrate infrared satellite measurements”
    “Turning to a comparison between drifting buoy and ship SSTs, we present in Figure 8 the differences between the ship and drifting buoy SSTs again as a function of separation distance. The positive mean difference of 0.28°C is consistent with the observation that ship injection SSTs are slightly warmer due to the heating in the engine room where the observations are made [Saur, 1963]. The ship-buoy RMS difference at l.8°C is about twice the size of the drifter versus drifter RMS difference and is also consistent with the fact that ship SSTs are found to be a lot noisier than buoy SSTs [ Kent et al.,1993; Kent et al., 1999; Kent and Taylor, 1997]. The visual reading of the injection SST and the recording of the ship SST introduce some of this variability by hand.”

    And later summarizing,

    “The inherent accuracy of these buoy and ship measurements was explored using a unique computation of temperature (SST) differences as a function of separation distance for buoys or ships reporting within the same hour. For drifting buoy data and separation intervals between O and 50 km the mean difference is – 0.05°C with an RMS of – 0.4°C. The statistics for the ship SSTs result in significantly larger errors (mean of about -O. l 5°C and RMS difference of – 1.2 °C) as would be expected from the less homogeneous ship temperature sensors most of which are not calibrated and whose analog measurements are not regularly checked for calibration.”

    Adjusting measurements known to be more accurate to agree with measurements known to be less accurate is not common practice in physics, astronomy, chemistry, or biology.

    Now, why is this important to the trend? First, if it does not affect the trend, then why bother? Why deliberately adjust accurate data to agree with less accurate data? The answer of course is that it does affect the trend. The whole thrust of the K15 analysis is to affect the trend. The SST adjustments do this because the ship data essentially introduced the warming after WWII on an increasing basis and the warming trend depended on that. As the ship data became corrected by the buoy data in the more recent decades, that artificial warming was corrected and the trend began decreasing.

    The ship data (taken from the Voluntary Observing Ship program) is described in Kennedy et. al. 2011, available at onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2010JD015220/full

    Looking at figures 1 and 2 shows the steep upward trend in numbers of ship measurements post WWII and the decreasing trend coming into the hiatus time frame. A major reason for the decrease is that much more precise measurements have been coming on line in the modern era, namely buoys and satellites and the fact that the ship observations were voluntary and poorly controlled. This is seen from NOAA’s buoy program at http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dac/dacdata.php

    Note the figure in the upper right corner on buoy years of data. And in terms of numbers of buoys, http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dataphod/work/trinanes/DRIFTERS/times.png

    Note the scale on the right gives the number of buoys in service as a function of time. So, as more accurate cooler measurements increasingly came on line, the long term trend would have been reduced by comparison to earlier years, and the short term trend would have been reduced by the increasing inclusion of more accurate, cooler, data. There are a variety of discussions ongoing about the rationale for adjusting the less accurate buoys to agree with the ships and to dis-include the satellites, but the basic fact is not in dispute. In the words of K15 – satellite data was “dis-included” not based on physics but based on a judgement that it was “not found to add appreciable value” and because doing so would add a “cool bias.” So the adjustments in K15 were not made based on the physics of the instrumental measurements but rather on what the desired outcome was on the final trend, in this case an increase in the average temperature trend for the past decade or two. A textbook case on how not to make adjustments to physical observations.

    If you look at the adjusted ocean trends Figure 1 of K15 the warming adjustments (just less than 0.1 deg C) are essentially all due to this artificial warming of the buoys. If any adjustments should have been made, the ship measurements should perhaps have been adjusted down. As indicated above, the practice in the hard sciences is to obtain the most accurate measurements first, then evaluate the behavior, not to adjust the measurements to agree with what one thinks the behavior should be.

    Part of the difficulty is the fact that such numbers are indexes and not well defined physics quantities in the first place. This is further complicated by focusing attention and rationales for calculation of an anomaly and its expected behavior rather than an actual physical quantity that is used in a thermodynamic equation, as in the adjustments made above to the sea surface temperatures. Trying to understand the time behavior of an index is easiest if care is taken to consistently calculate the index. Unfortunately for climate science the methods of spatial and time averaging keep changing as do the underlying physical measurements. This makes separating index behavior from adjustment behavior much more difficult.
    To repeat, this discussion assumes or says nothing about the motivations, emotions, or employment histories of anyone involved. Nor does it address what may or may not be the case with temperature indices calculated by other means or by other workers. It is simply focused on the analysis presented in the K15 paper.

  20. JMJ,

    Good find. And don’t forget Bates’s own explanation:
    https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/04/climate-scientists-versus-climate-data/

    “I questioned another co-author about why they choose to use a 90% confidence threshold for evaluating the statistical significance of surface temperature trends, instead of the standard for significance of 95% — he also expressed reluctance and did not defend the decision.”

    Sheesh.

    Added. Judy has a new post discussing criticism of Bates. Don’t miss the bits about discussing temperature measurements accurate to hundredths of a degree.

    https://judithcurry.com/2017/02/06/response-to-critiques-climate-scientists-versus-climate-data/

  21. JMJ finds:

    “Dr. Bates appeared to distance himself from some of what he wrote in the blog post, and from the way his criticisms were portrayed in the Mail on Sunday article. […] The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data,”

    Do you think the Stream and Briggs will now rush to retract the smear of their betters at the NOAA? Me neither.

  22. The public aren’t that stupid. They just haven’t looked at or listened to the sorts of quibbles or arguments which go on at the pointy end.

    A few thousandths of a degree!

    Lee P, why? “Crackpot” won’t do.

    I can’t remember the exact quote so I paraphrase what Richard Lindzen said years ago about measuring global temperature conceptually with reliability let alone accuracy.

    If somebody kept checking their body temperature to within a few tenths of a degree you’d regard them a s a nut!

    Well, since it was my job to deal with people who were misinformed accidentally, usually, by bad science or their own dark imagination, the best thing is truth. Knowing a little more about the body helps to understand whether a few tenths of a degree is important.
    Homeostasis and the tissue’s indifference in the case of the body.
    Negative feedbacks in the case of a multibillion year old planet.

    To think I stayed up nights reading abut sea ice extent! Hours and hours of discussion, hot off the press!

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