NOAA Whistleblower Claims Global Warming Data Improperly ‘Adjusted’

Climatology, Not The Planet, Is Running A Fever

By William M Briggs Published on February 6, 2017

A scientist-whistleblower has accused the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 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.” It 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.”

Data Science,Climate and satellites Consultant John J Bates at his home in Arden North Carolina Picture Chris Bott

Climate data expert John Bates (Picture by Chris Bott)

The “slowdown,” or rather the non-increase in global temperatures for almost two decades, was notable in satellite data. It was also noticed in surface-based data, until that data was statistically adjusted by Karl and others. These adjustments of surface records, which are not uncommon, are also curious. It usually happens that older data are lowered, and recent data pushed higher, making it appear that temperatures are increasing. Are these adjustments legitimate, or the result of confirmation bias, or potentially fraudulent?

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. Three-thousandths. To appreciate the magnitude, it helps to say it aloud: three-thousandths of a degree. And not just three-thousandths of a degree, but three-thousandths of a degree per every ten years. If panic at the news of higher temperatures was your first reaction, ensure it is panic in slow motion.

The global rate is the product of land and sea measurements. On the sea adjustments, “Thomas Karl and his colleagues … tripled the warming trend over the sea during the years 2000 to 2014 from just 0.036C per decade — as stated in version 3 — to 0.099C per decade.”

Even assuming this correction is valid, the final result is only a tenth of a degree a decade. If the global sea temperature really is caused to act like a straight upwards line, which is physically extremely doubtful, then after ten years, the temperature at sea will be one-tenth of a degree (on average) warmer than previously thought. Make that panic super-slow motion.

But even then, it’s not likely the correction is right.

But Dr. Bates said this increase in temperatures was achieved by dubious means. Its key error was an upwards ‘adjustment’ of readings from fixed and floating buoys, which are generally reliable, to bring them into line with readings from a much more doubtful source — water taken in by ships. This, Dr. Bates explained, has long been known to be questionable: ships are themselves sources of heat, readings will vary from ship to ship, and the depth of water intake will vary according to how heavily a ship is laden — so affecting temperature readings.

Bates said, “They had good data from buoys. And they threw it out and ‘corrected’ it by using the bad data from ships.”

Similar statistical manipulations were done to land-temperature data, with adjustments being of the same low level. Bates not only questioned the timing and direction of adjustments, but said the programs used to make them were “highly experimental” and “afflicted by serious bugs.”

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.

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