U.S. Lawmakers Expand Probe Of Hiatus-Denying NOAA Study

GWPF | 29 Feb 2016

Did White House Collude With NOAA Over Temperature Adjustments?

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are expanding their request for documents related to a major climate study by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In a 22 February letter to NOAA, Congressman Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who leads the House science committee, expressed disappoint with the “slow pace and limited scope” of NOAA’s response to his initial request. “The speed with which NOAA has conducted these searches and produced documents creates the perception that the Agency is deliberately attempting to impede and hinder the Committee’s oversight,” he wrote. Smith is now asking that NOAA provide his committee documents from other agency officials and offices, including chief scientist Richard Spinrad. Smith has asked the agency to deliver all documents by 29 February. — Jeff Tolleson, Nature, 26 February 2016

Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA prior to issuing press releases? The House Committee’s investigation should provide insight into the following questions that deserve answers. To what extent did internal discussions occur about the more questionable choices made in adjusting the ocean temperature data? Was any concern raised about the discrepancies of the new ocean temperature data set and NOAA’s other ocean temperature data set (OISST) that shows no warming since 2003? Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA about these statements prior to issuing press releases? Was the release of the land and ocean temperature data sets, which were documented in papers previously published, delayed to follow Karl’s June press release? –Judith Curry, Fox News, 5 November 2015

1) U.S. Lawmakers Expand Probe Of Hiatus-Denying NOAA Study
Nature, 26 February 2016

2) Judith Curry: Did White House Collude With NOAA Over Temperature Adjustments?
Fox News, 5 November 2015

3) David Whitehouse: New Paper Proves A 15-Year Hiatus In Global Warming. Why Is It Being Ignored?
The Spectator, 25 February 2016

4) UK Government-Funded Scientists May Lose Right To Lobby For Political Change
Nature. 26 February 2016

5) And Finally: Academia Is Losing Its Mind
The American Interest, 27 February 2016

The study of the warming hiatus is cutting-edge climate science not the “settled science” of the greenhouse effect and mankind’s input of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The hiatus is good for science. It tells us about natural climate variability of which our knowledge is still very limited. It holds valuable scientific information and in climate science, with it huge political and economic implications, we need all the information we can get. There are over 40 explanations for the warming hiatus proposed by scientists from small volcanoes, ocean movements, effects in the stratosphere, data gathering problems and many more. They can’t all be right, [but] they are all a valuable contribution to a scientific mystery. It shows us that the real science is not settled. And another thing. About those sceptics who are seeking to deny and undermine climate science. It was the sceptics, not the scientists, who discovered the hiatus, this so-called biggest problem in climate science. –David Whitehouse, The Spectator, 25 February 2016

UK scientists may be prevented from arguing for changes in national legislation or policy — if research grants are not exempted from a government ban on the use of public funds for political lobbying. Days after scientists raised the alarm about the government’s anti-lobbying move, the situation is mired in confusion. The BIS, which is responsible for the research councils and HEFCE, could not confirm to Nature whether or not an exception would be granted for science funding. “The government is taking steps through this clause to ensure taxpayer funds are not misused. Guidance published by the Cabinet Office outlines how departments are able to make qualifications to the clause, and we are working with stakeholders to determine how this might apply to the research base,” a spokesperson said. –Daniel Cressy, Nature. 26 February 2016

It’s not just right-wing populists who are worried that some academic humanities and social science fields are veering into irrelevance. The latest issue of the left-of-center magazine American Prospect has a depressing report by the leftist Occidental professor Peter Dreier on his experience submitting a bogus paper to a humanities conference and getting it accepted. Most of this “postmodern” analysis is taking place within the context of a hermetically sealed political bubble. —The American Interest, 27 February 2016

1) U.S. Lawmakers Expand Probe Of Hiatus-Denying NOAA Study
Nature, 26 February 2016

House of Representatives committee expands investigation of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analysis that refuted global warming ‘hiatus’.

Jeff Tolleson

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are expanding their request for documents related to a major climate study by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Agency researchers — led by Thomas Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina — published the analysis last June in Science 1. After updating and correcting problems with the temperature record, the team found no sign of an apparent pause in global warming described in previous studies.

In October, Congressman Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who leads the House science committee, issued a subpoena for documents related to the NOAA research. The agency has since provided more than 300 pages of e-mails and other documents produced by political appointees and NOAA’s director of communications, Ciaran Clayton. But NOAA has refused to hand over records of its internal scientific deliberations.

Now Smith is casting a wider net. In a 22 February letter to NOAA, he expressed disappoint with the “slow pace and limited scope” of NOAA’s response to his initial request. “The speed with which NOAA has conducted these searches and produced documents creates the perception that the Agency is deliberately attempting to impede and hinder the Committee’s oversight,” he wrote.

Smith is now asking that NOAA provide his committee documents from other agency officials and offices, including chief scientist Richard Spinrad. In his letter, Smith also demands that the search terms be expanded to include a host of new words, including “temperature,” “climate”, “change,” “Obama” and “Paris”.

Smith has asked the agency to deliver all documents by 29 February.

Clayton says that NOAA is still reviewing the lawmaker’s letter. The e-mails that the agency has released to Smith so far discuss NOAA’s communications strategy for the release of Karl’s study, which NOAA expected to receive intense scrutiny.

“There is nothing in these materials that would support the notion that substance or timing of the paper was politically motivated,” Clayton said. “Science at NOAA is conducted independently and rigorously, and is protected by a robust scientific integrity policy.”

Full story

2) Judith Curry: Did White House Collude With NOAA Over Temperature Adjustments?
Fox News, 5 November 2015

Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA prior to issuing press releases?

The hottest topic in climate research is the observation that global average surface temperature, as well as satellite observations of temperatures in the atmosphere, has shown little or no warming during the 21st century.

Now the political climate is heating up over the same issue. Heated words began circulating last summer, when a team of government scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), led by Thomas Karl, published a paper in Science titled “Possible Artifacts Of Data Biases In The Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus.”

The press release from NOAA included this statement from Karl, who is head of the National Centers for Environmental Information: “Adding in the last two years of global surface temperature data and other improvements in the quality of the observed record provide evidence that contradict the notion of a hiatus in recent global warming trends.”

Media headlines quickly touted the Karl conclusion that science now shows the hiatus in warming never existed.

The significance of the hiatus is that it contradicted the 2007 assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which projected a rate of warming of 0.2oC per decade in the early part of the 21st century.  The discrepancy between the climate models and the observations raised serious questions about the climate models.

Scientists on both sides of the debate have been critical of Karl’s paper and temperature adjustments made in the new data set, particularly the ocean data analysis.

Some said that adjusting reliable ocean surface buoy data upwards to match much less reliable data from engine intake channels in ships causes an artificial upward trend in the readings.

Another recent paper used a different NOAA ocean surface temperature data set to find that since 2003 the global average ocean surface temperature has been rising at a rate that is an order of magnitude smaller than the rate of increase reported in Karl’s paper.

Clearly, scientists have much work to do to better understand the problems with historical ocean temperature data, adjust the biases among different types of measurements, and understand the differences among different data sets.

But the hiatus fuss is also telling us about the politicization of climate science.

The surface temperature data set plays a central role in the political debate over climate change. In his 2015  State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record.”

This statement followed a joint press release from NOAA’s Karl and Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, that said the same thing. The release was widely criticized for failing to point out that 2014 was in a statistical tie with several other recent years.

NOAA’s press release in June for Karl’s paper on the hiatus also appeared just before a big event: EPA was getting ready to issue its very controversial Clean Power Plan. And the politics are heating up even more with the approach of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris at the end of this month.

Last month, the House Science Committee, chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas), subpoenaed NOAA for data and communications relating to Karl’s article.  NOAA is refusing to give up the documents, citing confidentiality concerns and the integrity of the scientific process.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex) called the request “a serious misuse of Congressional oversight powers.”

Is the subpoena harassment or appropriate constitutional oversight?

There are two legitimate concerns here.

The first is data quality, an issue that needs to be resolved owing to the central role that this data set is playing in U.S. climate policy.

The second issue is arguably more worrisome and difficult to uncover: a potential alliance between NOAA scientists and Obama administration officials that might be biasing and spinning climate science to support a political agenda.

Rep. Smith stated: “The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made.”

The House Committee’s investigation should provide insight into the following questions that deserve answers.

To what extent did internal discussions occur about the more questionable choices made in adjusting the ocean temperature data?

Was any concern raised about the discrepancies of the new ocean temperature data set and NOAA’s other ocean temperature data set (OISST) that shows no warming since 2003?

Were any Obama administration officials communicating with NOAA about these statements prior to issuing press releases?

Was the release of the land and ocean temperature data sets, which were documented in papers previously published, delayed to follow Karl’s June press release?

Earlier this year, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., initiated an investigation into possible industry funding of scientists (including myself) who had recently provided Congressional testimony for the Republicans.

While potentially undisclosed industrial funding of research is a legitimate concern, climate science research funding from government is many orders of magnitude larger than industrial funding of such work.

If the House Science Committee can work to minimize the political influence on government-funded research, and also help to resolve legitimate scientific issues, it will have done both science and the policies that depend on science a big favor.

Judith Curry is professor and former chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She is president of the Climate Forecast Applications Network. Follow Judith Curry on Twitter @curryja.

2) David Whitehouse: New Paper Proves A 15-Year Hiatus In Global Warming. Why Is It Being Ignored?
The Spectator, 25 February 2016

This article, in Nature magazine, ought to have been front page news – and might have been, had it suggested that global warming was worse than we had thought. Instead, it underlines the sound science behind an inconvenient truth: that there has been a 15-year hiatus in global warming. To those of us who have been following the debate, this is no surprise.

In 2007 I pointed out that it was curious that in recent years the global annual average temperature had not increased at a time when greenhouse gasses were increasing rapidly and when the media was full of claims that the earth’s temperature was getting higher and higher. I proposed no explanation but said that it was a curious observation that would probably change in the near future. I was lambasted for being a denier and liar. Yet in the following years the global temperature did not increase.

Some vocal scientists spent more time saying it was wrong than actually looking at the data. While many in the media portrayed the phenomenon as a desperate weapon used by sceptics to undermine climate science, real scientists took notice and began to study the warming pause. It was not long before it was being discussed at conferences and in scientific journals. Something was clearly different about the nature of global temperature change since 1997 than it had been in the previous two decades. It was not only slower, but not increasing at all for many years. Indeed it was said in the prestigious scientific journal Nature that the “pause” or “hiatus” is the biggest problem in climate science.

The study of the warming hiatus is cutting-edge climate science not the “settled science” of the greenhouse effect and mankind’s input of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It is not complicated. The three main global temperature datasets are freely available to anyone and there are many, not just professional climate scientists, who have the scientific and statistical skills to analyse what is after all not a great deal of data.

It is curious, and somewhat depressing, that the hiatus seemed to become an icon in the “battle” between those scientists who felt the need to defend science against sceptics who they fear are out to destroy it. Most of the media saw it that way and whenever a paper, or just a comment, came out saying the hiatus didn’t exist they were onto it. Environmental journalists seemed obsessed with bashing sceptics instead of reporting the science and, as for the many papers taking the hiatus seriously they seemed to be deliberately looking the other way. In doing so they were missing the biggest story in climate science.

A handful of scientists believe there is no hiatus. Analyse the data this way, they say, and you can argue it’s not there. Others reply that if you look at the data another way, it is obvious.

One problem the media have in reporting science is what I have called the “last paper effect.” How many times have you read or heard that this or that particular piece of research settles the debate or is the last word? The science on say bacon and cancer, on butter, on sugar, or the hiatus is settled by this latest paper. The problem is there is always another paper coming along later.

Last summer the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a paper in the Journal Science that said the hiatus did not exist. They had “refreshed” some of the data and the hiatus had gone away. It was a very interesting paper, full of questions though many did not think it was the final word on the matter. However the media did. For a science story it got blanket coverage. Many who believed in the hiatus were asked if they would now admit they were wrong. The hiatus was over. It never existed. Official.

But as I said, it was inevitable that another paper would come along.

In the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Science eleven distinguished scientists published new findings on surface temperature measurements and ocean heat content analysis. It is titled “making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown.” The carefully constructed very first sentence summarizes the diversity of opinion.

“It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.”

The evidence they present – a straightforward analysis of the global temperature – is not new. It’s been done before in numerous peer-reviewed papers and over many years in climate sceptical blogs.

“In all three observational datasets the most recent 15-year trend (ending in 2014) is lower than both the latest 30-year and 50-year trends. This divergence occurs at a time of rapid increase in greenhouse gasses (GHGs). A warming slowdown is thus clear in observations; it is also clear that it has been a ‘slowdown’ and not a stop.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.33.18

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.25.47

Whether the hiatus is a slowdown, a pause or a stop is debatable. It depends on how you analyse it. But it has clearly not gone away.

One would have thought that this would have been a great story for the world’s news media who were so enthusiastic to bury the hiatus. But no. They are looking the other way again. Almost none of the outlets who trumpeted the end of the hiatus has mentioned this latest research.

The hiatus is good for science. It tells us about natural climate variability of which our knowledge is still very limited. It holds valuable scientific information and in climate science, with it huge political and economic implications, we need all the information we can get. There are over 40 explanations for the warming hiatus proposed by scientists from small volcanoes, ocean movements, effects in the stratosphere, data gathering problems and many more. They can’t all be right they are all a valuable contribution to a scientific mystery. It shows us that the real science is not settled.

And another thing. About those sceptics who are seeking to deny and undermine climate science. It was the sceptics, not the scientists, who discovered the hiatus, this so-called biggest problem in climate science.

Dr David Whitehouse is the Science Editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum and a former BBC Science Correspondent.

4) UK Government-Funded Scientists May Lose Right To Lobby For Political Change
Nature. 26 February 2016

Daniel Cressy

UK scientists may be prevented from arguing for changes in national legislation or policy — if research grants are not exempted from a government ban on the use of public funds for political lobbying.

But days after scientists raised the alarm about the government’s anti-lobbying move, the situation is mired in confusion. The UK government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which is responsible for most of the public cash that is channelled to British researchers and universities, could not confirm to Nature whether the lobbying ban — which will apply to government grants from May — will affect science funding. Major UK research funders say that they do not know whether they will have to implement the rule.

“This can only have a further chilling effect on scientists already fearful of speaking out about where the weight of evidence lies on contentious issues”
On 6 February, the government announced that any groups in receipt of public money will be banned from using those funds to attempt to influence either the government or Parliament. A clause inserted into all government grants starting in May will state that they cannot be used for “activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties … or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action”.

In theory, this could mean that scientists at UK universities are not allowed to tell ministers what the policy implications of their work are, or respond to consultations that touch on their area of interest — potentially removing their ability to comment on everything from climate change to medical regulation. […]

The BIS, which is responsible for the research councils and HEFCE, could not confirm to Nature whether or not an exception would be granted for science funding. “The government is taking steps through this clause to ensure taxpayer funds are not misused. Guidance published by the Cabinet Office outlines how departments are able to make qualifications to the clause, and we are working with stakeholders to determine how this might apply to the research base,” a spokesperson said.

Full story

5) And Finally: Academia Is Losing Its Mind
The American Interest, 27 February 2016

It’s not just right-wing populists who are worried that some academic humanities and social science fields are veering into irrelevance. The latest issue of the left-of-center magazine American Prospect has a depressing report by the leftist Occidental professor Peter Dreier on his experience submitting a bogus paper to a humanities conference and getting it accepted:

Six years ago I submitted a paper for a panel, “On the Absence of Absences” that was to be part of an academic conference later that year—in August 2010. Then, and now, I had no idea what the phrase “absence of absences” meant. The description provided by the panel organizers, printed below, did not help. The summary, or abstract of the proposed paper—was pure gibberish, as you can see below. I tried, as best I could within the limits of my own vocabulary, to write something that had many big words but which made no sense whatsoever. I not only wanted to see if I could fool the panel organizers and get my paper accepted, I also wanted to pull the curtain on the absurd pretentions of some segments of academic life. To my astonishment, the two panel organizers—both American sociologists—accepted my proposal and invited me to join them at the annual international conference of the Society for Social Studies of Science to be held that year in Tokyo.

Read the Prospect piece to see Dreier’s full “proposal.” Here’s one representative sentence: “Self-delusion and self-discipline inhibits the reflective self, the postmodern membrane, the ecclesiastical impulse forbidden by truth-seeking and sun worship, problematizing the inchoate structures of both reason and darkness, allowing knowledge, half-knowledge, and knowledgelessness to undermine and yet simultaneously overcome the self-loathing that overwhelms the Gnostic challenge facing Biblical scribes, folksingers, and hip-hop rappers alike.” He also includes examples of the type of real humanities work that led him to undertake this experiment (he saw sentences elsewhere like: “Given the attitudes generated by our sense of a place, critical perspectives that only target overt structures within city systems are incomplete” and “Theoretical, conceptual and methodological choices must be framed in relation to concrete explanatory and interpretive dilemmas, not ontological foundations.”)

To make matters worse, most of this “postmodern” analysis is taking place within the context of a hermetically sealed political bubble. As our friends at Heterodox Academy have pointed out, just four percent of American academics in the humanities identify as conservative. This total homogeneity may be one reason that so much work in the humanities has become utterly disconnected from what the general public might consider to be valuable scholarly exploration.

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