Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Calcification of Climate Science

by Ian Tuttle

According to Lord Christopher Monckton, Thomas R. Karl’s much-feted paper refuting “the Pause,” the inexplicable 19-year standstill in the earth’s average global surface temperature, has a small problem: To disappear the warming hiatus as Karl and his co-authors purport to do, you have to repeal the laws of thermodynamics. (Not even the current president can do that.)

Karl and his colleagues, whose work appeared in the June issue of Science, “updated” previous data sets used to assess changes in surface temperatures, which supporters maintain is merely Science being self-critical and Scientific. Others — a lot of others — say different. E. Calvin Beisner rounds up criticisms at the website Watts Up With That, and quotes with approval the verdict of Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry: 
This short paper in Science is not adequate to explain and explore the very large changes that have been made to the NOAA data set. . . . So while I’m sure this latest analysis from NOAA will be regarded as politically useful for the Obama administration, I don’t regard it as a particularly useful contribution to our scientific understanding of what is going on. 
This would be an in-the-weeds scientific scuffle were it not that Karl is director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Center for Environmental Information and the study was the work of his outfit. Since even the apocalypse-minded Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has acknowledged the hiatus, NOAA’s startling findings caught the eye of Lamar Smith, chairman of the House’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the job of which is to oversee the work of NOAA and other federal scientific bodies. In mid July, the committee requested that NOAA pass along a host of data related to the study, noting in its letter to NOAA administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan, “The conclusions brought forth in this new study have lasting impacts and provide the basis for further action through regulations. With such broad implications, it is imperative that the underlying data and the analysis are made publicly available to ensure that the conclusions found and methods used are of the highest quality.”

NOAA cooperated — until it didn’t. After partially fulfilling the committee’s request (for “documents and information related to NOAA’s new updated global datasets, as well as the communications referring or relating to corrections to sea temperature data from ships and buoys”) in August, NOAA let pass two extended deadlines for the missing information, prompting a subpoena. This week, though, NOAA announced that it has no plans to comply with the subpoena. The agency cited “confidentiality concerns and the integrity of the scientific process,” according to The Hill.


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