23/2/17 – Climategate 2: Heating data exaggerated by NOAA

Andy (6/2/17) cites a Daily Mail article regarding disputed data from America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It looks like the whistleblower, Dr John Bates, has serious concerns about data management practices at NOAA. Andy took this to mean that NOAA “fiddled data to falsely claim there was no ‘pause’ or ‘slowdown’ in global warming since 1998”, hence the title. He then quotes vast swathes of the Daily Mail article and rounds off with the claim that “many of the ‘experts’ are guilty of gross exaggerations, to say the very least.” He also pasted the Daily Mail’s graph, below, showing the alleged exaggeration:

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 1.38.12 PM.png


It all seems plausible at first sight but a deep read into the controversy shows that, by simply copying and pasting the Daily Mail article without due diligence and fact-checking, Andy committed the very error he claims NOAA committed – ie., rushing things through for maximum impact without proper scrutiny.

Here is a deeper read of some more facts and opinions blithely omitted or simply missed because he was too quick to pull the trigger:

U-Bolt #1: the Daily Mail fiddled with the data, not NOAA

The Daily presented a deeply misleading graph, above, with the caveat that the red and blue line are “offset in temperature by 0.12 degrees Celsius due to difference analysis techniques”. True, but the gap between the lines is approximately 0.12 degrees on average so the graph shows absolutely nothing!! The two datasets, from NOAA in the US and the Met Office in the UK, used different baselines so the red line started about a degree higher in the first place. Here is the graph of the two datasets corrected for the baseline difference by a climate scientist (source and primary source):

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 1.41.52 PM.pngThe Daily then claims that the NOAA data shows a “steeper recent warming trend.” Look for yourself – does it? Not one bit. Look at either graph, it doesn’t matter. That’s how you know these people are lying. They are asking you to disbelieve your own eyes. Does Andy bother to look for himself? Nup. So, who’s the ideological slave and who’s the skeptical freethinker – the journalist who doesn’t even bother to look or the scientist who looks and finds a simple explanation? You decide (or let me decide for you, either way I’m easy).

Studies have been done since the original article was published that verify the NOAA dataset. The same climate scientist who corrected the Daily’s graph did one of those studies and this is what they found:

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 1.53.55 PM.png

The old NOAA data underestimated the warming from about 2005 where it starts to diverge, and the new NOAA data fits better with independent satellite and buoy observations. The data wasn’t “fiddled” with, as Andy suggests, but rather corrected and verified by independent corroborators. That’s called good science. Copying and pasting a Daily Mail article isn’t even journalism, let alone good journalism. It’s toeing the ideological line.

U-Bolt #2: even the whistleblower disagrees with Andy

Dr Bates, the whistleblower, was quoted a couple of days later (8/2) in Science magazine: “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, that knocks out the headline, introduction, and conclusion – sorry Andy.

Please, if you want to read the full disclosure by Dr Bates, in this case the primary source, go here. Be warned, it’s pretty dry and lukewarm in its accusations. His main thrust is that the NOAA scientists had their “thumb on the scale pushing for, and often insisting on, decisions that maximize warming and minimize documentation.” That’s an informed opinion worthy of investigation but it has to be balanced with other opinions and, as above, facts about whether the claims are justified or impactful.

Let’s leave the final word to the whistleblower himself, again from Science magazine:

“And Bates told ScienceInsider that he is wary of his critique becoming a talking point for those skeptical of human-caused climate change. But it was important for this conversation about data integrity to happen, he says. “That’s where I came down after a lot of soul searching. I knew people would misuse this. But you can’t control other people,” he says.” (bold and italics added)



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