Thursday, November 19, 2015

NOAA Should Submit Their Emails to Lamar Smith

I'm a little surprised I've come to this decision, but I think NOAA should give Lamar Smith the emails he is asking for.

I say that being fully aware that the usual scoundrels will pick over them like vultures, looking for any sentence or phrase they think they make hay with, regardless of its context. It happened in Climategate I and II -- and what I wrote here was certainly off-base and wrong -- and it will happen here. It's likely the primary goal of Smith and the think tank people who are surely urging him on.

There's no doubt that NASA is an agency of the executive branch, subject to Congressional oversight. That includes what's on their hard drives and in their emails, even though I'm sure such scrutiny as this will only drive people to stop using email, or use private email instead.

Congress, of course, won't dare allow anyone to look at its emails. (Gee, I wonder why?) So we can't see what is being suggested to Lamar Smith's staff. Shame.

If I worked for NOAA I would resist anyone reading my emails. I might even leave over it, if that was a possibility, and I might not go quietly. Scientists, like many others, need private correspondence to talk, hash out ideas, question ideas, question calculations, entertain hypotheses and question data. That's why science attains the amazing successes it does.

So what Lamar Smith is doing is killing the scientific process, killing the scientific enterprise that has benefited Americans and the world so much. That should be pointed out again and again.

Smith hasn't even given any indication that he or his staff have read the paper by Karl et al (and the one of revisions to ERSST v3 before them), and why that information and data doens't answer their questions. What about these papers do Smith et al find incomplete or not adequately explained?

This clearly shows, I think, that their focus is certainly not on the science.

Smith should be thanking these scientists for all their work on this huge problem of manmade climate change.

I doubt Lamar Smith can recognize that, and I doubt he cares anyway. I think Lamar Smith is craven and just wants to make his oil and gas friends happy, and the think tank people urging him on just want to make their own fossil fuel funders happy.

They don't care about science. It's all politics to them. To be blunt, I don't know how they live with themselves. I really don't.

But Lamar Smith, or Marc Morano or Chris Horner can't stop the greenhouse effect. They can't stop the warming that will only continue in the future. But they can harm a lot of people in the process -- both the scientists and the scientific process, and especially the people who are and will continue to suffer from climate change.

Of course, they couldn't care less about these people.

But, regardless of the consequences and repercussions, NOAA is subject to Congressional oversight. I am glad they are making a stink about it. But it seems to me the law is clear. And it's a law that needs to change, if scientists (and others) are to properly do their jobs. Everyone needs some privacy, some room to think and noodle and kvetch.

Like the AEI before him, Lamar Smith is driving science underground. And that means less of it, just at the time when even more is needed.

40 comments:

Unknown said...

IMHO NOAA should provide their e-mails to David Appell and to me. The people at NOAA are public servants. They work for David and me. We pay their salaries. David and I (really people working for David and me) hired the people at NOAA. We're their bosses and should be treated as such.

In this case, there are accusations of bad faith by some NOAA employees. The Washington Post wrote

[Lamar] Smith told Pritzker that the whistleblowers’ allegations make it more crucial that he be provided with the scientists’ internal e-mails and communications. If NOAA does not produce the e-mails he is seeking by Friday, the chairman said, “I will be forced to consider use of compulsory process,” a threat to subpoena the commerce secretary herself.

Whistleblowers have told the committee, according to Smith’s letter, that Thomas Karl — the director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, which led the study — “rushed” to publish the climate study “before all appropriate reviews of the underlying science and new methodologies” used in the climate data sets were conducted.

“NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and integrity of the process but were ignored,” he wrote.


Cheers
David in Cal

TheMostCasualObserver said...

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's scathing response to Lamar Smith's witch hunt:

http://democrats.science.house.gov/sites/democrats.science.house.gov/files/Ranking%20Member%20Johnson%20Second%20Letter%20to%20Chairman%20Smith%20on%20NOAA%20Subpoena.pdf

Unknown said...

I find it plausible that the Karl study may have lacked the appropriate reviews, because many aspects have been criticized by climate scientists. You can find numerous crticisms at http://judithcurry.com/2015/06/04/has-noaa-busted-the-pause-in-global-warming/ including

-- substituted a less accurate measure of ocean temperature for a more accurate one
-- did this substitution in a way that artificially added an upward trend in sea surface temperature
-- cherry picked starting dates for trend.
-- adjustments in Karl are at odds with other all other surface temperature datasets, as well as those compiled via satellite.
-- extension of high-latitude arctic land data over the Arctic Ocean was called questionable.

Cheers
David in Cal

Ned said...

David in Cal, please stop posting blatantly false propaganda. Your "numerous criticisms" were debunked months ago, as you ought to know already.

In case there's anyone reading this who isn't familiar with the paper in question, here are some good summaries of the work:

NOAA temperature record updates and the ‘hiatus’

Yale Climate Connection

What you need to know about the NOAA global warming faux pause paper

Victor Venema said...

David Appell Congresswoman Johnson seems to disagree with your reading of the legal situation: The Constitution doesn't provide you [Lamar Smith] with a blank check to harass research scientists with whose results you disagree. The Constitution doesn't imbue you with the power to sanction a separate and equal branch of government simply because they won't entertain your baseless conspiracy theories. Your "investigation" appears to have less to do with uncovering waste, fraud, or abuse at a federal agency, and more to do with political posturing intended to influence public opinion ahead of a major international climate conference.

In Germany this kind of intimidation of scientist would definitely be illegal. We have the Freedom of Science and Research in the constitution. The wise Americans wrote it into the constitution after having seen in the Third Reich were government meddling in science leads to.

Whatever the legal situation is, governments should not be in the business of picking scientific winners and losers. Id the media is the Science is the 4th power, science is the 5th power. Its independence and ability to stand up against the elite and inform the citizenship is crucial in a democratic open society. Even if this is legal, the citizenship should give it a high priority that people like Lamar Smith are never reelected.

P.S. See my new post for the "technicality" that the "hiatus" does not have the "far reaching policy implications" Lamar Smith claims. It has no policy implications.

David Appell said...

David in Cal: You are not NOAA's boss, nor am I. You do not get to direct what they do or what research they should undertake, or how they should do it. You are a taxpayer who pays a miniscule portion of NOAA's funding, that's all. As with any citizen you can perhaps get information from them via FOIA, but you are certainly not their boss.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"In this case, there are accusations of bad faith by some NOAA employees."

Smith wanted these emails before these mysterious "accusations."

Accusations aren't facts. And they are often made for some other purpose than getting at the truth.

Unknown said...

Ned -- If you post the specific refutations here, we could discuss each of them dispassionately. E.g., did Karl actually begin a trend in 1998 at the peak of that el Nino? Are ship temperature readings more reliable than the ARGO floats?

Victor -- You say "governments should not be in the business of picking scientific winners and losers." NOAA is a part of the government. Surely NOAA should make scientific recommendations, which amount to deciding which science is correct.

You say, "We have the Freedom of Science and Research in the constitution." I'm not sure that we have that explicit provision, but I agree that the thrust of the constitution is to provide such freedom. You and I are free do do whatever research we like without government interference. But, the question with NOAA is whether Congress has the right of oversight of work done by a government agency. Congress certainly has this right and this responsibility.

Cheers
David in Cal

Victor Venema said...

David in Cal, maybe for you NOAA is part of the government. Many people in America call what they hate the government. When they like them, they call it the the military, the police or the fire fighters.

Not too long ago there was a new rocket launch. A private rocket send to orbit was the first headline. After the rocket blew up it was NASA, the government, that was to blame. From the outside America is kinda weird.

For me the scientists at NOAA are simply part of the scientific community. The scientists at Exxon doing climate research should also have the freedom to see where the evidence leads them (the management does not have the freedom to lie, naturally).

Unknown said...

Victor -- I think the Karl paper does have policy implications. If there was a 10 or 15 year warming hiatus, then the IPCC climate models are less convincing. Therefore, the need for expensive CO2 mitigation is less certain. If there was no hiatus, then the need for action is more certain.

The size of the warming trend is also vital knowledge in deciding how much CO2 mitigation is needed.

Cheers
David in Cal

Victor Venema said...

Davind in Cal, thank you for not responding to the arguments I used in my post. With people like you we can build a strong democracy based on the voice of reason.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"If there was a 10 or 15 year warming hiatus, then the IPCC climate models are less convincing. Therefore, the need for expensive CO2 mitigation is less certain."

Why? Climate models don't do short-term predictions. (In fact, they do no predictions at all.)

Climate models calculate the equilibrium state reached after all forcings go back to zero. With some effort, they can estimate the transient climate response.

How would an "hiatus" affect the equilibrium state?

Climate models don't know the future -- of volcanic eruptions, changes in solar irradiance. They aren't very good at finding ENSOs, so would not know that the last 15 years were dominated by La Nina (cooling) conditions.

Unknown said...

Victor -- all right, I'll respond to your post, at least part of it. Some disagreements

1. It's not a harassment campaign against NOAA. There are valid question about the science they did. Congress is properly trying to fulfill its oversight campaign. BTW you have no basis for concluding that the aim is harassment. You can't read minds. Also, if NOAA didn't do anything questionable, why don't they just fulfill the data request and put this debate behind them?

2. Revealing the data and code is quite different from revealing how those decisions were made. In particualar, if the decisions were made to help promote fear of climate change, that wouldn't be apparent from the data and code.

3. The differences aren't minor, because they have different policy implications. Whether or not there was a hiatus has an inpact on how certain we should be of the various climate models.

4.What you call an "extremely short trend" is over 15 years in the satellite record. However, to a great degree, global warming fears are based on the rapid warming that occurred from about 1970 to 1998. If 15 years if "extremely short", then 28 years can't be too all long.

5. I agree with you that the hiatus doesn't mean global warming has stopped.

6. You say, "Before this reassessment NOAA's trend since 1998 was rather low compared to the other datasets." Was the NOAA trend low compared to some other data sets or to all other data sets? in particular, was it lower than the satellite-based data sets?

7. You say, "the new assessment of NOAA is in line with our current understanding.' Who is "our"? It's not in line with the current understanding of some experts, like Prof. Curry.

8. Adjustments of past data are inherently uncertain. The need to adjust past data illustrates that there is enormous uncertainty in the data.

9. There's good evidence that the Urban Heat Island Effect hasn't been sufficiently adjusted for. The evidence is that when they measure a trend based on only weather stations in areas that were rural and stayed rural, that trend is much lower than what NOAA and others are coming to.

10. There are many problems with the new NOAA record, a few of which I mentioned above. they cast grave doubt on the new NOAA approach. If you like, you can respond to the problems I pointed out above then go to my link and respond to the other problems and questioned there.

Cheers
David in Cal

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"It's not a harassment campaign against NOAA. There are valid question about the science they did."

What questions, exactly?

Which of these questions cannot be answered by their publications and supporting materials, specifically?

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"What you call an "extremely short trend" is over 15 years in the satellite record."

And that's an extremely short trend. Explain why it's not.

"However, to a great degree, global warming fears are based on the rapid warming that occurred from about 1970 to 1998."

First of all, that's 28 years, not 15.

Second of all, you claim isn't (as is usual for you) true. The concern is about the big picture. In fact, many scientists were already concerned back in the 1960s and '70s after Manabe & Wetherald's calculations. Some even before that.

The warming in the following decades was not surprising to them -- it's what the physics predicted.

Unknown said...

David -- I think I already already answered your questions. Among the valid questions not answerable from public information are

1. Did any NOAA employees intentionally release the study without doing the proper reviews, as has been alleged by some whistleblowers?

2. What was NOAA's motivation in choosing their method? E.g, were they motivated by an effort to show a higher warming trend?

3. Did NOAA employees reject other possible adjustments, because those adjustments would have produced a lower trend?

4. Was the release timed to have an impact on the coming meeting in Paris?

5. Did any NOAA employees point out flaws in the study before it was released? That is, were possible flaws ignored? (To me, this seems likely. E.g., surely someone at NOAA would have objected to cherry-picking the year for starting a trend. It seems likely that someone might have questioned substituting ship readings for ARGO readings.)

6. Was the wording of the NOAA press release an intentional overstatement? Even if the NOAA study was without scientific flaws, NOAA ought not to have said there was no hiatus, since many other methods still showed one.

Cheers
Davin in Cal

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"Did any NOAA employees intentionally release the study without doing the proper reviews, as has been alleged by some whistleblowers?"

Scientist share studies before publication ALL THE TIME -- with friends and colleagues to make sure they're on the right track.

What's wrong with that?

Complaining about this is yet another way to kill scienctic progress, brought to you by people who don't know any science.

Unknown said...

If there are reviews that properly must be done before a study is made public, and if the Karl paper was made public without all these proper reviews being done, then releasing the paper would have been improper conduct by NOAA. I don't know whether or not some mantatory reviews were omitted. Apparently the anonyomus whistleblower(s) said this was the case. I am not sure how to evaluate the whistleblowers, since they're anonymous and I don't have a copy of their actual statememts.

The purpose of the subpoena would be to find out whether the whistleblosers' allegation is true or false. If NOAA has nothing to hide, this shouldn't be a problem. I was taught in my working days that anything I wrote might be made public in the future. Surely all government employees are made aware of this basic principle.

Cheers
David in Cal

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"If there are reviews that properly must be done before a study is made public, and if the Karl paper was made public without all these proper reviews being done...."

If if it. Clearly you have no idea or information about any of these ifs. In other words, you support a fishing expedition based on no evidence whatsover.

"No evidence" is getting to be a common theme with you.

Unknown said...

There is evidence, namely what the whistle-blowers said. IMHO another bit of evidence is that the studey was released and publicized despite some obvious, big flaws.

Cheers
David in Cal

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"The purpose of the subpoena would be to find out whether the whistleblosers' allegation is true or false."

Except Lamar Smith has been requesting these emails since long before any claimed "whistleblowers" came forth.

Why, if it's not a fishing expedition?

"If NOAA has nothing to hide, this shouldn't be a problem."

If you have nothing to hide, are you OK with the police coming in and doing a thorough search of your home?

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"There is evidence, namely what the whistle-blowers said."

What evidence?

How do you know what the purported whistleblower(s) said?

Lamar Smith has been requesting emails for a long time. Why, when that was before any whistleblowers?

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"IMHO another bit of evidence is that the studey was released and publicized despite some obvious, big flaws."

What "obvious, big flaws?" Specifically?

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"I was taught in my working days that anything I wrote might be made public in the future."

In my days working for corporations, no one ever said such a thing. I guess I worked for companies that respected worker's privacy, and you did not.

"Surely all government employees are made aware of this basic principle."

You know this for a fact?

Why does ANYONE need access to emails, when all the details are spelled out in the paper's? Is there something missing from the papers?

Do you think training employees that their emails may be trolled through at any time might affect their willingless to communicate with their colleagues, thus impacting their progress?

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"3. Did NOAA employees reject other possible adjustments, because those adjustments would have produced a lower trend?"

NOAA clearly spelled out their reasoning, methodology and analysis in their papers.

Is there something in their papers you find troubling?

Frankly, I don't get the impression you even READ their papers.

You're just as much on a fishing expedition as Lamar Smith, alleging this and alleging that with no evidence whatsoever.

David Appell said...

David: Why do you think Lamar Smith won't release his emails, or those of his staff?

Doesn't Congress work for the people? Aren't you his "boss?"

Unknown said...

David -- Any business is at risk of having internal communications made public. In case of a lawsuit, any information at all could be discoverable. We were taught to follow the "New York Times rule" -- Don't write something that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the New York Times.

I mentioned several of the flaws in an earlier comment, an I linked to an article that mentions other possible flaws. As I recall, you have criticized skeptics who cherry-pick dates for the trend. So, I would think you'd be particularly critical of Karl for doing just that, if indeed they did that.

As I said, what's missing from the papers is the thinking behind the method. E.g. it's hard to justify using ship records rather than Argo records for ocean temperature. That switch can be disputed for technical reasons. But, if one could find that NOAA made this switch with the written goal of getting a higher trend, that would be more damning than just a quibble over which method is technically superior.

More generally, there are a great many plausible ways to adjust data. NOAA used a conceivable set of assumptions. If one could show that they chose their assumptions, not because they were the most plausible, but in order to disappear the warming pause, that would be important information.

You are correct that I didn't read the actual papers. I read commentary at Prof Curry's blog, to which I linked. If that blog mis-described the techniques used in the papers, then my criticism would be invalid.

Cheers
David in Cal

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"Any business is at risk of having internal communications made public."

A science institution isn't a business. They don't exist to make a profit, they exist to find the truth.

Why would you want to hamper scientists by denying them the ability to share preliminary results with collegues so they can see if they are on the right track and thinking straight? That makes absolutely no sense to me.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"As I recall, you have criticized skeptics who cherry-pick dates for the trend. So, I would think you'd be particularly critical of Karl for doing just that, if indeed they did that."

IF INDEED THEY DID???

What a stupid comment. You have no idea if they did or not, no opinion on the subject, and no reason whatsoever to expect anything they did was nefarious.

So you try to cover yourself with a dipshit phrase like "if indeed they did that."

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"As I said, what's missing from the papers is the thinking behind the method. E.g. it's hard to justify using ship records rather than Argo records for ocean temperature."

What in their papers did you find unclear?

In fact, tell us -- did you even READ their papers?

Be honest.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"More generally, there are a great many plausible ways to adjust data. NOAA used a conceivable set of assumptions. If one could show that they chose their assumptions, not because they were the most plausible, but in order to disappear the warming pause, that would be important information."

Their assumptions and methods are spelled out in their papers.

But you didn't read their papers, so you prefer to go on an ignorant witch hunt.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"You are correct that I didn't read the actual papers."

You should be ashamed of yourself.

You will not be allowed to comment here again until you go read the papers, so you have at some low-level idea of what was said and done.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote:
"But, the question with NOAA is whether Congress has the right of oversight of work done by a government agency. Congress certainly has this right and this responsibility."

And why does it need to impose on the privacy of worker's emails? What is missing from the extremely detailed papers published by the scientists?

You are avoiding this question, David. Just like you ignore many others.

Unknown said...

Where I worked, there never was any assumption of privacy of my business emails. Obviously the IT Dept. had backed-up copies, so they could look at any emails I had written or received on my company computer. I never doubted that company executives could review my company emails if they chose to. In short, there was no expectation of privacy of my emails.

If people had told company internal auditors that I had violated company procedures, then the internal auditors would have had the authority to review my company emails as part of an investigation on whether I really had violated company emails. That's pretty close to the sitation at NOAA. Whistle-blowers say that some employees violated procedure. Congress has oversight responsibility. It's appropriate that they look at all the facts to determine whether the accusations are correct or not. It's appropriate that Congress try to figure out how widespread the procedure viiolations were, if indeed there were any violations.

As I explained earlier, in addition to checking for procedure violations, the NOAA emails might be useful to help determine whether NOAA used good faith in adopting the particular adjustments that they chose.

Climate change is serious. Bad science and faulty procedures should not be tolerated, even if you like the results. In the long run, bad studies like the Karl paper will reduce public confidence in all the climate change warnings. The parable of the boy who cried wolf is what I am referring to.

Cheers
David in Cal

David Appell said...

David in Cal: Did you read the papers yet?

I'm not allowing any more of your comments through until you have read them.

David Appell said...

David in Cal wrote (not yet published):
"In the long run, bad studies like the Karl paper will reduce public confidence in all the climate change warnings."

Why is Karl et al a "bad" study?

(This is another question you will have to answer until your comments are publishable again.)

David Appell said...

David: I'd especially like to know why you think the Karl et al study is "bad" when you just admitted you haven't read it.

What kind of crap are you trying to pull here?

Unknown said...

David

I assume you're talking about the paper as published in Science Magazine. Sorry, I don't care to spend $20 for the privilege of being able to access that paper for one day.

Cheers
David in Cal

David Appell said...

David: They make a copy at your local library. Write to a co-author and ask them for a copy. Write to me and I'll send you a copy. But you have to read a paper before you can dismiss it.

Mark Ryan said...

It seems to me that Smith is pushing hard at this because it seems like his preferred tactic prior to the COP21 Paris talks -it is the next best hope he has to manufacture another 'climategate'. For that reason alone, I hope NOAA at least delay producing the requested emails until well after then.

But I really hope they never have to comply. As Victor wrote, Eddie Bernice Johnson's response to Smith makes it really quite clear why NOAA should stand up to the harassment.

p.s. David Appell -surely you are getting as tired of going around in circles with 'David in Cal' as we are of witnessing it! Whenever I see there are several comments on a post, I now check to see who wrote the comments first -and ignore those tedious missives from this troll who has attached himself to your bridge.