FOI Request to NOAA

IPCC has just written me saying that they will send me review comments on chapter 6 subject to the following restriction:

As this additional form of distribution is being provided in conjunction with the review process, the compiled comments are not for re-distribution to others.

Given that the review comments are supposedly in an “open archive”, I don’t understand the basis of this restriction. Also I’m not clear whether this prohibits me from quoting even individual review comments. It’s all very strange and very inconsistent with the “open and transparent process” that IPCC is supposed to follow. Much as bureaucratic obfuscation amuses, even I’m getting tired of WG1 TSU, so I’ve tried this from a different angle.

Many of the key players in WG1, including the Chairman, Susan Solomon, and the TSU director, Martin Manning, are NOAA employees and have used their NOAA email addresses in any correspondence with me. The NOAA website (thanks to a CA reader for drawing this to my attention) contains lavish praise for the contribution of NOAA employees to WG1:

Feb. 2, 2007 – NOAA individuals and technology made major contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) international climate science report, of which the summary of the first chapter was released today in Paris. That summary, the Summary for Policy Makers, was subjected to line-by-line approval of the participating governments….

Susan Solomon, a senior scientist of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., is co-chair of Working Group 1 (WG1), the Physical Science Basis. Nine of the lead and review authors are from NOAA and 20 of the model runs were done by the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. Lead authors are nominated by their governments.

NOAA authors and IPCC review editors for WG1 include Thomas Peterson, David Easterling, Thomas Karl, Sidney Levitus, Mark Eakin, Matthew Menne of the NOAA Satellite and Information Service; and Venkatachala. Ramaswamy, David Fahey, Ronald Stouffer, Isaac Held, Jim Butler , Paul Ginoux, John Ogren , Chet Koblinsky, Dian Seidel, Robert Webb, Randy Dole, Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and Arun Kumar of the NOAA National Weather Service. Roger Pulwarty of OAR is an author for Working Group 2, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, slated for release April 5.

Again with the assistance of a CA reader, I’ve sent the following FOI request to NOAA:

May 31, 2007

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Public Reference Facility (OFA56)
Attn: NOAA FOIA Officer
1315 East West Highway (SSMC3)
Room 10730
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

Dear NOAA FOIA Officer:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

NOAA describes the contributions of NOAA employees to the recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, and, in particular, to Working Group 1 at its website http://www.cpo.noaa.gov/ipcc/first_ipcc.html.

I request that a copy of any NOAA records (documents, memoranda, review comments, reports, internal and external correspondence or mail including e-mail correspondence and attachments to or from NOAA employees) be provided to me on the following subjects:

(1) review comments on (a) the Second Order Draft and (b) the Final Draft of the Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I, including, but not limited to, all expert, government and review editor comments;
(2) all annotated responses to such comments by Chapter Lead Authors.

A primary source for NOAA records is Susan Solomon. NOAA ( http://www.cpo.noaa.gov/ipcc/first_ipcc.html ) states that Susan Solomon, “a senior scientist of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., is co-chair of Working Group 1 (WG1), the Physical Science Basis.” Another primary source for NOAA records is Martin Manning, another scientist with the Aeronomy Lab in Boulder CO, who acted as director of the IPCC Working Group I Technical Services Unit.

In order to help to determine my status for purposes of determining the applicability of any fees, I note that I was a reviewer for WG1; that I have 5 peer-reviewed publications on paleoclimate, all of which were cited in the WG1 Assessment Report; that I made an invited presentation last year to the National Research Council Panel on Surface Temperature Reconstructions and two invited presentations to the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

I believe a fee waiver is appropriate since the purpose of the request is academic research. All review comments were submitted in digital format; collations have already been made and all the requested information should be easily located by the primary sources.

I also include a telephone number (xxx) at which I can be contacted between 9 and 7 pm Eastern Daylight Time, if necessary, to discuss any aspect of my request.

I ask that this FOIA request be processed within 20 days so that I can respond as an expert reviewer to the United States Climate Change Science Program’s request for expert review of the fourth and final volume of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (“Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report”)” which relates to Chapter 6 Paleoclimate [Federal Register: May 21, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 97).] The closing date for comments on the Federal Register notice is June 27, 2007.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Stephen McIntyre
[address]

Notice one additional and interesting aspect to the request. The WG1 Timetable describes a date by which Author Comments have to be returned to TSU. These Author Comments have not been archived at the Harvard Library, but I’ve requested them.

I have a suggestion for CA readers. The email address of NOAA FOI is FOIA at noaa.gov. Any readers that are interested in the review comments (especially American readers) might wish to adapt the form of my request. It might be worthwhile varying the primary sources for individual requesters and see if any variations turn up.

If all interested CA readers obtain a copy of the IPCC review comments, perhaps we can have an online conversation after we have all obtained our review comments from NOAA (or any other branch of government that any of you think of.)


19 Comments

  1. Ken Fritsch
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 2:47 PM | Permalink

    Much as bureaucratic obfuscation amuses, even I’m getting tired of WG1 TSU, so I’ve tried this from a different angle.

    After this latest development, I am waiting to hear from the posters who appear here to defend and explain the bureaucratic obfuscation and the IPCC handling of this matter. That continues to amuse me.

  2. Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    Steve:

    I just posted on unthreaded. If I were in your position I would wait until you have the material you have requested in your hands and then give notice to IPCC that unless they can show you exactly what rules or laws you would be breaking by publication and unless they can show this you will publish on a given date. This puts the onus on them to show why they are going against the very rules IPCC is suposed to operate under and puts you in the driving seat for once.

  3. Reference
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 3:44 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps they want to be the sole official distributor to ensure only the original version is circulated.

  4. Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 4:43 PM | Permalink

    In which case put the comments on the web under their official site. Why the effort to restrict this information when there is such a strong consensus?

    On the testing of General Relativity Sagan wrote: These efforts will continue as long as there are scientists. General relativity is certainly an inadequate description of Nature at the quantum level, but even if that were not the case, even if General Relativity were everywhere and forever valid, what better way of convincing ourselves of its validity than a concerted effort to discover its failings and limitations?

    What has changed in the scientific arena that such attitudes have, in climate science in particular, become heretical? I will not mention words that might be censored, but surely we must realise that the AGW debate itself is being censored. The general public will never understand the arguments relating to the science but they will understand the censorship issue if the argument is articulated in a reasonable manner. It is no good asking the media to change tack on the science as the hype comes from the fear the debate creates. The story should be the censorship of the debate and why.

  5. Pat Frank
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

    Your CA reader must have lawyer genes. :-) Just for the bureaucratic record, you’re not doing “academic research,” Steve, because you’re not part of any academy. If some college or university offered you a research, adjunct, or courtesy professorship, the description could change. That would be to your advantage because it would offer you a politically credible association plus an academic letterhead. These positions are often unsalaried and that lack of burden brightens the outlook of department chairs. If you cast around a bit, you could well land such a position.

    Anyway, what you’re doing might be called ‘critical research, without financial interest.’ That should also put you in line for a fee waiver.

  6. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

    Hey folks, if you think that requesting the review comments is a good idea, you do it. It’s a simple cut, paste, edit and email.

  7. Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 5:53 PM | Permalink

    Some months ago I did just that and sought a response as to why all information relating to IPCC reports was not publicly available given the possible consequences on the lives of billions of people. I also pointed out that the UN promotes freedom of information as part of its charter yet does not live up to it. As yet no response.

    My point is the media are constantly fed the alarmist story because they think it makes them money, via readership, listeners, watchers etc. Arguing the science does not work because most of the media don’t understand the science and they certainly know that the scientific argument would bore their readers etc to death (if global warming does’nt kill them first!!). However science has always been about skeptics, it has always been the skepticism that has pushed science to prove or disprove theories and yet here we have the IPCC and it’s scientists deriding skepticism and promoting a consensus. Wasn’t it skepticism that started Hansen on his way in the first place? Wasn’t it his skepticism about the fact that the world was not cooling that first lead to his assertions about global warming? Wasn’t it the UN and the WMO who’s skepticism about the stability of global temperatures that lead to the IPCC being formed in the first place?

  8. Ken Fritsch
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

    Do not expect the IPCC to act scientifically when in fact and deed it is a political organization attempting to lobby in the strongest terms possible for immediate and drastic mitigating actions for AGW. Even with some of the climate scientists, like Hansen, it becomes difficult to separate their pursuit of a political agenda from their scientific efforts and instincts.

    As an example, the theory of relativity was pretty much limited to physical things with practical ramifications from it being rather far into the future. There were no near term political actions bearing on its acceptance or rejection. Besides that theory can be described in rather simple (but eloquent) mathematic terms while I doubt that that will ever be even the proximate case for the understanding and predicting of climate.

    Given the political nature connected with climate science and the methods used by the IPCC in reviewing (selecting would be a more descriptive action) the literature makes me appreciate even more attempts like Steve M’s to analyze and discuss individual efforts and papers related to climate science in a more direct and less filtered manner.

  9. Ken Fritsch
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 7:09 PM | Permalink

    I sent an email to the IPCC today concerning a public viewing of the “traceable accounts” for describing and explaining each working groups methods for determining the critical levels of uncertainties (likely, very likely etc.). I am not holding my breath and particularly so since hearing Paul’s account of his response from the IPCC.

    I think Steve M has and will get a better response because of his standing in the climate community and his IPCC participation. I am guessing that requests from the general public will be either ignored or put into a low priority queue, but I continue to pursue making contact and/or seek a logical reason why the IPCC will not respond from Boris.

  10. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

    #9. Ken, no one is going to spend time answering questions just to be helpful. They will only do so if they are obliged. So you have to place your questions in an FOI context, where there are legal obligations to respond. And this means that you have to ask for documents – not for answers to questions.

  11. Ken Fritsch
    Posted Jun 7, 2007 at 8:04 PM | Permalink

    And this means that you have to ask for documents – not for answers to questions.

    Perhaps my post was not clear about this, but in my email I did make a direct request for the Traceable Accounts.

  12. Sprentov
    Posted Jun 8, 2007 at 1:40 AM | Permalink

    After this latest development, I am waiting to hear from the posters who appear here to defend and explain the bureaucratic obfuscation and the IPCC handling of this matter. That continues to amuse me.

    Try here http://theweatheroutlook.com/twocommunity/forums/3/238165/ShowThread.aspx#238165

  13. Robert S.
    Posted Jun 8, 2007 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

    One might make the argument that when you’re writing a work of fiction, you don’t want anyone to read it until you’ve put it through the spell checker, checked that the characters are consistent in themselves and in their interactions with others, and repair obvious grammer mistakes after waiting some time before editing it. Then you’d have others proofread it.

    So there is a reason somebody might not want to let something out while they consider it being in the original raw state. I think the problem is here we’re at the “others proofread it” stage, but some still act as if we’re not.

    Might that be where the disconnect is? It seems there’s always a disconnect. Some people just disconnect things on purpose, with others it’s accidental….

  14. Robert S.
    Posted Jun 8, 2007 at 12:39 PM | Permalink

    Maybe that’s what we should call them, “The Disconnectors”!!

  15. steven mosher
    Posted Jun 9, 2007 at 9:06 PM | Permalink

    NOAA has been FOIAed by me.

    Let’s see what happens

  16. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 10, 2007 at 12:09 AM | Permalink

    #15. Great. C’mon folks. You don’t have to be an AR4 reviewer to ask for the IPCC review comments. Shame them into putting them online by FOIing NOAA. The more the merrier. It’s a mouseclick away. Just cut-and-paste with a minor edit. If you feel ambitious, look at the webpage linked here and vary the primary sources to your personal favorites.

    FOIA at noaa.gov

    May 31, 2007

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    Public Reference Facility (OFA56)
    Attn: NOAA FOIA Officer
    1315 East West Highway (SSMC3)
    Room 10730
    Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

    Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

    Dear NOAA FOIA Officer:

    This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

    NOAA describes the contributions of NOAA employees to the recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, and, in particular, to Working Group 1 at its website http://www.cpo.noaa.gov/ipcc/first_ipcc.html.

    I request that a copy of any NOAA records (documents, memoranda, review comments, reports, internal and external correspondence or mail including e-mail correspondence and attachments to or from NOAA employees) be provided to me on the following subjects:

    (1) review comments on (a) the Second Order Draft and (b) the Final Draft of the Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I, including, but not limited to, all expert, government and review editor comments;
    (2) all annotated responses to such comments by Chapter Lead Authors.

    A primary source for NOAA records is Susan Solomon. NOAA ( http://www.cpo.noaa.gov/ipcc/first_ipcc.html ) states that Susan Solomon, “a senior scientist of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., is co-chair of Working Group 1 (WG1), the Physical Science Basis.” Another primary source for NOAA records is Martin Manning, another scientist with the Aeronomy Lab in Boulder CO, who acted as director of the IPCC Working Group I Technical Services Unit.

    All review comments were submitted in digital format; collations have already been made and all the requested information should be easily located by the primary sources. I believe a fee waiver is appropriate since the purpose of the request is research.

    I also include a telephone number (xxx) at which I can be contacted between 9 and 7 pm Eastern Daylight Time, if necessary, to discuss any aspect of my request.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    Requester Name and Address

  17. Posted Jun 10, 2007 at 2:56 AM | Permalink

    C’mon folks

    Done. Don’t be tellin’ people I never did anything for you.

  18. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 15, 2007 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

    I received the following email today with an attachment:

    Thank You for your Request.

    Monique Love

    The return address had a noaa.gov address, but I wasn’t going to open the attachment without confirming this, observing that attachments to email from “Monique Love” were not always benign on the internet. It turned out to be a valid email with a Word attachment acknowledging my FOI request.

  19. Terence Hale
    Posted Mar 26, 2008 at 3:11 AM | Permalink

    Hi,
    As of World Water Day in March 2008. It’s ironic with ice of considerable size just to separate it’s self from the Antarctic and the decrees of the ice thickness in the Bering sea many people are worried to much water (increase in sea levels). It must be a logistical problem as we will soon have a lot of water to go around.
    Regards Dr. Terence Hale

3 Trackbacks

  1. By NOAA and the Three Monkeys « Climate Audit on Dec 4, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    [...] month ago for the review comments (now online at IPCC) and the review editors comments, reported at CA here. Here is an excerpt: I request that a copy of any NOAA records (documents, memoranda, review [...]

  2. [...] few days later (May 31, 2007) – see CA post here, I sent an FOI request to NOAA (WG1 Co-Chair Solomon and TSU Secretary Martin Manning were both [...]

  3. […] after issueing an FOI at NOAA IPCC released all the comments and the lead author responses (see here and […]

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