NOAA Misrepresents Inspector General Report

NOAA’s news release on the IG report contains the following misrepresentation of NOAA’s repudiation of FOI requests:

The report questions the way NOAA handled a response to four FOIA requests in 2007. The FOIA requests sought documents related to the review and comments of part of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. NOAA scientists were given legal advice that IPCC work done by scientists were records of the IPCC, not NOAA. The requesters were directed to the IPCC, which subsequently made available the review, comments and responses which are online at IPCC and

“The NOAA scientists responded in good faith to the FOIA requests based on their understanding of the request and in accordance with the legal guidance provided in 2007,” Glackin said.

I reviewed the actual statements in the Inspector General report earlier today here. The Inspector General said that there was a divergence between Solomon’s evidence and the evidence of the NOAA attorneys, the latter denied giving “legal advice that IPCC work done by scientists were records of the IPCC, not NOAA”, with Susan Solomon unable to provide any documentation of ever receiving such evidence.

NOAA’s assertion that Solomon had been “given legal advice that IPCC work done by scientists were records of the IPCC, not NOAA” is not a finding of the report. Solomon claimed that she’d been given such advice, but the NOAA lawyers denied giving it to her, with the IG saying that he was unable to reconcile the divergent claims.

NOAA’s assertion in the press release misrepresents the IG report, a misrepresentation that has been picked up by various news outlets, e.g. CBC here.


  1. Green Sand
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 6:30 PM | Permalink

    Being UK based I am unaware of the role of Inspector General, is it expected that the IG will respond to the NOAA statement?

    • Tom Ganley
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 7:00 PM | Permalink

      Good question, my guess is no since the Department of Justice won’t give it a second glance.

      The link below is an interesting story, which gives a bit of insight into how the IG operates, the scope of their power and the relationship between the IG, Congress, and the White House.

    • suyts
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 11:16 PM | Permalink

      Inspector General’s can be roughly viewed as auditors. Nonetheless, while they’re suppose to have some authority, this administration seems to have clipped their wings a bit. In this case, I’m not expecting much.

  2. Sean Houlihane
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 6:42 PM | Permalink

    CBC link is broken. Odd that they would PR something which is so easily provable to be false…

    • RomanM
      Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Permalink

      Re: Sean Houlihane (Feb 24 18:42),

      The CBC link works for me.

      According to the first sentence [bold mine]:

      Researches [sic] at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been cleared of any scientific wrongdoing in the 2009 “climategate” uproar.

      As good propagandists, they moved the pea under another shell. The entire article reeks of BS.

      • Sean Houlihane
        Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 7:30 PM | Permalink

        I don’t see that hyperlink in the last line of the original article, which I interpreted as saying that the divergence had been recognised by the news media, not followed. I found that article and assumed there must be a follow up, but it seems not.

  3. curious
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

    …. NOAA scientists claimed they were given….

    ….the NOAA scientists claimed they responded in good faith….

    …. in accordance with the legal guidance they claimed they were provided with in 2007….

    I thought Mary Glackin had just fallen foul of a bullish editor until I read the rest of the press release. Now I can only think she hasn’t read the report and she based her comments on a very poor briefing. I guess as NOAA’s deputy under secretary for operations she’ll be banging some heads together over this.

    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 7:06 PM | Permalink

    I read the NOAA news release as a response to (not a recitation of) the IG report. It’s clear that NOAA will not let its own counsel get in the way of its intended spin!
    NOAA even puts the IG’s efforts at par with the efforts of others with dubious distinctions: “The findings in the Inspector General’s investigation are similar to the conclusions reached in a number of other independent investigations into climate data stewardship and research that were conducted by the UK House of Commons, Penn State University, the InterAcademy Council, and the National Research Council, after the release of the stolen emails All of the reports exonerated climate scientists from allegations of wrong-doing.”

  5. dcinside
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

    Revkin has put you in your place. Slim pickings here. Sorry but add this to the exoneration pile of reports.

  6. JohnGM
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

    just FYI: The link to the CBC report is missing.

  7. JohnGM
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 7:47 PM | Permalink

    Sorry about the above FYI. Just noticed the link in the comments.

  8. Norm Kalmanovitch
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 8:09 PM | Permalink

    Hi Steve,

    In the process of putting together evidence to demonstrate that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are definitely not the prime source for observe increase in atmospheric CO2 I came accross a statistic that completely refutes AGW
    The Kyoto Protocol is not about climate but is strictly a protocol to reduce CO2 emissions for the sole purpose of slowing down the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.
    In the 14 years from the initiation of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to today there has been over 20% increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
    The CO2 data from
    shows that the average increase in CO2 concentration for the 7 years from 1997 to 2003 was 2.013ppmv/year but during the next seven years the average CO2 concenteation increase dropped to 1.966ppmv/year even though emissions were greater over the later seven year period.
    Simply put the physical data refutes the IPCC contention that the atmospheric CO2 concentration is increasing because of increaseing CO2 emissions from fossil fuels because the rate of atmospheric CO2 concentration is actually decreasing with increased emissions.
    The IPCC project the CO2 concentration to be 1248ppmv by year 2100 but the Mauna Loa Data shows that it will be no more than 582.83ppmv using the rate of increase from 1997 to 2003.

    This is the fundamental premise for the Kyoto Protocol and it is wrong!

    Norm K.

    • Charlie
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 10:19 AM | Permalink

      I clicked on the NOAA link supplied and at least to my eyes the data does not match your statement.

  9. bubbagyro
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

    Does lying to the IG carry the same criminal penalties that lying to a federal agent does in the USA? In the US, that crime carries mandatory prison terms.

    • suyts
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 11:24 PM | Permalink

      It might, but the decision to prosecute would ultimately be left with the attorney general’s office. You know, the guys that wouldn’t prosecute voter intimidating, even after they plead guilty.

  10. Gerald Browning
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Permalink

    Does anyone start to see a trend in the questionable morality of climate scientists?

    Birds of a feature …


    • suyts
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Permalink

      Nah, we’re reconciling and conflict resolving over at Curry’s blog. I’m learning that character and morality aren’t really even secondary considerations to some, but it’ll be ok, ’cause we’re restoring trust.

  11. bernie
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 8:42 PM | Permalink

    I guess it is time for the House of Representatives to hold a hearing and send a nice personal invitation to Dr. Susan Solomon.

    • justbeau
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 7:37 AM | Permalink

      One general issue seems to be US government employees have believed they could disdain US laws, because in their imaginations they are in service to foreign governments (the UN). One mistake by Solomon was to preserve zero documented guidance from her employer about her roles and responsibilities.

  12. justbeau
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 8:49 PM | Permalink

    If NOAA is unable to get a simple press release right, how can NOAA be trusted to get the complicated science of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming right?

  13. mpaul
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 8:55 PM | Permalink

    NOAA is the agency responsible for enforcing the Magnuson-Stevens Act and often aggressively prosecute small-time fisherman for making false statements regarding the number of fish they catch. The penalties can be quite severe. Here’s a guy that they prosecuted for ‘hiding the fish’.

    But apparently false statements by NOAA officials are a different matter.

    • mpaul
      Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 10:47 PM | Permalink

      On reflection, I think the fisherman used the wrong approach. He should have told the investigator that he had consulted with a NOAA lawyer, and that the lawyer told him he didn’t need to file a trip report. The NOAA investigator would then have checked with the lawyer and the lawyer would have said, “I never talked to this guy”. At which point, the investigator would have been forced to conclude that “they could not reconcile the divergent accounts” and therefore would have to drop the case.

      That’s how it would work, right?

      (the above statement is political parody and not meant to incite the fisherman to make false statements).

  14. Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 9:15 PM | Permalink

    That the IG says “was unable to reconcile the divergent claims” if a poor response. If the one side says “we didn’t” and the other says “they did, but I can’t prove it”, then the evidence (or lack thereof) should strongly suggest it never happened.

    I spent years in the emergency medical field. There the adage is: “If it’s not documented, it never happened.”

    Interesting too that the IG apparently did not believe the attorneys. What a novel concept.

  15. Steve Koch
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 10:19 PM | Permalink

    Earlier in Obama’s administration, some IG investigations were squashed. The Republicans did not control the House so they could not instigate oversight hearings into the squashing of the IG investigations. Now that Republicans do control the House, the IG is freer to do their investigations, even those that are potentially disadvantageous to the administration.

    This report re: NOAA is the fruit of a less suppressed IG. Other ongoing investigations (even beyond fed investigations) into climate science malfeasance will also benefit from the Republican control of the House.

    From a budgeting perspective, it really isn’t a good time for federal climate scientists to be having legal/ethical problems.

  16. JEM
    Posted Feb 24, 2011 at 11:36 PM | Permalink

    Given the history of inspectors general with this administration, one ought not be too surprised to find the IG staff that (somewhat too diligently) produced this report frog-marched to the parking lot.

  17. Ali Baba
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 3:45 AM | Permalink

    No one careas bout petty bureacratic improprieties. Get a grip. “While the report did not find evidence of data manipulation, it raised concerns about an office stapler that went missing.” That’s about the importance of all this crap. Go back to auditing.

    • JEM
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

      We’re talking about a violation of the law here.

      An organization that feels justified in violating the law in one area will undoubtedly attempt to justify sharp practice elsewhere.

      If you read the report, what you find it says is:

      a) We didn’t evaluate the science.

      b) We didn’t do any QA/QC on their data; we asked them what they thought of their own quality control and they said it was good.

      c) They broke the applicable FOIA laws and they probably lied about their reasons but we can’t quite prove that.

  18. Fred Bloggs
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 4:02 AM | Permalink

    This press release is so disingenuous it is shocking. The only advice obtained by SS from an attorney (AFTER the initial refusal to grant the FOI) was to confirm that they had done the right thing. In this case, it appears that SS mislead the attorney by allowing him implicitly or explicitly to believe that she had been seconded to the IPCC and was not a full-time fully paid employee of the NOAA and that she had done a search for relevant emails which had drawn a blank – neither of which were true.

    Surely the two attorneys at NOAA will have something to say about this. After all, they are either being called incompetent or liars and that is not a good situation for them. Maybe they will keep their heads down and keep mum or maybe they have grounds for taking some form of action against NOAA.

  19. stephen richards
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 4:09 AM | Permalink

    It seems that Mr. Inhofe will be following up the report.

  20. Stacey
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 5:05 AM | Permalink

    Oh what a wondrous web we weave when we first practice to deceive.

    Pray beware though the web will be unpicked given time by Steve.

  21. Stacey
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 5:06 AM | Permalink

    Sorry practise?

    • LC
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 9:43 AM | Permalink

      Nope. You were right the first time – at least if you are a Brit.

      • suyts
        Posted Feb 26, 2011 at 1:30 AM | Permalink

        lol, even works for Americans!

  22. Gras Albert
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    a bit late to the party but a copy of an email sent to NOAA’s Scott Smullen


    the NOAA press release dated Feb 24, 2011 entitled”Inspector General’s Review of Stolen Emails Confirms No Evidence of Wrong-Doing by NOAA Climate Scientists” contains a statement which is contradicted by the report of the Inspector General

    The sentence

    NOAA scientists were given legal advice that IPCC work done by scientists were records of the IPCC, not NOAA.

    is wholly mendacious

    A more appropriate wording might be

    NOAA scientists gave evidence that they were given legal advice by named NOAA attorneys that IPCC work done by scientists were records of the IPCC, not NOAA. The NOAA attorneys named gave evidence that no such advice was ever given to NOAA scientists prior to those scientists denying a FOI request.

    I am sure that such an august and respected organisation as NOAA would not want the public to be deceived by divergence

    Thanking you etc.

    • mpaul
      Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 10:36 AM | Permalink

      “I am sure that such an august and respected organisation as NOAA would not want the public to be deceived by divergence”


  23. geo
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 10:25 AM | Permalink

    I suppose I’m less shocked when spokesmen cherry-pick their data than when scientists do it, but still don’t enjoy it either way.

  24. TomRude
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Permalink

    What is whiter than white?
    Climate science.

  25. Duster
    Posted Feb 25, 2011 at 7:42 PM | Permalink

    Shouldn’t the last word in the phrase “…Susan Solomon unable to provide any documentation of ever receiving such evidence…” be “advice”?

  26. steven mosher
    Posted Feb 26, 2011 at 2:01 AM | Permalink

    link to IG dcoument is now broken.

  27. Okrneygal
    Posted Feb 26, 2011 at 5:30 AM | Permalink

    Move along here people. Nothing new to see here.

    Just another IPCC Scientist avoiding a FOIA request and then lying about it.

    Cross posted at dotearth. First attempt didn’t make it through Revkin’s moderation.

    • suyts
      Posted Feb 26, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

      I’ve just about given up and making it past any moderation of an alarmist blog.

      Nothing says exoneration like, “we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts [of Solomon versus the NOAA attorneys]”

  28. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Feb 26, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Permalink

    In Australia, the equivalent of the Inspector General is the Auditor General, though there will be some diffences of duties.

    There is an effort underway to have the Auditor General study the Bureau of Meteorology historic climate data, especially temperatures.

    It would be helpful if other countries mounted similar efforts. It would also be helpful if past experiences and tactics from elsewhere could be relayed to here. The effort is being coordinated by Joanne Nova at

    Steve, some quotes from CA of a year ago from the Institute of Physics submission to the UK House of Commons Inquiry are likely to be quoted. Thank you for them.

6 Trackbacks

  1. […] (Inhofe sees an opportunity here, though; you can read his reaction at the bottom of the post. is digging, as well, of […]

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