NOAA and the Three Monkeys

In a website release earlier this year, NOAA proudly announced the extensive involvement of its officers in IPCC as lead authors, review authors and even the co-chair of IPCC WG1,

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.

In addition, a cadre of NOAA scientists from the laboratories and programs, including the joint and cooperative institutes, served as contributors and government reviewers of the final report, which is a state of the science based upon published peer-review literature.

Referring to this story, I submitted an FOI request to NOAA about a 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 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.

I noted that all my email correspondence with Susan Solomon and Martin Manning had been with their email address.

A.R. Ravishankara, Director, Chemical Sciences Division, Earth Systems Research Laboratory/NOAA (where Susan Solomon and Martin Manning work) has now replied as follows:

“You have asked for copies of NOAA records concerning review comments on the second order draft and the final draft of the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC Working Group 1. In addition, you have asked for all annotated responses to such comments by chapter authors.

After reviewing our files. we have determined that we have no NOAA records responsive to your request. If records exist that are responsive to you request, they would be records of the IPCC and as such can be requested from the IPCC…”

Their strategy is a little different than Phil Jones, who claimed that his records were “exempt”. NOAA did not avail itself of any of the possible exemptions for the request – it denied that it had any records whatever. In many FOI regimes, email messages are producible. I don’t know the American law but I imagine it’s not dissimilar from Canadian FOI law where, for example, the University of Victoria’s policy specifically says that “E-mail messages created on University computer equipment and transmitted using the University’s e-mail system are University records.” If there is no similar policy at NOAA, I’d be shocked.

A guide to FOI from senior officials says that “most records in the possession of an agency are “agency records” within the meaning of FOIA.

The 1996 FOIA amendments affirm the general policy that any record, regardless of the form in which it is stored, that is in the possession and control of a Federal agency is usually considered to be an agency record under the FOIA. Although the FOIA occasionally uses terms other than record,’ including information’ and matter,’ the definition of record’ made by the 1996 amendments should leave no doubt about the breadth of the policy or the interchangability of terms

A document that does not qualify as an agency record’ may be denied because only agency records are available under the FOIA. Personal notes of agency employees may be denied on this basis. However, most records in the possession of an agency are agency records’ within the meaning of the FOIA.

What NOAA is arguing, among other things, is that email to and from NOAA employees on NOAA computers about IPCC review comments is the property of IPCC, rather than NOAA. Suppose that this established a precedent. Let’s say that NOAA employees decided to act as reviewers of pornographic videos sent to them by the International Pornography Council and they were caught. Could they argue that the videos on NOAA computers were records of the International Pornography Council and outside the disciplinary scope of NOAA? Of course not. Or think of this another way: if the emails on NOAA computers are IPCC property, then IPCC should be able to exert control over the emails. If IPCC told NOAA to delete all correspondence involving them, would NOAA be obligated to follow their instructions? I doubt it. I can’t imagine a court finding that records on NOAA computers were not NOAA records.

Now the issue has, for the most part, become somewhat moot with the IPCC release of the review comments and responses (although the review editor comments, included in my request to NOAA, are still not online.) As a Canadian, it’s hard for me to take much umbrage at NOAA’s actions and I’m surprised to some extent at having standing. Nonetheless, this sort of action by a government agency is annoying (but it’s bad policy to be annoyed because you have to expect a run-around from government officials.) I presume that Americans who submitted similar requests will get similar replies. It appears that there is an appeal provision and I’ll probably avail myself of that facility.

The three monkeys? See no records, hear no records, got no records.

IPCC and the Briffa Deletions

I’ve posted on several occasions on the deletion of the “inconvenient” section of the Briffa reconstruction. Now that the review comments are online, I want to reprise this, just so you can understand the IPCC process a little better. This repeats some earlier material.

As an IPCC reviewer, I

Show the Briffa et al reconstruction through to its end; don’t stop in 1960. Then comment and deal with the “divergence problem” if you need to. Don’t cover up the divergence by truncating this graphic. This was done in IPCC TAR; this was misleading. (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 309-18)]

In response, IPCC section authors said:

Rejected — though note divergence’ issue will be discussed, still considered inappropriate to show recent section of
Briffa et al. series. 👿

Once again, here’s what they were deleting and what they felt was “inappropriate” to show the public – the post-1960 decline in the Briffa index. (I’ve shown the IPCC TAR version here but the same deletion is made in AR4). By deleting the adverse segments, they enhance the rhetorical impression of the remaining series. Any mining promoter that did this would be in trouble with the securities commissions.

Alexander et al 2007

For those of you who want a thread on this paper (which I don’t have time to read right now)”

This study is based on the numerical analysis of the properties of routinely observed hydrometeorological data which in South Africa alone is collected at a rate of more than half a million station days per year, with some records approaching 100 continuous years in length.

The analysis of this data demonstrates an unequivocal synchronous linkage between these processes in South Africa and elsewhere, and solar activity. This confirms observations and reports by others in many countries during the past 150 years. It is also shown with a high degree of assurance that there is a synchronous linkage between the statistically significant, 21-year periodicity in these processes and the acceleration and deceleration of the sun as it moves through galactic space.

Despite a diligent search, no evidence could be found of trends in the data that could be attributed to human activities.

It is essential that this information be accommodated in water resource development and operation procedures in the years ahead.

IPCC Review Comments Now Online

Well, here is a small accomplishment that I think can reasonably be credited to climateaudit. As we approach the due date for the NOAA FOI responses, IPCC has now put the review comments online. Enjoy.

On to Gridded Data

Gavin Schmidt recently told Anthony Watts that worrying about station data quality was soooo last year. His position was a bit hard to follow but it seemed to be more or less as follows: that GISS didn’t use station data, but in the alternative, as defence lawyers like to say, if GISS did use station data (which they deny), de-contamination of station data would improve the fit of the GISS model. It reminds me of the textbook case where an alternative defence is not recommended: where the defendant argues that he did not kill the victim, but, if he did, it was self-defence. In such cases, picking one of the alternatives and sticking with it is considered the more prudent strategy.

In this particular case, I thought it would be interesting to plot up the relevant gridcell series from CRU and GISS and, needless to say, surprises were abundant. Continue reading

Gavin Schmidt: station data "not used" in climate models

Gavin Schmidt has told Anthony Watts that the problematic station data are not used in climate models and any suggestion to the contrary is, in realclimate terminology, “just plain wrong”. If station data is not used to validate climate models, then what is?

His point seems to be that the climate models use gridded data.

But isn’t the gridded data calculated from station data? Well, yes. (And it wasn’t very hard to watch the pea under the thimble here.) So Gavin then argues that the adjustments made in calculating the gridded products have “removed the artefacts” from these poor stations:

If you are of the opinion that this station is contaminated, then you have to admit that the process designed to remove artefacts in the GISS or CRU products has in fact done so –

At this point, all we know is that the process has smoothed out the artefacts. Whether the artefacts have biased the record is a different question entirely and one that is not answered by Gavin’s rhetoric here. At this point, while we have a list of GISS stations there still is no list of CRU stations or CRU station data. How could one tell right now whether CRU has “removed the artefacts or not”? So on the present record Anthony doesn’t have to admit anything of the sort. OF course, if the data and code is made available and it becomes possible to confirm the truth of Gavin’s claim, this situation may change. But right now, no one can say for sure.

Gavin then asserts than any removal of contaminated stations would improve model fit. I’m amazed that he can make this claim without even knowing the impact of such removal.

Personally I’m still of the view that modern temperatures are warmer than the 1930s notwithstanding the USHCN shenanigans. But supposing that weren’t the case and all the stations in the USHCN with very big differentials turned out to be problematic and the good stations showed little change. Surely this wouldn’t improve the fit of the models. I’m not saying that this will be the impact of the verification. I think that the verification is interesting and long overdue, but I’d be surprised if it resulted in big changes.

But you don’t know that in advance and for Gavin to make such a statement seems like a “foolish and incorrect” thing to do. 😈

He urges Anthony not to ascribe “consequences to your project that clearly do not follow” but obviously feels no compunction in making such ascriptions himself. Check it out.

Stamford CT

Today’s tide at brought in an eastern site,Stamford Ct, courtesy of Kevin Green. A couple of interesting features, including something really weird with the GISS adjustments. Continue reading

Unthreaded #13

Continuation of Unthreaded #12

Long Beach WA is back online and there are some good improvements in layout. In the page directory for each state, there are now thumbnails for the stations with information. New stations are coming in all the time. Today’s tide brought in another interesting Washington site from Gary Kobes – Long Beach WA (454748; 72791002). Its physical appearance is pretty good as these things go – maybe a little near the road, but in a rural area.

Here’s a thumbnail – go to the site for the portfolio.

So what does the temperature history look like? Does this rural site show the powerful 20th century temperature increase that we see at sites like Phoenix Airport, Fresno Airport and even “rural” sites like Marysville and Petaluma? I’m afraid that you can guess the answer.

Continue reading

Ukiah CA

Russ Steele, who’s been working closely with Anthony Watts and who also deserves much credit for this recent initiative, reports on Ukiah CA at his blog here

Ukiah is in the same gridcell as Petaluma. Russ shows a picture of the weather station which is on grass – there’s a tree nearby, but no incinerators, barbecues, air conditioner exhaust, MIG fighters, asphalt; it’s not mounted on a concrete slab. According to Russ, The curator says that the station has not changed location since 1931 (this may not be totally correct as the CDIAC file shows a couple of short moves). The CDIAC file shows only one small change in observation time: at 5 pm from 1892 to 1974 and at 6 pm thereafter, so that there is a negligible potential bias in time-of-observation adjustment.

It sounds like the sort of station that should be used a framework for analysis of nearby stations, such as Petaluma. So let’s see what the adjustment jockeys do. You’d better sit down first.
Continue reading