06 February 2017

Fake News

There is no "There" there
Something that is making the rounds in the right wing press and the wingnutosphere is the claim made by a former NOAA employee that the recent study on anthropogenic climate change was a political work of dubious science.

A closer examination reveals that the former employee question would not be in a position to observe fraud, and the nature of the study makes it next to impossible to fake the data, since the data was publicly available and peer reviewed:
On Sunday, the UK tabloid Mail on Sunday alleged a seemingly juicy (if unoriginal) climate science scandal. At its core, though, it’s not much more substantial than claiming the Apollo 11 astronauts failed to file some paperwork and pretending this casts doubt on the veracity of the Moon landing.

The story’s author, David Rose, has published a great many sensational articles over the years, falsely claiming to present evidence undermining the threat of climate change or the human cause behind it. But this latest article is noteworthy in that it appears to reveal the supposed “whistleblower” who has been cited by the US House Science Committee in its ongoing clash with climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The committee’s Twitter account, as well as the account of Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas), has gone hog-wild tweeting about the story. For example, the committee account tweeted, “@NOAA obstructed the committee's oversight at every turn. Now we know what they were hiding.”


The paper concluded that there was no evidence of a slowdown in global warming over the last decade or so, an idea that had been a focus of people who reject the seriousness of human-caused climate change.


Rep. Smith claimed that a whistleblower at NOAA had provided his office with information proving that the study had been inappropriately rushed for political reasons. The Mail on Sunday claims the same thing and presents NOAA scientist John Bates as a whistleblower.


In a blog post, Maynooth University research Peter Thorne—who worked on both the land and sea databases underlying the Karl paper but not the Karl paper itself—disputed many of Bates’ claims. First off, Thorne notes that Bates was not personally involved in the research at any stage. And while Bates claims that Karl made a series of choices to exaggerate the apparent warming trend, Thorne points out that this would be difficult for Karl to do since he didn’t contribute to the underlying databases. Karl’s paper simply ran those updated databases through the same algorithm NOAA was already using.

Ars talked with Thomas Peterson, a co-author on the Karl paper who has since retired. Peterson provided some useful context for understanding Bates’ allegations. The satellites that Bates worked with were expensive hardware that couldn't be fixed if anything went wrong after they were launched. The engineering of the software running those satellites sensibly involved testing and re-testing and re-testing again to ensure no surprises would pop up once it was too late.


There may also be something beyond simple “engineers vs. scientists” tension behind Bates’ decision to go public with his allegations. Two former NOAA staffers confirmed to Ars that Tom Karl essentially demoted John Bates in 2012, when Karl was Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Bates had held the title of Supervisory Meteorologist and Chief of the Remote Sensing Applications Division, but Karl removed him from that position partly due to a failure to maintain professionalism with colleagues, assigning him to a position in which he would no longer supervise other staff. It was apparently no secret that the demotion did not sit well with Bates.

Office politics aside, the claims in the Mail on Sunday article that the Karl paper exaggerated the warming trend fall down when you examine any of the other surface temperature datasets. In a paper we recently covered, a team led by Berkeley researcher Zeke Hausfather compared the updated sea surface temperature dataset to shorter but simpler and independent sets of measurements made by satellites and automated floats. That analysis confirmed that the updated dataset is more accurate than its predecessor.

In a post for Carbon Brief, Hausfather noted that NOAA’s updated dataset doesn't cause it to show more warming than the datasets run by NASA, the Berkeley team, and the UK Met Office. Instead, the update caused NOAA to stop showing less warming than everyone else.
(Bold smallcap emphasis mine, all other emphasis original)

Needless to say, the folks who are terrified that Al Gore was right about this will not listen to reason, so expect a few weeks (months?) of flying monkey style stupidity about this.

I would also add that over the next few months, I would expect Bates to get a lucrative book deal from Regnrey or its ilk, along with some 5-figure speaking gigs, because that is how wingnut welfare works.


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