House lawmakers will renew their long-dormant investigation into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the heels of whistleblower testimony that agency scientists rushed a landmark global warming study to influence policymakers.
“The chairman intends to push for responses to his initial requests,” an aide for the Committee on Science, Space and Technology told reporters on a press call Monday, “to uncover exactly what was going on” at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, the committee’s chairman, will “move forward as soon as possible” in asking NOAA to hand over documents included in a 2015 subpoena on potential climate data tampering.
“There’s gotta be email traffic on this,” the aide said. NOAA turned over some internal emails in 2015, but many were redacted and more were withheld from the committee.
Smith’s investigation largely petered out in late 2015 after the Obama administration refused to hand over scientists’ emails regarding highly-publicized “Karl study,” named after its lead author Tom Karl. Democrats, environmentalists and science organizations joined forces to condemn Smith’s investigation.
Over the weekend, Dr. John Bates, the former principal scientist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., went public with complaints that NOAA scientists put a ‘thumb on the scale’ to get results that showed more global warming since 1998 — a period usually referred to as the “pause” in warming.
“The committee is going to push ahead to gather the emails from NOAA,” the aide said, signalling Smith preferred to see if NOAA would hand over documents the agency withheld from congressional investigators.
The committee aide said they had heard from other NOAA whistleblowers as well, but would not bring that evidence forward until given permission by sources.
Smith expects NOAA will turn over the subpoenaed documents. President Trump appointed investor Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce, but has not appointed an NOAA administrator. NOAA is part of the Commerce Department. Ross is expected to be confirmed, but it’s not clear when the Senate will vote.
Bates told The Daily Mail the authors of the Karl study wanted “to discredit the notion of a global warming hiatus and rush to time the publication of the paper to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy.”
Moreover, Bates said Karl did not archive his study as required by NOAA policy, and noted the computer holding the software used by the study “suffered a complete failure.”
The Karl study made changes to historical sea surface temperature records, effectively doubling the warming trend of that period to 0.086 degrees Celsius per decade from 0.039 degrees per decade. Some scientists were skeptical of the data, and lawmakers were briefed on the study in summer 2015.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it will “review” allegations its researchers rushed the Karl study. Others, however, rushed to defend the Karl study.
University of California-Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather recently co-authored a paper that found the Karl study was more accurate than the NOAA data it replaced.
Hausfather rebuffed criticisms of the temperature data used in the Karl study, adding it “strongly suggests that NOAA got it right and that we have been underestimating ocean warming in recent years.”
Bates has put out a second blog post taking each criticism on one-by-one. Critics have yet to address issues of Karl study authors violating NOAA policy on archiving.
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