New Senate bill would ensure quality control in climate data

Anthony Watts Meteorologist and Climate Blogger
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One of the biggest failures of climate science is the fact that the data sets created to justify global warming are not independently reviewed or subject to standardized quality control procedures, such as ISO 9000. The very people who write scientific papers on global warming, lobby Congress to take action, and even get arrested protesting about climate, such as NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, are the same ones who are the keepers of the world’s most-cited climate data.

Hello, conflict of interest? It’s comical, almost like a Seinfeld episode.

As an example, Hansen’s NASA GISS can’t even properly locate 230 weather stations. Or how about this graph, which shows the before and after effects of adjustments to the surface temperature record presented by NASA GISS:

These are actual graphs published in 1999 and in 2008 on the NASA GISS web page. Notice how the past gets cooler (in the 1940’s) while the near present (1990’s) gets warmer. That increases the long-term trend. An ex post facto adjustment of data in the past to increase the long-term trend would get somebody fired and jailed if this were corporate stock performances and the SEC found out about it.

This debacle of temperature adjustments by the gatekeepers of the data may be about to change, because skeptical citizens, scientists, and legislators are now demanding accountability. Senators David Vitter and John Barrasso threw down the gauntlet yesterday in the form of the Public Access to Historical Records Act.

This is exactly what is needed, better data quality control. We have ISO 9000 certifications all over private industry, to make sure that consumer products meet or exceed quality specifications. Yet even though our government has the Data Quality Act (DQA), which is supposed to cover things like climate data, the simple fact is, it is not enforced. And even when it is questioned, such as I did last year sending a letter to NASA regarding DQA issues with data (twice), it is simply ignored.

If climatologists want people to trust the data they gather and present, having an ISO 8000 (data) or ISO 9000 (quality) certification of climate data would go a long way towards providing assurance. Given that entire economies will be affected by policy based on climate data that has been presented, wouldn’t it make sense to at least hold it to the same quality standard that private industry now embraces voluntarily?

Here are some highlights from the bill:

• The bill would force NASA to release its original raw historical temperature data and post it online for anyone to see and use. NASA has refused FOIA requests by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and others to get this information.

• The bill would force NASA/NCDC to release the data, and then compile a historic official U.S. temperature record that would be compiled under NASA’s supervision but with a council of appointed meteorologists and statisticians.

• The resulting temperature record would have to be used as one (but not the only one) of the historical records by any scientists or group that accepts federal money for climate research.

• The record would be routinely reviewed for accuracy.

• The goal is for the U.S. to have the best, most transparent historic temperature record in the world.

I had a small hand in this bill, reviewing and adding some technical language, but the thrust of the bill came from NASA’s stubborn refusal to provide FOIA-requested data and documents to CEI. This is like Climategate all over again. Don’t these guys ever learn? Of course this bill is in its infancy, so there’s no telling if it will make it to law, and if it does, how much it will be modified, or if some pork will be added to it.

“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” – Otto von Bismarck

So, we’ll watch the sausage being made here, and hope for the best.

Mr. Watts operates the most visited blog on climate science in the world, www.wattsupwiththat.com now with over 61 million visits. He has spent 30 years on air in radio and television as a weather forecaster, and still does daily radio broadcasts. In 2007, he founded the surfacestations.org project, which with the help of volunteers nationwide found that only 1 in 10 of the weather stations used for monitoring climate in the USA met the government’s own standards for station siting quality. He also operates a weather technology business, embraces energy efficiency with solar power on his home and drives an electric car.