Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith is worried the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) won’t hand over all requested documents as part of an investigation into the agency’s most controversial global warming study.
“We are concerned that by responding only to the December 1, 2015, letter and ignoring my letter dated February 22, 2016, requesting that additional search terms be used on a broad group of NOAA employees, NOAA is failing to capture the entire universe of responsive documents,” Smith wrote in a Tuesday letter to the agency.
Smith, the chairman of the House science committee, has been locked in a struggle with NOAA for emails and documents from agency staff regarding a study the agency published last year eliminating the 15-year “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record.
“NOAA is not permitted to self-limit the scope of this Committee’s investigation,” Smith wrote, “but instead must be in a position to certify compliance with the duly issued congressional subpoena dated October 13, 2015.”
Smith acknowledged in a Wednesday congressional hearing on NOAA’s budget the committee recently got some documents from NOAA, but not all the records they asked for. He pressed NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan if she would comply with the committee’s subpoena.
“I assure, we will continue to move forward” on what was agreed, Sullivan told Smith.
In February, Smith’s staff sent a letter to NOAA slamming the agency for dragging its feet and trying to skirt transparency. Smith wrote he was “disappointed with the slow pace and limited scope of the Agency’s production,” though he was grateful the agency was actually complying with some of his request.
NOAA handed over its first tranche of emails from agency employees, excluding scientists, in December , but only after the House science committee said it heard from a whistleblower the agency had improperly rushed ahead with a study eliminating the “hiatus” in global warming from temperature data.
The study, by NOAA scientist Tom Karl and colleagues, adjusted weather station, buoy and ship data upwards to correct for “biases” they claimed was causing thermometers to show less warming than is actually occurring.
NOAA scientists found that from 1998 to 2012, the “new analysis exhibits more than twice as much warming as the old analysis at the global scale,” at 0.086 degrees Celsius per decade compared to 0.039 degrees per decade.
Karl’s study was highly controversial and quickly criticized by scientists more skeptical of arguments. The study, showing more warming, was released before President Barack Obama was set to release sweeping regulations on power plants to fight global warming.
Oddly enough, as Smith and NOAA battle for records, a recent study was published that refuted Karl’s hiatus-busting study. A group of scientists — including Michael Mann of “hockey stick” curve fame — released a study confirming there was a slowdown in global warming for the last 15 years.
“Overall, there is compelling evidence that there has been a temporary slowdown in observed global surface warming,” Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading and co-author of the paper, wrote in a blog post on the new research.
Hawkins noted that “the most recent observed 15-year trends are all positive, but lower than most previous similar trends in the past few decades” which is a “clear demonstration that the rate of change has slowed since its peak.”
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