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Climategate 2.0 — The NASA Files: U.S. Climate Science as Corrupt as CRU (PJM Exclusive — Part One)

Chris Horner filed the FOIA request that NASA didn't comply with for two years. Now we know what took so long. (Click here for the NASA files. This is Part One of a four-part series.) Update: Don't miss Chris Horner's PJTV interview here.

by
Christopher Horner

Bio

February 17, 2010 - 12:00 am

In August 2007, I submitted two Freedom of Information Act requests to NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), headed by long-time Gore advisor James Hansen and his right-hand man Gavin Schmidt (and RealClimate.org co-founder).

I did this because Canadian businessman Steve McIntyre — a man with professional experience investigating suspect statistical claims in the mining industry and elsewhere, including his exposure of the now-infamous “hockey stick” graph — noticed something unusual with NASA’s claims of an ever-warming first decade of this century. NASA appeared to have inflated its U.S. temperatures beginning in the year 2000. My FOIA request asked NASA about their internal discussions regarding whether and how to correct the temperature error caught by McIntyre.

NASA stonewalled my request for more than two years, until Climategate prompted me to offer notice of intent to sue if NASA did not comply immediately.

On New Year’s Eve, NASA finally provided the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) with the documents I requested in August 2007.

The emails show the hypocrisy, dishonesty, and suspect data management and integrity of NASA, wildly spinning in defense of their enterprise. The emails show NASA making off with enormous sums of taxpayer funding doing precisely what they claim only a “skeptic” would do. The emails show NASA attempting to scrub their website of their own documents, and indeed they quietly pulled down numerous press releases grounded in the proven-wrong data. The emails show NASA claiming that their own temperature errors (which they have been caught making and in uncorrected form aggressively promoting) are merely trivial, after years of hysterically trumpeting much smaller warming anomalies.

As you examine the email excerpts below, as well as those which I will discuss in the upcoming three parts of this series, bear in mind that the contents of these emails were intended to prop up the argument for the biggest regulatory intervention in history: the restricting of carbon emissions from all human activity. NASA’s activist scientists leave no doubt in their emails that this was indeed their objective. Also, please note that these documents were responsive to a specific FOIA request from two years ago. Recent developments — combined with admissions contained in these documents — beg further requests, which have both been already filed and with more forthcoming.

Furthermore, on January 29, 2010, CEI filed our appeal of NASA continuing to improperly withhold other documents responsive to our FOIA requests. In this appeal we informed NASA that if they do not comply by the twentieth day, as required by law, we shall exercise our appellate rights in court immediately.

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Under Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), NASA shepherds a continuing public campaign claiming clear evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) — climate change induced by human beings. The documents released via the FOIA request, however, contain admissions of data unreliability that are staggering, particularly in light of NASA’s claims to know temperatures and anomalies within hundredths of a degree, and the alarm they helped raise over a mere one degree of claimed warming over more than an entire century.

Dr. Reto Ruedy, a Hansen colleague at GISS, complains in his August 3, 2007, email to his co-worker at GISS and RealClimate blogger Gavin Schmidt:

[The United States Historical Climate Network] data are not routinely kept up-to-date (at this point the (sic) seem to end in 2002).

This lapse led to wild differences in data claimed to be from the same ground stations by USHCN and the Global Climate Network (GHCN). NASA later trumpeted the “adjustments” they made to this data (upward only, of course) in extremely minor amounts — adjustments they are now seen admitting are well within any uncertainty, a fact that received significantly less emphasis in their public media campaign claiming anomalous, man-made warming.

GISS’s Ruedy then wrote:

[NASA’s] assumption that the adjustments made the older data consistent with future data … may not have been correct. … Indeed, in 490 of the 1057 stations the USHCN data were up to 1C colder than the corresponding GHCN data, in 77 stations the data were the same, and in the remaining 490 stations the USHCN data were warmer than the GHCN data.

Ruedy claimed this introduced an estimated warming into the record of 0.1 deg C. Ruedy then described an alternate way of manipulating the temperature data, “a more careful method” they might consider using, instead.

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Although in public he often used his high-profile perch for global warming cheerleading, former New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin privately wrote that he was worried about the integrity of the ground stations.  When still at the Times he wrote to Hansen on August 23, 2007:

i never, till today, visited http://www.surfacestations.org and found it quite amazing. if our stations are that shoddy, what’s it like in Mongolia?

Sadly, although Andy wrote many pieces touting as significant what we now know NASA admits as statistically meaningless temperature claims, he did not find time to write about data so “shoddy” as to reach the point of “amazing.” That is what advocacy often entails: providing only one side, and even a far less compelling side, of a story.

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In an August 14, 2007, email from GISS’s Makiko Sato to Hansen, Sato wrote that his analysis of a one degree warming between 1934 and 1998 might in reality be half that amount:

I am sure I had 1998 warmer than 1934 at least once because on my own temperature web page (which most people never look at), I have [image/information not visible in document]. … I didn’t keep all the data, but some of them are (some data are then listed, with 1934 0.5 deg C warmer than 1998)

As AGW proponents only claim a one degree warming over the past century, the magnitude of a .5 degree Celsius problem in their calculations is tremendous.

Sato continues:

I am sorry, I should have kept more data, but I was not interested in US data after 2001 paper.

Sato is referencing the paper by Hansen, et al., in which Hansen’s colleagues remind him 1934 was indeed listed as being a full half-degree warmer than 1998 — which is shown in their emails as being what the data said as of July 1999 (their paper described 1934 as only “slightly” warmer than 1998, p. 8). Still, throughout these emails Hansen later insists 1934 and 1998 are in a statistical tie with just a 0.02 Celsius difference and even that their relationship has not changed. For example, Hansen claims in an email to a journalist with Bloomberg: “As you will see in our 2001 paper we found 1934 slightly warmer, by an insignificant hair over 1998. We still find that result.” The implication is that things had not changed when in fact NASA had gone from claiming a statistically significant if politically inconvenient warmer 1934 over 1998, to a tie.

Regarding U.S. temperatures, Ruedy confessed to Hansen on August 23, 2007 to say:

I got a copy from a journalist in Brazil, we don’t save the data.

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The Ruedy relationship with a Brazilian journalist raises the matter of the incestuous relationship between NASA’s GISS and like-minded environmental reporters. One can’t help but recall how, recently, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claim of glacier shrinkage in the Himalayas was discredited  when found to be the work of a single speculative journalist at a popular magazine, and not strict peer-reviewed scientific data. The emails we obtained include several instances of very close ties and sympathetic relationships with journalists covering them.

The same can be said of NASA’s relationship vis-a-vis the IPCC, whose alarmism NASA enabled. One NASA email implicitly if privately admits that IPCC claims of accelerating warming — such as those by IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri or UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon — are specious. Yet NASA has never publicly challenged such alarmism. Instead, it sat by and benefited from it, with massive taxpayer funding of its rather odd if growing focus on “climate.”

In an August 15, 2007, email from Ruedy to Brazilian journalist Leticia Francisco Sorg, responding to Sorg’s request for Ruedy to say if warming is accelerating, Ruedy replied:

“To observe that the warming accelerates would take even longer observation times” than the past 25 years. In fact, it would take “another 50-100 years.”

This is a damning admission that NASA has been complicit in UN alarmism. This is not science. It is debunked advocacy. The impropriety of such policy advocacy, let alone allowing unsubstantial scientific claims to become part of a media campaign, is self-evident.

End of Part One

Christopher Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and author of the recently-published The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information "Criminal".
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