(On December 31, 2009, NASA finally provided the Competitive Enterprise Institute with the documents I requested from them with an FOIA in August 2007. My request asked NASA to release their internal discussions regarding a series of errors in their claims of warming U.S. temperatures caught by Steve McIntyre. NASA had stonewalled my request for more than two years.)
A principal theme of these NASA emails — and one that is illuminating in its exposition of advocacy and hypocrisy at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) — is the insistence that what turned out to be a false warming of 0.15 degrees in the U.S. record is meaningless, even if covering merely seven years (2000-2006, as opposed to a decadal or longer trend).
In an August 7, 2007, email from GISS’ Dr. Reto Ruedy to GISS director Dr. James Hansen, Ruedy says the correction had “little impact” on the U.S. record. In an email to New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin on August 9, 2007, Hansen characterizes the error as having been “well within the uncertainty bar we give” for the U.S. and “entirely negligible” globally. In an email to Dr. Donald E. Anderson — program manager, Earth Science Enterprise, NASA Headquarters — on August 14, 2007, Hansen used the terms “minor,” “negligible,” and “less than the uncertainty” to describe the previously touted warming which was now shown to be an error.
This did not explain why the warming merited all of the hype in the preceding seven years.
Further, a week later Hansen privately wrote to Revkin that “[we] can add an uncertainty” to actually do what Hansen had been spinning to Revkin that they already do:
Indeed we already include a bar at several points on our temperature curve, but we note that it only includes the largest source of uncertainty in the temperature change (incomplete spatial coverage).
To add some further, curious texture to Hansen’s remarkably flexible view of what magnitude of warming is meaningful, note how in an August 14, 2007, email to GISS’ Makiko Sato and Ruedy, Hansen describes a claimed, much smaller warming between 1934 over 1998 of 0.02 degrees Celsius — which Hansen’s own 2001 paper had shown to be 0.5 degrees Celsius, a full half degree — as being “slightly warmer.” It is fair to assume from the record of NASA GISS that, because 1934 is an older year, the disparity must be downplayed. But it is also rather troubling that Hansen had forgotten his own work, serially rejecting the notion that he ever said 1934 was warmer than 1998, and his newer, operative claim that the difference is actually only 0.02 degrees Celsius, “much less than the accuracy” of their instruments. Therefore, he says: “Of course, scientifically, this is all nonsense.”
There is indeed nonsense in the various double standards that the emails reveal about NASA GISS, over how much and what kind of anomalies (warm or cool) are meaningful. Though not as he suggests.
Hansen also dismisses what had previously been the substantial relative warmth of 1934 over 1998 in the rankings of temperatures in an email to Bloomberg journalist Demian McLean on August 14, 2007:
In our 2001 paper we found 1934 slightly warmer, by an insignificant hair over, 1998.
But in fact that paper declared 1934 to be a whopping half a degree warmer than 1998. This couldn’t, and didn’t, last.
In an August 9, 2007, email from Ruedy to Hansen, Ruedy suggests an alternative method of bringing their data in line — internally, at least — which would cool the claimed twentieth century warming of under a degree by nearly one-third of that (0.3C). This suggestion was repeated by Ruedy the same day in an email to Gavin Schmidt. Both missives revealed NASA’s new preferred tactic of not emphasizing the impact of U.S. temperatures in favor of emphasizing global temperatures, in order to diminish the importance of their U.S. temperature problem. This reveals a bias towards advocacy and activism as opposed to objective science, a highly questionable practice for a taxpayer-funded science office staffed with career employees.
Hansen emailed Times reporter Revkin on August 9, 2007:
[In fact] it is unclear why anyone would try to make something out of [the differences], perhaps not a light on upstairs?
This perspective ignores how Hansen’s office had for years aggressively made quite a lot out of such differences, smaller ones, in fact. Now, when caught overstating the warming, changing and even losing historical data, he claims the differences are immaterial — and only someone not possessing full mental faculties would try to do such a thing as Hansen’s office had long done, with much smaller anomalies. Because those earlier, smaller anomalies were in support of the desired warming and related agenda that requires there to be warming.
Ruedy also spun for Revkin, trying to diminishing the magnitude of Hansen’s error:
To be remarkable, an observed change has to be a multiple of that standard deviation; compared to that, the errors caused by “bad” stations, urban heat island effect, etc., are of little importance.
Here we see how one can learn, and even grow, on the job.