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

Horner looks further into the NASA emails, and finds stunning examples of politicized science and institutional hypocrisy. (This is Part Two of a four-part series. Read Part One here.) Update: Don't miss Chris Horner's PJTV interview here.

by
Christopher Horner

Bio

February 18, 2010 - 8:42 am

(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 errors of theirs materially effecting their temperature claims caught by Steve McIntyre. NASA had stonewalled my request for more than two years.)

Dr. James Hansen has an extraordinary history of alarmism and dodgy claims: He has testified in support of the destruction of private property in the name of global warming alarmism and referred to coal rail cars as the equivalent of Nazi death trains, all while insisting that any president named George Bush was muzzling him. He has proven himself a global warming zealot leading a taxpayer-funded institute.

On August 11, 2007, James Hansen emailed the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin:

As for the future in the US, you can look for the warming to become more obvious during the next decade or two.

However, observations and projections in the refereed literature which take into account the past decade of no warming, shifts in oceanic currents, and other, obviously dominant climate “forcings” have since turned the other direction.

Getting it dead wrong is close enough for government work, and it’s pretty clear that Hansen is only protected and still employed because he is a government employee who gets things wrong in a way that supports a politically favored agenda. Hansen’s nuttiness is acceptable nuttiness. He is a sacred cow despite years of questionable practices and avocations.

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Spinning madly in his defense during the August 2007 kerfuffle started by Steve McIntyre, Hansen repeatedly dismisses that NASA had ever presented 1934 as being warmer than 1998. In the process, he serially refers to a 2001 paper with other NASA colleagues of which he was lead author.

Ruedy wrote to Hansen on August 23, 2007, apparently seeking to stop their office’s highest-profiled scientist from continuing to embarrass himself — and them:

The US temperature graph in our 1999 paper, based on GHCN data, shows 1934 0.5C warmer than 1998; 1998 was in 5th place behind 1921, 1931, 1938, 1953.

In the corresponding graph in our 2001 paper, now based on the carefully corrected [euphemism alert!] USHCN data, 1934 and 1998 are in first, 1921 in third place (NOAA who provided the USHCN data had 1998 slightly ahead of 1934).

The US table we had posted during all of 2006 showed 1998 and 1934 even at 1.24C (I got a copy from a journalist in Brazil, we don’t save the data).

In fact, the paper referenced here, Hansen et al. (2001), showed 1934 a whopping half a degree warmer than the next closest year, 1998.

After being embarrassed internally, Hansen says:

I think we want to avoid getting into more and more detail about ranking of individual years.

Yes. I suppose he would feel that way.

Not only was data maintenance not all that great a concern — despite NASA’s pronouncements of certainty and integrity, historical and otherwise — Hansen and NASA spent a good portion of August 2007 attempting to completely rewrite history. Particularly their own.

Ruedy emailed a NASA PR person named Leslie McCarthy, copying Hansen, on August 10, 2007. Ruedy advised McCarthy of the spin they would use to combat Steve McIntyre:

[McIntyre] concentrates on US time series which US covering less than 2% of the world is so noisy and has such a large margin of error that no conclusions can be drawn from it at this point.

The error Ruedy refers to is 0.5 Celsius, per Ruedy himself in his August 10, 2007, email to Kris French of National Geographic. In that email, Ruedy slurs McIntyre as a “global warming denier.”

Hansen emailed Dr. Donald E. Anderson, program manager at Earth Science Enterprise NASA Headquarters, on August 14, 2007:

If one wished to be scientific, instead of trying to confuse the public … one should note that single year temperatures for an area as small as the US (2% of the globe) are extremely noisy.

By this Hansen implicitly assesses NASA’s longstanding practice of touting temperature anomalies, U.S.-only and smaller than this, as being unscientific and designed to confuse the public. NASA had for years made great hay of U.S.-only temperatures as being somehow meaningful when a warming was claimed, even when that warming was less than the amount they now dismiss as meaningless. He pitched a directly contrarian perspective when U.S.-only temps threatened warming claims.
In an email to Andrew Revkin on August 24, 2007, Hansen states:

The contrarians are cleverly mixing up these two matters, global and U.S., thus completely confusing the public discussion.

But it was NASA, and indeed Hansen’s GISS, that emphasized U.S. temperatures all along. Not “contrarians.” NASA ranked individual years, then suddenly said the exercise was simply not worthwhile when the numbers contradicted it.

Hansen’s discourses on this included telling Andrew Revkin on August 24, 2007:

I think we want to avoid getting into more and more detail about ranking of individual years. As far as I can remember, we have always discouraged that as being somewhat nonsensical, other that (sic) the question of what is the warmest year.

Hansen offered no such examples of that kind of discouragement, and indeed NASA had actively engaged in the practice — even though on that apparent priority, NASA’s numbers, claims, and rankings swung wildly.

Hansen also told Revkin on August 23, 2007:

As far as I know we do not make such a list. We don’t like such lists, because the results are not significant and are certain to differ from one group to another [meaning there is no agreement on temperatures claimed as known -- and down to a hundredth of a degree!]. It is generally the media that makes a list. We look for a new record high ["look for" is a bit of an understatement] but note that it is a virtual tie if the difference is small.

Hansen’s memory is faulty. We have seen that substantial differences, such as that between 1934 and 1998 of up to 0.5 degrees Celsius, can subsequently, and rather magically, turn into a statistical tie of 0.02 degrees Celsius under NASA’s gentle ministrations.

An August 10, 2007, email from Ruedy to NASA’s Leslie McCarthy, copying Hansen, pleaded for McCarthy to pitch that:

The problem with rankings is that there are large clumps of years which are equal within the margin of error and rankings within these clumps are purely accidental.

Hansen emailed Revkin on August 23, 2007:

I believe we have clearly stated several times that the ranking [of years] does.

Old habits die hard, however, and later in this email, Hansen emphasizes 2005 as “the warmest year.”

Here is a selection of NASA press releases (links viewed on August 27, 2007):

“2005 Warmest Year in a Century”

“2006 was Earth’s Fifth Warmest Year”

“Top Four Warmest Years Worldwide Since the 1890s”

“The year 2003 is the third warmest year in the period of accurate instrumental data” (prominently mentions the two warmer years)

“The 2002 meteorological year is the second warmest year in the period of accurate instrumental data”

The efforts in August 2007 to reduce interest in NASA being caught making unsupportable claims about increasing U.S. temperatures were ad hoc tactics, used at the time because the U.S.-only and single-year measurements were the means in which Hansen and NASA were exposed as having sexed-up the temperature claims.

The Times’ Revkin diplomatically deferred responsibility for this focus, which NASA shared with a passion bordering on obsession, by writing to Hansen on August 10, 2007:

Given that quite a few folks (gore and some enviros particularly) have often used the US temp trends in arguments for action (string of record years) it’s hard for me to ignore the reanalysis of those annual temps — even though my own focus remains global temp. Essentially, should people always have paid less attention to US (48 state) trend as a meaningful signal of AGW? (now that all those earlier warm years intrude, it certainly makes the case that regional data can be a red herring).

“Regional data” has, of course, long been a mainstay of alarmist reporting on climate even though computer models are well-known as being simply incapable of making regional climate projections vs. global, due to the presence of oceans and mountains. “Regional climate” is a way to find localized trends and claim they are meaningful to the global, when all they are is politically useful anecdotes (when they are or at least can be portrayed as of the right sort: warming, very dry/very wet, etc.). Note also the recognized inconvenience of being caught, and the “intrusion” of “all those earlier warm years.” Given that Revkin had in the past transcribed NASA claims of the sort he here attributes to Gore, this is possibly little more than a bit of kissing up to Hansen, with an invitation for him to help massage and redirect the embarrassment.

Indeed — although Hansen essentially ducks Revkin’s question — Revkin dutifully transcribed Hansen’s line in a story in the New York Times downplaying “Hansen’s Y2k error.” In the article, as in his email responding to praise by Ruedy for the article, Revkin is almost apologetic for even writing it — a full two weeks after the story had broken — but the story had become too difficult for Revkin to ignore any longer.

NASA scientist Ruedy, in a private email to Brazilian journalist Leticia Francisco Sorg on August 15, 2007, also reaffirms how the hypocrisy is so great that NASA is willing to claim that even thirty years is a “brief” period for purposes of observing things — if during those thirty years the warming that occurred is warming they can’t attribute to Man. Otherwise, no — thirty years is plenty of time to draw conclusions.

End of Part Two

Stay tuned to PJM for Part Three. August 2007, NASA’s summer of taxpayer-funded corruption, gets even more appalling.

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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