Much Ado About…Data Processing And Archiving Procedures
In 2015, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Centers for Environmental Information, Mr. Thomas Karl, published a paper debunking the idea that there had been a pause in global warming.
Two years earlier, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report had found a slowdown in warming from 1998-2012 compared to the previous 30 to 60 years. In his 2015 study, Mr. Karl and his team revised their data set to correct for differences in temperature measurements from ships (which take slightly warmer readings) compared to buoys and used new land-based data. They found global temperatures increased at a rate of 0.116 C from 2000-2014 compared to a rate of 0.113 C from 1950-1999.
Despite other independent studies reaching the same conclusion as Mr. Karl’s, this high-profile paper has consistently been under fire, with some in Congress steadfastly insistent that the data were altered, the paper rushed to publication, and its contents politically motivated. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology even filed a subpoena for all communication surrounding it. On February 4, this issue came to the forefront again, when a retired NOAA scientist, Dr. John Bates, published a blog post questioning the agency’s data-handling procedures and accusing the author of rushing its publication. As controversy heated up surrounding his post, Dr. Bates made clear that while he believes Mr. Karl didn’t follow data processing and archiving procedures (which Mr. Karl says wouldn’t have changed the results), he did not believe they manipulated the data and agrees with his former colleagues that “Global warming is a scientific fact.”