Friday, March 24, 2017

¶1 A look behind the curtain of John Bates’ facade - The John Bates Affair

This is a citizen's examination of the article at the heart of this season’s faux climate scandal.  For more background you can start here.

Climate scientists versus climate data
by John Bates, posted on February 4, 2017 | ClimateEtc.- Curry's blog
“A look behind the curtain at NOAA’s climate data center.”
I’ve borrowed John’s subtitle since I intend to explore his wordsmithing and ponder his motivations.

Bates' beloved Protocol
Bates writes in ¶1   “I read with great irony recently that scientists are “frantically copying U.S. Climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump” (e.g., Washington Post 13 December 2016)." 
Red flag right out of the gate.

It’s telling that Bates makes light of what the Trump Administration had already done to climate science information.  Given such an intro we must consider the possibility John Bates’ is motivated by politics and opportunism rather than any concern over data records.

With Trump in Charge, Climate Change References Purged From Website
By Coral Davenport | Jan. 20, 2017 | New York Times

WASHINGTON — Within moments of the inauguration of President Trump, the official White House website on Friday deleted nearly all mentions of climate change. The one exception: Mr. Trump’s vow to eliminate the Obama administration’s climate change policies, which previously had a prominent and detailed web page on

The purge was not unexpected. It came as part of the full digital turnover of, including taking down and archiving all the Obama administration’s personal and policy pages.

All References to Climate Change Have Been Deleted From the White House Website
Jason Koebler | Jan 20, 2017



Donald Trump’s presidency has climate scientists concerned about the implications for U.S. environmental policies, the worldwide effort to curb the impacts of climate change, and the ability of scientists to freely to continue their research, which can be insidiously undermined through funding cuts, gag orders, or punitive measures and retaliatory attacks against scientists who publicly discuss their research. …

Here are a few of the many actions taken or planned by the Trump administration with implications for climate science and the environment:
 • EPA and Department of Agriculture staff have been prohibited from discussing research with anyone outside the agencies, including the media.
 • Trump signed executive actions to speed approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
 • Trump is preparing an executive action to order the EPA to rewrite rules that regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing electric utilities, i.e. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
 • The EPA’s climate change pages have, so far, been altered to remove mention of carbon emissions as a cause of climate change; emphasize adaptation to climate change rather than focus on the root cause of climate change; eliminate mention of Obama’s Climate Action Plan; and remove text about the commitment of the U.S. to international climate talks.
 • The House of Representatives approved a measure that would undo the Bureau of Land Management’s rule curbing methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands. It will take effect if approved by the Senate and the president.

A number of other bills have been introduced in the House and/or the Senate that could also slow progress on climate change or roll back environmental regulations.

Another distressing aspect of Trump’s ascendancy is the surge of intolerant and hateful language, particularly online. Climate scientists have been subjected to this kind of harassment for years and are now concerned that it could grow worse. …
Bates: “As a climate scientist formerly responsible for NOAA’s climate archive, the most critical issue in archival of climate data is actually scientists who are unwilling to formally archive and document their data.” 
Makes it sound pretty bad.   

But when Scott Waldman asked Bates about it, the story changed: 

Bates: "The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was.” 

As for “disclosed everything it was” - In an article by Warren Cornwall and Paul Voosen, Bates tells a way less dramatic story:

Bates: “The Science paper would have been fine had it simply had a disclaimer at the bottom saying that it was citing research, not operational, data for its land-surface temperatures”

Read those first two sentences together, Bates creates an equivalence between Trump literally purging climate data from the public record and a citation protocol issue.

In reality, the entire methodology was spelled out in the paper, and the ship data correction Karl et al selected had previously been published
(H/T Snopes). 
Bates: “I spent the last decade cajoling climate scientists to archive their data and fully document the datasets.” 
“Cajoling” is known as a “word trick” in this case used to imply scientists were not archiving or properly documenting their datasets.  But such a message would be misleading.

Sou at HotWhopper put it into perspective. 
"His incredibly complex archiving system may have been suitable for some purposes, but it clearly was a thorn in the side of users. The diagrams in his paper show it as a very complex, long process involving umpteen steps and a multitude of different work groups at NOAA. I imagine the procedures manual could run to hundreds of pages. 
To what extent did he even involve or listen to users? Good data archiving procedures are important, particularly for climate data. I doubt anyone would dispute that. But what's the point of a system if it doesn't meet user needs? And why try to stop research being published when it's based on solid and well-tested data, just because it hasn't been through the full seven year archiving process?
Even David Rose admits that the formal process takes a very long time."
 Fig. 1. Iterative cycle of maturity of (top) a CDR and (bottom) the six levels of maturity.BAMS

Fig. 2. CDR program research-to-operations process diagram.

 Fig. 3. CDR data flow pathways to products and services.BAMS

How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study
By Warren Cornwall, Paul Voosen | Feb. 8, 2017 

“… Thomas Peterson, a principal scientist at NCEI who was involved in developing the new surface temperature estimates before retiring in 2015, says he spent several years pressing the agency to let its scientists publish parts of the new data analysis. 

But he says he met resistance from some who argued that even though the older approach was less accurate, it had gone through the quality control checks for operational data. The new study “wasn’t rushed. It was delayed for a long time. It would have been out years ago except for all this processing that John [Bates] pushed.”  …. 

This split within the office traces partly to cultural differences between scientists working with satellites and those working with ground-based measurements, says Peter Thorne, a climate scientist at Ireland's Maynooth University, and chair of the ISTI. He worked on surface temperature research at NCEI from 2010 to 2013. By contrast, for several years Bates was division chief for the part of the center that worked with satellite data.

Because the stakes are so high for ensuring the accuracy of a single, costly piece of equipment, and the streams of data are so massive, the people working with the satellites were more inclined to insist on always following detailed protocols.

“Fundamentally it was a conflict between science and engineering,” Thorne says. “Do you want a product that is very well documented; where the code is available, transparent, well documented; where there is fundamental, deep archiving of everything; where you’ve dotted every 'i' and crossed every 't,' even if that product, scientifically, has issues? Or would you rather have the best scientific product you can get your hands on at this time and forgo that process maturity?” …”
Bates: “I established a climate data records program that was awarded a U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 2014 for visionary work in the acquisition, production, and preservation of climate data records (CDRs), which accurately describe the Earth’s changing environment.”
Dr. Bates is pretty proud of this, it will be interesting to see how it holds up.

Still as much as Bates thumps his chest, I can't help but wonder if data preservation is such an important issue to him why doesn't he seem at all concerned about what Trump has already done to climate data?  

Further reading:

“How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study”
'Whistleblower' says protocol was breached but no data fraud
Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter
Climatewire:, February 7, 2017
Article names “whistleblower” who claims that NOAA manipulated data [Updated]
Allegations in a Daily Mail article seem more office politics than science.
Scott Johnson - 2/6/2017
David Rose doubles down on #climate disinformation about NOAA. Let's get some perspective
Sou | February 13, 2017
Sustained Production of Multidecadal Climate Records: 
Lessons from the NOAA Climate Data Record Program

National Centers for Environmental Information, Asheville, North Carolina
October 2016
NOAA Scientists Falsely Accused of Manipulating Climate Change Data
A tabloid used testimony from a single scientist to paint an excruciatingly technical matter as a worldwide conspiracy.
By Alex Kasprak  |  Feb 8th, 2017
Discovered and revealed! - Where the climate codes and data have been hiding
July 18, 2013
President Trump Can Attack Agency Science, But Can’t Delete Climate Change
Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

¶2 A look behind the curtain of John Bates’ facade

¶3 A look behind the curtain of John Bates’ facade

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