4 February 2017

Climate Science & Data Management

Posted by Eric Davidson

UPDATE (5 February, 12:36 p.m.): I want to clarify – AGU’s position on the scientific consensus on climate change and the need for openness and transparency in science is firm. As we stated “while climate science knowledge is evolving, these reports do not change our fundamental understanding of climate change,” and “AGU remains committed to serving as a leader in data and transparency in science.”

As to the merits – or lack thereof – of the allegations made in John Bates’ post about data mismanagement, within NOAA, that discussion is and will continue to unfold in dialogue among scientists, such as in this article by Zeke Hausfather from Berkeley Earth and this blog post from the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units.

AGU has been and will continue to be a vocal voice in support of scientific integrity in the new Administration:

AGU believes that the merits of the Karl et al. (2015) should be and have been discussed in appropriate peer-reviewed scientific journals. We note that the main results of that study have since been independently replicated by later work. In the meantime, we will continue to stand up for the credibility of climate science, the freedom of scientists to conduct and communicate their science.

The purpose of our posts on this topic – past, present, and future — are to make you aware of this development affecting climate science and scientific data management. We are closely monitoring how this will play out among policymakers and influencers. For example, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology issued a misleading press release. These types of statements by policymakers that attempt to take one study/dispute and blow it out of proportion are both unhelpful and misleading. We will be working with the science committee to demonstrate the scientific consensus on climate change and to encourage them not to interfere with the scientific process.

ORIGINAL POST (4 February): Early today, AGU’s former Board member John Bates published a letter outlining what he believes to be mismanagement of climate science data in a highly-cited scientific paper, “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus” (Tom Karl, et al. 2015). A story about that letter was also published in The Daily Mail, a daily newspaper published in the U.K.

The implications of these pieces will unfold over time, and many questions remain to be answered. What, if any response on AGU’s part will be constructive is yet to be determined. However, I do want you to know that we are very closely monitoring the situation, have considered the possible implications, and will be sharing any new information or response by AGU with you here. We stand ready to be an authoritative resource for Congress and others on climate science, scientific integrity and data.

I also want you to know that, while climate science knowledge is evolving, these reports do not change our fundamental understanding of climate change. The Karl study updated the NOAA global temperature record, but there have been many other studies, using other, independent global temperature records, that have improved our understanding of the climate system and anthropogenic climate change since then. For example, all independent records now show that the past two years were the warmest years on record.

In addition, I want you to know that AGU remains committed to serving as a leader in data and transparency in science. We have long supported open well-managed data in the Earth and space sciences. As indicated in our position statement, these data are a world heritage and should be treated as such. We co-led the development of the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS), which connects Earth and space science publishers and data facilities to help translate the aspirations of open, available, and useful data from policy into practice. And, AGU has developed a Data Management Assessment Program, which helps data repositories, large and small, domain specific to general, use best practices to assess and improve their data management practices.

I know many of you will have concerns or questions about this news, and I strongly encourage you to share those thoughts with us here, or in an email to president@agu.org.