Climate Science & Data Management

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

42 Responses to “Climate Science & Data Management”

  1. John Bates posted his ‘letter’ on a climate contrarian blog? Does an interview with a well known Daily Mail UK ‘journalist’ whose dishonest claims have been exposed by scientists? That’s sad.

    3 scientists have already posted their feedback exposing the claims:

    • Garth Godsman

      That would be the award winning investigative journalist David Rose, yes? Whose reporting on the effect of the last el Nino on global temperatures over the last few years was then confirmed by the UK Met Office, etc. And the ‘climate contrarian’ would be the well-respected, credentialed and published climate scientist Dr Judith Curry, no?

    • Garth Godsman

      That would be the David Rose who was named News Reporter of the Year in the Society of Editors British Press Awards for 2015?

  2. Nathan Phillips

    Instead of disseminating blog and media hit pieces on Karl et al under the pretence of neutrality, it would’ve been helpful for the AGU to summarize what new kind of allegation is being made here after the earlier discredited round of attacks in 2015, to which the AGU and 7 other major science societies objected in their joint letter to Lamar Smith.

    A laundry list of claims, like that the authors should have used 95% confidence intervals vs 90% confidence intervals, should be adjudicated through the journal editorial & peer review process. Instead, the AGU gives voice to a slanted hit piece that mixes science with statements about how much better trump is going to be over Obama.

  3. Matt Tuftman

    Wow. This is the same tepid response we got from AGU in 2009 when the emails were hacked from the university of east Anglia and scientists were unjustly accused of fraud. You did great damage to science for failing to speak up then and risk doing the same now. What a crisis in leadership.

  4. Aaron Huertas

    ^Thanks for sharing. The fact that climate contrarians are making these claims in blogs and tabloids instead of the scientific literature says a lot about how weak and politicized their arguments have become. For what it’s worth, David Rose has long served as a pass-through for misinformation about climate science and he’s already had to issue a correction to his “story”:

    • Mondoman

      Aaron, your post would gain credibility by linking to a source for your correction claim rather than a partisan smear list from last year.

  5. Michael Oppenheimer

    I find it inconceivable that AGU rushed to comment on this, especially with a comment that is easily interpreted as questioning Karl et als credibility.

  6. Barry Woods

    The Carbon Brief is wholly funded by a big Green lobbying organisation. The European Climate Foundation. It”s first editor was an ex greenpeace employee Christian Hunt. Who was arrested for direct climate action. Occupying the roof of the Houses of Parliament. The Carbon Brief has received over 2 mullion Euros of unaccountable Funding. The ECF lobbies for climate policies in the UK. .The current editor is a former Guardian environment journalist. And former WWF climate change advisor/employee

    • Jim Hunt

      I’m a bear of very little brain Barry. What on Earth has that got to do with the topic under discussion here? Did you even follow the link?

      Please desist from lowering the tone in here.

      • Barry Woods

        My point, those 2 organisation according to a commentator here, and the AGU link to Zeke’s rebuttal in the article above, wrote “rebuttals” to David Rose. A Mail on Sunday article by David Rose about Dr John Bates whistleblower, a principal scientist at NOAA, the David Rose article led with a photo of John Bates, the article further mentioned Dr John Bates 23 times.. yet somehow, the Guardian/CarbonBrief were unable to inform their readers of Dr John Bates name, role and scientific standing. So just an observation (imho) of their partisan and low journalistic standards, and perhaps the motivations behind those standards

        • Bam Huisman

          First, Carbon Brief did not write anything, it published an article by Zeke Hausfather.

          You are thus still inappropriately trying to discredit the information provided by Zeke Hausfather. Note that you now even go a step further by trying to include the Guardian in your smear, which is not cited anywhere in this AGU message.

          Second, why mention Bates in a rebuttal of the supposed ‘science’ in Rose’s article? Zeke Hausfather makes it clear he cannot discuss the possible violation of internal NOAA procedures, but he can comment on the ‘science’, and the claims made in Rose’s article simply do not hold. Karl et al can (and has been) reproduced. Independent analysis suggests Huang et al got it right on the ocean temperatures (ERSSTv.4), at least for the period after 1997.

          Hausfather has made it into a rebuttal of the content, rather than about the people involved. That’s how it should be done, although with David Rose it is getting more and more difficult to not make it personal.

    • Bam Huisman

      Is this an attempt to smear Zeke Hausfather’s factual exposé by trying to discredit Carbon Brief, Mr. Woods?

      If so, you failed miserably.

  7. James Morgan

    The AGU obviously commented because it is worried. The whole conversation is changing. We no longer have Obama in the White House willing to fund any Tom Dick or Harry who thinks there’s money to be made trying to scare the bejeeevers out of Mr General Public. Times are a changin’ folks. Wake up now before it’s too late. Your alarmist rhetoric is past its sell-by date. Science will pay heavily for straying so close to political correctness. Michael Mann and friends are going to head for the hills once we’re done.

  8. Matt Tuftman

    Regarding your update: Stop trying to clarify and just retract the post. You still link to a so-called “story” in a British tabloid. Your statement that this does not change our understanding of climate change throws Dr. Karl under the bus by suggesting his paper is flawed. The lack of comprehension of how this could be interpreted is mind bogglingly incompetent. This has nothing to do with the other efforts you cite on scientific integrity. Retract your post and apologize to us members.

  9. Charles Greene

    Good new! After its initially underwhelming response, AGU has now posted a strong response condemning the misrepresentations and innuendo in the Daily Mail article as well as the original letter posted on Judith Curry’s blog. These came after many of us in the climate science community documented the misinformation and intent to deceive exhibited by known climate denialist and Daily Mail contributor David Rose. This new episode shows that the climate science community has finally learned how to be vigilant and defend itself against fossil fuel industry-funded attacks. And, this vigilance will be essential as we face a swamp full of fossil fuel industry alligators in the new Administration and Congress. On a related topic, when will the AGU Board disavow its interests in accepting Exxon sponsorship money? At least the AGU membership has turned this into such a public-relations nightmare for Exxon that it backed out of recent sponsorship plans. We will welcome Exxon back when it commits to becoming a positive force in combating anthropogenic climate change. We would like to see real climate action not just greenwashing.

    • Mondoman

      I suspect you and the AGU would retain more credibility if you avoided silly “fake news”-style terms like “climate denialist”. Very many fewer people than perhaps you think actually deny “climate”. 🙂

  10. Mark Shore

    What is going on with the executive of the AGU? Is the current board utterly clueless as to the long-standing organized disinformation and smear campaigns waged against climate science (and against many individual AGU members) by groups in part funded by fossil fuel interests?

    If Eric Davidson wishes to wade in with an ill-thought equivocal response to a shoddy newspaper article and an unrefereed blog post on a critical scientific topic within hours of their being published, he has every right to do so. But he should first resign as AGU President. He has no right to use the pulpit of the AGU to broadcast half-digested or poorly-informed considerations to the membership and the general public.

    By the way, since Davidson saw fit to mention “AGU’s former Board member John Bates”, it is also worth noting that Thomas Karl is an AGU Fellow and a thirty-year member of this organization.

  11. David L. Hagen

    President Eric Davidson
    When 100 scientists attacked him, Albert Einstein said:
    “If I were wrong, one would be enough”.
    Isn’t science advanced more by model falsification than by consensus?
    John P.A. Ioannidis has showed: “Why most published research findings are false.” PLoS Med. 2005;2(8):e124. pmid:16060722 and “Why Most Clinical Research Is Not Useful.” PLoS Med 2016; 13(6): e1002049. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002049
    Why should climate science be any different?
    You assert: “all independent records now show that the past two years were the warmest years on record.” Yet satellite temperature specialist Roy Spencer found that:
    “Global Satellites: 2016 not Statistically Warmer than 1998” January 3rd, 2017
    Please document how your statement is scientifically supportable within a 95% probability.

    I find it remarkable that the president of the American GEOPHYSICAL Union would ignore the geological record documenting temperature declines since the Holocene Optimum. e.g.
    K. Gajewski (2016) reports: “Most sites also show cooling during the past 3.2 ka.”
    Quantitative reconstruction of Holocene temperatures across the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. Global and Planetary Change 128 (2015) 14–23

    Per Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” isn’t it very difficult to correct a scientific paradigm? By Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s high standard of scientific integrity, should we not bend over backwards to find any and every reason why a model is NOT true? See Cargo Cult Science, Caltech 1974
    John Bates has credibly documented serious failures at NOAA of not abiding by its own standards, (let alone those under the Information Quality Act.)
    Please lead the AGU in publicly examining all possible errors in NOAA’s temperature data and validating all its adjustments compared to the satellite and balloon records so we can have confidence in their veracity.

  12. Mike Mangan

    Have you found a way to smear Bates yet? What about the Karl paper being unreplicable?

    • “The new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results.”- Zeke Hausfather

      Hausfather, Z., Cowtan, K., Clarke, D.C., Jacobs, P., Richardson, M. and Rohde, R., 2017. Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records. Science Advances, 3(1), p.e1601207.

      “The ‘whistle blower’ is John Bates who was not involved in any aspect of the work. NOAA’s process is very stove-piped such that beyond seminars there is little dissemination of information across groups. John Bates never participated in any of the numerous technical meetings on the land or marine data I have participated in at NOAA NCEI either in person or remotely. This shows in his reputed (I am taking the journalist at their word that these are directly attributable quotes) mis-representation of the processes that actually occured. In some cases these mis-representations are publically verifiable.” – Peter Thorne

    • Also read the update to the AGU article:

      “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”

  13. Chester Draws

    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.

    “Many” is a gross exaggeration. For a start there aren’t many independent temperature records, given that they use the same base data and use the same (often dodgy) corrections. And so most of the corroboration is based on the same type of doubtful analysis that NOAA did.

    The satellite temperature record — genuinely independent — isn’t agreeing so well with those land based ones. But we don’t like to mention that, because that would hurt the Party line.

    If other sciences did this, there’d be outrage. But for the AGU a pathetic attempt to pretend dodgy science doesn’t matter, so long as it gets the “right” answer, is par for the course.

    • Dennis N Horne

      Thermometers measure temperatures near the surface, where we live. Satellites don’t measure temperatures. They count photons from oxygen molecules. With a lot of jiggery-pokery that can gives some idea of temperatures in the atmosphere. That suits people with their heads in the clouds.

      Even so, satellite data track other datasets and show warming.

    • Chester, Where are you getting your misinformation from?

      2016 Paper by Mears and Wentz:

      Hausfather, Z., Cowtan, K., Clarke, D.C., Jacobs, P., Richardson, M. and Rohde, R., 2017. Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records. Science Advances, 3(1), p.e1601207.

    • Bam Huisman

      Which satellite data should we use? That of RSS, which has seen a significant increase in slope since its latest update, thus getting a lot close to that of the land-based records? Or that of UAH, of which the newest version (not yet official) has seen a major decrease in slope, making it differ significantly from the RSS record. Or the NOAA record.

      Note that the satellite records all use essentially the same input data, too, but the choices in analysis of that data cause wildly divergent trends. One would be a bad scientist to put so much more faith in those satellite records…

      • When are Spencer and Christy going to publish their paper on UAH v6.x ?
        They’ve been using v6.x ‘operationally’ for almost 18mths. What kind of a data management standard is that? At least RSS’s Mears and Wentz waited until after they had published their paper to release v4.

  14. Walter Andreeff

    I won’t comment on some of the facts and references here. Even though some of them are disputed by people who likely don’t have any science background or these climate deniers feel empowered to say nonsense. CIEST is correct and I have studied with EUMETSAT. There are over 3000 Argo floats gathering various kinds of data from all over the ocean. And they have been doing so since the early 2000 period. The Ocean sea level is increasing and it’s getting warmer, the Argo’s tell us that. They are verified science instruments. David Hagen you don’t really know what you’re talking about. The paper you reference on cooling in the Arctic is interpreted over a time period of 10,000 years with wide regional variations in temperature. The author highlights more than a few weaknesses in the data. Also, this paper does not look at the temperature increases in the Arctic over the past 10 years so the paper is not relevant in this context. Your other reference comparing 1998 to 2016 shows an increasing temperature trend between 1980-2016. Two data points over two separate year periods are not statistically different? Who cares? The overall trend is increasing temperature as GHG’s rise. What are we at now? 404-405 ppm of CO2? It’s getting hot. In the Arctic, the ocean and everywhere.

  15. Steve Bloom

    I notice Eric’s prior missive to the membership (December 9) says in part “Fall Meeting will combat harassment and support a safe and welcoming scientific community.”

    Eeic, you perhaps need to take a little time and reflect how that lovely idea might apply outside AGU meetings, and how playing pure defense in response to fabrications promoted by the House Science and Technology Committee is simply self-defeating.

    I look forward to your apology to the probably dozens of current and former NOAA scientists tarred by your original post. That needs to be public.

    Finally, whichever member of your PR staff had the bright idea to suggest responding as you did is seriously in need of a career change.

  16. Mark Chopping

    Quote: “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.”

    This is absolutely disgraceful. Why even give air time to the disinformation campaign that is the UK Daily Mail? I have decided reluctantly to withdraw my membership and support of AGU until it rediscovers its mission, finds sufficient backbone to support science and scientists, and adheres to its own principles


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