Warming study questioned again, defended again


WASHINGTON — Another round of bickering is boiling over about temperature readings used in a 2015 study to show how the planet is warming.

The issue is about how readings gathered decades ago were adjusted to try to get a clearer picture of how the Earth’s temperature is changing now. Those adjustments have been questioned by some who reject mainstream climate science and have tried to claim there has been a pause in global warming.

A January study in a scientific journal used another set of measurements to confirm the readings and prove again that the Earth’s temperature is rising quickly and that the warming hasn’t paused.

But a congressional committee on Tuesday seized on complaints from a retired scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about how the original data were handled to claim the data were falsified — even though the retired NOAA scientist they cite does not argue that it was.

What is being touted as a scientific scandal is more about data handling than what rising temperatures show, according to phone and email interviews with more than two dozen experts on the issue, including the former government scientist, whose blogging Saturday reignited a debate.

The hubbub was sparked when retired NOAA data scientist John Bates claimed in a blog post that his boss, then-director of the National Centers for Environmental Information Thomas Karl, “constantly had his ‘thumb on the scale’ — in the documentation, scientific choices and release of datasets — in an effort to discredit the notion of a global warming hiatus” and rushed a study published in the journal Science before international climate negotiations.

Bates said Monday that he was most concerned about the way data was handled, documented and stored, raising issues of transparency and availability. He said Karl didn’t follow the more than 20 crucial data storage and handling steps that Bates created for NOAA. He said it looked like the June 2015 study was pushed out to influence the December 2015 climate treaty negotiations in Paris.

However Bates, who acknowledges that Earth is warming from man-made carbon dioxide emissions, said in the interview that there was “no data tampering, no data changing, nothing malicious.”

“It’s really a story of not disclosing what you did,” Bates said in the interview. “It’s not trumped up data in any way shape or form.”

Still, after Bates’ blog post, the House Science Committee , a British tabloid newspaper and others who reject mainstream climate science accused NOAA of playing “fast and loose” with land and water temperature data.