The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the nation’s leading collector of climate data. Every day, NOAA analyzes vast amounts of data to predict changes to our climate, weather, oceans and coasts. The agency also publishes monthly temperature averages across the nation and compares those numbers to historical temperature records.
As the nation’s self-proclaimed authority on “environmental intelligence,” NOAA should be held to the highest scientific standards. This means their conclusions should be objective, independent of political consideration and based on all available sources of information.
NOAA’s top official, Kathryn Sullivan, has described the agency’s role as providing “timely, reliably, and actionable information — based on sound science — every day to millions of Americans.”
In testimony before the House Science Committee, NOAA’s deputy administrator, Manson Brown, made similar remarks, noting the importance of satellite data. He said that NOAA’s ability “to deliver environmental intelligence starts with keeping the pulse of the planet, especially the atmosphere and the ocean, and this is the central capability where space-based assets come into play.” So why does NOAA leave out satellite data when it releases climate projections?
NOAA often fails to consider all available data in its determinations and climate change reports to the public. A recent study by NOAA, published in the journal Science, made “adjustments” to historical temperature records and NOAA trumpeted the findings as refuting the nearly two-decade pause in global warming. The study’s authors claimed these adjustments were supposedly based on new data and new methodology. But the study failed to include satellite data.
Atmospheric satellite data, considered by many to be the most objective, has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. This fact is well documented, but has been embarrassing for an administration determined to push through costly environmental regulations.
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Instead, NOAA focused its study on surface temperature monitoring that is often flawed because these sites measure thousands of independent temperature readings and utilize a hodgepodge of different methods that have changed over time. For example, measurements from land-based stations can be skewed because of their location and proximity to surrounding heat-holding asphalt in urban areas.
Satellite data, on the other hand, is highly calibrated and provides complete global coverage. For decades, satellites have been used to monitor the earth and collect information. Satellites measure something extremely important — the deep atmosphere. The temperature readings collected by satellites often differ from ground monitoring stations and have consistently shown much smaller rates of warming. Yet NOAA refuses to incorporate satellite data into its monthly projections that are released to the public. Why?
NOAA appears to pick and choose only data that confirms their bias. NOAA then disseminates this incomplete data to the media who manufacture alarming headlines but ignore the uncertainty of the conclusions.
Earlier this year, NASA issued a news release stating that 2014 was the warmest year on record. Few media acknowledged the footnote: Scientists were only 38 percent sure this was actually correct. That is less than 50-50.
NOAA fully understands margins of error and works with them on a daily basis. But where are these details in their news releases? While NOAA’s monthly projections usually warn of increased warming, they ignore satellite data that refutes their alarmist statements.
The ability to remain independent of political consideration seems like a minimum requirement for an agency that should provide unbiased scientific information. But NOAA’s habit of picking and choosing data raises serious questions about the agency’s independence. In fact, it shreds NOAA’s credibility.
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As a self-proclaimed “environmental intelligence agency,” NOAA’s reports should be based only on the best available science that takes into account all sources of data. Unfortunately, NOAA continues to rely upon biased science in pursuit of a predetermined outcome. That’s not good science, it’s science fiction.
This administration is pursuing an extreme political climate change agenda and has made NOAA its accomplice. These are not the actions of an objective agency. NOAA needs to come clean about why it cherry-picked and changed certain data, while ignoring satellite data, to get the results it wanted.
• Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, is chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.