House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, under the leadership of my own representative Lamar Smith, has been harassing Thomas Karl, recent past president of the American Meteorological Society and longtime head of the National Climate Data Center, a federal agency under NOAA, because he expressed himself unimpressed by the “hiatus” in global temperature increase, and because a team he heads published data that supported his conclusion.

Smith’s committee has been demanding defenses of the rather mundane and straightforward measurements and calculations going into NCDC’s global temperature estimate, and in particular, some minute recent corrections to that record.

As I understand it Karl and NCDC have been bending over backwards to be cooperative, and have presented their raw data and algorithms in great detail to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. They stand ready to answer any substantive questions and defend any particular calculation in detail.

The scandal is this: the committee has showed no signs of interest in their honest answer to what might be an honest question, but has pursued the matter to the point of harassment and vile innuendo.

This cannot stand, and by “cannot stand”, I mean they probably will get away unscathed, but they really ought not to.

Alas, as the Benghazi metascandal and the Planned Parenthood metascandal prove, the congressional majority have no scruples and the American press has no spine. Fortunately the executive branch has developed a bit of one. NOAA should not be quick to comply and I am pleased that they did not. I think that is the next best thing.

It’s not because Smith’s committee doesn’t have the authority to investigate NCDC, it’s that they ought to refrain from abusing it.

A court case would be a very good thing if the press played against type and showed up awake for a change. I don’t have a strong answer to lukewarmer blogger “Fabius Maximus’”s point that the committee will win on the legal niceties. Perhaps there isn’t one. But confusing legal power with responsible government woefully misses the point of democracy.

Still, every time another sliver of the public sees the ethical shabbiness of the majority’s actions that would be a good thing. The scientific community is not positively impressed by Smith’s ridiculous antics to the extent they are paying attention. These outrages should be made plain to see.

NOAA is right to resist, and the press is wrong to back burner this grotesque mockery of congressional oversight.

The press will most likely cower indecently rather than tell the truth here, as they have done so much lately. It’s another chapter in the fake scandal horror show, and they’ll dutifully report “both sides”. Smith is being flagrantly and transparently abusive, and it would be good if the rest of society did not turn away.

UPDATE: The image embedded in my tweet shown displays the original and updated NOAA NCEI global mean surface temperature. What I’d like you to take away from it is that the corrections are tiny, and that if anything the observed global warming is made smaller. The adjustments to the “hiatus” 1998–2013 period are almost invisible, and it is this which is driving the congressional witch hunt.

The graph, which I lifted from a press account, is originally from T.R. Karl, A. Arguez, B. Huang, J.H. Lawrimore, J.R. McMahon, M.J. Menne, T.C. Peterson, R.S. Vose, and H. Zhang, “Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus”, Science, vol. 348, pp. 1469–1472, 2015.


The author, Michael Tobis, received a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from the University of Wisconsin -Madison in 1996 for his work on computer models of ocean dynamics. He is currently working on a book about severe weather in the context of a changing climate. He lives in south central Austin, Texas, in a home which has the amazing advantage of being three minutes’ walk from Barton Springs Pool, and the discouraging disadvantage of federal congressional representation by the sponsor of the egregious SOPA legislation who is also the chairman of the committee prejudicially impugning NOAA scientists as I described here.