by David Rose
Data Science, Climate and satellites Consultant John J Bates,
blew the whistle to the Mail on Sunday
The Mail on Sunday can reveal
a landmark paper exaggerated
It was rushed through and timed to influence
the Paris agreement on climate
America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
broke its own rules
The report claimed the pause in global warming
never existed, but it was based
misleading, 'unverified' data
The Mail on Sunday today reveals astonishing evidence that the
organization that is the world's leading source of climate data
rushed to publish a landmark paper that exaggerated global warming
and was timed to influence the historic Paris Agreement on climate
A high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that America's
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its
own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational
but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on
world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron
at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.
The report claimed that the 'pause' or 'slowdown' in global warming
in the period since 1998 - revealed by UN scientists in 2013 - never
existed, and that world temperatures had been rising faster than
scientists expected. Launched by NOAA with a public relations
fanfare, it was splashed across the world's media, and cited
repeatedly by politicians and policy makers.
But the whistleblower, Dr. John Bates, a top NOAA scientist
with an impeccable reputation, has shown The Mail on Sunday
irrefutable evidence that the paper was based on misleading,
It was never subjected to NOAA's rigorous internal evaluation
process - which Dr. Bates devised.
His vehement objections to the publication of the faulty data were
overridden by his NOAA superiors in what he describes as a 'blatant
attempt to intensify the impact' of what became known as the
His disclosures are likely to stiffen President Trump's
determination to enact his pledges to reverse his predecessor's
'green' policies, and to withdraw from the Paris deal - so
triggering an intense political row.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates,
US President Barack Obama,
French President Francois Hollande
and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
at the world climate change conference.
The PM, the Prince and 'the pause':
David Cameron and Prince Charles attended the historic
2015 Paris climate change conference with 150 world leaders.
Cameron committed Britain
to an EU-Wide emission cut as a result.
And Charles, writing in this paper last month,
stated there was no pause in global warming,
influenced by the flawed NOAA paper
that made this claim.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Bates accused the lead author of the
paper, Thomas Karl, who was until last year director of the
section that produces climate data - the National Centers
for Environmental Information (NCEI)
decisions and scientific choices that maximized warming and
minimized documentation… in an effort to discredit the notion of
a global warming pause, rushed so that he could time publication
to influence national and international deliberations on climate
Dr. Bates was one of two
Principal Scientists at NCEI, based in Asheville, North Carolina.
A blatant attempt
to intensify paper's impact.
Official delegations from America, Britain and the EU were strongly
influenced by the flawed NOAA study as they hammered out the Paris
Agreement - and committed advanced nations to sweeping reductions in
their use of fossil fuel and to spending £80 billion every year on
new, climate-related aid projects.
The scandal has disturbing echoes of
the 'Climategate' affair which
broke shortly before the UN climate summit in 2009, when the leak of
thousands of emails between climate scientists suggested they had
manipulated and hidden data.
Some were British experts
at the influential Climatic Research Unit at the University of East
LED TO THESE GREEN COMMITMENTS
Data published by
NOAA, the world's top climate
data agency, claimed global warming was worse than previously
The information was
published to coincide with the Paris climate change conference
in 2015, where world leaders agreed that...
given every year in extra 'climate-related' aid to the
developing world by rich nations
2°C be set as
the limit for maximum temperature rise above
40% of CO2
emissions would be cut across the EU by 2030
the UK's pledges will cost our economy by 2030
NOAA's 2015 'Pausebuster'
paper was based on two new temperature sets of data:
Both datasets were
This newspaper has learnt
that NOAA has now decided that the sea dataset will have to be
replaced and substantially revised just 18 months after it was
issued, because it used unreliable methods which overstated the
speed of warming.
The revised data will
show both lower temperatures and a slower rate in the recent warming
trend. The land temperature dataset used by the study was afflicted
by devastating bugs in its software that rendered its findings
The paper relied on a preliminary, 'alpha' version of the data which
was never approved or verified.
A final, approved version has still not been issued. None of the
data on which the paper was based was properly 'archived' - a
mandatory requirement meant to ensure that raw data and the software
used to process it is accessible to other scientists, so they can
verify NOAA results.
Dr. Bates retired from NOAA at the end of last year after a 40-year
career in meteorology and climate science.
As recently as 2014, the
administration awarded him a special gold medal for his
work in setting new, supposedly binding standards,
'to produce and
preserve climate data records'.
Yet when it came to the paper timed to influence the Paris
conference, Dr. Bates said, these standards were flagrantly ignored.
The paper was published in June 2015 by the journal Science.
Artifacts of Data Biases in the Recent Global Surface Warming Hiatus',
the document said the widely reported 'pause' or 'slowdown' was a
Less than two years earlier, a blockbuster report from the UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which drew on the
work of hundreds of scientists around the world, had found,
'a much smaller
increasing trend over the past 15 years 1998-2012 than over the
past 30 to 60 years'.
Explaining the pause
became a key issue for climate science.
It was seized on by global
warming skeptics, because the level of CO2 in the
atmosphere had continued to rise.
WHY OBAMA'S GREEN GURU WILL MAKE TRUMP SEE
NOAA's climate boss Thomas Karl, below left, had a hotline to
the White House, through his long association with President
Obama's science adviser, John Holdren.
Karl's 'Pausebuster' paper was hugely influential in dictating
the world agreement in Paris and sweeping US emissions cuts.
President Trump, above right, has pledged to scrap both policies
- triggering furious claims by Democrats he is a climate
'denier' and 'anti-science'.
Thanks to today's MoS story, NOAA is set to face an inquiry by
the Republican-led House science committee.
Some scientists argued that the existence of the pause meant the
world's climate is less sensitive to greenhouse gases than
previously thought, so that future warming would be slower.
One of them, Professor
Judith Curry, then head of climate science at the Georgia
Institute of Technology, said it suggested that computer models used
to project future warming were 'running too hot'.
However, the Pausebuster paper said while the rate of global
warming from 1950 to 1999 was 0.113°C per decade, the rate from 2000
to 2014 was actually higher, at 0.116°C per decade.
The IPCC's claim about
the pause, it concluded,
'was no longer valid'.
The impact was huge and lasting.
On publication day, the BBC said
the pause in global warming was,
'an illusion caused
by inaccurate data'.
One American magazine
described the paper as a 'science bomb' dropped on skeptics.
Its impact could be seen in this newspaper last month when, writing
to launch his Ladybird book about climate change, Prince
'There isn't a pause…
it is hard to reject the facts on the basis of the evidence.'
to make the sea appear
The sea dataset used by Thomas Karl and his colleagues -
known as Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperatures
version 4, or
ERSSTv4, tripled the warming trend over the sea
during the years 2000 to 2014 from just 0.036°C per decade - as
stated in version 3 - to 0.099°C per decade.
in some parts of the globe had increased by about 0.1°C and this
resulted in the dramatic increase of the overall global trend
published by the Pausebuster paper.
But Dr. Bates said this
increase in temperatures was achieved by dubious means.
error was an upwards 'adjustment' of readings from fixed and
floating buoys, which are generally reliable, to bring them into
line with readings from a much more doubtful source - water taken in
This, Dr. Bates explained,
has long been known to be questionable:
ships are themselves sources
of heat, readings will vary from ship to ship, and the depth of
water intake will vary according to how heavily a ship is laden - so
affecting temperature readings.
Dr. Bates said:
'They had good data
And they threw it out
and "corrected" it by using the bad data from ships. You never
change good data to agree with bad, but that's what they did -
so as to make it look as if the sea was warmer.'
ERSSTv4 'adjusted' buoy
readings up by 0.12°C.
It also ignored data from satellites that
measure the temperature of the lower atmosphere, which are also
Dr. Bates said he gave the
paper's co-authors 'a hard time' about this,
'and they never really
justified what they were doing.'
Now, some of those same authors have produced the pending, revised
new version of the sea dataset -
A draft of a document
that explains the methods used to generate version 5, and which has
been seen by this newspaper, indicates the new version will reverse
the flaws in version 4, changing the buoy adjustments and including
some satellite data and measurements from a special high-tech
floating buoy network known as Argo.
As a result, it is
certain to show reductions in both absolute temperatures and recent
The second dataset used by the Pausebuster paper was a new
version of NOAA's land records, known as the Global Historical
Climatology Network (GHCN), an analysis over time of temperature
readings from about 4,000 weather stations spread across the globe.
The unstable land readings:
Scientists at NOAA used land temperature data
from 4,000 weather stations (pictured, one in Montana, USA).
But the software used to process the figures
was bug-ridden and unstable.
NOAA also used 'unverified' data
that was not tested or approved.
This data as merged with
unreliable sea surface temperatures
The 'adjusted' sea readings:
Average sea surface temperatures
are calculated using data from weather buoys (pictured).
But NOAA 'adjusted' these figures upwards
to fit with data taken from ships
- which is notoriously unreliable.
This exaggerated the warming rate,
allowing NOAA to claim in the paper dubbed
that there was no 'pause'
This new version found past temperatures had been cooler than
previously thought, and recent ones higher - so that the warming
trend looked steeper.
For the period 2000 to
2014, the paper increased the rate of warming on land from 0.15°C to
0.164°C per decade.
In the weeks after the Pausebuster paper was published, Dr. Bates conducted a one-man investigation into this. His findings were
Not only had Mr. Karl and
his colleagues failed to follow any of the formal procedures
required to approve and archive their data, they had used a 'highly
experimental early run' of a program that tried to combine two
previously separate sets of records.
This had undergone the critical process known as 'pairwise
homogeneity adjustment', a method of spotting 'rogue' readings from
individual weather stations by comparing them with others nearby.
However, this process requires extensive, careful checking which was
only just beginning, so that the data was not ready for operational
Now, more than two years
after the Pausebuster paper was submitted to Science, the new
version of GHCN is still undergoing testing.
Moreover, the GHCN software was afflicted by serious bugs. They
caused it to become so 'unstable' that every time the raw
temperature readings were run through the computer, it gave
The new, bug-free version
of GHCN has still not been approved and issued. It is, Dr. Bates
said, 'significantly different' from that used by Mr. Karl and his
Dr. Bates revealed that the failure to archive and make available
fully documented data not only violated NOAA rules, but also those
set down by Science. Before he retired last year, he continued to
raise the issue internally.
Then came the final
Dr. Bates said:
'I learned that the
computer used to process the software had suffered a complete
The reason for the
failure is unknown, but it means the Pausebuster paper can never be
replicated or verified by other scientists.
The flawed conclusions of the Pausebuster paper were widely
discussed by delegates at the Paris climate change conference. Mr.
Karl had a longstanding relationship with President Obama's chief
science adviser, John Holdren, giving him a hotline to the
The red line shows
the current NOAA world temperature graph
- elevated in recent years due to the 'adjusted' sea data.
The blue line is
the Met Office's independent HadCRUT4 record.
Although they are offset in temperature by 0.12°C
due to different analysis techniques,
they reveal that NOAA has been adjusted
and so shows a steeper recent warming trend.
They were forced to correct it:
18 months after the 'Pausebuster' paper was published
in time for the 2015 Paris climate change conference,
NOAA's flawed sea temperature dataset is to be replaced.
The new version will remedy its failings,
and use data from both buoys and satellites (pictured)
- which some say is the best data of all.
The new version will show both
lower temperatures and a lower warming trend
Mr. Holdren was also a strong advocate of robust measures to curb
Britain's then Prime
Minister David Cameron claimed at the conference that,
'97 per cent of
scientists say climate change is urgent and man-made and must be
addressed' and called for 'a binding legal mechanism' to ensure
the world got no more than 2°C warmer than in pre-industrial
stressed his Clean Power Plan at the conference, which
mandates American power stations to make big emissions cuts.
Trump has since pledged he will scrap it, and to
withdraw from the
Whatever takes its place, said Dr. Bates,
'there needs to be a
fundamental change to the way NOAA deals with data so that
people can check and validate scientific results.
that this will be a wake-up call to the climate science
community - a signal that we have to put in place processes to
make sure this kind of crap doesn't happen again.
'I want to address the systemic problems.
I don't care whether
modifications to the datasets make temperatures go up or down.
But I want the observations to speak for themselves, and for
that, there needs to be a new emphasis that ethical standards
must be maintained.'
He said he decided to
speak out after seeing reports in papers including the Washington
Post and Forbes magazine claiming that scientists feared
the Trump administration would fail to maintain and preserve NOAA's
Dr. Bates said:
'How ironic it is
that there is now this idea that Trump is going to trash climate
data, when key decisions were earlier taken by someone whose
responsibility it was to maintain its integrity - and failed.'
NOAA not only failed, but
it effectively mounted a cover-up when challenged over its data.
After the paper was
published, the US House of Representatives Science Committee
launched an inquiry into its Pausebuster claims. NOAA refused to
comply with subpoenas demanding internal emails from the committee
chairman, the Texas Republican Lamar Smith, and falsely
claimed that no one had raised concerns about the paper internally.
Last night Mr. Smith thanked Dr. Bates,
stepping forward to tell the truth about NOAA's senior officials
playing fast and loose with the data in order to meet a
politically predetermined conclusion'.
'The Karl study used
flawed data, was rushed to publication in an effort to support
the President's climate change agenda, and ignored NOAA's own
standards for scientific study.'
Professor Curry, now the
president of the Climate Forecast Applications Network, said
'Large adjustments to
the raw data, and substantial changes in successive dataset
versions, imply substantial uncertainties.'
It was time, she said,
that politicians and policymakers took these uncertainties on board.
Last night Mr. Karl admitted the data had not been archived when the
paper was published.
Asked why he had not waited, he said:
'John Bates is
talking about a formal process that takes a long time.'
He denied he was rushing
to get the paper out in time for Paris, saying:
'There was no
discussion about Paris.'
"They played fast
loose with the figures"
He also admitted that the final, approved and,
of the GHCN land data would be 'different' from that used in the
As for the ERSSTv4 sea dataset, he claimed it was other records -
such as the UK Met Office's - which were wrong, because they
understated global warming and were 'biased too low'.
Science's editor-in-chief, said:
'Dr Bates raises some
serious concerns. After the results of any appropriate
investigations… we will consider our options.' He said that
'could include retracting that paper'.
NOAA declined to comment.
It's not the first time we've exposed dodgy climate data, which is
why we've dubbed it: Climate Gate 2...
addresses demonstrators in the
center of Copenhagen on climate change
Dr. John Bates's disclosures about the manipulation of data behind
the 'Pausebuster' paper is the biggest scientific scandal since 'Climategate'
in 2009 when, as this paper reported, thousands of leaked emails
revealed scientists were trying to block access to data, and using a
'trick' to conceal embarrassing flaws in their claims about global
Both scandals suggest a lack of transparency and, according to Dr. Bates, a failure to observe proper ethical standards.
Because of NOAA's failure to 'archive' data used in the paper, its
results can never be verified.
Like Climategate, this scandal is likely to reverberate around the
world, and reignite some of science's most hotly contested debates.
Left, blowing up the graph show is disappears in 1961
artfully hidden behind the other colors.
Right, the reason? Because this is what it shows
after 1961, a dramatic decline in global temperatures
Has there been an
unexpected pause in global warming?
If so, is the
world less sensitive to carbon dioxide than climate computer
And does this
mean that truly dangerous global warming is less imminent,
and that politicians' repeated calls for immediate 'urgent
action' to curb emissions are exaggerated?