New Scandal Erupts Over NOAA Climate Data
By Michael Asher
Weather station data hidden from public; scientists allege government cover-up. The theory of global warming began to explain one simple set of facts-- surface temperature monitoring stations have shown a roughly one degree rise over the past century. But just where does these temperature readings come from?
Most are reported by volunteer stations, usually no more than a thermometer inside a small wooden hut or below a roof overhang. In the US, 1,221 such stations exist, all administered by the National Climatic Data Center, a branch of the NOAA. Two months ago, I reported on an effort to validate this network.
A volunteer group headed by meteorologist Anthony Watts had found serious problems. Not only did sites fail to meet the NCDC's requirements, but encroaching development had put many in ridiculously unsuitable locations -- on hot black asphalt, next to trash burn barrels, beside heat exhaust vents, even attached to hot chimneys and above outdoor grills.
Soon thereafter, a Seattle radio station interviewed the head of the NCDC, Dr. Thomas Peterson, informed him of the effort and quizzed him about the problems. Three days later, the NCDC removed all website access to station site locations, citing "privacy concerns." Without this data (which had been public for years), the validation effort was blocked. No more stations could be located.
Scientists were quick to respond. Climatologist Roger Pielke from the University of Colorado called the act a "cover up" and said it was designed to prevent public scrutiny. More shockingly, he revealed that researchers had been for years pressuring the government to validate the network themselves, and that the NCDC had begun to do so, but canceled the project and refused to make the data public, presumably to avoid this sort of scandal. Joined by Watts and others, Pielke called upon the government to recant.
The resulting furor forced the NCDC to again made site locations public. But so far, they've failed to address to root of the problem, which is the wholly unsatisfactory locations of many of their recording sites, locations which make the resulting data unreliable, and compromise a data set upon which much of US energy and environmental policy is based.