US Central Command has been misleading the public in its assessment of the overall progress in the war on terror by failing to account for thousands of airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria, a Military Times investigation reveals.
The investigation revealed that open source data of US Air Force strikes does not contain all the missiles fired. That incomplete data, however, continues to be used by the Pentagon on multiple occasions in official reports and media publications.
The publication says that in 2016 alone, American aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded in the database maintained by the US Air Force.
The investigation also revealed discrepancies in Iraq and Syria where the Pentagon failed to account for nearly 6,000 strikes dating back to 2014, when the US-led coalition has launched its first airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS,ISIL) terrorist targets.
According to the Air Force, coalition jets conducted 23,740 airstrikes through the end of 2016. The US Defense Department, however, puts the number at 17,861 until the end of January 2017.
“The Pentagon routinely cites these figures when updating the media on its operations against the Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliates in Iraq and Syria,” the publication says.
Military Times remains especially puzzled by a statement made by an Air Force official in December who assured the publication that its monthly summary of activity in Iraq and Syria “specifically” represents the entire American-led coalition “as a whole, which is all 20-nations and the US branches.”
“It’s unclear whether this statement was intentionally misleading, or simply indicative of widespread internal ignorance, confusion or indifference about what’s contained in this data,” Andrew deGrandpre, Military Times’ senior editor and Pentagon bureau chief, said in the article.
Military Times says that the “most alarming” aspects of the investigation are that the discrepancies in numbers go back as far as 2001, when the US, under George W. Bush’s administration, struck Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks on American soil.
The publication reveals that the unaccounted-for airstrikes in all three war zones were allegedly conducted by US helicopters and armed drones which are overseen by US Central Command.
“The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida, and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts,” deGrandpre wrote.
The Pentagon and Army did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities,” the publication added, wondering whether the military wanted to mislead the American public.
Hundreds of Belgian Artists and Academics Urge Government to End Participation in EU Project Cooperating with Israeli National Police
In Belgium, 482 professors and researchers, and more than 190 artists, have written an open letter calling on their authorities to withdraw from participating in a European Union funded research project called LAW TRAIN, in which Belgium and Spain cooperate with the Israeli National Police.
The project, aimed at developing joint interrogation methods, is coordinated by an Israeli university with particularly deep ties to Israel’s army and notorious security services. The signatories of this open letter highlight that Israeli methods are tested on Palestinians. Israel’s illegal detention of Palestinian political prisoners, and the systematic abuse and torture perpetrated by Israeli security forces during interrogations, is well documented. And, in 2016 alone, Israelis interrogated at least 7,000 Palestinians, including over 400 children.
This open letter is part of broader efforts by the Belgian Coalition To Stop Law Train, and broader European-wide efforts against the participation of the Israeli military, homeland security and police sector in research and development funded by the European Union. Other forms of mobilizing have included direct actions, conferences, and lobbying.
President Donald Trump’s administration has scrapped the previous administration’s plan to take Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (IS) group. The plan proposed a strategy of training Kurdish forces, providing them with new equipment, and helping them retake the city.
US-supplied armored vehicles have only been delivered to the Syrian Arab Coalition (a part of the Syrian Democratic Forces – SDF), which is made up of militants predominantly from local Arab areas. The Kurdish components of SDF have been denied the aid not to spoil the US relations with Turkey.
According to the Washington Post, the officials said they were dismayed that there was no provision for coordinating operations with Russia and no clear political strategy to address Turkey, a country that would be angered by the US cooperation with the Kurds, and the lack of a plan B in case the Kurdish offensive failed. They also said the plan lacked specifics on the number of troops needed for the operation.
The operation Euphrates Anger was launched by US-backed SDF in November 2016. Obviously, President Trump sets much store by cooperation with Moscow in the fight against terrorists. He faces the problem of getting Turkey on board. Russia and the US could join together as intermediaries to facilitate talks between the Kurds and Turkey.
Turkey has excellent relations with the Iraqi Kurds who could also join in any mediation effort. If progress is achieved, Washington will not let down the Syrian Kurds, cooperating with Ankara. Since January 18, Russia and Turkey, a US NATO ally, have been engaged in a joint operation to retake Al Bab.
No success is achievable without sufficient ground forces. The Kurdish formations are not enough and there is a basis for joining together – the US and Turkey see eye to eye on the idea to create safe zones in Syria. Russia has agreed to discuss the issue in principle. It’s important that the Trump team is not as adamant as the previous administration about making Syrian President Assad resign.
Michael T. Flynn, Donald Trump’s new National Security Adviser, has always been critical of Obama’s Syria policy calling it inconsistent. He has supported the idea of the US and Russia cooperating in the fight against the IS. «We have to work constructively with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there (in Syria) and to act militarily. They are there, and this has dramatically changed the dynamic», Flynn told Der Spiegel in an interview.
President Donald Trump has stated that regime change in Syria would only cause more instability in the region. He thinks that shoring up President Assad is the most efficient way to stem the spread of terrorism. According to Mr. Trump’s statements, he would weigh an alliance with Russia against Islamic State militants.
On January 28, the president ordered military leaders to give him a report in 30 days that outlines a new strategy for defeating the IS. The document is expected to include recommendations on changes to military actions, diplomacy, coalition partners, mechanisms to cut off or seize the group’s financial support and a way to pay for the strategy.
The president charged Defense Secretary James Mattis with developing a plan with the help of the secretaries of State, Treasury and Homeland Security, the director of national intelligence, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the assistant to the president for national security affairs and the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.
The order was signed hours after speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone – the first call between the leaders since Donald Trump took office. Mr. Putin emphasized that «for over two centuries Russia has supported the United States, was its ally during the two world wars, and now sees the United States as a major partner in fighting international terrorism».
With Donald Trump in office, a deal on coordinating activities is reachable. Joint operations to retake Raqqa would be a good start. The zones of influence and mutual obligations could be defined. Russia is ready to cooperate with the US during the operation to retake Raqqa. Last October, it was reported that Moscow planned to discuss the issue with the US officials.
Joining together, the parties could gradually move forward within the framework of Astana process and the UN-brokered talks to be revived in Geneva this month. The cooperation between Russia and the US is key to achieving progress in the Syria’s crisis management. It could spread to other areas of the bilateral relationship.
Actually, an offensive to liberate Raqqa is impossible without coordinating activities with Moscow. Russia, the US and Turkey are the pivotal actors in the conflict. The operation to retake Raqqa must be conducted with the consent of Syria’s government. It is hard to imagine the US and Turkey discussing the issue with the government of Bashar Assad. Russia is perfectly suited to be a mediator.
And what comes next after Raqqa is retaken? Who and under what authority will govern? With the pertinent actors involved in the conflict holding different, even opposite, visions of the country’s future, there will have to be international presence and agreement on what to do next.
The cooperation between Russia, the US and Turkey during the battle for Raqqa could become a start of wider process with diplomacy given a chance. It could also become a start of Russia-US cooperation in Syria and other countries where the IS has presence.
Though the White House has not yet published on its website a readout of US President Trump’s telephone conversation on Saturday with Ukrainian President Poroshenko, it is clear that it did not contain the strong support for Ukraine Poroshenko must have been looking for.
The conversation took place against the backdrop of intense fighting between the Ukrainian military and the eastern Ukrainian militia around the town of Avdeevka in eastern Ukraine.
The White House is reporting that Trump said to Poroshenko the following
We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border
This comment contains no criticism of Russia, it does not accuse Russia of initiating the fighting, and it makes no reference to “Russian aggression”. Nor does it make any strong statement of support for Ukraine.
This has been the consistent pattern of Donald Trump’s statements to European leaders since he became US President.
Donald Trump has now met with British Prime Theresa May and German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, and he has had telephone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
If the White House readouts of these these conversations are to be believed, in not one of them has he said anything about Russia committing aggression in Ukraine. His most substantive discussion of Ukraine with any European leader was his one with German Chancellor Merkel. Here is the White House’s summary of the conversation
President Trump and Chancellor Merkel today held an extensive telephone conversation covering a range of issues, including NATO, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, relations with Russia, and the Ukraine crisis. Both leaders affirmed the importance of close German-American cooperation to our countries’ security and prosperity and expressed their desire to deepen already close German-American relations in the coming years.
Not only does this summary separate the issue of the “Ukraine crisis” from the question of “relations with Russia” – an idea that totally overturns the Western foreign policy orthodoxy of the last three years – but it lumps the “Ukraine crisis” – supposedly (according to Western leaders) the biggest crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War – with those of the Middle East and North Africa, whilst mentioning it last in a way that seems to give it the least priority.
Contrary to what many are saying, I do not see any significant difference between Trump and other US officials on this issue.
In the hours following President Trump’s conversation with Poroshenko, Vice President Pence – often regarded as an anti-Russia hawk – appeared on ABC News’ “This Week”. Here is how Bloomberg sums up what he said
We’re watching,” Pence said on ABC. “And very troubled by the increased hostilities over the past week in eastern Ukraine.”
Pence noted that Trump spoke about Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 28. He said the question of whether sanctions on Russia remain in place if it continues to violate the cease-fire in Ukraine will depend on Russia’s actions and the opportunity to work together on matters such as defeating Islamic State.
“It just simply all depends on whether or not we see the kind of changes in posture by Russia and the opportunity perhaps to work on common interests
(bold italics added)
Again this is scarcely a resounding denunciation of Russia – such as might once have been expected from Obama administration officials – and it even appears to link the possibility of lifting the sanctions to Russia’s cooperation in fighting the Islamic State.
What of the statement made by US ambassador Nikki Haley to the UN Security Council, which is being widely reported as contradicting Donald Trump’s position, and which is supposed to have contained a stern denunciation of Russia?
In my opinion this interpretation is wrong, and to show why I herewith provide Nikki Haley’s full statement, which I shall then analyse
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Feltman, Under-Secretary-General O’Brien, and Ambassador Apakan for your useful and comprehensive briefings today.
This is my first appearance in this chamber as the Permanent Representative of the United States. It is an immense honor for me to sit behind the United States placard and to follow in the footsteps of so many giants of American diplomacy. It is humbling to be part of a body whose responsibility is nothing less than maintaining international peace and security. I look forward to working closely with each of you on this Council. The United States is determined to push for action. There is no time to waste.
I consider it unfortunate that the occasion of my first appearance here is one in which I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia. It is unfortunate because it is a replay of far too many instances over many years in which United States Representatives have needed to do that. It should not have to be that way. We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.
The sudden increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure. And the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more. This escalation of violence must stop.
The United States stands with the people of Ukraine, who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military intervention. Until Russia and the separatists it supports respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, this crisis will continue.
Eastern Ukraine, of course, is not the only part of the country suffering because of Russia’s aggressive actions. The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine. The basic principle of this United Nations is that states should live side by side in peace.
There is a clear path to restoring peace in eastern Ukraine: full and immediate implementation of the Minsk agreements, which the United States continues to support. For the people in eastern Ukraine, the stakes are high. With each passing day, more people are at risk of freezing to death, or dying from a mortar blast.
The United States calls on Russia and the combined Russian-separatist forces to fulfill their commitments in the Minsk agreements and fully restore and respect the ceasefire. The Minsk agreements require the disengagement of forces and withdrawal of heavy weapons from both sides of the contact line. This is the formula for a sustainable ceasefire. Pulling back forces and taking heavy weapons out of this area will save lives. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Special Monitoring Mission must also be granted full, unfettered access. The presence of OSCE monitors can help calm tensions.
Cooperation on this issue is possible. Earlier this week, both Russia and Ukraine supported this Council’s unanimous call to return to a ceasefire. It was the first time in years that this Council was able to come together on Ukraine. The parties on the ground should heed this signal and hold their fire. The United States expects that those who can influence the groups that are fighting – in particular, Russia – will do everything possible to support an end to this escalation of violence. Thank you.
(bold italics added)
This is a very different statement from the one which might have expected from someone like Samantha Power.
It says that the US wants better relations with Russia. It does not say that Russia or the eastern Ukrainian militia started the latest fighting. It calls for full implementation of the Minsk Accords, which (as everyone knows) Ukraine is not implementing. Lastly it calls for heavy weapons to be removed from “both sides of the contact line”, when everyone knows it was Ukraine’s decision to violate this provision by moving heavy weapons into the buffer zone (which includes Avdeevka) which caused the latest fighting.
As for the criticisms of Russia, not only do these have a ritual quality – with Haley simply repeating what is still official US policy – but she actually says she regrets having to do it. Moreover it is difficult to avoid reading Haley’s comment about her having to do it being “unfortunate because it is a replay of far too many instances over many years in which United States Representatives have needed to do that” as being anything other than a veiled reference to Samantha Power, with the clear implication being that Haley wants to be different from her.
Lest anyone think that I am alone in reading Haley’s statement in this way, I should say that no less a person than Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, who was physically present in the Security Council chamber when Haley read her statement, is of the same view.
Immediately following the UN Security Council meeting on Thursday where Haley read out her statement, Churkin said that he had noted “a tangible change of tone”, and said that he found Haley “friendly enough, with the allowances for the circumstances and the subject.”
Churkin and Haley then met on the following day. Interestingly, it was Haley who went to see Churkin, not the other way round. The report of the meeting provided by the Russian news agency TASS reads as follows
Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin has held the first meeting with his newly-appointed US counterpart Nikki Haley. As the Russian missions’ spokesman Fyodor Strzhizhovsky said, Churkin and Haley agreed to maintain close cooperation in accordance with Moscow’s and Washington’s intentions. “The Russian envoy received Nikki Haley at his residence. Both sides expressed the intention to cooperate tightly within the United Nations in accordance with their respective capitals’ intentions,” he said.
(bold italics added)
The talk about “close” and “tight” cooperation “within the United Nations” suggests discussion about jointly sponsored Resolutions aimed at defeating Jihadi terrorism and ISIS, which is quite clearly the new administration’s priority.
Of course this is all very tentative. The difficulties in the way of a detente between the US and Russia are so great they may prove insurmountable. The opponents of such a detente are legion, and they have not gone away. Besides it is far from clear upon what terms Trump wants such a detente, and whether they are terms the Russians feel able to concede to him.
However it is wrong to say that on this subject the new administration is not speaking with one voice. On the contrary all its senior officials – including of course most importantly President Trump himself – are saying they want a detente with Russia, and all the administration’s statements – including Trump’s in his telephone call with Poroshenko, and Haley’s in her statement to the UN Security Council – suggest the new administration wants to put the Ukrainian crisis behind it so that it can concentrate on the fight against Jihadi terrorism and ISIS, for which it obviously feels it needs Russia’s help.
The US is not as innocent as it may seem, according to President Donald Trump. When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly called Vladimir Putin “a killer,” Trump responded: “We’ve got a lot of killers.”
In an interview to be aired ahead of the Super Bowl later on Sunday, Bill O’Reilly asked if Trump respects Russian President Vladimir Putin, to which the he replied, “I do respect him. Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’ll get along with them.”
Seemingly surprised, O’Reilly goes on to ask him why.
“He is the leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not, and if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS – which is a major fight – and the Islamic terrorism all over the world, that’s a good thing,” Trump answered.
“Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
O’Reilly then challenged Trump, calling the Russian president “a killer.”
Trump shrugged the comment off, saying: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?”
It is not the first time that Trump has made such comments when journalists question his stance regarding the Russian leader.
At the end of 2015, the host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe told Trump that Putin “kills journalists,” to which the unfazed then-presidential candidate replied, “I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.”
“I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader,” Trump added.
At the end of January, Putin and Trump held their first official phone call, which, according to the Kremlin, was “good and constructive.”
“Over the past years, the lack of mutual respect became the main reason for the deterioration of relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added.
Another important thing is that Washington is prepared for dialogue, the spokesman concluded.
“This is what President Putin called for rather consistently but where unfortunately he did not see reciprocity over the past years,” Peskov said.
Earlier in January, however, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized that the first meeting between Putin and Trump may “happen in months to come,” not “in a matter of weeks.”
Peskov also said, “it is maybe the biggest mistake on the part of Western analysts to think that Trump is ‘our man.’ He is an American man.”
Former Deputy Speaker of the Belgian Parliament Lode Vanoost told RT that it is way too early to be overly optimistic about Trump.
“To me, he remains as unpredictable and unreliable as he was before. We didn’t see the full interview yet, and the follow-up questions that came after this very astonishing remark. Basically, what Trump is doing is he is applying the same moral principles to the US as he applies to other countries. That is indeed without precedent in US political culture.”
Also, he expressed concern over forces that could interfere with Trump’s mending ties with Russia.
“If he remains on the path of improving relations with Russia, it could be quite dangerous: my fear is that all conservative governments in the EU, NATO, will create provocations to force him back into line.”
“America First” Means Arising from Zionist Captivity: A New US Embassy “to” Jerusalem Sets a Good Tone
By Douglas Edward Steil | Aletho News | February 5, 2017
One of President Trump’s most popular slogans in the context of key policy goals is “America First”, which necessarily implies that this ideal is not currently – and has not in the recent past – been the case. More importantly, in light of the facts, it signals a direct challenge toward the only foreign entity, together with its domestic supporters, that brazenly demands that its interests to be place ahead of America’s and has repeatedly gotten its way through its lobbying efforts: Israel. Political pundit Patrick Buchanan put it succinctly many years ago when he pointed out that Capitol Hill was Israeli-occupied territory.
By now nearly everyone knows that America’s many wars in the Middle East were not waged for the sake of “oil”, nor which currencies oil might be sold for, but simply to destabilize and ultimately destroy Israel’s perceived adversaries in the region in order to remain the strongest power and expand its territorial ambitions in accordance with the Oded Yinon Plan, formulated in 1982, to achieve the “Greater Israel” envisaged by Zionist fanatics, symbolized by the blue stripes of Israeli national flag, which represent the Nile and Euphrates rivers. Prior to the second US invasion of Iraq in 2003 anti-war demonstrators deceptively waved signs or chanted slogans that said “No War for Oil” even though the US Oil-Lobby publicly opposed the war while the Israel-Lobby, spearheaded by the then ascendant Neo-Con political movement, enthusiastically promoted it.
It is understood that this and subsequent wars, including the ongoing military conflict in Syria, have been a disaster for America and, by extension, Europe. Viewed from a Zionist perspective, however, they are continuing to achieve their intended goal. On the tenth anniversary of the ground incursion into Iraq from Kuwait by the US Army – almost exactly on the hour during the vernal equinox – Puppet Obama duly arrived at the airport near Tel Aviv amid widely televised fanfare, accompanying prime minister Netanyahu for an extended tour on the tarmac, where his entire cabinet of ministers were standing there on that windy and sunny day to personally greet and thank Obama for his servitude.
Nearly two years later, in March 2015, during what must surely have been, thus far, the lowest point in American history since 1776, Buchanan’s observation years before was proven correct in a grandiose way for all to see and hear. Netanyahu appeared before a joint session of Congress to give a rousing speech, which was interrupted by applause 39 times, of which 23 were standing ovations – more than a quarter of the time Netanyahu stood before the podium consisted of applause and jubilation by America’s “elected representatives”, conveying unambiguously that, as far as they are concerned, Israel comes first, not America.
A few days from now, on February 15, Netanyahu is scheduled for an official visit to the White House. There has been much speculation and chatter recently regarding the possible establishment of a US Embassy in Jerusalem. President Trump will have an opportunity to signal to Netanyahu what “America First” means. At the very least he should remain true to the same executive position since Harry Truman’s presidency, which recognizes, as does the United Nations, that no state has sovereignty over Jerusalem, given that the specifics pertaining to this issue remain subject to future negotiations between the parties involved in the dispute. This longstanding executive position was reaffirmed by the US Supreme Court on June 8, 2015 in Zivotofsky v. Kerry (“Jerusalem Passport Case”) and therefore constitutes “settled law”.
President Trump could surprise many by indeed proclaiming his intent to establish a US Embassy to Jerusalem in the heart of Jerusalem (inside the walled old town, ideally as close as possible to the key point where the Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, and Muslim Quarter meet, perhaps at the LaHamin Market or St. Marks Road) while – of course – continuing to maintain the US Embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv. Additionally, so as to demonstrate even-handedness, he should announce plans to also establish a new US Embassy to Palestine in Ramallah, perhaps also a General Consular office in Gaza as well as the eastern part of the West Bank, if their Consular office in western part of Jerusalem were to remain in place. Such a public announcement could be crafted to fit within the 140 available characters of a “Tweet” message and could be timed for release just a few seconds before Trump and Netanyahu were to meet – so that Netanyahu would first learn about it from the press afterwards, on camera. This would be consistent with Israel’s regular announcements of new illegal settlements timed to greet US high officials in the past.
A new US Embassy to Jerusalem would formally extend the Supreme Court decision and thus formally recognize in a highly symbolic way the official “Corpus Separatum ” status of Jerusalem. Such an embassy would not even need to be manned inside; it could be as small as a big high definition screen and a server inside a thick storefront window, advertising an informational web site, but would include at least an armed Marine guard on duty. Presto – with rapid follow-through action after such an announcement Trump will have delivered “in style” on the promise for a new US Embassy in Jerusalem, as other countries will be scrambling to do likewise – after nearly seven long decades of stalling let the serious negotiations finally begin.
This editorial may be freely distributed only in its entirety, with an explicit reference “initially appeared at Aletho News” that includes a direct link or URL to this original site.
BuzzFeed and members of its team have been sued by Russian tech expert Aleksey Gubarev over false accusations contained in an unverified story and a dossier that claimed to expose links between President Trump and the Russian government.
Two lawsuits, filed in the state of Florida and in London, UK, seek to collect financial and reputation damages over fake news reporting contained in BuzzFeed’s January 10 story that has been viewed nearly 6 million times.
The story, based on a 35-page dossier, accused XBT Holdings, owned by Russian tech wiz Aleksey Gubarev, of “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership” in 2016.
To protect his brand from these allegations, which Gubarev called “fake news” in an interview with RT, his team of lawyers filed a defamation suit against Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, in Broward County Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where XBT’s subsidiary Webzilla is headquartered.
“We were shocked to see our good name wrongly included and published in this unsubstantiated report,” a statement by XBT said. “The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla, and Gubarev. The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla, and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier.”
The Florida lawsuit has called the January 10 report “one of the most reckless and irresponsible moments in modern ‘journalism,’” because the publication failed to check the facts.
When it published the dossier, BuzzFeed itself noted that it contained errors and that its claims had not been verified. Yet the report was made public.
“Buzzfeed and Smith published these allegations without having even taken the most basic step of contacting the Plaintiffs to ask if the allegations had any merit,” Florida’s court document reads.
Following the publication of the scandalous report, Donald Trump slammed BuzzFeed’s story a “failing pile of garbage.” The information in the report was “false and fake and never happened,” Trump said.
Moscow called the report a “fabrication” not even worth being discussed, with President Vladimir Putin later saying that authors behind the paper “have no moral scruples.”
On Friday, BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal told McClatchy that they have issued an apology to Gubarev and that they “have redacted Mr. Gubarev’s name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it.”
Besides going after Buzzfeed and its editor-in-chief, Gubarev also decided to sue the alleged author of the report. Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele and his company Orbis Business Intelligence in London were named as defendants in the UK suit.
Following the publications of Steele’s invention, Gubarev “has found his personal and professional reputation in tatters,” XBT pointed out, adding that his family’s security was compromised as well.
In an interview with RT, Gubarev who has not lived in Russia for 15 years, called the report “fake news,” saying that he still does “not understand why our names [are] there and we do not understand a reason for this report in general.” The XBT chief said he and his company “are open for any investigation” to prove the falseness of these claims, and adds that they have “nothing to hide.”
The Mail on Sunday today reveals astonishing evidence that the organisation 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 change.
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, ‘unverified’ data.
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 Pausebuster paper.
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.
In an exclusive interview, Dr Bates accused the lead author of the paper, Thomas Karl, who was until last year director of the NOAA section that produces climate data – the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) – of ‘insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minimised 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 policy’.
Dr Bates was one of two Principal Scientists at NCEI, based in Asheville, North Carolina.
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 Anglia.
NOAA’s 2015 ‘Pausebuster’ paper was based on two new temperature sets of data – one containing measurements of temperatures at the planet’s surface on land, the other at the surface of the seas.
Both datasets were flawed. 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 ‘unstable’.
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 Obama 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. Entitled ‘Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus’, the document said the widely reported ‘pause’ or ‘slowdown’ was a myth.
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 sceptics, because the level of CO2 in the atmosphere had continued to rise.
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 0.113C per decade, the rate from 2000 to 2014 was actually higher, at 0.116C 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 sceptics.
Its impact could be seen in this newspaper last month when, writing to launch his Ladybird book about climate change, Prince Charles stated baldly: ‘There isn’t a pause… it is hard to reject the facts on the basis of the evidence.’
Data changed to make the sea appear warmer
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 0.036C per decade – as stated in version 3 – to 0.099C per decade. Individual measurements in some parts of the globe had increased by about 0.1C 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. Its key 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 by ships. 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 from buoys. 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 0.12C. It also ignored data from satellites that measure the temperature of the lower atmosphere, which are also considered reliable. 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 – ERSSTv5. 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 global warming.
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.
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 0.15C to 0.164C per decade.
In the weeks after the Pausebuster paper was published, Dr Bates conducted a one-man investigation into this. His findings were extraordinary. 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 programme 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 use. 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 different results. 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 co-authors.
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 bombshell. Dr Bates said: ‘I learned that the computer used to process the software had suffered a complete failure.’
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 White House.
Mr Holdren was also a strong advocate of robust measures to curb emissions. 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 2C warmer than in pre-industrial times.
President Obama stressed his Clean Power Plan at the conference, which mandates American power stations to make big emissions cuts.
President Trump has since pledged he will scrap it, and to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
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. I’m hoping 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 climate records.
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 ‘for courageously 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’. He added: ‘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 last night: ‘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 and loose with the figures
He also admitted that the final, approved and ‘operational’ edition of the GHCN land data would be ‘different’ from that used in the paper’.
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’. Jeremy Berg, 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
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 warming.
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.
Has there been an unexpected pause in global warming? If so, is the world less sensitive to carbon dioxide than climate computer models suggest?
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?
Judith Curry has also blogged on the same story.
A look behind the curtain at NOAA’s climate data center.
I read with great irony recently that scientists are “frantically copying U.S. Climate data, fearing it might vanish under Trump” (e.g., Washington Post 13 December 2016). As a climate scientist formerly responsible for NOAA’s climate archive, the most critical issue in archival of climate data is actually scientists who are unwilling to formally archive and document their data. I spent the last decade cajoling climate scientists to archive their data and fully document the datasets. I established a climate data records program that was awarded a U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 2014 for visionary work in the acquisition, production, and preservation of climate data records (CDRs), which accurately describe the Earth’s changing environment.
The most serious example of a climate scientist not archiving or documenting a critical climate dataset was the study of Tom Karl et al. 2015 (hereafter referred to as the Karl study or K15), purporting to show no ‘hiatus’ in global warming in the 2000s (Federal scientists say there never was any global warming “pause”). The study drew criticism from other climate scientists, who disagreed with K15’s conclusion about the ‘hiatus.’ (Making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown). The paper also drew the attention of the Chairman of the House Science Committee, Representative Lamar Smith, who questioned the timing of the report, which was issued just prior to the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan submission to the Paris Climate Conference in 2015.
In the following sections, I provide the details of how Mr. Karl failed to disclose critical information to NOAA, Science Magazine, and Chairman Smith regarding the datasets used in K15. I have extensive documentation that provides independent verification of the story below. I also provide my suggestions for how we might keep such a flagrant manipulation of scientific integrity guidelines and scientific publication standards from happening in the future. Finally, I provide some links to examples of what well documented CDRs look like that readers might contrast and compare with what Mr. Karl has provided.
In 2013, prior to the Karl study, the National Climatic Data Center [NCDC, now the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)] had just adopted much improved processes for formal review of Climate Data Records, a process I formulated [link]. The land temperature dataset used in the Karl study had never been processed through the station adjustment software before, which led me to believe something was amiss. When I pressed the co-authors, they said they had decided not to archive the dataset, but did not defend the decision. One of the co-authors said there were ‘some decisions [he was] not happy with’. The data used in the K15 paper were only made available through a web site, not in digital form, and lacking proper versioning and any notice that they were research and not operational data. I was dumbstruck that Tom Karl, the NCEI Director in charge of NOAA’s climate data archive, would not follow the policy of his own Agency nor the guidelines in Science magazine for dataset archival and documentation.
I questioned another co-author about why they choose to use a 90% confidence threshold for evaluating the statistical significance of surface temperature trends, instead of the standard for significance of 95% — he also expressed reluctance and did not defend the decision. A NOAA NCEI supervisor remarked how it was eye-opening to watch Karl work the co-authors, mostly subtly but sometimes not, pushing choices to emphasize warming. Gradually, in the months after K15 came out, the evidence kept mounting that Tom 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 rush to time the publication of the paper to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy.
Defining an Operational Climate Data Record
For nearly two decades, I’ve advocated that if climate datasets are to be used in important policy decisions, they must be fully documented, subject to software engineering management and improvement processes, and be discoverable and accessible to the public with rigorous information preservation standards. I was able to implement such policies, with the help of many colleagues, through the NOAA Climate Data Record policies (CDR) [link].
Once the CDR program was funded, beginning in 2007, I was able to put together a team and pursue my goals of operational processing of important climate data records emphasizing the processes required to transition research datasets into operations (known as R2O). Figure 1 summarizes the steps required to accomplish this transition in the key elements of software code, documentation, and data.
Figure 1. Research to operations transition process methodology from Bates et al. 2016.
Unfortunately, the NCDC/NCEI surface temperature processing group was split on whether to adopt this process, with scientist Dr. Thomas C. Peterson (a co-author on K15, now retired from NOAA) vigorously opposing it. Tom Karl never required the surface temperature group to use the rigor of the CDR methodology, although a document was prepared identifying what parts of the surface temperature processing had to be improved to qualify as an operational CDR.
Tom Karl liked the maturity matrix so much, he modified the matrix categories so that he could claim a number of NCEI products were “Examples of “Gold” standard NCEI Products (Data Set Maturity Matrix Model Level 6).” See his NCEI overview presentation all NCEI employees [ncei-overview-2015nov-2 ] were told to use, even though there had never been any maturity assessment of any of the products.
NCDC/NCEI surface temperature processing and archival
In the fall of 2012, the monthly temperature products issued by NCDC were incorrect for 3 months in a row [link]. As a result, the press releases and datasets had to be withdrawn and reissued. Dr. Mary Kicza, then the NESDIS Associate Administrator (the parent organization of NCDC/NCEI in NOAA), noted that these repeated errors reflected poorly on NOAA and required NCDC/NCEI to improve its software management processes so that such mistakes would be minimized in the future. Over the next several years, NCDC/NCEI had an incident report conducted to trace these errors and recommend corrective actions.
Following those and other recommendations, NCDN/NCEI began to implement new software management and process management procedures, adopting some of the elements of the CDR R2O process. In 2014 a NCDC/NCEI Science Council was formed to review new science activities and to review and approve new science products for operational release. A draft operational readiness review (ORR) was prepared and used for approval of all operational product releases, which was finalized and formally adopted in January 2015. Along with this process, a contractor who had worked at the CMMI Institute (CMMI, Capability Maturity Model Integration, is a software engineering process level improvement training and appraisal program) was hired to improve software processes, with a focus on improvement and code rejuvenation of the surface temperature processing code, in particular the GHCN-M dataset.
The first NCDC/NCEI surface temperature software to be put through this rejuvenation was the pairwise homogeneity adjustment portion of processing for the GHCN-Mv4 beta release of October 2015. The incident report had found that there were unidentified coding errors in the GHCN-M processing that caused unpredictable results and different results every time code was run.
The generic flow of data used in processing of the NCDC/NCEI global temperature product suite is shown schematically in Figure 2. There are three steps to the processing, and two of the three steps are done separately for the ocean versus land data. Step 1 is the compilation of observations either from ocean sources or land stations. Step 2 involves applying various adjustments to the data, including bias adjustments, and provides as output the adjusted and unadjusted data on a standard grid. Step 3 involves application of a spatial analysis technique (empirical orthogonal teleconnections, EOTs) to merge and smooth the ocean and land surface temperature fields and provide these merged fields as anomaly fields for ocean, land and global temperatures. This is the product used in K15. Rigorous ORR for each of these steps in the global temperature processing began at NCDC in early 2014.Figure 2. Generic data flow for NCDC/NCEI surface temperature products.
In K15, the authors describe that the land surface air temperature dataset included the GHCN-M station data and also the new ISTI (Integrated Surface Temperature Initiative) data that was run through the then operational GHCN-M bias correction and gridding program (i.e., Step 2 of land air temperature processing in Figure 2). They further indicated that this processing and subsequent corrections were ‘essentially the same as those used in GHCN-Monthly version 3’. This may have been the case; however, doing so failed to follow the process that had been initiated to ensure the quality and integrity of datasets at NCDC/NCEI.
The GHCN-M V4 beta was put through an ORR in October 2015; the presentation made it clear that any GHCN-M version using the ISTI dataset should, and would, be called version 4. This is confirmed by parsing the file name actually used on the FTP site for the K15 dataset [link]; NOTE: placing a non-machine readable copy of a dataset on an FTP site does not constitute archiving a dataset). One file is named ‘box.12.adj.4.a.1.20150119’, where ‘adj’ indicates adjusted (passed through step 2 of the land processing) and ‘4.a.1’ means version 4 alpha run 1; the entire name indicating GHCN-M version 4a run 1. That is, the folks who did the processing for K15 and saved the file actually used the correct naming and versioning, but K15 did not disclose this. Clearly labeling the dataset would have indicated this was a highly experimental early GHCN-M version 4 run rather than a routine, operational update. As such, according to NOAA scientific integrity guidelines, it would have required a disclaimer not to use the dataset for routine monitoring.
In August 2014, in response to the continuing software problems with GHCNMv3.2.2 (version of August 2013), the NCDC Science Council was briefed about a proposal to subject the GHCNMv3 software, and particularly the pairwise homogeneity analysis portion, to a rigorous software rejuvenation effort to bring it up to CMMI level 2 standards and resolve the lingering software errors. All software has errors and it is not surprising there were some, but the magnitude of the problem was significant and a rigorous process of software improvement like the one proposed was needed. However, this effort was just beginning when the K15 paper was submitted, and so K15 must have used date with some experimental processing that combined aspects of V3 and V4 with known flaws. The GHCNMv3.X used in K15 did not go through any ORR process, and so what precisely was done is not documented. The ORR package for GHCNMv4 beta (in October 2015) uses the rejuvenated software and also includes two additional quality checks versus version 3.
Which version of the GHCN-M software K15 used is further confounded by the fact that GHCNMv3.3.0, the upgrade from version 3.2.2, only went through an ORR in April 2015 (i.e., after the K15 paper was submitted and revised). The GHCN-Mv3.3.0 ORR presentation demonstrated that the GHCN-M version changes between V3.2.2 and V3.3.0 had impacts on rankings of warmest years and trends. The data flow that was operational in June 2015 is shown in figure 3.
Figure 3. Data flow for surface temperature products described in K15 Science paper. Green indicates operational datasets having passed ORR and archived at time of publication. Red indicates experimental datasets never subject to ORR and never archived.
It is clear that the actual nearly-operational release of GHCN-Mv4 beta is significantly different from the version GHCNM3.X used in K15. Since the version GHCNM3.X never went through any ORR, the resulting dataset was also never archived, and it is virtually impossible to replicate the result in K15.
At the time of the publication of the K15, the final step in processing the NOAAGlobalTempV4 had been approved through an ORR, but not in the K15 configuration. It is significant that the current operational version of NOAAGlobalTempV4 uses GHCN-M V3.3.0 and does not include the ISTI dataset used in the Science paper. The K15 global merged dataset is also not archived nor is it available in machine-readable form. This is why the two boxes in figure 3 are colored red.
The lack of archival of the GHCN-M V3.X and the global merged product is also in violation of Science policy on making data available [link]. This policy states: “Climate data. Data should be archived in the NOAA climate repository or other public databases”. Did Karl et al. disclose to Science Magazine that they would not be following the NOAA archive policy, would not archive the data, and would only provide access to a non-machine readable version only on an FTP server?
For ocean temperatures, the ERSST version 4 is used in the K15 paper and represents a major update from the previous version. The bias correction procedure was changed and this resulted in different SST anomalies and different trends during the last 15+ years relative to ERSST version 3. ERSSTV4 beta, a pre-operational release, was briefed to the NCDC Science Council and approved on 30 September 2014.
The ORR for ERSSTV4, the operational release, took place in the NCDC Science Council on 15 January 2015. The ORR focused on process and questions about some of the controversial scientific choices made in the production of that dataset will be discussed in a separate post. The review went well and there was only one point of discussion on process. One slide in the presentation indicated that operational release was to be delayed to coincide with Karl et al. 2015 Science paper release. Several Science Council members objected to this, noting the K15 paper did not contain any further methodological information—all of that had already been published and thus there was no rationale to delay the dataset release. After discussion, the Science Council voted to approve the ERSSTv4 ORR and recommend immediate release.
The Science Council reported this recommendation to the NCDC Executive Council, the highest NCDC management board. In the NCDC Executive Council meeting, Tom Karl did not approve the release of ERSSTv4, noting that he wanted its release to coincide with the release of the next version of GHCNM (GHCNMv3.3.0) and NOAAGlobalTemp. Those products each went through an ORR at NCDC Science Council on 9 April 2015, and were used in operations in May. The ERSSTv4 dataset, however, was still not released. NCEI used these new analyses, including ERSSTv4, in its operational global analysis even though it was not being operationally archived. The operational version of ERSSTv4 was only released to the public following publication of the K15 paper. The withholding of the operational version of this important update came in the middle of a major ENSO event, thereby depriving the public of an important source of updated information, apparently for the sole purpose of Mr. Karl using the data in his paper before making the data available to the public.
So, in every aspect of the preparation and release of the datasets leading into K15, we find Tom Karl’s thumb on the scale pushing for, and often insisting on, decisions that maximize warming and minimize documentation. I finally decided to document what I had found using the climate data record maturity matrix approach. I did this and sent my concerns to the NCEI Science Council in early February 2016 and asked to be added to the agenda of an upcoming meeting. I was asked to turn my concerns into a more general presentation on requirements for publishing and archiving. Some on the Science Council, particularly the younger scientists, indicated they had not known of the Science requirement to archive data and were not aware of the open data movement. They promised to begin an archive request for the K15 datasets that were not archived; however I have not been able to confirm they have been archived. I later learned that the computer used to process the software had suffered a complete failure, leading to a tongue-in-cheek joke by some who had worked on it that the failure was deliberate to ensure the result could never be replicated.
Where do we go from here?
I have wrestled for a long time about what to do about this incident. I finally decided that there needs to be systemic change both in the operation of government data centers and in scientific publishing, and I have decided to become an advocate for such change. First, Congress should re-introduce and pass the OPEN Government Data Act. The Act states that federal datasets must be archived and made available in machine readable form, neither of which was done by K15. The Act was introduced in the last Congress and the Senate passed it unanimously in the lame duck session, but the House did not. This bodes well for re-introduction and passage in the new Congress.
However, the Act will be toothless without an enforcement mechanism. For that, there should be mandatory, independent certification of federal data centers. As I noted, the scientists working in the trenches would actually welcome this, as the problem has been one of upper management taking advantage of their position to thwart the existing executive orders and a lack of process adopted within Agencies at the upper levels. Only an independent, outside body can provide the needed oversight to ensure Agencies comply with the OPEN Government Data Act.
Similarly, scientific publishers have formed the Coalition on Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences (COPDESS) with a signed statement of commitment to ensure open and documented datasets are part of the publication process. Unfortunately, they, too, lack any standard checklist that peer reviewers and editors can use to ensure the statement of commitment is actually enforced. In this case, and for assessing archives, I would advocate a metric such as the data maturity model that I and colleagues have developed. This model has now been adopted and adapted by several different groups, applied to hundreds of datasets across the geophysical sciences, and has been found useful for ensuring information preservation, discovery, and accessibility.
Finally, there needs to be a renewed effort by scientists and scientific societies to provide training and conduct more meetings on ethics. Ethics needs to be a regular topic at major scientific meetings, in graduate classrooms, and in continuing professional education. Respectful discussion of different points of view should be encouraged. Fortunately, there is initial progress to report here, as scientific societies are now coming to grips with the need for discussion of and guidelines for scientific ethics.
There is much to do in each of these areas. Although I have retired from the federal government, I have not retired from being a scientist. I now have the luxury of spending more time on these things that I am most passionate about. I also appreciate the opportunity to contribute to Climate Etc. and work with my colleague and friend Judy on these important issues.
A couple of examples of how the public can find and use CDR operational products, and what is lacking in a non-operational and non-archived product
- NOAA CDR of total solar irradiance – this is the highest level quality. Start at web site – https://data.nodc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/iso?id=gov.noaa.ncdc:C00828
Here you will see a fully documented CDR. At the top, we have the general description and how to cite the data. Then below, you have a set of tabs with extensive information. Click each tab to see how it’s done. Note, for example, that in ‘documentation’ you have choices to get the general documentation, processing documents including source code, data flow diagram, and the algorithm theoretical basis document ATBD which includes all the info about how the product is generated, and then associated resources. This also includes a permanent digital object identifier (doi) to point uniquely to this dataset.
- NOAA CDR of mean layer temperature – RSS – one generation behind in documentation but still quite good – https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdr/fundamental/mean-layer-temperature-rss
Here on the left you will find the documents again that are required to pass the CDR operations and archival. Even though it’s a slight cut below TSI in example 1, a user has all they need to use and understand this.
- The Karl hiatus paper can be found on NCEI here – https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/recent-global-surface-warming-hiatus
If you follow the quick link ‘Download the Data via FTP’ you go here – ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/scpub201506/
The contents of this FTP site were entered into the NCEI archive following my complaint to the NCEI Science Council. However, the artifacts for full archival of an operational CDR are not included, so this is not compliant with archival standards.
John Bates received his Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986. Post Ph.D., he spent his entire career at NOAA, until his retirement in 2016. He spent the last 14 years of his career at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (now NCEI) as a Principal Scientist, where he served as a Supervisory Meteorologist until 2012.
Dr. Bates’ technical expertise lies in atmospheric sciences, and his interests include satellite observations of the global water and energy cycle, air-sea interactions, and climate variability. His most highly cited papers are in observational studies of long term variability and trends in atmospheric water vapor and clouds.
NOAA Administrator’s Award 2004 for “outstanding administration and leadership in developing a new division to meet the challenges to NOAA in the area of climate applications related to remotely sensed data”. He was awarded a U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 2014 for visionary work in the acquisition, production, and preservation of climate data records (CDRs). He has held elected positions at the American Geophysical Union (AGU), including Member of the AGU Council and Member of the AGU Board. He has played a leadership role in data management for the AGU.
He is currently President of John Bates Consulting Inc., which puts his recent experience and leadership in data management to use in helping clients improve data management to improve their preservation, discovery, and exploitation of their and others data. He has developed and applied techniques for assessing both organizational and individual data management and applications. These techniques help identify how data can be managed more cost effectively and discovered and applied by more users.
David Rose in the Mail on Sunday
Here are the comments that I provided to David Rose, some of which were included in his article:
Here is what I think the broader implications are. Following ClimateGate, I made a public plea for greater transparency in climate data sets, including documentation. In the U.S., John Bates has led the charge in developing these data standards and implementing them. So it is very disturbing to see the institution that is the main U.S. custodian of climate data treat this issue so cavalierly, violating its own policy. The other concern that I raised following ClimateGate was overconfidence and inadequate assessments of uncertainty. Large adjustments to the raw data, and substantial changes in successive data set versions, imply substantial uncertainties. The magnitude of these uncertainties influences how we interpret observed temperature trends, ‘warmest year’ claims, and how we interpret differences between observations and climate model simulations. I also raised concerns about bias; here we apparently see Tom Karl’s thumb on the scale in terms of the methodologies and procedures used in this publication.
Apart from the above issues, how much difference do these issues make to our overall understanding of global temperature change? All of the global surface temperature data sets employ NOAA’s GHCN land surface temperatures. The NASA GISS data set also employs the ERSST datasets for ocean surface temperatures. There are global surface temperature datasets, such as Berkeley Earth and HadCRUT that are relatively independent of the NOAA data sets, that agree qualitatively with the new NOAA data set. However, there remain large, unexplained regional discrepancies between the NOAA land surface temperatures and the raw data. Further, there are some very large uncertainties in ocean sea surface temperatures, even in recent decades. Efforts by the global numerical weather prediction centers to produce global reanalyses such as the European Copernicus effort is probably the best way forward for the most recent decades.
Regarding uncertainty, ‘warmest year’, etc. there is a good article in the WSJ : Change would be healthy at U.S. climate agencies (hockeyshtick has reproduced the full article).
I also found this recent essay in phys.org to be very germane: Certainty in complex scientific research an unachievable goal. Researchers do a good job of estimating the size of errors in measurements but underestimate chance of large errors.
I have known John Bates for about 25 years, and he served on the Ph.D. committees of two of my graduate students. There is no one, anywhere, that is a greater champion for data integrity and transparency.
When I started Climate Etc., John was one of the few climate scientists that contacted me, sharing concerns about various ethical issues in our field.
Shortly after publication of K15, John and I began discussing our concerns about the paper. I encouraged him to come forward publicly with his concerns. Instead, he opted to try to work within the NOAA system to address the issues –to little effect. Upon his retirement from NOAA in November 2016, he decided to go public with his concerns.
He submitted an earlier, shorter version of this essay to the Washington Post, in response to the 13 December article (climate scientists frantically copying data). The WaPo rejected his op-ed, so he decided to publish at Climate Etc.
In the meantime, David Rose contacted me about a month ago, saying he would be in Atlanta covering a story about a person unjustly imprisoned [link]. He had an extra day in Atlanta, and wanted to get together. I told him I wasn’t in Atlanta, but put him in contact with John Bates. David Rose and his editor were excited about what John had to say.
I have to wonder how this would have played out if we had issued a press release in the U.S., or if this story was given to pretty much any U.S. journalist working for the mainstream media. Under the Obama administration, I suspect that it would have been very difficult for this story to get any traction. Under the Trump administration, I have every confidence that this will be investigated (but still not sure how the MSM will react).
Well, it will be interesting to see how this story evolves, and most importantly, what policies can be put in place to prevent something like this from happening again.
I will have another post on this topic in a few days.
Being retired sure is liberating . . .
Iran has confirmed the discovery of 15 billion barrels of new in-place oil reserves, but a top official says huge investments and state-of-the-art technology are required to exploit those reserves.
Ali Kardor, the managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), was quoted by domestic media as saying that around 2 billion barrels of the newly-discovered reserves were “recoverable”.
Kardor added that around 1.8 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of in-place reserves of natural gas – around half of which he said were recoverable – had also been discovered. However, he did not specify when and where the new discoveries had been made.
Meanwhile, NIOC Director for Corporate Planning Affairs Karim Zobeidi said the overall volume of Iran’s oil reserves stood at 771.53 billion barrels, of which around 102 billion barrels would be recoverable at a rate of 24.6 percent.
Zobeidi added that Iran’s in-place reserves of natural gas stand at 55 tcm of which 33 tcm could be recovered at a rate of around 70 percent.
The NIOC chief was further quoted by the Persian-language newspaper Iran as saying that a new round of tenders – scheduled for the next few weeks – would pave the ground for international energy companies to help develop the country’s oil and gas reserves.
Kardor also said that Iran’s production of high-quality oil would reach four million barrels per day (mb/d) before April – what could be a landmark success for the country after the sanctions that had kept production a little above 2 mb/d were lifted in January 2016.