Inspector General Finds NOAA Climategate Emails Warranted “Further Investigation”

As usual, the mainstream media reads and reports only the summary page and so assumed NOAA is cleared of all wrongdoing. But there is a lot more to this story. And it isn’t over yet.

Senator Inhofe Press Release (source here)

Washington, D.C.–Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the following findings from the investigation by the Commerce Department’s Inspector General on emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) related to the “climategate” scandal.

“I want to thank the Inspector General for conducting a thorough, objective, and balanced investigation,” Inhofe said. “NOAA is one of the nation’s leading scientific organizations. Unfortunately, in reading past the executive summary, this report shows that some NOAA employees potentially violated federal contract law and engaged in data manipulation. It also appears that one senior NOAA employee possibly thwarted the release of important federal scientific information for the public to assess and analyze. Her justification for blocking the release was contradicted by two career attorneys in the Office of General Counsel. This is no doubt a serious matter that deserves further investigation.

Also, the IG recommended that certain NOAA-related emails ‘warrant further investigation,’ so I will be following up to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent according to federal law, and that the public will get access to the science NOAA produces.”

Highlights from the IG Report

Emails ‘Warrant Further Investigation’

“We found eight emails which, in our judgment, warranted further examination to clarify any possible issues involving the scientific integrity of particular NOAA scientists or NOAA’s data. As a result, we conducted interviews with the relevant NOAA scientists regarding these eight emails, and have summarized their responses and explanations in the enclosure.”

Potential Breach of NOAA Contracting

“In addition to the foregoing, we also found two other emails that raised questions, one regarding a 2002 contract NOAA awarded to the CRU…”

“This email, dated June 24, 2003, captioned ‘NOAA Funding,’ was sent by a visiting fellow at CRU, a NOAA contractor, to another researcher (affiliated with a research institution in Vietnam) stating the following:

‘NOAA want[s] to give us more money for the El Nino work with IGCN [Indochina Global Change Network). How much do we have left from the last budget? I reckon most has been spent but we need to show some left to cover the costs of the trip [name omitted] didn’t make and also thec fees/equipment/computer money we haven’t spent otherwise NOAA will be suspicious.’

“Auditing NOAA’s contracting with CRU was not within the scope of our inquiry, but in light of these circumstances it is important for NOAA to be assured that CRU fully complied with the applicable U.S. contracting rules and requirements. Moreover, NOAA could not tell us the universe of climate-related contracts it has issued over the past ten years to parties and institutions such as CRU.” [Emphasis added]

NOAA Administrator’s Congressional Testimony

Dr. Lubchenco’s testimony before the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming: “The [CRU] emails really do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus and the independent scientific analyses of thousands of scientists around the world that tell us that the earth is warming and that the warming is largely a result of human activities.”

“Dr. Lubchenco told us she could not be sure whether she had read any of the CRU emails or received a briefing from her staff on the results of NOAA’s CRU email review prior to testifying before the House Select Committee.” [Emphasis added]

Thwarting FOIA

“The Co-Chair of the IPCC AR4 WG1, who was the only NOAA scientist informed of any of the aforementioned FOIA requests, told us that she did not conduct a ‘comprehensive search’ for and forward potentially responsive documents for agency processing. This was based, in part, on her understanding that her IPCC-related work product was the property of the IPCC, due to the confidentiality provisions contained in many of the documents. In addition, she reportedly received verbal guidance from her supervisor and a NOAA OGC attorney that the IPCC-related documents she had created and/or obtained while on “detail” assignment to the IPCC did not constitute NOAA records.” [Emphasis added]

“We interviewed the two NOAA OGC attorneys whom the Co-Chair and her supervisor referenced during their interviews with us to determine what, if any, advice the attorneys provided to these individuals. Both attorneys specifically told us that they had not advised the Co-Chair or her supervisor on this matter at the time NOAA received the FOIA requests referenced herein. One attorney said that he never spoke to the Co-Chair about that issue, while the second attorney told us that he was consulted only after NOAA had already responded to the FOIA requesters that it had no responsive documents.” [Emphasis added]

“Based on our interviews of the two NOAA OGC attorneys, we followed-up with the Co-Chair and her supervisor, both of whom again told us that their handling of the aforementioned FOIA requests was based on advice they had received from these two specific attorneys. We requested from the Co-Chair and her supervisor documentation of any discussions with the NOAA OGC attorneys on this matter, which they were unable to provide. As such, we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts.” [Emphasis added]

Questions about ‘Objectivity’

“Both the Chief Scientist and the creator of the image told us it was meant to bring some levity to the constant criticism that they and their fellow climate scientists were facing at the time from climate skeptics.’ Notwithstanding their rationale, such an image could foster an adverse appearance about the scientists’ objectivity, and at least one internet blog questioned the propriety of the image. While none of the senior NOAA officials we interviewed said they were aware of the referenced email and the attached picture before we interviewed them, Dr. Lubchenco told us that it was in bad taste.’ According to NOAA, both scientists, who acknowledged that the image was inappropriate, have since been counseled by their respective supervisors.” [Emphasis added]

###

=================================================================

Here’s the image in question, created by Dr. Thomas C. Peterson of NCDC:

In case you don’t recognize the people being spoofed, they are top left, Dr. John Christy, Dr. Roger Pielke Senior, Dr. Pat Michaels, Dr. Richard Lindzen, bottom left: Senator Inhofe, and Dr. Fred Singer.

For much more detail on the Chief Scientist, the attorneys and the FOIA requests see Climate Audit post (Solomon’s Divergence Problem). Please add comments to the Hill blog and tell the author and told you so commenters of the real story. See more today about how NOAA Misrepresented Inspector General report.

Also see “Solomon’s Divergence Problem” at Climate Audit

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41 Responses to Inspector General Finds NOAA Climategate Emails Warranted “Further Investigation”

  1. pdtillman says:

    Andy Revkin at DotEarth (NY Times) buys into most of NOAA’s spin at
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/slim-pickings-for-climate-science-critics-in-inspector-general-report/

    I’ve added a comment suggesting he read the CA stories more closely.

    Cheers — Pete Tillman

  2. Al Gored says:

    Coincidentally, I just read this from a Presidentially approved information source renowned for its accuracy and objectivity:

    Climategate’ Investigation Clears U.S. Scientists

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/24/climategate-investigation_1_n_827820.html

    Is “sarc” really necessary here?

  3. pat says:

    Expect him to be fired like all the others. In this administration, honesty and brains are a disadvantage for a pension.

  4. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Down Under, in Oz, there is a determined attempt to have the equivalent of the IG, being the Federal Auditor-General, conduct an audit of the Bureau of Meteorology temperature record for the last 100+ years.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2011/02/announcing-a-formal-request-for-the-auditor-general-to-audit-the-australian-bom/

    It would seem prudent to confirm independently that temperatures were indeed changing by the amount stated. I’m fairly sure that managers of a proposed large industrial project would seek a second opinion on critical data.

    In the climate change arena, there is an awkard, but real, connection between rate of temperature change and rate of proposed spending to “combat” it. So, it’s appropriate ground for audit.

    Please consider supporting it if you are well connected to decision makers.

  5. J. Felton says:

    [snip - let's not play word games with people names - Anthony]

  6. steven mosher says:

    well, The way I read it NOAA is going to have to look for the documents I requested and send them to me. we will see.

    Write Imhoff

  7. tokyoboy says:

    I feel with pleasure the US is recovering its sanity these months.

  8. AusieDan says:

    Geoff Sherrington
    Hi – I requested the AG investigate BOM.
    They replied promptly, saying they had a busy schedule but will look at the possibility of putting it into their schedule for 2011-2012.
    I am holding my breath expectantly.

  9. AusieDan says:

    Geoff S.
    I feel the problem is not the BOM raw data but their “high quality” value added set.
    They use the latter to prepare their very pretty (colourful) charts,
    showing that Aus is going to hell in a basket (getting over heated).
    Anthony has my email address.
    I can give you more detail if needed.

    I suspect that any audit would be done on the raw data.
    The value added set requires a considerable understanding of statistics.
    THe AG staff may not be up to that.
    Ryan O, Steve MnIntyre etc may be needed.

    I know enough stats to understand how they do it,
    more or less,
    but not enough to understand if it is correct.
    Except for one vital aspect which to me stands out like a sore thumb.

  10. John Kehr says:

    I am still not convinced that anything will happen from this. The money for the trip is likely the only thing that could cause trouble. Firing government employees takess a lot and I don’t see it happening.

    Having a supervisor (who is likely a warmist) discuss bad behavior about this will accomplish exactly nothing. The climate itself will end the debate, not some weak political IG that can only respond in a specific scope.

  11. jason says:

    So do we know which eight emails?

  12. Steve C says:

    A follow up to Al Gored’s post above (although the Daily Mail isn’t quite as exalted as HuffPo, it’s read by a lot of people in the UK): “Climate change scientists accused of altering data cleared of wrongdoing in latest probe” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1360490/Climate-change-scientists-accused-altering-data-cleared.html)

    The echo chamber still echoes.

  13. John Marshall says:

    These investigations in the US and Australia might drive some objective investigation here in the UK into CRU and Hadley/MO. But don’t hold your breath.

  14. EFS_Junior says:

    [snip - I'm not going to take such abuse from you Mr. Sargent. I've added an "ed" for you pedantic flaming whiners like yourself, but the right way is to simply ask nicely. The headline was taken from Inhofe's press release, which some people just can't stand due to the source. Take a 48 hour time out from WUWT for this abusive comment, all other comments from you will be moderated until Monday- Anthony]

  15. Joseph says:

    The central problem here is that the “scientists” in question work for the government. Now you ask the government to investigate the actions of said “scientists” in a matter in which they were furthering the government’s wishes, hopes, and agenda. It would be highly unlikely that such an investigation could be “fair, thorough, and unbiased”.

    In fact, the funding of modern science by large governments is the very thing that has led to the perversion of both science and the Universities as it has led to a mixture of science, politics, and activism. A volatile mixture, no?

    (by the way; where is the “preview” button?)

  16. Thirsty says:

    Scientific American jumped on the bandwagon too:

    “NOAA scientists cleared in climate email review

    U.S. officials on Thursday cleared scientists of charges that they manipulated data about climate change in e-mails that were stolen from a British university in 2009, triggering a climate scandal.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=noaa-scientists-cleared-in-climate

  17. Ken Harvey says:

    Joseph says:

    “In fact, the funding of modern science by large governments is the very thing that has led to the perversion of both science and the Universities as it has led to a mixture of science, politics, and activism.”

    That’s pretty well what Dwight Eisenhower so perceptively warned us about all of those
    years ago.

  18. Charles P says:

    One small correction: the image caption should read as follows

    top left, Dr. John Christy, the last surviving polar bear , Dr. Roger Pielke Senior, Dr. Pat Michaels, Dr. Richard Lindzen, bottom left: Senator Inhofe, and Dr. Fred Singer.

  19. Noelle says:

    Anthony,

    The title of your post here is “Inspector General Finds ‘NOAA Climategate Emails Warrant Further Investigation’”

    These are the ten emails the IG analyzed and reported on. Which ones warrant further investigation?

    1140039406
    1169653761
    1182255717
    1177890796
    1212073451
    1226451442
    1226959467
    1254850534
    1056478635
    1171901402

  20. thessler says:

    I’m going to do a search for House of Representative questioning of government climate scientists (in the past few months). Has this happened? Is there a link?

  21. Smokey says:

    EFS_junior,

    Do you like the Kool Aid you’re slurping? “You Lie!” was shouted by Joe Wilson at President Obama, not at Sen. Inhofe. Why do ‘you lie’ in your comment?

    Joe Wilson would certainly support Senator Inhofe, who is anything but a liar – unlike the serial fibber Obama and an unnamed commentator who attempts to re-write history.

  22. toto says:

    So do we know which eight emails?

    Yes. They’re mentioned (with codes), quoted and explained in the report.

    As to how much malfeasance they uncovered, well… Why do you think Anthony has to devote a whole paragraph (with bold font) to this silly cartoon?

  23. dcx2 says:

    Smokey,

    I believe EFS_Junior was making the point that Sen. Inhofe was lying.

    Sen. Inhofe (and Anthony Watts) quoted the IG report out of context so as to make the allegation that there is yet to be an investigation into those eight emails. EFS_Junior supplied the rest of the context, providing the evidence to support the claim that Sen. Inhofe was lying. Funny that such evidence is in the very next sentence; almost as if those taking it out of context did so in order to deliberately distort its nature.

    I came to this blog seriously hoping that there was an honest climate skeptic. How disappointing to be shown that its just the same old propaganda with less harsh rhetoric.

  24. Smokey says:

    dcx2,

    Sorry, but EFS attempted to make the unsupported claim that Wilson would say “You lie” to Inhofe. I very much doubt that. But feel free to email Joe Wilson and ask him. If he says Inhofe lied, I will retract. But I suspect that EFS overreached; it is Obama who is the serial liar, not Sen Inhofe.

    And there has never been a genuine investigation into the emails. The official tapdancing to avoid asking any hard questions, and the refusal to have an adversarial investigation with critics involved is disgusting. They are just trying to cover their behinds, and everyone knows it. The “same old propaganda” is entirely on the side of the alarmist clique and their enablers.

  25. Noelle says:

    dcx2,

    I second your conclusion about being disappointed here.

    I provided a list of the eight (actually ten, if you include the two about contracting and the cartoon) emails referenced in the report. In every case, the IG explains the findings specific to the email. I’ve asked Anthony (message earlier) which “NOAA Climategate Emails Warrant Further Investigation” (the headline of this post). I see nothing in the IG report, which I have read completely, that supports the assertion stated in the headline.

    I hope Anthony will elaborate with more details.

  26. Jim Bennett says:

    I think that your title is somewhat misleading here, Anthony. Commenters are correct in asserting that the IG did some “further investigation” themselves. And Senator Inhofe’s press release is either misleading or stupid or both. Now, as to whether or not more investigation needs to be done – that is another thing altogether.
    NOAA and their MSM and AGW supporters are spinning this as if there was supposed to be some smoking gun in the CRU e-mails which showed conscious and deliberate manipulation of temp data by NOAA scientists. In the absence of such a finding, they rejoice and say, “Exonerated again!”
    But the real issue here (as noted on CA) is the handling of the FOI request by Ms. Solomon. She and her supervisor come off in this report really badly. She has got some serious ‘splainin’ to do. The logical conclusions of her actions are:
    She tried to shove the request under the rug.
    When she was forced to deal with it, she then claimed that she didn’t have to release the e-mails because they were IPCC, not NOAA, property.
    She then claimed that the basis for that decision was advice that she got from the NOAA OGC attorney.
    She also used as justification the statement that she was detailed (assigned to) the IPCC.
    Whoopsie, the last three claims are all false based on the evidence. In addition, other scientists who were assigned to work on AR4 for the IPCC within NOAA fully expected everything they did to be covered by NOAA, not IPCC. So, Ms. Solomon, time to run the gauntlet…

  27. Vince Causey says:

    dcx2

    “I believe EFS_Junior was making the point that Sen. Inhofe was lying.”

    I presume you are referring to EFS’s considered remark “Nowhere does the IG report state ‘warrents[sic] further investigation’ as is claimed by James “I LIED!” Inhofe.”

    As far as I can see, junior’s getting himself all in a flap over Inhofe saying ‘warrants’ instead of ‘warranted.’ So when you then add “I came to this blog seriously hoping that there was an honest climate skeptic,” I would suggest that you came here with the intent to look for any evidence, no matter how semantic, pointless or ridiculous, to reinforce your view that all sceptics are ‘dishonest.’

  28. johnmcguire says:

    In my 62 years I’ve found that in many ways I’m the average comman man. Maybe a little more articulate than some and probably a little bit bolder but on the whole I find my veiws reflected in the veiws of most other people I speak with. I have not been satisfied as to the science, or the integrity of the people involved in the science promoting AGW and as I regularly poll others for their opinions on these and other subjects I find it accurate to state that we need further investigation into the integrity of those involved in promoting AGW. Thank you Anthony for providing a forum that allows the commoner to speak to the elite.

  29. DD More says:

    In regards to “Further Investigation” please see the last paragraph concerning (CRU email #1056478635)

    Accordingly, we recommend that NOAA examine this contract – along with any other contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements awarded to CRU- to verify conformance with all terms and specifications, and to identify any irregularities, and provide us the results of its review.

    So further investigation is called for.

    And the truth of this study is the very last line.

    Our inquiry did not include any assessment of the validity and reliability of NOAA’s or any other entity’s climate science research.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    So, basically, it took misappropriation of funds to finally get someone’s attention. The email about hiding unspent money, in and of itself, clearly demonstrates these people have no ethics. Their actions are indefensible.

  31. Noelle says:

    Jim Bennett wrote:

    “But the real issue here is the handling of the FOI request. [Solomon] and her supervisor come off in this report really badly. She has got some serious ‘splainin’ to do. … She then claimed that the basis for that decision was advice that she got from the NOAA OGC attorney.”

    The IG report writes:

    “Based on our interviews of the two NOAA OGC attorneys, we followed-up with the Co-Chair and her supervisor, both of whom again told us that their handling of the aforementioned FOIA requests was based on advice they had received from these two specific attorneys. We requested from the Co-Chair and her supervisor documentation of any discussions with the NOAA OGC attorneys on this matter, which they were unable to provide. As such, we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts.” (emphasis added)

    Or, Jim, the attorneys are wrong and have got some “serious ‘splainin’ to do.” The IG clearly has made so specific finding as to which account represents the truth.

  32. EFS_Junior says:

    Slight correction to my last post (if it’s even posted), the IG report is actually quoted as “warranted further examination” (page 7) nowhere in the IG report is there a statement ‘warrents further investigation’ and nowhere in the IG report is there a statement “NOAA Climategate Emails Warranted Further Investigation”.

    It looks very bad when people go around making up headline quotes, as it were.

    REPLY: Mr. Sargent It also looks very bad when you shout things like “You lie” when it is simply a typo. If you’ll look on the Inhofe page and in the text I posted above, you’ll see this paragraph. Note bold.

    “Also, the IG recommended that certain NOAA-related emails ‘warrant further investigation,’ so I will be following up to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent according to federal law, and that the public will get access to the science NOAA produces.”

    That’s where the headline came from.

    So since you’ve been so rude and accusatory over a simple typo, you’ve earned yourself a timeout of 48 hours. Next time, learn to use some manners when you want to point out a problem. As you can see I fixed the typo, and none of the angry accusatory rhetoric was needed. – Anthony

  33. Jim Bennett says:

    Noelle,
    The fact that she has no documentation of her interaction with the attorneys on this matter probably indicates that she is the one who is going to take the heat on this. If you were in her shoes, would you just ask the question and not have any documentation of the reply? Besides, it makes no difference whether she (and her supervisor) are lying or whether the attorneys are lying. The end result from an NOAA perspective would be to (once again) try to limit access to information as much as possible. From a PR perspective, it just makes them look like they are always trying to hide something. And that’s not good.

  34. Noelle says:

    Jim Bennett wrote:

    “it makes no difference whether she (and her supervisor) are lying or whether the attorneys are lying.”

    Why do you assume someone is lying?

  35. Tony says:

    tokyoboy says:
    I feel with pleasure the US is recovering its sanity these months.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s only temporary.

  36. pkatt says:

    http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/correspondence/2011.02.18_IG_to_Inhofe.pdf

    That is a link to the full report. It is most unremarkable as most of the good questions were answered with .. It wasn’t mine, I don’t know the intent. Pretty sad actually .. last line of the whole thing is : Our inquiry did not include any assessment of the validity and reliability of NOAA’s or any other entity’s climate science research.

    But they did get a bad tongue lashing for their dealing with info requests.

  37. Jim Pettit says:

    [Snip. Take your "denialist" name-calling elsewhere. It violates site Policy. ~dbs, mod.]

  38. rbateman says:

    Will any of this result in an attempt to locate the original records claimed lost by Dr. Phil Jones?
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it does.

  39. It's always Marcia, Marcia says:

    Not all of America was made aware of ClimateGate in November of 2009. This investigation could put it back in the news. If the public is made more aware of what the emails said it will be the end of global warming in America.

  40. David Falkner says:

    Yeah, that email was a big red flag. If they are in a culture where playing with the fund accounts is okay, what’s putting your thumb on the scale every now and then? Not that anything is readily explained by that email, but it sure leaves way more questions than it answers (0).

  41. Dan Olner says:

    Just repeating a point already made: having read the report, it says:

    “In our own review of all 1,073 CRU emails, we found eight emails which, in our judgment, warranted further examination to clarify any possible issues involving the scientific integrity of particular NOAA scientists or NOAA’s data. As a result, we conducted interviews with the relevant NOAA scientists regarding these eight emails, and have summarized their responses and explanations below:…”

    – which it then goes on to examine. It’s a short report –

    http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/reports/2011/001688.html

    Inhofe says he’s going to follow up to investigate those emails… but they have been. In the report. What am I missing here? In the words of Father Dougal Mcguire, I’m hugely confused.

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