NIWA admits deleting vital climate files

a destroyed hard disk drive

NIWA have admitted that vital original material used to prepare the official New Zealand temperature records was deleted. They do not say when it happened, but it means that, in contravention of time-honoured principles of good science, NIWA is no longer able to verify the work done by Dr Jim Salinger.

The news came in an answer to a written parliamentary question from ACT and comes as NIWA is under pressure to justify the so-called “seven-station” time series that forms the centrepiece of their evidence of long-term warming.

The Climate Conversation Group (CCG), in association with the NZ Climate Science Coalition (CSC), published a report last November into apparent irregularities in the New Zealand temperature record.

Significant warming trend

Our report announced that adjustments had been made to the raw temperature readings, but the changes weren’t disclosed and they weren’t even mentioned on NIWA’s web site. The changes skewed the raw temperature readings to show warming. That is, the raw readings had no trend — they were neither cooling nor warming. After the adjustments were applied, however, there was a significant warming trend, according to NIWA, of 0.92°C between 1909 and 2008.

NIWA have admitted making the adjustments, they have recently released the adjustments, but they have still not disclosed why they were were made or scientifically justified them. Except for Hokitika, NIWA simply can’t justify making the changes.

The Coalition acknowledges that good reasons can exist to adjust raw temperatures. But that principle alone is insufficient to judge whether any changes are justified. An independent observer must know what changes were actually applied and the reasons they were considered necessary. Only then can they judge whether the changes were scientifically sound.

Open disclosure top priority

Considering the importance placed on temperature records around the world, and in the light of scare stories about the approaching disaster from man-made global warming, many Kiwis find it unacceptable that we don’t have clear and open disclosure of every aspect of the temperature record. It ought to be the first priority of the government agency charged with its caretaking.

The Coalition considers it vital that each of the adjustments should be scientifically justified. As a first step towards this, we first asked NIWA last November to tell us what the adjustments were, why they were made (the scientific justification) and when they were applied.

Additionally, we were interested to know why, out of more than 200 weather stations, they chose only seven, and we’ve asked them to justify their choice.

Right now, they seem to be in a mad scramble to replicate and justify the adjustments they made to the temperature record. They have recently published all the numerical information on their web site, together with a detailed description of why the changes were made at one station, Hokitika.

What an excuse

That is good and we have thanked them for that information. We have not completed our investigation of it.

The Hon Wayne Mapp confesses that NIWA lost the worksheets because they were “held on a superceded [sic] computer system.” For that, we can read: “the hard drive was sold or destroyed without being backed up.” What an excuse!

This is an astounding admission. They haven’t lost the climate data, as happened at the CRU at the University of East Anglia, but the loss of Salinger’s worksheets is professionally just as lax.

When was it lost? How did it come to be lost? Who is taking responsibility for it? Whose head will roll? A Crown Research Institute is simply not permitted to “lose” public information. They are charged under the legislation with preserving and looking after it. This is a gross dereliction of duty.

There’s more to be said about the parliamentary answers. Stay tuned.

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