NIWA breaks promises, should apologise

Parliament Buildings through an onion

We’re working through several answers from the Hon Wayne Mapp, Minister of Research, Science and Technology, concerning questions posed by ACT about the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).


One question concerns the production of what we have referred to as the Schedule of Adjustments (SOA). It’s simply a statement of what changes were made to the raw temperature readings, why and when, in order to record the scientific justification for them.

The Climate Conversation Group (CCG) and the NZ Climate Science Coalition (CSC) have been asking NIWA since November to disclose the SOA. Privately, they have told us they are “reconstructing” the SOA, and, indeed, on February 9, they quietly posted a list of all the adjustments to the seven-station series together with a discussion of the reasons for Hokitika. Well done, them.

On January 30, Eloise Gibson wrote in the NZ Herald:

The country’s climate forecaster is bowing to public pressure and putting all of its temperature data and calculations on the internet because of mistrust fuelled by errors overseas.

Principal climate scientist James Renwick said Niwa had decided to bare all because “if we don’t we appear to be hiding something”.

Two people in Niwa’s climate group have prepared a full set of documents including all the data from climate stations and a full explanation of the adjustments made to records, which should be available online in about a week.

The next day, we said:

In the NZ Herald yesterday morning came news that NIWA is “putting all of its temperature data and calculations on the internet”.

It’s been five weeks since the NZCSC request to NIWA’s CEO, John Morgan, under the Official Information Act; it’s only two months since we published our study critical of the handling of the NZ temperature record; and it is decades since Dr Vincent Gray, Dr Warwick Hughes, Dr Jim Hessell and others started asking Dr Jim Salinger for his data and calculations.

About a week later they posted the Hokitika information. It was produced by Principal Climate Scientist Dr Brett Mullan, and a very good analysis it was, very clear and well researched.

NIWA breaks a promise

Now, it appears that’s all we’re getting! They’ve sold us short. They haven’t kept their promise. But without acknowledging they’ve broken their promise to the nation, they announce they are “undertaking a review” of the seven-station series. Is that what they call it? What happened to the “reconstruction”, which patently advertises the fact they have lost something? Have the spin-doctors told them the public would be better pleased to hear of a “review” instead of a mistake?

Well, we haven’t forgotten, and whoever reads this will hear of it: NIWA have broken their promise to reconstruct the Schedule of Adjustments for the seven-station series by about February 9 and tried to paper it over with sweet-sounding words like “review” and “next financial year”.

From our analysis of Salinger’s thesis, other papers and their report on Hokitika, we know they are not re-doing Salinger’s work as they told us to do, but recalculating everything differently. We’re most interested and curious about this and look forward to seeing the details in due course.

Slippery as eels

But did you spot the mistake? This is yet another example of slippery communication from NIWA. If you’re following the story here, you’ll remember they got really angry that the Coalition didn’t construct their own SOA from Salinger’s thesis, Rhoades and Salinger and a whole bunch of meaningless twaddle in other obscure citations that took us hours and hours to wade through. They even said we already had everything we needed to produce our own schedule. Now they’ve proved they didn’t even have it themselves, else why “review it” — which, it is now obvious, really means “reconstruct it”!

What a load of bullshit!

Now they’re doing the job themselves, which they should have done all along, they’ve stopped calling it a reconstruction, they’re not taking their own advice to use Salinger’s “method” (for what it’s worth — more on this later), they’re not doing what they told us we should do and they have not yet apologised for sending our scientists off in completely the wrong direction with false citations.

Withdraw the groundless graph

We are seriously angry! This is unscientific discourtesy!

Since they’re not doing the review until the next financial year, they should do the decent thing and withdraw the unsubstantiated graph from their web site until they can provide proper grounds for it.

NIWA are putting the expenditure for the reconstruction into the 2010/11 financial year, which might make some sense to them but, frankly, signals to the rest of us their complete lack of interest in moving promptly to plug this gaping hole in their credibility.

At least they acknowledge “there is currently much public and scientific interest in the issue.”

That is, unusually for NIWA, a true statement; we agree with it.

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