NIWA ignores our questions

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).


A further question asked the minister why he tabled the Hokitika analysis instead of an analysis for all seven stations, as Rodney Hide had asked and David Wratt had agreed to do during the December meeting of MPs. Nick Smith prevented a record being kept of that famous meeting, so the only account of it came from Rodney Hide in a late-night phone call. You can read it here on the CCG blog.

If you haven’t seen the “NIWA squirms” article before, I’ll ask you to take particular notice of this part:

Rodney said, “That’s the sort of thing [a description of the adjustments at Wellington] I want to see for every site.” Wratt admitted there were other adjustments at Hokitika. Rodney said, “Well, just explain those, then do the same for the other five sites” [Rodney thought that the Wellington adjustments had been described, so only five sites remained. It proved to be untrue — they have still not described Wellington, so there are six to go.]

Rodney’s request to see all seven stations is unambiguous and undeniable.

NIWA were clearly asked to describe all the stations

Our own request, first expressed in the paper Are we feeling warmer yet? was similarly unambiguous (we know that NIWA scientists read that study, since David Wratt complained about it in a very public press release the very next day):

At a minimum, the adjustments made to the official NZ temperature record must be made public.

We have repeated it clearly in press releases and here on the CCG blog many times. I know they read the blog because they’ve told me.

In a letter to David Wratt dated 10 December, 2009, Rodney Hide said, after acknowledging NIWA’s promise to place the Hokitika adjustments in public a few days later:

I would be grateful if you could advise me when all the adjustments and their rationale will be made public on the NIWA webpage.

So, after this clear exposition of what the people of New Zealand want to see, what answer does NIWA give to explain why they released details for only one site?

They flatly contradict what we asked for

First, they say they released the Hokitika details just because Rodney Hide asked for them. Oh, that’s so thoughtful! We don’t believe them. Then they say:

It was not envisaged at the time that a “line by line” explanation of all the adjustments at the other six sites would be required, since the scientific principles in question are standard to all sites in the seven-station series. Consequently, NIWA has not yet prepared detailed similar documents for the other six sites.

Saying they didn’t “envisage” an explanation for all the sites is a flat contradiction of what they had been clearly asked to do. They have ignored our questions.

Salinger’s student theories not accepted

Will NIWA ever cease their blatant obfuscation? They know perfectly well they are expected to provide the adjustment descriptions for all the sites. Not only because they’ve been asked for them, but simply because good science requires it of them.

Then, claiming the “scientific principles” are standard is further nonsense. The adjustment “principles” described in Salinger’s student thesis are not described anywhere but in his thesis. They were at the time new, untried and have since never been used elsewhere, much less have they been accepted as “standard”. In any case, we didn’t ask for the principles — we asked for the adjustments and the reasons.

NIWA in an unsupportable position

NIWA are incapable of following the “methodology” they recommend to everybody else for creating the adjustments and they know that nobody can recreate Salinger’s results because there are just too many subjective decisions to be made.

They are currently in the unsupportable position of presenting vital national climate statistics which have no scientific standing, and they know it. They’re trying to wriggle out of admitting it.

Explanations mutually contradictory

NIWA explained in some detail, when this scandal erupted in November, that for Wellington, the higher station was colder. They went on about it and accused the Coalition of ignoring simple facts like that. But in Hokitika, the station at the higher altitude is warmer! Now they say, through Wayne Mapp: “the scientific principles in question are standard to all sites.” I wish they would explain how that principle could be standard to Wellington. Their explanations contradict each other.

I wonder if Hokitika is the only station they can recreate without the lost data, and they’re trying to hide the fact that they can’t do it for the others?

Shonky science, it looks like. Same as Phil Jones’ CRU at the UEA. Somebody in Wellington is heading for a fall.

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