NIWA — climate denialists

Dr David Wratt

NIWA have responded to Rodney Hide’s criticism of their temperature record in two articles: a statement they published yesterday on Scoop, quoting Chief Executive John Morgan and Chief Climate Scientist David Wratt, and an article by Kent Atkinson from NZPA, who interviewed David Wratt and NIWA Communications Manager Michelle Hollis.

Here I review NIWA’s own statement at Scoop.

NIWA CEO John Morgan says, admirably, if predictably, that he supports “the integrity and professionalism” of his scientists. He adds that NIWA is internationally respected but then makes the quite remarkable statement that “we do not get involved in political commentary or process.”

That is an outstanding denial of the candidly political stance taken by the climate scientists under David Wratt, who unblushingly push the IPCC line, that human-caused warming will destroy life on Earth, that any temperature increase in the Earth’s climate should be “controlled” or “managed” below 2°C (as if we had the power to do so), that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide should be “held” at 350 ppmv (as if we had the power to do so) and that the only way to escape ruinous global warming is to stop using petrochemicals and increase the use of all renewable energy sources but not nuclear power. And change our light bulbs and recycle things.

None of that is science; none of that is supported by scientific observations; none of that is anything but policy, politics and advocacy. I’d like to know how you reconcile your comments with those facts, John.

NIWA scientists refuse to debate facts

Read through the personal notes on their scientists on NIWA’s web site and marvel at the number who valiantly embrace bicycle commuting, membership of “carbon-free” organisations and apply sundry other initiatives to “save the planet”. Consider the effect, in New Zealand, which obtains 70% of its electricity from hydro stations, of changing a light bulb from incandescent to mercury-filled fluorescent, on carbon dioxide emissions (vanishingly small to nil). Recall that these scientists were behind the Labour government’s ill-fated decision to ban incandescent bulbs, then consider those scientists’ alleged “lack of involvement in political commentary or process” and decide whether John Morgan grasps all that.

NIWA scientists steadfastly refuse to debate the scientific topic of climate change at meetings around the country, although you would expect that, as scientists, they would welcome free discussion of the facts, whatever the facts happen to be. Instead, at meeting after meeting they only want to talk about the disasters to come and the urgency with which we must institute an ETS to restrict all our commercial activities. Of course, it is only ever advocates who desire conversation and commentary to cease.

Morgan ends by saying: “NIWA will continue to conduct its science in a highly professional and ethical way.”

How very good to be reassured. We had been wondering.

If it’s warming, it’s warming — who cares about the ships?

David Wratt’s first comment is:

“There are many lines of evidence which point to New Zealand’s climate warming… This evidence includes land-based measurements, ship-based measurements, and shrinking glaciers.”

Thus does he try to get the conversation turned back to a warming climate. Unfortunately, there are substantial reasons to doubt this evidence for warming. Anyway, if it’s warming, the thermometers are enough to tell you, you don’t need any more evidence.

If you see the smoke, you know your house is on fire. In this case, there’s no smoke – no warming.

Notice how he tries to sound scientific but avoids stating a conclusion. He never says outright that New Zealand has been warming – and that little fact disturbs me.

Dr David Wratt

The land-based measurements are strongly challenged by us and the CSC because the warming is produced only by the adjustments, which remain unexplained. There are land-based series which go up and some which go down. The vast majority, however, have no trend at all. Land-based measurements might be a “line of evidence” but that doesn’t mean they are indisputable.

The ship-based measurements are utter nonsense – no sensible person could seriously accept those ad-hoc, irregular and uncontrolled buckets of water hundreds of miles, at times, from New Zealand, as an adequate indication of the temperature over the land.

Those data are inadequate for climate research – the margin of error for such informal records is approximately ±2.0°C, so that a century-long result of 0.7°C is meaningless. The ship-based measurements provide no support for warming. David certainly knows of quality standards for weather records used for climate research – does he think we don’t?

What does it mean to measure the ocean? To imply that, when the ocean temperature increases, it warms the air, is to state the reverse of the greenhouse effect, where the air warms the water! You can have one or the other, but you most certainly cannot have both – you must make up your mind.

Glaciers shrink, glaciers grow, they grow, they shrink…

Because heat rises, it’s far more likely that the water warms the air. Any warming of the water by the atmosphere is by radiation and is minuscule, despite the continuing rise in carbon dioxide “belching” from Beijing power stations. But does the temperature of Waiouru increase because the temperature in the middle of the Tasman Sea rises? Of course not.

What was the other one? Glaciers. Some of them are apparently shrinking. Big deal – some of them are also getting bigger. What drivel. David’s using unscientific hints and innuendo. Precipitation is the dominant influence on glacial advance and retreat. They are gigantic rivers of ice falling and sliding downhill – weight (mass) plays a far more important part in their movement than tiny changes in air temperature down by the sea.

Seven not enough? Now we’ve found eleven more!

The statement from NIWA talks about the Seven-station Series (SS) and the Eleven-station Series (ES) and how they complement each other, in that they “both show a long-term warming trend for New Zealand.”

The ES was rushed out early in December 2009 to refute our paper Are we feeling warmer yet?, accompanied by a press report in the NZ Herald stating that “the analysis featured a guest appearance by former employee Jim Salinger.”

We’re still curious as to why Wratt and Renwick couldn’t handle this task by themselves. Why did they have to go cap-in-hand to Salinger right after they’d fired him? Is it really true they have no records of the infamous 7-station graph? That they really don’t know how it was made? Did they really need his advice to defend it?

Anyway, this ES dataset has been frequently cited by NIWA as offering independent evidence of a 1°C warming trend, corroborating the official national temperature record. This claim was also repeated in Parliament by Minister Mapp in response to questions by John Boscawen.

But the CSC scientists who analysed the report say the 11 stations have been cherry-picked from a universe of 238 stations so as to fabricate the desired result. Even worse, the entry dates have been distorted.

Add cold stations, then warm ones, to manipulate the trend

The warming trend of 1°C relates to the period commencing in 1930. Yet the website discloses that data are available from only four stations in 1930 – Mount Ruapehu Chateau, Hamilton Ruakura, Palmerston North and Queenstown. Two of the four are mountain sites that constitute the coldest stations in the series and skew the starting point downwards. This technique can only be seen as manipulation of the data.

The remaining seven stations, which are added to the series over a period of 18 years, are all coastal stations, affected by the warmth of the Pacific Ocean. By this means, a significant warming trend has been artificially created in the initial 20–30-year period of the series.

Dr David Wratt

The ES is thus revealed as a statistical contrivance. The two cold stations comprise 50% of the group at the outset but dwindle to only 18% over 20 years – increasing the average temperature over time.

The 11-station series is fraudulent, because all 11 stations are only present near the end. These show no warming if you make allowance for the warming effect of automation. The first few records are from only four stations – the whole series measures 80 years, but it changes what it measures.

This series cannot be objective evidence of anything but its creator’s intentions.

Station movements

On December 3 last year, NIWA announced its brand-new 11-station series in a statement to Scoop with this unambiguous headline:
(b) measurements from climate stations which have never been shifted.

There’s no doubt what that means. But it isn’t true.

Coalition scientists have identified substantial and numerous site changes in no fewer than 6 out of the 11 stations. The details reveal that adjustments should have been made to the readings. This conclusion follows from all that NIWA have explained to us about why adjustments are needed and the examples they have cited.

NIWA trumpets the fact that none of these stations have had adjustments applied to their readings. But knowing that substantial station changes have occurred, how can anyone trust the readings? How could NIWA choose these stations for scientific reasons? Why don’t they explain why the station changes have not been adjusted?

Regular readers will recall that we’ve been asking NIWA for the adjustments and the reasons for the adjustments to the national temperature record. They have now published the adjustments but they have not published the reasons for them, except for Hokitika.

Their paper introducing the 11-station series states:

We have analysed raw data from these sites directly, with absolutely no adjustments to the numbers from the NIWA climate database.

They’re using the unadjusted 11-station series to validate their adjusted 7-station series, to show somehow that because these stations need no adjusting to show warming, therefore their adjusted series which does show warming is valid. But it’s hard to see the connection.

Or they’re using the unadjusted 11 stations to invalidate our unadjusted 7-station series. Hmmm. No connection there either.

The whole affair stinks. It’s not possible to justify their 7-station series by introducing a brand-new, unconnected series of eleven different stations. Especially since we didn’t ask them to justify the warming – we simply asked why they adjusted the readings – and they still haven’t told us.

Same tired old canards

NIWA’s statement goes on to repeat several tired old, fraudulent excuses that we’ve previously demolished. Let me deal with them again briefly.

NIWA has already published a schedule of adjustments for its 7-station series on [our] website.

This was not a Schedule Of Adjustments (SOA) because it omitted all reasons for the changes. All it provided were the bare numerical amounts of each adjustment.

Climate Group lies are exposed

The adjusted 7-station series was made available to a member of the NZ Climate Science Coalition on 19 July 2006.

NIWA again stretch the truth shamelessly with this excuse. This was not sent to the Coalition, which was set up only about a month earlier. Nor was it sent by NIWA. Apart from that, what NIWA says here is true. It was a communication between two scientists who had known each other for years. The Coalition cannot be expected to know all the communications of its members. The spreadsheet contained the adjustment figures, but (again) no reasons for those adjustments.

I’m glad to note that Wratt has stopped alleging that “information required to reproduce the adjustments” was sent to a Coalition scientist on the same date. But if it was true when he first said it back in November, why isn’t it true now? And if it is untrue now, why did he say it back then? The Climate Group has been lying to us.

Wratt lies about Salinger PhD thesis again

The initial 7-station series was documented in Dr Jim Salinger’s PhD thesis for Victoria University. This was reviewed and passed by expert examiners, and is available from the university. Since then, several papers have been published in the scientific literature documenting the methods used and analysing the results from this series. References are available on our website.

How does this keep resurfacing? It’s not there! There’s no Schedule Of Adjustments in the thesis. Stop citing references that don’t contain the adjustments! The thesis contains numbers, but not the same numbers as in the actual Schedule of Adjustments from Salinger, and no scientist anywhere will ever locate, in that thesis, a list of reasons for those adjustments to be made.

Wake up, Wratt! We’ve looked! The thesis is empty! Stop telling lies!

Also: Salinger’s method was never published; why not? Nobody uses his method; why not? NIWA cannot describe his method; why not?

In Rhoades and Salinger, 1993: Adjustment of temperature and rainfall measurements for site changes, is a modified version of what appears in the thesis. It does not provide the information required to replicate the actual adjustments made.

One of our senior scientists gave me an analogy.

I give you the following recipe:

x% of ingredient A
y% of ingredient B
z% of ingredient C
plus a few other ingredients I won’t tell you about.

Then I will give you a set of instructions to explain how to make about half the finished article. Finally I will express surprise if you fail to create exactly the same article.

P.S.: you need to guess what the values of x, y and z are, but I might tell you what A, B and C are if you force me to.

Not much use, is it? It’s about as much use as Salinger’s thesis.

The famous climate science briefing for MPs

When this issue first arose last year, NIWA provided an open briefing to MPs, which was attended by Mr Hide.

Ah, yes, the meeting. This would be the meeting where Nick Smith rudely excluded Rodney Hide’s scientific advisor, the venerable Vincent Gray. The meeting described at the time by us as a “momentous meeting.” The meeting notable for a boring half hour of David’s droning on about the IPCC and the gloomy future of the world.

But, please remember, David, that although Rodney was indeed present, you failed to provide what he was asking for, which was the schedule of adjustments. You might remember that his questioning of you was persistent, even irritating; were you irritated, David? Yet your intransigence in refusing him was even more so. Why not hand over the adjustment schedule or simply declare you don’t have one?

It took several more weeks to winkle that out of you, didn’t it?

So the meeting was entirely useless to Rodney and to Vincent; I’m surprised you have the gall even to mention it. Making Vincent trudge back to the train station for an early return home was low, sir – a most discourteous act that shames you forever.

What were you all afraid of?

Wratt must go

David Wratt’s performance as head of the Climate Group has been reprehensible. He has misled ministers, misled the House, lied to the people of New Zealand, consistently lied to the Coalition and he must forfeit his position. NIWA is too important, climate science is too important, to leave him in charge of it any longer.

But that is a sideshow.

Now here’s the point

What is the point of this lengthy rebuttal to NIWA’s refutation of Rodney’s criticism of NIWA?

The reality is that an ETS is wrong as judged against any conceivable scientific grounds; it will hurt all New Zealanders other than those fortunates who will receive windfall profits from a price being put on carbon dioxide, and especially those of lower socio-economic status – and all for absolutely no identifiable benefit.

Reasonable men and women should therefore oppose it to the death – and hopefully the death of Key’s myopic political career.

Well, there it is – I’ve said it now: I oppose the ETS and the supporters of the ETS to the death.

Who’s with me?

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14 Thoughts on “NIWA — climate denialists

  1. Rodney Hide on 09/05/2010 at 11:07 am said:

    At the infamous meeting in Nick Smith’s office, David Wratt suggested that if I had a problem with NIWA’s work I should write a scientific paper and submit it for peer review and publication.

    I suggest that he and his fellow conspirators should form a political party and get elected to parliament!

    What they’re doing all day is politics, not science.

    The cost to NZ of NIWA’s propaganda is truly shocking. Hardworking farmers are going to be milked and families have their weekly costs hiked. And it’s these families and farmers who pay for NIWA. Disgraceful.

    Thank you and the CSC team for so bravely searching for the truth and keeping science alive.

    • It might be a bit harsh to suggest they do no good science at all, but the points Wratt raises in rebuttal of your criticisms make me, as you, very angry (hence the uncharacteristic exclamation marks). He clearly abandons scientific principles for the sake of persuading the public to a political point of view.

      This leaves him, in attempting to refute a charge of bad science, in the same position as the young woman defending her good name by saying: “But I’m only a little bit pregnant.”

      His callous use of unprincipled techniques quite overshadows any good he might be doing.

      Wratt’s suggestion of a paper from you demonstrates his complete disconnection from the real world. Taxpayers don’t wait for a paper; they want action now. This could be his undoing, as more and more people learn about the extent of his deceptions. He needs to apologise and begin making amends right now. Continuing his empty bluster could destroy him.

      It would be false for anyone to claim that the national temperature record bears no relationship to our proposed ETS. People’s fears of dangerous future warming have been undeniably stoked by seeing the “proof” of strong warming here already. “Imagine what it’s going to be like in 50 years, Audrey!”

      Yet D’Aleo and Watts report just a month ago that there’s been no warming in the South Pacific during the 20th Century except in New Zealand and Australia. All the rise comes from using the thermometers in our warm towns and cities and closing down most of the cold, rural thermometers – not to mention the statistical chicanery and outright cheating we and the CSC have exposed.

      This iconic but unjustified graph must be repudiated by NIWA and removed from their web site immediately. Wratt should be relieved of his duties even sooner.

      Thanks for the kind words, Rodney!

  2. Richard

    Almost a decade has elapsed since I wrote about the dangers of commercialising and politicising science. At that time I mused that it is almost inevitable that a major issue would arise that would find science compromised or being compromised. I fear that that time and that issue have arrived.

    I read about Climategate and its NZ subset NIWAgate with trepidation! I fear for the future of science. Science must be open – nothing less will do. It is our duty to our profession and we must resist those who do otherwise.

  3. Thank god for pollies like Rodney.
    They are supposed to lead us and make sensible rational decisions on our behalf. Instead they all run around trying to ‘outgreen’ each other as it becomes the current populist mantra.
    Treasury did a dispassionate analysis of this whole ETS charade and basically binned it.
    Because it lacks any credibility. And our Govt then relies on Wratt et al to prop their facade up (and ignore the shortcomings Treasury identified).
    Of course the foresters want an ETS – Key is going to send them a cheque to bank – to the tune of $1B. I wonder whose bank account it is coming from (Hint – not Keys).
    And apparently we have a level playing field and non-subsidised agricultural industry. Hmm.
    Picking winners? No, that went out the window with Muldoon.
    The whole thing is a mess and they are just trying to dig a deeper hole. Leadership? I dont think so.
    Go Rodney. My faith in the political system survives – by a thread.

    • The forestry situation is complex. I haven’t followed it in detail, but I get the impression that if the Nats don’t disengage the country from those obligations pretty damn quickly they will only deepen, further entangle themselves and become ever more expensive.

      It’s a mess, all right. FOR NO PURPOSE!

      If only more people could repeat this simple message the country could yet be saved.


      (sorry I shouted)

  4. Dear Richard,

    Thank you for your tireless efforts to document the systematic misrepresentation of NZ climatic data in the cause of global warming alarmism.

    Your posting (above) that lists NIWA’s recent misdemeanours is thorough and compelling, but I wish to add the following thought. Which is that the matter goes back many years, and involves not just NIWA but also other government advisory bodies such as the Royal Society of New Zealand.

    At the following link you can find a comprehensive rebuttal of some of Dr. Wratt’s earlier advice on the global warming issue – which, having encouraged its production, the RSNZ refused to publish on their website.

    Dr. Wratt’s global warming advice to the Environmental Court hearing on the Hayes windfarm was also roundly criticized and shown to be invalid by other expert witnesses called in the case; see:

    Over the long haul, the two main misrepresentational global warming issues have remained the same. They are (i) the naive and myopic belief that climate change can be usefully analysed on the basis of historical temperature measurements only (i.e., the persistent refusal to examine change over climatically significant periods of time); and (ii) the assumption that a political body – the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – can give unprejudiced policy advice that should be followed by the NZ government.

    The persistent representation of both these issues, and accompanying actions by many self-interested lobby groups and government agencies, have now fanned the fire of global warming alarmism and carbon dioxide demonisation to its impending July 1st climax – when NZ’s unnecessary, ineffectual and swingeingly expensive emissions trading scheme will be activated.

    You are absolutely right to point out that future generations of New Zealanders are going to live to regret this decision. There is not, never has been and never will be any possibility that actions taken in NZ will have any direct effect on global climate.

    Bob Carter

  5. Murray on 09/05/2010 at 9:52 pm said:

    “There are many lines of evidence which point to New Zealand’s climate warming… This evidence includes land-based measurements, ship-based measurements, and shrinking glaciers.”

    Hmmm – by that logic the warmest year was 1982! From the Teara website:

    “When first visited by geologist and explorer Julius Haast in 1864, the front edge of the Franz Josef stood near Sentinel Rock, several kilometres further downvalley than today. Franz Josef began a rapid retreat in the mid-1930s. A lake formed in front of the glacier between 1939 and 1949, but rapidly filled with rock debris. Since then, the Franz Josef and the Fox have been retreating, with occasional brief advances. The Franz Josef was at its smallest extent in 1982, but since then its front has once again advanced about a kilometre.”

  6. Doug – as we are old mates you know I agree with you that science must be open. Therefore can you please comment on the fact that Richard Treadgold produced his little report (sorry “paper”) attacking (sorry slandering) NZ scientists, accusing them of falsifying data, etc.?

    However when I requested the data and methodology he used he refused to supply it. What about criticising him for not being open?

    And don’t take his words of explanation – read the emails involved (emails) involved.

    The inquiries into the “climategate” affair have I think produced useful results. They have endorsed the science (surely no objective person thought there was any question of that) but they have raised issues with openness to data. And one of those issues is the responsible use of data. The responsibilities of both scientists and any sceptical public in using public data is currently being discussed. In NZ we expect to see a code of practice developed to deal with these.

    Treadgold has shown by his dishonesty that he is irresponsible with public data. He would not allow any scientific review of his report. He would not provide the data. He would not provide the methodology.

    He can’t be trusted as he is in cohorts with the ACT Party and the extreme right wing think tank the NZ Centre for Policy Research. This itself is linked to the Heritage Foundation and other right wing think tanks in the US. Their anti-science record is obvious.

    There is currently an extreme attack occurring on scientific integrity (see Climate change and the integrity of science). As a scientist, who I respect, I would think you should line up with science – not those McCarthyites who are attempting to silence us.

    I am sure you don’t really believe that the current understanding of the science of climate change, in NZ or elsewhere, is a result of “dangers of commercialising and politicising science” We are both capable of recognising the truth here. However. the current attacks on science are obviously an attempt by commercial interests to politicise science.

    By the way – I can’t really contribute much to a discussion here as Treadgold tends to delete my comments (so much for openness). But you are welcome to come and have a go at me at Open Parachute.

    (And no Richard I am not interested in any response from you here).

    • Ken,

      Just a quick note to let others know you misrepresented what I have done. You said:

      Treadgold tends to delete my comments (so much for openness).

      I deleted only a single comment of yours, on the grounds of abusiveness. I understand that you disagree with having a comment deleted, even though you were warned it could happen, but a single deletion does not constitute a tendency to delete your comments. In fact, you are as welcome as ever to contribute as much as you wish to a discussion here.

  7. Gary on 11/05/2010 at 8:15 pm said:

    NIWA=W- – – – bags

    Gary, I understand your frustration, but please let’s not descend to personal insults. The “Conversation” in the title of this site is intended seriously. To the full extent of your skill, excoriate another’s argument or actions, but never insult their person, please. Anyway, using a play on their (unfortunate) name, for which they are not responsible, to insult them is very low. (I know you’re frustrated.) – Richard.

  8. CEKay on 13/05/2010 at 4:22 pm said:

    The NZ Climate Science Coalition has made some pretty strong statements in their press release earlier this week, including “the evidence of misconduct by NIWA scientists is absolutely clear. It is exemplified by Dr David Wratt labelling the 1930 data from four selected stations as an ‘11-station Series’.

    The surprising thing is that NIWA doesn’t deny any of these shenanigans. They routinely use statistical tricks which would translate into prison sentences if used in the financial sector. I’m not sure whether we should be pleased they are so naively transparent, or upset that they treat us all as idiots.

    • They treat us as idiots, certainly, but they treat their supporters the same way. I’m surprised nobody else is getting annoyed at NIWA. Their tricks are obvious.

  9. (not so) Silent on 14/05/2010 at 5:44 pm said:

    Ken said “They have endorsed the science”

    No they didnt. They called no witnesses to discuss the science and that was outside the brief of the inquiry.

  10. Pingback: Climate Conversation Group » When will our bloody journalists wake up?

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