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Climate scientists versus climate data - what's the deal with John Bates

Climate scientists versus climate data
Posted on February 4, 2017
by John Bates
A look behind the curtain at NOAA’s climate data center.

How a culture clash at NOAA led to a flap over a high-profile warming pause study

By Warren Cornwall, Paul VoosenFeb. 8, 2017 , 1:00 PM

A former scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Washington, D.C., made waves this past weekend when he alleged that climate scientist Thomas Karl, the former head of a major NOAA technical center, “failed to disclose critical information” to the agency, journal editors, and Congress about the data used in a controversial study published in Science in June 2015. Karl was the lead author of that paper, which concluded that global surface temperatures continued rising in recent years, contrary to earlier suggestions that there had been a “pause” in global warming.

John Bates, who retired from NOAA this past November, made the claims in a post on the prominent blog of Judith Curry, a climate researcher who recently retired from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and has walked the line between science and climate contrarians over the past decade. Bates’s complaints were also the centerpiece of a story published Sunday by David Rose of the United Kingdom’s The Mail on Sunday, a tabloid, which claimed that national leaders “were strongly influenced” by the “flawed NOAA study” as they finalized the 2015 Paris climate agreement.


In the blog post, Bates says that his complaints provide evidence that Karl had his “thumb on the scale” in an effort to discredit claims of a warming pause, and his team rushed to publish the paper so it could influence national and international climate talks. But Bates does not directly challenge the conclusions of Karl's study, and he never formally raised his concerns through internal NOAA mechanisms.

Tuesday, in an interview with E&E News, Bates himself downplayed any suggestion of misconduct. “The issue here is not an issue of tampering with data, but rather really of timing of a release of a paper that had not properly disclosed everything it was,” he told reporter Scott Waldman. And Bates told Science Insider that he is wary of his critique becoming a talking point for those skeptical of human-caused climate change. But it was important for this conversation about data integrity to happen, he says. “That’s where I came down after a lot of soul searching. I knew people would misuse this. But you can't control other people,” Bates says.

This guy goes straight to an unhinged from reality and climate science denial blog like Climate.etc to make his charges directly to heart of the most rabid of science contrarian tribes, then has the brass-balls to play all innocent and come up with: “That’s where I came down after a lot of soul searching. I knew people would misuse this. But you can't control other people.”   

That’s not soul searching, that’s tactical PR strategy intended to confuse rather than clarify.
Another dramatic example of right-wing Religion in action - and Republican Absolutism driven ruthlessness and dirty tricks.

He finishes with: " I will have another post on this topic in a few days.  Being retired sure is liberating . . ."

I dare not peek ahead, another wormhole trap awaiting, can't do it.  too overloaded already.

Still I'm curious about this dude.  I read  the comments are interesting, I wonder what else is out there.

Anyone have information or interesting links about this meteorologist John Bates and the contrarian crazy-making game he's enlisted himself into? 



  • Oh boy, now that I put that up, guess I'd better cull through the comments at HotWhopper to save a lot of redundancy since the comments are loaded with tips.

    Allow Eli to simplify the issues about Karl et al. 15 and John Bates

    • Bates designed an overly complicated set of procedures for climate data archiving.
    • He got upper management at NOAA to sign on because the charts looked pretty. 
    • There were huge delays in implementation because of software problems and more.
    • The process was a huge time sink. 
    • But it had the virtue of making Bates the Gatekeeper.
    • Others were not happy with this.
    • They had science they wanted to publish so they found a way around Gatekeeper Bates. 
    • Gatekeeper Bates went crying to Lamar Smith.
    • Trump becomes president 
    • Denialists need an issue and cast about.
    But of course, there is more:  Turns out Bates beef with Karl was personal.  Scott Johnson at Ars Technica writes
    There may also be something beyond simple “engineers vs. scientists” tension behind Bates’ decision to go public with his allegations. Two former NOAA staffers confirmed to Ars that Tom Karl essentially demoted John Bates in 2012, when Karl was Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Bates had held the title of Supervisory Meteorologist and Chief of the Remote Sensing Applications Division, but Karl removed him from that position partly due to a failure to maintain professionalism with colleagues, assigning him to a position in which he would no longer supervise other staff. It was apparently no secret that the demotion did not sit well with Bates.

  • B.J. Yes, I've always been struck by how biased is Sou toward truth, evidence, real scientific fact, and a nuanced and detailed understanding of some of the more profound issues that affect the human condition. ...
    Any insight into why a scientist ..."
    Perhaps I don't have any special insight, but I do spend time doing two things (1) researching on how to simplify climate science and (2) trying to understand why supposedly well-credentialed scientists such as Curry and Lindzen buck the tide of consensus. Like what happened to famed physicist Ludwig Boltzmann trying to understand thermodynamics, it's possible that the mysteries of the climate have made these people go bonkers.

    Paraphrasing David Goodstein, professor of physics at Cal Tech, "Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously."
    Bates and Smith have manufactured a false level of conflict between Karl and Fyfe. These scientists have very few disagreements. Hopefully Fyfe et al are rushing to the defense of Karl... offering to all testify in front of Lamar Smith's committee to refute the Smith and Bates misrepresentation.

    K15 is all about the IPCC's statement on the warming hiatus, which used 90%.
    In Bates' CargoCult Etc. article he claims he asked a co-author why they did not use 95%. He uses ominous language... implying it was done to enhance warming.

    The answer was obvious to anybody who had actually read the IPCC statement and the Karl paper. So it appears Bates had not read and understood either of them. He then uses his misconception to build his "thumb on the scales" lunacy.

    The 95% argument he uses is a three-legged-stool argument. The Karl paper and the IPCC statement clearly kick all three legs out from under his argument... leaving a stool argument... otherwise known as a turd.

    Karl 15 does not address any other definition of a warming hiatus. Fyfe came up with an argument that is different than the one presented in the IPCC statement. The scientists, Karl et al and Fyfe et al, have no real disagreement on the Fyfe definition.
    I see that Anthony Watts has published another article about David Rose and John Bates false claims. Once again he shows that he doesn't know the first thing about the different temperature data sets, implying that HadCRUT only uses GHCN data. He's very wrong:
    These are the data that CRUTEM is based upon:
    Anthony also wrongly states that the GHCN algorithm is "very unstable". If that were the case, then it would come out very differently each month.
    Watch Lamar Smith repeat David Rose's lies in the House Science Committee hearing "Making the EPA Great Again" to try to get them on the record. Rush Holt CEO of AAAS (the only witness from the Dems) did a great job and was well prepared to refute Lamar's lies.
    "Good job, Dr. Bates. You deliberately picked the most trashy, destructive imaginable to settle your score over professional slights. But you knew that’s what sells in the era of Trump, so you wasted no time capitalizing on that. Hope you’re enjoying having the attention and influence that you feel always eluded you. In your bitter retirement you’ve rendered your entire career meaningless, laid waste to your scientific legacy, and screwed us all."
    It seems possible Karl et al 2015 cooked the books, just like Bates claimed. I suspect we'll see more people coming forward in coming months, turning in colleagues who did naughties.

    Bollocks. Bates did not say that at all. I do question why Bates decided to do an interview with the trashy Daily Mail and post on Curry's blog right before Lamar Smith's "Making the EPA Great Again" hearing on Feb 7.

    Note that Lamar Smith tweeted about the Daily Mail story 6 times and brought it up in the hearing to get it 'on record'. AAAS CEO Dr Rush Holt was prepared and refuted Smith's claims (with objections from Smith).

    I'm also not surprised that Judith Curry is the only 'scientist' that Lamar Smiths House Science Committee twitter account follows.

    Was there collusion going on between Lamar Smith and Curry to do this right before the hearing? 
    John Bates walked back on the Daily Mail trash claims in interview with E&E news:
    "cooked the books, just like Bates claimed"

    Eric making shit up as usual. From an AP interview with Bates
    >However Bates, who acknowledges that Earth is warming from man-made carbon dioxide emissions, said in the interview that there was "no data tampering, no data changing, nothing malicious."

    >"It's really a story of not disclosing what you did," Bates said in the interview. "It's not trumped up data in any way shape or form."
    I wonder how long Watts and Worrall, the Larry and Moe of climate science denial are going to be able to hide that admission from the ignorati.

    It appears that Bates' procedural complaints are also starting to unravel. The editor of Science magazine has said that publication was not rushed - rather it was extensively reviewed before publication. It also appears that NOAA had previously investigated ex employee Bates' complaints about procedure and dismissed them.
  • edited February 2017
    Why hasn't there been a big stink about Spencer and Christy's UAH tropospheric satellite dataset? It's still beta version 6.x and has been used for almost 18months now. Their paper explaining the underlying changes has still not been published.

    RSS updated their satellite data set to Version 4 last year. They waited until after their paper has been published to release the data set. The old Version 3 (which is closer to UAH 6.x beta) runs colder because of various issues outlined in their paper.

    Yet Judith Curry, Ted Cruz etc run around claiming "The satellite data is the best data we've got!" (referring to UAH). Despite the satellite data having much higher error range than land based temperature data.
    John Bates linkedin profile states:

    John Bates Consulting Inc., National Climatic Data Center, NOAA"

    What does that mean?  
    Is he saying he's working for both?
    Is he a contractor for NOAA's data center?
    Does he simply claim that as his speciality?
    Or is he simply blowing smoke by listing them on the same line?
    after all, the next lines are:
    National Climatic Data Center, NOAA/NESDIS, Environmental Technology Laboratory, Climate Diagnostics Center, NOAA/ERL"

    "John Bates Consulting Inc. started November 2016" 

    hmmm, cashing in and going for the big bucks?
    Perhaps that's being unfair and quick to judge, still the question has merit.

    Wouldn't it be fascinating to peek through this guy's professional emails for the past half year, as they say: Only His Emails Know For Sure.   

  • What a day of weird day of catching up with last week’s news and then some.

    Next two posts I’m summarizing the better article I’ve found.  Seems to me its important for this sort of information to be presented in a concise manner for easy copying and passing on.


    The drama really kicked in with another zinger by notorious David Rose.

    By David Rose for The Mail on Sunday

    PUBLISHED: 17:57 EST, 4 February 2017

    Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data 

    • The Mail on Sunday can reveal a landmark paper exaggerated global warming

    • It was rushed through and timed to influence the Paris agreement on climate change

    • America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration broke its own rules

    • The report claimed the pause in global warming never existed, but it was based on misleading, ‘unverified’ data


    From the American Geophysical Union:


    Posted by Eric Davidson | 4 February 2017

    UPDATE (5 February, 12:36 p.m.): I want to clarify – AGU’s position on the scientific consensus on climate change and the need for openness and transparency in science is firm. As we stated “while climate science knowledge is evolving, these reports do not change our fundamental understanding of climate change,” and “AGU remains committed to serving as a leader in data and transparency in science.”

    As to the merits – or lack thereof – of the allegations made in John Bates’ post about data mismanagement, within NOAA, that discussion is and will continue to unfold in dialogue among scientists, such as in this article by Zeke Hausfather from Berkeley Earth and this blog post from the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units.

    AGU has been and will continue to be a vocal voice in support of scientific integrity in the new Administration:

    AGU, GSA Respond to Immigration Ban’s Impact on Science

    AGU Urges U.S. Agencies to Protect Scientific Integrity and Open Communication of Scientific Information

    Petition: President Trump Bring Science to the White House

    AGU believes that the merits of the Karl et al. (2015) should be and have been discussed in appropriate peer-reviewed scientific journals. We note that the main results of that study have since been independently replicated by later work. In the meantime, we will continue to stand up for the credibility of climate science, the freedom of scientists to conduct and communicate their science. …

  • ~~~~~~~

    New analysis shows Lamar Smith’s accusations on climate data are wrong

    It wasn't a political plot—temperatures really did get warmer.

    SCOTT K. JOHNSON - 1/4/2017


    FACTCHECKS 5 February 2017 4:38

    Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise


    Retired NOAA scientist feels slighted, sets world afire in revenge

    By BoGardiner  

    Sunday Feb 05, 2017 · 1:11 PM MST



    By Kendra Pierre-Louis February 6, 2017


    Major global warming study again questioned, again defended


    Feb. 7, 2017



    'Whistleblower' says protocol was breached but no data fraud

    Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter

    Climatewire: Tuesday, February 7, 2017


    FEBRUARY 10, 2017

    If We Had Buoy Data From the Past We Would Use That


    Here’s a good introduction to the basic scientific issue at play.

    Recent Ocean Warming has been Underestimated

    Zeke Hausfather

    Published on Jan 4, 2017

    In a paper published in Science Advances, we used data from buoys, satellites, and Argo floats to construct separate instrumentally homogenous sea surface temperature records of the past two decades. We compared them to the old NOAA ERSSTv3b record, the new ERSSTv4 record, the Hadley Centre’s HadSST3 record, and the Japanese COBE-SST record. We found a strong and significant cool bias in the old NOAA record, and a more modest (but still significant) cool bias in the Hadley and Japanese records compared to buoy, satellite, and Argo float data. The new NOAA record agrees quite well with these instrumentally homogenous records. This suggests that the new NOAA record is likely the most accurate sea surface temperature record in recent years, and should help resolve some of the criticism that accompanied the original NOAA study.

  • edited February 2017
    This one deserves special mention:

    Retired NOAA scientist feels slighted, sets world afire in revenge

    By BoGardiner  Sunday Feb 05, 2017

    I agree, this is a seminal moment.  How appropriate it comes to us via the Daily Mail, which pull-no-punches RationalWiki describes as “a reactionary, neo-fascist tabloid rag masquerading as "traditional values.”  

    David Rose has a long history of writing discredited articles for the Daily Mail for years attacking climate scientists.  The UK National Weather Service has been forced to repeatedly debunk his claims.  Columbia Journalism Review describes Rose’s work as “outrageous” “pseudoscience.”  Rose is so known for this garbage that Discover Magazine dubbed an award for bad science reporting the “David Rose Award, thanks to his “flawed and distorted climate reporting.”  In 2013, Media Matters named the Daily Mail “Climate Change Misinformer Of The Year,” noting that its claims had been repeated by U.S. Congressmen and dozens of U.S. news outlets.  

    Dana Nuccitelli published a 2013 piece in the Guardian titled “Arctic sea ice delusions strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph,” writing:

    When it comes to climate science reporting, the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph are only reliable in the sense that you can rely on them to usually get the science wrong… Based on their history of shoddy reporting, the safest course of action when reading a climate article in the Mail on Sunday or Telegraph is to assume they're misrepresentations or falsehoods until you can verify the facts therein for yourself.

    Other past takedowns:

    With Climate Journalism Like This, Who Needs Fiction? (2013)

    Flatly wrong global warming denial (2012)

    David Rose's climate science writing shows he has not learned from previous mistakes (2010)

    The highly respected American Geophysical Union, on whose board Bates once sat, rebuked Bates for taking his data management concerns to a tabloid, refuted some of Bates’ and Rose’s claims, and linked to two of the above scientific rebuttals: ...

  • Seems to me on a fundamental level what it comes down to is the Republicans ability to project the self-certain (even absolutist) paradigm assumption that climate scientists are dishonest.  

    So long as that fundamental right-wing assumption isn't confronted head on, progress will continue to be nonexistent.  How to talk to people who refuse to listen and who for the most part don't even have the prerequisite Earth systems understanding to have a serious clue as to what's what.  
  • Think I missed an important one I shouldn't have:
    "This is the blog of the Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units hosted by the Department of Geography at Maynooth University. It is primarily used to highlight newly published research and activities that may be of general interest."

    Sunday, February 5, 2017

    On the Mail on Sunday article on Karl et al., 2015

    There is an "interesting" piece (use of quotes intentional) in the Mail on Sunday today around the Karl et al., 2015 Science paper.

    There are a couple of relevant pieces arising from Victor Venema and Zeke Hausfather already available which cover most of the science aspects and are worth a read. I'm adding some thoughts because I worked for three and a bit years in the NOAA group responsible in the build-up to the Karl et al. paper (although I had left prior to that paper's preparation and publication). I have been involved in and am a co-author upon all relevant underlying papers to Karl et al., 2015.

    The 'whistle blower' is John Bates who was not involved in any aspect of the work. NOAA's process is very stove-piped such that beyond seminars there is little dissemination of information across groups. John Bates never participated in any of the numerous technical meetings on the land or marine data I have participated in at NOAA NCEI either in person or remotely. This shows in his reputed (I am taking the journalist at their word that these are directly attributable quotes) mis-representation of the processes that actually occured. In some cases these mis-representations are publically verifiable.

    I will go through a small selection of these in the order they appear in the piece:

    1. 'Insisting on decisions and scientific choices that maximised warming and minised documentation' 

    2. 'NOAA has now decided the sea dataset will have to be replaced and revised just 18 months after it was issued, because it used unreliable methods which overstated the speed of warming' ...

    3. 'The land temperature dataset used by the study was afflicted by devestating bugs in its software that rendered its findings unstable' (also returned to later in the piece to which same response applies)

    4. 'The paper relied on a preliminary alpha version of the data which was never approved or verified'

    5. [the SST increase] 'was achieved by dubious means'

    6. 'They had good data from buoys. And they threw it out [...]' 

    7. 'they had used a 'highly experimental early run' of a programme that tried to combine two previously seperate sets of records' 

  • Thanks, CC. That's a good recap. Hopefully the Bates episode won't have lasting ramifications. This time around the reaction to the David Rose article was a lot swifter and louder, and I believe even in the Lamar Smith committee there was an immediate and fierce smack down from some members (D) when Lamar Smith raised the subject of NOAA again.

    Bates hasn't updated his LinkedIn page completely yet. As I understand it he resigned from NOAA recently and is now touting himself as a data consultant. He hasn't exactly started off on the right foot, has he.
  • It was a day of discovery for me yesterday.  I was checking a comment at CFI and came across John Bates exposing NOAA.  I googled John Bates and saw you near the top and came on over to find your Feb 7th writeup.  Then it was from one article to another.  I did read through Bates' write up at the Curryrag, Wow, it seemed downright malevolence.    Then I got to AGU and Icarus articles, those are great, very informative along with the rest.  Now I see you put up a post dedicated to David Rose story and the comments are already loaded with more link.  I can see I have most of tomorrow cut out for me.  There's an ethics story I'd like to tease out of this one.

    thanks for being here and all you do.   
  • Sou, I should have contacted you before hand, but you've let me REPOST some of your article before and I'm hoping you'll understand.  And I really did need some backup information available for that letter to Waldman.

    I know you don't have a CC license and am not sure what your current policy is.

    Hope you don't mind,  

    Sou reviews the John Bates / David Rose affair. NOAA data protocols

    for the curious there's also this. Part of my charm offensive, I reckon.

    Open Letter to E&E News reporter Scott Waldman" Global? What global?

  • NOAA Scientists Falsely Accused of Manipulating Climate Change Data

    A tabloid used testimony from a single scientist to paint an excruciatingly technical matter as a worldwide conspiracy.

    By Alex Kasprak | Feb 8th, 2017

  • No problem, CC, re the repost. I keep meaning to put up a licence.

    Everyone is free to repost HW articles, with attribution and link to the original. I've got it on the Charts page (which needs updating). I'll get around to it on the blog as well, one of these days :)
  • Thank you I figured it would be okay.  This is my slow work time and with no snow around here, (it's all going north of us).  I've got no snow removal to deal with so I've had more time to focus than usual.  I know this started as my desire to dissect Bates article at ClimateEtc. sometimes there are just a hell of a lot of detours before getting back to the original destination.  US Congressman Lamar Smith's press release was such a diversion that turned into one of biggest single post projects yet.  It was an interesting exercise.

    It would be cool to get some serious critique on it, but I'm not holding my breath - everyone's busy.

    I may as well lay out the whole collect (so far) on you although it's today's additions I'm feeling kind of satisfied with, dangerous feeling, sure it won't last, tomorrow I'll look again see what I think.  
    I take on the role of defending advocate and call up a bunch of witness by way of over a dozen quality articles written about the affair.  You're in there too.  I have you come in for the final sweep through, my ringer to cut through everyone else's pussyfooting  ;- )

    February 21, 2017
    BatesMotel#4 - US Rep Lamar Smith - Feb 5th Press Release, his NOAA smear campaign dissected.

    BatesMotel#4B - US Rep Lamar Smith - Feb 5th Press Release, his NOAA smear campaign dissected - APPENDIX

    February 19, 2017
    BatesMotel#3 - US Rep Lamar Smith - Justice or Malicious Witch Hunt

    February 18, 2017
    BatesMotel#2 - US Rep Lamar Smith - Follow the money. A collection.

    BatesMotel#1-US Rep Lamar Smith, Koch ties shackles behavior
    February 16, 2017

    Dr. Ed Hawkins not making any sense - 2000s warming slowdown?
    February 15, 2017

    Open Letter to E&E News reporter Scott Waldman" Global? What global?

    Sou reviews the John Bates / David Rose affair. NOAA data protocols

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