Another "ClimateGate" Vindication (Although One Scientist Did Make a Cartoon)

By Chris Mooney | February 26, 2011 10:08 am

The Department of Commerce has released an Inspector General’s report on the involvement of its scientists (e.g., scientists in NOAA) in “ClimateGate”–and once again, it’s a vindication: “In our review of the CRU emails, we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data comprising the GHCN-M dataset [maintained by the National Climatic Data Center] or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures.”

There’s no fire here, although of course partisans will seize upon a few wisps of smoke. You see, the IG did look more closely at 10 emails, to “clarify” that nothing had been done wrong. And it does appear that there may have been an inadequate response to a FOIA request at one point; and there are some issues raised about a contract. However, none of this stuff remotely rises to the level of undermining the integrity of global climate science, which is of course what “Climategate” was allegedly all about.

There’s also the following:

This email, dated February 19,2007, captioned “Fwd: Marooned?” contained an inappropriate image which NCDC’s Chief Scientist forwarded to the Director of the CRU. The image depicts superimposed photographs of several individuals involved in the debate over global warming as characters from the television program Gilligan’s Island, stranded on a melting ice cap at the North Pole or floating nearby in the ocean. In the course of our inquiry, we learned that another NOAA scientist had created the image during official business hours, using government computer equipment.

Both the Chief Scientist and the creator of the image told us it was meant to bring some levity to the constant criticism that they and their fellow climate scientists were facing at the time from “climate skeptics.” Notwithstanding their rationale, such an image could foster an adverse appearance about the scientists’ objectivity, and at least one internet blog questioned the propriety of the image. While none of the senior NOAA officials we interviewed said they were aware of the referenced email and the attached picture before we interviewed them, Dr. Lubchenco told us that “it was in bad taste.” According to NOAA, both scientists, who acknowledged that the image was inappropriate, have since been counseled by their respective superiors.

Ever been in an office building, like, anywhere? People make cartoons and posters and funny messages related to their work, and post them on walls and doors. Apparently, sometimes they also email them. Not a very good idea on such a politicized topic, and Lubchenco’s rebuke seems appropriate, as does the “counseled by superiors” bit…but, if that’s the worst climate scientists have done, I guess the only upshot of “ClimateGate” remains that old, old refrain–scientists are people, too.


Comments (14)

  1. Holy cow… is somebody REALLY suggesting misconduct because a government computer was used to make a cartoon and blow off steam? Aside from really grasping at straws, it saddens me to think that anybody believes this requires justification.


    What I want to know is why this early post was removed from your comments, is this just all about the way you want to bias the subject of global warming or is there room for other opinions. If there really were a global warming problem they would ramp up solar energy technology not bio fuels, there is technology out there to save millions of gallons a day that is being suppressed, its all about the money not the environment, the earths climate follows the sun.

  3. Nullius in Verba

    “Holy cow… is somebody REALLY suggesting misconduct because a government computer was used to make a cartoon and blow off steam?”


    We were a lot more interested in the section that ends “As such, we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts.”

  4. -If there really were a global warming problem they would ramp up solar energy technology

    So you think they are not putting research efforts and funding into solar? Google can help.

  5. Ian Mc Vindicated

    It really doesn’t matter what they ” find ” ….the public has rightfully lost trust in the credability of so-called climate science.
    Nothing can be done to regain the trust of the voters in regards to the shady practices of the “climate scientists” .
    A generation will have to pass, and I mean, at least 20 years before any trust or credability can be regained. Think about it, the AGW fools had over 30 years to make a case, and it all fell apart because of a few interdepartmental emails . A straw house.
    Not to mention, there was never any real proof that mankind could actually alter the temperature of the earth ( snicker ) , but why let an impossibility get in the way of a good green story.
    In an old ode of the Simpsons , there was a cult that was trying to get Homer to join them…he was too stupid to join so, they changed their mantra to :” na na na na na na na na na leader ” and he fell for it.
    Climate scientists tried the same thing, and then stifled any criticism.
    They get what they deserve. The proles have been awakened.

  6. Georgie

    The report states:
    “In our review…we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data comprising the dataset or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures.”

    … “inappropriately manipulated data”…?
    Oh really…?
    Is there any …APPROPRIATELY manipulated data…???

    All these “gentlemen” who wish to be called “scientists” refused ALL the FOI requests submitted to them, to present the data supporting their findings. And when they did, they admited that ALL the RAW DATA needed for an indepedent reconstruction of their claims have been deleted…!

    Repeat: DELETED!

    How many “vindications” do you need now…?


  7. It really doesn’t matter what they ” find ” ….the public has rightfully lost trust in the credability of so-called climate science.

    “The public” you are talking is mostly the U.S. public.

  8. Jon

    It’s not even the US public, it’s the Republican base:

    Unfortunately, when all you need is 40 senators…

  9. ChrisD

    We were a lot more interested in the section that ends “As such, we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts.”

    Which amounts to a scientist and a lawyer having differing recollections of a conversation that took place four years ago, and which in any event has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not climate scientists are right about their science.

  10. Nullius in Verba


    A scientist and two lawyers. :-)

    And we don’t know whether it has any bearing on the science until we’ve seen the documents.

  11. Climate gate aside I attended the UEA and have tried many times to have my work reviewed by its science leaders but sadly without success. You will find my work at http//

  12. Ian Mc Vindicated

    To Roy Masters;

    You forgot to put in the colin after http …the address that actually works is :

    hope you don’t mind my correction :


  13. Bobito

    Roy, do you have the supporting data or has it all been deleted?

  14. Nullius in Verba


    Interesting document. I doubt you’ll get any of the climate scientists to pay attention, but I’ll give it a go. All comments are intended constructively, and with aim of helping. I don’t mind if, after consideration, your views on any of this differ from mine.
    Don’t take my word for it.

    1. The reason for the relationship between CO2 and temperature over geological time is that CO2 is more soluble in colder water. Every year, about 90 billion tons of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide is emitted by the warm tropical oceans and another 90 billion tons is absorbed by the cold polar oceans. (Compared to 6 billion contributed by humanity. Numbers are approximate.) It’s called the ‘solubility pump’, if you want to check. Look up ‘carbon cycle’ to check the amounts. As the temperature goes up, more CO2 is emitted and less absorbed, so CO2 goes up. It is generally thought that periodic changes in the Earth’s orbit and axis of rotation cause temperature changes, which cause CO2 changes. The direction of causality can be determined from the fact that temperature changes on average 800 years before the CO2.

    2. The Earth’s magnetic field (at least near the surface) is caused by electric currents circulating in the molten iron surrounding the Earth’s core, that are amplified and driven by the fluid motions resulting from the combination of convection and the Earth’s rotation. Because the fluid is not fixed, the electric currents shift slowly over time, and can even reverse direction. Iron is not magnetic above the Curie point temperature, but it can still carry an electric current. Magnetic fields in a conducting fluid tend to get “dragged” with the fluid. The heat driven fluid flow acts like a dynamo, stretching and rolling up the magnetic field lines to strengthen the field. The magnetic field at any other location on Earth is distorted significantly from that of a simple bar magnet. If you search for a map of ‘magnetic declination’ you can see the complexity of the surface field.

    3. The hexagonal jet streams are, as you surmise, Rossby waves with a resonant period that conveniently gives around six cycles as they circle the pole. It’s a function of the planet size and rotation rate, so for other planets you could get different numbers of waves.

    4. I assume the explanation for one face of the moon always facing us was that the Earth’s gravitational field causes tidal distortion, stretching the moon, but with a time delay due to inertia. Because the peak distortion lags behind the direct Earth-moon line, gravity ‘twists’ the rotating moon, dragging and slowing its rotation – the energy is lost in frictional heating from the constant stretching. The moon lost all its excess spin this way eons ago, and slowed to a halt. The Earth is also slowing, but because it is much bigger (and probably because it was initially spinning faster) it is taking far longer to lose its spin. Can you say why you could never accept it?

    5. The diamagnetism of water is very weak, and to lift it you need not only a strong magnetic field but also a steep magnetic field gradient (because it moves towards the weaker field). The moon’s gravity at the Earth’s surface is about 10^-7 g, which requires a field times field gradient of around 10^-4 Tesla squared per metre. Since the Earth’s magnetic field is 30-60 microTesla, and the gradient far smaller (i.e. the field at the surface is very similar to the field a metre above it), the magnetic effects are far outweighed by the moon’s gravity.

    6. Your picture of the ‘melting’ Antarctica is in fact Steig’s reconstruction that is now known to be mathematically faulty (and based on sparse and flaky data – see O’Donnell et al 2010), and it isn’t measuring melting in any case, but the rate of increase (or decrease) in temperature. Since according to Steig the temperature rose by only slightly more than one degree, and the Antarctic is typically at a temperature of about -40 degrees, it’s not going to cause any actual melting. The Antarctic ice cap mass change is primarily determined by how much it snows on top.

    Good luck with your further researches.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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