NOAA & THE DAVID LEGATES ISSUE
THIS POST IS A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE RESPONSE BY THE MEDIA AND BY CLIMATE SCIENTISTS OPPOSING THE APPOINTMENT OF DAVID LEGATES TO THE NOAA.
MEDIA REPORT #1
University of Delaware Professor; Climate Change Denier Hired at NOAA,
By Zachary Parnes: University of Delaware Professor David Legates has been hired by the NOAA. The move has caused climate change scientists to raise eyebrows; as Legates has long disputed and rejected various theories regarding climate change. Legates, who is the new Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Observation and Prediction, has long used his position as a academic to doubt climate research. He was once the State Climatologist for Delaware, but resigned from the position in 2011. Legates authored a paper that questioned previous findings about the direct correlation between climate change, and the destruction of the Arctic glaciers. that research was funded by groups including ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. Legates currently works for the University of Delaware in the Geography and Spatial Sciences department.
MEDIA REPORT #2
Longtime Climate Science Denier Hired At NOAA, REBECCA HERSHER. The appointment of a climate change denier to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East. David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government’s sprawling weather and climate prediction work. Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates‘ specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment. NOAA Chief Scientist Says Move To Contradict Agency And Back Trump Was Political.
Legates has a long history of using his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science. His appointment to NOAA comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East. Global temperatures have already risen nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. Warming is happening the fastest at the Earth’s poles, where sea ice is melting, permafrost is thawing and ocean temperatures are heating up, with devastating effects on animals and humans alike.
In 2007, Legates was one of the authors of a paper that questioned previous findings about the role of climate change in destroying the habitat of polar bears. That research was partially funded by grants from Koch Industries, the American Petroleum Institute lobbying group and ExxonMobil, according to InsideClimate News. The same year, Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner sent a letter to Legates expressing concern about his opinions on climate change, given that he was the state climatologist at the time. Minner asked him to refrain from casting doubt on climate science when he was acting in his official role. Legates stepped down in 2011. Legates also appeared in a video pushing the discredited theory that the sun is the cause of global warming. In testimony before the U.S. Senate in 2014, Legates argued that a climate science report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change erroneously stated that humans are causing global warming.
Legates is a professor in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences at the University of Delaware. He is also affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a think tank that has poured money into convincing Americans that climate change is not happening and that the scientific evidence — including evidence published by the agency that now employs Legates — is uncertain or untrustworthy. Advocates who reject mainstream climate science, such as those at Heartland, have had a leading role in shaping the Trump administration’s response to global warming, including the decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Steve Milloy, a Heartland board member and part of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, says he welcomes the Legates appointment. „David Legates is a true climate scientist and will bring a great deal of much-needed science to NOAA,“ Milloy writes in an email to NPR.
But climate researchers slammed NOAA’s decision to appoint Legates to a key scientific position. „He’s not just in left field — he’s not even near the ballpark,“ says Jane Lubchenco, a professor of marine biology at Oregon State University and head of NOAA under President Barack Obama. Contrarians in science are welcome, Lubchenco says, but their claims have to be scientifically defensible. That’s why official groups like the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change review the entire range of scientific research before reaching a conclusion and yet, over the last 20 years, in his work and public statements, Legates has rejected the overwhelming peer-reviewed research that shows human activity is the main driver of a dangerously changing climate.
Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, says that Legates has, throughout his career, „misrepresented the science of climate change, serving as an advocate for polluting interests as he dismisses and downplays the impacts of climate change and at a time when those impacts are playing out before our very eyes in the form of unprecedented wildfires out West and super-storms back East, I cannot imagine a more misguided decision than to appoint someone like Legates to a position of leadership at an agency that is tasked with assessing the risks we face from extreme weather events.“
SUMMARY OF THE CHARGE AGAINST LEGATES
It appears that the objection to the appointment of Legates to the NOAA is the evaluation by the media and by climate scientists Michael Mann and Jane Lubchenko that:
- Legates has misrepresented the science of climate change.
- Legates is an advocate for polluting interests.
- Legates dismisses and downplays the impacts of climate change.
- The appointment of Legates to the NOAA comes at a time when climate change impacts are playing out before our very eyes in the form of unprecedented wildfires out West and super-storms back East.
- Legates‘ claims are not scientifically defensible.
- U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change review the entire range of scientific research before reaching a conclusion. These conclusions are therefore irrefutable.
- Legates has rejected the overwhelming peer-reviewed research that shows human activity is the main driver of a dangerously changing climate.
- Legates is affiliated with the Heartland Institute, a think tank that has poured money into convincing Americans that climate change is not happening and that the scientific evidence is uncertain or untrustworthy.
- The Legate appointment to the NOAA has been welcomed by climate deniers.
- The Legates paper that questioned the climate science finding that climate change in destroying the habitat of polar bears was funded by the Koch Brothers, the American Petroleum Institute, and ExxonMobil.
- Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner did not approve of Legates‘ climate denial and that forced Legates to step down as state climatologist for Delaware.
- Legates disputes and rejects various theories regarding climate change and doubts climate research.
- Legates authored a paper that questioned previous findings about the direct correlation between climate change, and the destruction of the Arctic glaciers and that research was funded by ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute.
- Legates used his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science.
CRITICAL RESPONSE TO THESE CHARGES
That the findings by Legates are inconsistent with findings by the IPCC and by a vast majority of climate scientists in and of itself does not provide evidence that these findings are therefore incorrect. The same argument applies to the source of funding. The correctness of a research finding cannot be determined by whether the research was funded by the Koch Brothers or by the Rockefeller Foundation.
We provide below a sample of research by Legates that summarize the findings and the methodology. That his science and his conclusions are incorrect must be shown by scientific and statistical arguments in each case. No such analysis or argument against the research credibility of Legates has been provided.
The negative response to the Legates appointment summarized above is not credible. The arguments presented do not show that that Legates has erred in his research methodology or conclusions. They show only that the person making these argument does not find the finding acceptable. Argument against research findings that derive from emotional or advocacy objections do not have a science interpretation. They have more in common with superstition than with science.
LINK TO POST ON SUPERSTITION: https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/08/03/confirmationbias/
A SAMPLE OF CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH BY LEGATES WITH VARIOUS CO-AUTHORS
Limitations of climate models as predictors of climate change.“ Brief analysis 396 (2002). Climate is to some degree a representation of the average of weather events that occur. If the frequency and locations of weather events are simulated inaccurately or not at all, the reliability of climate change prognostications is undermined. While GCMs cannot be
expected to simulate future weather, they should be able to accurately depict the earth’s present climate and vitality. Since they cannot, GCM predictions of climate change are statistical exercises with little bearing on
„The continuing search for an anthropogenic climate change signal: Limitations of correlation‐based approaches.“ Geophysical Research Letters 24.18 (1997): 2319-2322. Several recent studies claim to have found evidence of large‐scale climate changes that were attributed to human influences. These assertions are based on increases in correlation over time between general circulation model prognostications and observations as derived from a centred pattern correlation statistic. We argue that the results of such studies are inappropriate because of limitations and biases in these statistics which leads us to conclude that the results of many studies employing these statistics may be erroneous and, in fact, show little evidence of a human fingerprint in the observed records. FULL TEXT PDF: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1029/97GL02207
„Impacts of land use/land cover change on climate and future research priorities.“ Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 91.1 (2010): 37-46. Regional variations in radiative forcing may have important regional and global climatic implications that are not resolved by the concept of global mean radiative forcing. Tropospheric aerosols and landscape changes have particularly heterogeneous forcings. To date, there have been only limited studies of regional radiative forcing and response. Indeed, it is not clear how best to diagnose a regional forcing and response in the observational record; regional forcings can lead to global climate responses, while global forcings can be associated with regional climate responses. Regional diabatic heating can also cause atmospheric teleconnections that influence regional climate thousands of kilometers away from the point of forcing. Improving societally relevant projections of regional climate impacts will require a better understanding of the magnitudes of regional forcings and the associated climate responses. FULL TEXT PDF; https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1399&context=natrespapers
Land cover changes and their biogeophysical effects on climate.“ International journal of climatology 34.4 (2014): 929-953. Land cover changes (LCCs) play an important role in the climate system. Research over recent decades highlights the impacts of these changes on atmospheric temperature, humidity, cloud cover, circulation, and precipitation. These impacts range from the local‐ and regional‐scale to sub‐continental and global‐scale. It has been found that the impacts of regional‐scale LCC in one area may also be manifested in other parts of the world as a climatic teleconnection. In light of these findings, this article provides an overview and synthesis of some of the most notable types of LCC and their impacts on climate. These LCC types include agriculture, deforestation and afforestation, desertification, and urbanization. In addition, this article provides a discussion on challenges to, and future research directions in, assessing the climatic impacts of LCC. FULL TEXT PDF: https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/joc.3736
Climate consensus and ‘misinformation’: A rejoinder to Agnotology, scientific consensus, and the teaching and learning of climate change. Science & Education 24.3 (2015): 299-318. Agnotology is the study of how ignorance arises via circulation of misinformation calculated to mislead. Legates et al. (Sci Educ 22:2007–2017, 2013) had questioned the applicability of agnotology to politically-charged debates. In their reply, Bedford and Cook (Sci Educ 22:2019–2030, 2013), seeking to apply agnotology to climate science, asserted that fossil-fuel interests had promoted doubt about a climate consensus. Their definition of climate ‘misinformation’ was contingent upon the post-modernist assumptions that scientific truth is discernible by measuring a consensus among experts, and that a near unanimous consensus exists. However, inspection of a claim by Cook et al. (Environ Res Lett 8:024024, 2013) of 97.1 % consensus, heavily relied upon by Bedford and Cook, shows just 0.3 % endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming since 1950 is anthropogenic. Agnotology, then, is a two-edged sword since either side in a debate may claim that general ignorance arises from misinformation allegedly circulated by the other. Significant questions about anthropogenic influences on climate remain. Therefore, Legates et al. appropriately asserted that partisan presentations of controversies stifle debate and have no place in education. FULL TEXT: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9
Reconstructing climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years: a reappraisal.“ Energy & Environment 14.2-3 (2003): 233-296. The 1000-year climatic and environmental history of the Earth contained in various proxy records is examined. As indicators, the proxies duly represent or record aspects of local climate. Questions on the relevance and validity of the locality paradigm for climatological research become sharper as studies of climatic changes on timescales of 50–100 years or longer are pursued. This is because thermal and dynamical constraints imposed by local geography become increasingly important as the air-sea-land interaction and coupling timescales increase. Because the nature of the various proxy climate indicators are so different, the results cannot be combined into a simple hemispheric or global quantitative composite. However, considered as an ensemble of individual observations, an assemblage of the local representations of climate establishes the reality of both the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period as climatic anomalies with world-wide imprints, extending earlier results by Bryson et al. (1963), Lamb (1965), and numerous other research efforts. Furthermore, these individual proxies are used to determine whether the 20th century is the warmest century of the 2nd Millennium at a variety of globally dispersed locations. Many records reveal that the 20th century is likely not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium, although it is clear that human activity has significantly impacted some local environments. FULL TEXT https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1260/095830503765184619
Comments on “Evidence for global runoff increase related to climate warming” by Labat et al.“ Advances in Water Resources 28.12 (2005): 1310-1315. We have examined the evidence presented by Labat et al. and found that (1) their claims for a 4% increase in global runoff arising from a 1 °C increase in air temperature and (2) that their article provides the “first experimental data-based evidence demonstrating the link between the global warming and the intensification of the global hydrological cycle” are not supported by the data presented. Our conclusions are based on the facts that (1) their discharge records exhibit non-climatic influences and trends, (2) their work cannot refute previous studies finding no relation between air temperature and runoff, (3) their conclusions cannot explain relations before 1925, and (4) the statistical significance of their results hinges on a single data point that exerts undue influence on the slope of the regression line. We argue that Labat et al. have not provided sufficient evidence to support their claim for having detected increases in global runoff resulting from climate warming.
Evaluating the use of “goodness‐of‐fit” measures in hydrologic and hydroclimatic model validation.“ Water resources research 35.1 (1999): 233-241. Correlation and correlation‐based measures have been widely used to evaluate the “goodness‐of‐fit” of hydrologic and hydroclimatic models. These measures are oversensitive to extreme values (outliers) and are insensitive to additive and proportional differences between model predictions and observations. Because of these limitations, correlation‐based measures can indicate that a model is a good predictor, even when it is not. In this paper, useful alternative goodness‐of‐fit or relative error measures (including the coefficient of efficiency and the index of agreement) that overcome many of the limitations of correlation‐based measures are discussed. Modifications to these statistics to aid in interpretation are presented. It is concluded that correlation and correlation‐based measures should not be used to assess the goodness‐of‐fit of a hydrologic or hydroclimatic model and that additional evaluation measures (such as summary statistics and absolute error measures) should supplement model evaluation tools.
Mean seasonal and spatial variability in global surface air temperature.“ Theoretical and applied climatology 41.1-2 (1990): 11-21. Using terrestrial observations of shelter-height air temperature and shipboard measurements, a global climatology of mean monthly surface air temperature has been compiled. Data were obtained from ten sources, screened for coding errors, and redundant station records were removed. The combined data base consists of 17 986 independent terrestrial station records and 6 955 oceanic grid-point records. These data were then interpolated to a 0.5° of latitude by 0.5° of longitude lattice using a spherically-based interpolation algorithm. Spatial distributions of the annual mean and intra-annual variance are presented along with a harmonic decomposition of the intra-annual variance.
The accuracy of United States precipitation data.“ Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 75.2 (1994): 215-228. Precipitation measurements in the United States (as well as all other countries) are adversely affected by the gauge undercatch bias of point precipitation measurements. When these measurements are used to obtain areal averages, particularly in mountainous terrain, additional biases may be introduced because most stations are at lower elevations in exposed sites. Gauge measurements tend to be underestimates of the true precipitation, largely because of wind-induced turbulence at the gauge orifice and wetting losses on the internal walls of the gauge. These are not trivial as monthly estimates of this bias often vary from 5% to 40%. Biases are larger in winter than in summer and increase to the north in the United States due largely to the deleterious effect of the wind on snowfall. Simple spatial averaging of data from existing networks does not provide an accurate evaluation of the area-mean precipitation over mountainous terrain (e.g., over much of the western United States) since most stations are located at low elevations. This tends to underestimate area averages since, in mountainous terrain, precipitation generally increases with elevation. Temporal precipitation trends for the United States, as well as seasonal and annual averages, are presented. Estimates of unbiased (or less biased) precipitation over the northern Great Plains provide a regional analysis.