JANUARY 14, 2010
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained internal documents from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) related to a controversy that erupted in 2007 when Canadian blogger Stephen McIntyre exposed an error in NASA’s handling of raw temperature data from 2000-2006 that exaggerated the reported rise in temperature readings in the United States. According to multiple press reports, when NASA corrected the error, the new data apparently caused a reshuffling of NASA’s rankings for the hottest years on record in the United States, with 1934 replacing 1998 at the top of the list.
These new documents, obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), include internal GISS email correspondence as NASA scientists attempted to deal with the media firestorm resulting from the controversy. In one exchange GISS head James Hansen tells a reporter from Bloomberg that NASA had not previously published rankings with 1998 atop the list as the hottest year on record in the 20th century.
Email from Demian McLean, Bloomberg to Jim Hansen, August 14, 2007: “The U.S. figures showed 1998 as the warmest year. Nevertheless, NASA has indeed newly ranked 1934 as the warmest year…”
Email Response from James Hansen to Demian McLean, August 14, 2007: “…We have not changed ranking of warmest year in the U.S. As you will see in our 2001 paper we found 1934 slightly warmer, by an insignificant hair over 1998. We still find that result. The flaw affected temperatures only after 2000, not 1998 and 1934.”
Email from NASA Scientist Makiko Sato to James Hansen, August 14, 2007: “I am sure I had 1998 warmer at least once on my own temperature web page…” (Email includes temperature chart dated January 1, 2007.)
(This issue also crops up in email communications with New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin a little over a week later.)
According to the NASA email, NASA’s incorrect temperature readings resulted from a “flaw” in a computer program used to update annual temperature data.
Hansen, clearly frustrated by the attention paid to the NASA error, labeled McIntyre a “pest” and suggests those who disagree with his global warming theories “should be ready to crawl under a rock by now.” Hansen also suggests that those calling attention to the climate data error did not have a “light on upstairs.”
“This email traffic ought to be embarrassing for NASA. Given the recent Climategate scandal, NASA has an obligation to be completely transparent with its handling of temperature data. Instead of insulting those who point out their mistakes, NASA scientists should engage the public in an open, professional and honest manner,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.