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Court action against NIWA: progress report

Climate Conversation Group, NZ

http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/

Court action against NIWA: progress report

Progress in the court action being taken by the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET) against the National Institute for Atmospheric and Water Research (NIWA) has been explained by Richard Treadgold, of the blogsite, www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/

The status of the NZ temperature record

For the last ten years, visitors to NIWA’s official website have been greeted by a graph of the “seven-station series” (7SS), under the bold heading “New Zealand Temperature Record”. The graph covers the period from 1853 to the present, and is adorned by a prominent trend-line sloping sharply upwards. Accompanying text informs the world that “New Zealand has experienced a warming trend of approximately 0.9°C over the past 100 years.”

The 7SS has been updated and used in every monthly issue of NIWA’s “Climate Digest” since January 1993. Its 0.9°C (sometimes 1.0°C) of warming has appeared in the Australia/NZ Chapter of the IPCC’s 2001 and 2007 Assessment Reports. It has been offered as sworn evidence in countless tribunals and judicial enquiries, and provides the historical base for all of NIWA’s reports to both Central and Local Governments on climate science issues and future projections.

NIWA has a printed promotional brochure describing its climate activities, which commences with the iconic 7SS graph. No piece of climate lore is more familiar to the public, and it is better known than NIWA’s logo.

But now, para 7(a) of NIWA’s Statement of Defence: http://tinyurl.com/23eplfy

states that “there is no ‘official’ or formal New Zealand temperature record”.

In para 8(b) it says the NZTR is not a public record for the purposes of the Public Records Act, using the exemption of “special collections” defined (in para 4(b)) as non-public records used for “research purposes”.

In para 4, NIWA denies it has any obligation to use the best available data or best scientific techniques, while conceding that it has statutory duties to pursue excellence and to perform its functions efficiently and effectively.

The juxtaposition of these conflicting stances leaves NIWA looking decidedly awkward. Should it go all out to defend its most famous product, or throw the NZTR under a bus?

The 7SS adjustments

The 7SS posed as a genuine historical archive, until the NZCSC disclosed, in its 2009 paper Are We Feeling Warmer Yet, that the warming trend was merely an artefact of NIWA’s in-house ‘corrections’. After a lengthy saga (described in Brill, B.E., 2010a. 'Crisis in New Zealand climatology', Quadrant Magazine (May):

http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2010/05/crisis-in-new-zealand-climatology

and Brill, B.E., 2010b. 'New Zealand climate crisis gets worse', Quadrant Magazine (June):

http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2010/06/nz-climate-crisis-gets-worse)

it emerged that NIWA had adopted some 34 non-replicable adjustments proposed in 1980 by Salinger, whose calculations had been lost.

The NZCSC filed judicial review proceedings against NIWA, requesting the Court to:

• Declare the 7SS invalid

• Direct NIWA to prepare a valid replacement NZTR

In its Statement of Defence at: http://tinyurl.com/23eplfy

NIWA announces that it has now completed a full internal examination of the Salinger adjustments in the 7SS, and has forwarded its “review papers” to its Australian counterpart, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for peer review.

From ministerial answers to Parliamentary Questions recorded at:

http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QWA/f/d/6/QWA_02398_2010-2398-2010-John-Boscawen-to-the-Minister-of-Research.htm

we know that this “review” has involved five or six scientists working for about six months, and has received a special grant of about $70,000. It comprises a replacement Schedule of Adjustments for the 7SS with de novo documentation and detailed justification for each adjustment. The Hokitika example at:

http://www.niwa.co.nz/news-and-publications/news/all/2009/nz-temp-record/seven-station-series-temperature-data

(scroll down to Documentation of the adjustment process) has been repeated for all seven weather stations. The replacement 7SS doesn’t repeat the Salinger adjustments but it is to include any adjustments agreed between NIWA and BOM, both of whom will supposedly apply state-of-the-art homogenisation technology.

So the old 7SS has already been repudiated. A replacement NZTR is being prepared by NIWA – presumably the best effort they are capable of producing. NZCSC is about to receive what it asked for. On the face of it, there’s nothing much left for the Court to adjudicate.

What will happen in the court case?

The proceedings are not yet affected by these developments. If the replacement NZTR is as deeply flawed as its predecessor (which seems inherently unlikely) NZCSC will doubtless press on to trial – although some amendments to the pleadings would probably be required. If the new document seems respectable, the parties may well be able to resolve their remaining differences. Watch this space!


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