Read the full story in the Washington Post.
It may have been the most controversial climate change study in years.
In the summer of 2015, a team of federal scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a blockbuster paper in Science that appeared to wipe away one of global warming doubters’ favorite arguments. The skeptics had for years suggested that following the then-record warm year of 1998 and throughout the beginning of the 21st century, global warming had slowed down or “paused.” But the 2015 paper, led by NOAA’s Thomas Karl, employed an update to the agency’s influential temperature dataset, and in particular to its record of the planet’s ocean temperatures, to suggest that really, the recent period was perfectly consistent with the much longer warming trend.
This didn’t merely surprise some scientists (who had been busily studying why global warming had appeared to moderate its rate somewhat in the early 21st century). It actually led to a congressional subpoena from Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Committee on Science, who charged that “NOAA’s decision to readjust historical temperature records has broad national implications” and requested more information on why NOAA had made the dataset adjustment, including data and communications from the scientists involved.
That controversy is likely to be stirred anew in the wake of a new study, published Wednesday in Science Advances, that finds the NOAA scientists did the right thing in adjusting their dataset. In particular, the new research suggests that the NOAA scientists correctly adjusted their record of ocean temperatures in light of known biases in some observing systems — and indeed, that keepers of other top global temperature datasets should do likewise.