Niwa to put temperature data on web

By Eloise Gibson

The country's climate forecaster is bowing to public pressure and putting all of its temperature data and calculations on the internet because of mistrust fuelled by errors overseas.

Principal climate scientist James Renwick said Niwa had decided to bare
all because "if we don't we appear to be hiding something".

Two people in Niwa's climate group have prepared a full set of documents including all the data from climate stations and a full explanation of the adjustments made to records, which should be available online in about a week.

Niwa announced the move after an oceanographer and self-described scep
tic of global warming, Waikato University's Willem de Lange, told the Herald he would have more faith in temperature predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change if calculations were on the internet where everybody could see them.

Dr de Lange said that all temperature records could be put on a global
database and calculated collaboratively "in an open process, the same way open-source software is developed".

The UK's top scientist, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's science adviser,
John Beddington, has called for climate scientists to release their source data wherever possible after emails showed British scientists had blocked requests for access to information.

Dr Beddington told the Times newspaper that the benefits of being open outweighed the danger of data being manipulated.

Yesterday Dr Renwick said that while he had no problem releasing the
Niwa data he found it insulting to be singled out when, for example, medical and Treasury researchers were not expected to disclose all of their workings.

"There is a real issue of trust here. The assumption is people like myself don't know what we are doing or we've got some kind of agenda just to get research funding."

Dr de Lange welcomed the decision, particularly the promise to explain
data adjustments, saying it would give confidence in the records.

Niwa adjusts the record for climate stations if they are moved to a different spot.

Top scientists say the bulwark of climate science had not been shaken by recent controversy - that the globe is still warming, almost certainly because greenhouse gases are on the rise, and there is decreasing time to do something about it.

But they acknowledge public confidence has been shaken.

Dr Renwick, Auckland University's Environment School head Glenn
McGregor and this country's IPCC representative, Howard Larsen, said
yesterday that the scandals had changed nothing about the IPCC's
main conclusions.

Since the 1990s temperatures and sea levels had risen in line with IPCC
predictions, with sea levels rising at the upper end of forecasts.

The IPCC is the United Nations body charged with summarising the work of thousands of climate scientists for governments.

Its checks and balances were questioned after it admitted including
an unfounded claim that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 in its 2007 report.

This week it was criticised for including a reference to the preliminary results of a study that appeared to show a slight rise in property losses from extreme weather - when the study's final version, published after the 2007 report, found no proof of that.

The panel strongly denied any wrongdoing over extreme events, saying its report gave it balanced treatment and made it clear that other
studies disagreed.

The British Met Office will publish data from more than 1000 weather
stations once it has permission from the 188 countries that own the data.

IPCC'S INTEMPERATE YEAR IN THE HEADLINES

1 Climategate:

Emails from the University of East Anglia which were leaked on the internet in November reveal scientists avoided releasing data to critics. The British Information Commissioner's office has ruled the UEA breached British freedom-of-information laws, but the complaint came too late for the information watchdog to prosecute.

2 Glaciergate:

IPCC is accused of over-hyping claims after admitting a line in its 2007 report saying Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 was unfounded. Senior scientists reaffirm that glaciers are melting at historically high rates - although the melt time for the Himalayan glaciers may be closer to 300 years.

3 Storm claims:

The Sunday Times newspaper accused the IPCC of wrongly linking climate change with the rising cost of natural disasters after its 2007 report referred to an unpublished study showing a "small statistically significant trend" in property losses that could not be explained by economic growth.

- NZ Herald

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