[asa] Hansen December 2005 Timeline Reconstruction

From: Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com>
Date: Sun Mar 25 2007 - 21:56:07 EDT

When looking at the congressional testimony there's a bit of he said/
she said with respect to whether NASA/The WH blocked the publication
of 2005 being the hottest year ever because that would contradict the
there's no global warming since 1998 meme. Given all the heat and the
politically charged nature of this, I wanted to turn the temperature
down and find an objective account. So, I decided to try and
reconstruct a time line.

On December 6, 2005 Jim Hansen presented a tribute to Charles Keeling
at the San Francisco meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In it
he said the following:

> The temperature in 2005 so far is approximately the same as in
> 1998, which is remarkable
> because the 1998 temperature had jumped two standard deviations
> above the trend line, driven
> by the strongest El Nino of the century. Global warming in just the
> past 30 years is more than
> one-half degree Celsius, about 1 degree Fahrenheit in 30 years.

This caught the attention of the media and the Los Angeles Times and
ABC News requested comments from NASA on December 15, 2005. George
Deutsch claimed in his congressional testimony that Hansen had
submitted a non-peer-reviewed letter that day. I found no record of
that and the publishing date for Science was December 16, 2005. NASA
fielded the media requests with cryosphere specialist, Waleed
Abdalati. He told the LA Times that he could not confirm that 2005
was the hottest year on record.

On December 16, 2005 Hansen appeared on Good Morning America and was
interviewed by Bill Blakemore. Hansen said the same thing on December
16 that he said on December 9, namely that 2005 tied 1998 as the
hottest year on record. The following web page got published: http://

The conclusions:

> The highest global surface temperature in more than a century of
> instrumental data was recorded in the 2005 calendar year in the
> GISS annual analysis. However, the error bar on the data implies
> that 2005 is practically in a dead heat with 1998, the warmest
> previous year.
> Our analysis, summarized in Figure 1 above, uses documented
> procedures for data over land (1), satellite measurements of sea
> surface temperature since 1982 (2), and a ship-based analysis for
> earlier years (3). Our estimated error (2σ, 95% confidence) in
> comparing nearby years, such as 1998 and 2005, increases from 0.05°
> C in recent years to 0.1°C at the beginning of the 20th century.
> Error sources include incomplete station coverage, quantified by
> sampling a model-generated data set with realistic variability at
> actual station locations, and partly subjective estimates of data
> quality problems (4).
> Record warmth in 2005 is notable, because global temperature has
> not received any boost from a tropical El Niño this year. The prior
> record year, 1998, on the contrary, was lifted 0.2°C above the
> trend line by the strongest El Niño of the past century.
Deutsch claimed that headquarters were not properly notified but this
web site is regularly updated. The contact page looks like this:

> Please address scientific inquiries about the GISTEMP analysis to
> Dr. James Hansen.
> Please address technical questions about these GISTEMP webpages to
> Dr. Reto Ruedy.
> Also participating in the GISTEMP analysis are Dr. Makiko Sato and
> Dr. Ken Lo.
So, why did headquarters send media requests to a person not on the
contact list? They wouldn't have been blind-sided if they just sent
the requests to the right person. According to Deutsch:

> Communications Director Joe Davis and Press Secretary Dean Acosta
> – conveyed to me that
> they were unaware of the release of this information being
> coordinated with Headquarters or peer
> reviewed.

This was even though previous reports on temperature records was
periodically placed on the web site including an analysis of the
temperature of 2004. If they paid attention to Hansen's talk on
December 6 or if they just looked at the datasets themselves they
would have known what was coming. Or, maybe, just maybe, they could
have picked up the phone and asked Hansen, "The media is asking
whether 2005 is as warm as 1998. Is this true?" Rather, they then
made Hansen pay for their stupidity by having to publicly approve any
interviews and threatened "dire consequences" if violated. In the
end, they ended up with egg on their face because Deutsch broke the
"rules" and kept a paper trail. In my opinion, Deutsch is a tragic
figure and shows why it is vitally important that laypeople are
careful who they listen to. They listened to the global warming
deniers and that made them unprepared for the blindsiding from the
data. Not realizing what happened, they shot the messenger -- both
Hansen and Deutsch, the latter because he became the "issue" rather
than the action line that there has been no global warming since 1998.

Again, Deutsch's testimony:

> After I learned the Times was going to accuse me of submitting an
> inaccurate
> resume and trying to impose my religious views on the agency, I was
> told by my superiors at
> NASA that the story had become “about you,” that it was “too
> much,” and that everyone just
> wanted it to “go away.” Rather than see the agency continue to
> be tarnished in the media, I
> resigned on February 7, 2006. In spite of the negative publicity I
> knew this would result in for
> me, I felt it was the best move for the agency and its employees,
> as the issue had become a
> distraction from all the wonderful work NASA was doing. I feel I
> made the right decision.

Postscript. A contemporaneous NY Times article asked the question of
whether Jim Hansen was treated uniquely. This was the answer they got:

> Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those
> of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions
> on extracurricular lectures or writing.
> One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and
> technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department.
> For years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has
> written in papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts
> in greenhouse gases because the added prosperity from unfettered
> economic activity would allow countries to exploit benefits of
> warming and adapt to problems.
> In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the
> Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work,
> but added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as
> long as he identified the views as his own.
> "One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff,"
> he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I
> plan on saying or writing."
Earlier in Hansen's career he attempted to do the same and identify
any policy recommendations as his personal opinion. Starting with the
GHWB administration that option was removed from him. One positive
result of the controversy is that he can do that again. You will see
the following in his publications:

> James Hansen is an adjunct professor at the Columbia
> University Earth Institute and director of NASA’s Goddard
> Institute for Space Studies in New York. He expresses his
> opinions here as a private citizen under the protection of the
> First Amendment.

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Received on Sun Mar 25 21:56:17 2007

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