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Don’t mention the Peer Review! New Zealand’s NIWA bury the Australian review

Posted By Joanne Nova On August 7, 2012 @ 3:33 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

The Australians must have said something awful.

In the never ending quest to hide information that the taxpayer paid for, the New Zealand trial of skeptics vs alarmists is rising to new heights.

This is a legal case asking for discovery of documents, which is much harder to dodge than a simple FOI. Yet NIWA are putting in an Olympic effort to hide what the Australian BOM (their allies?) have said about their work.

The bottom line is that the NIWA team peer reviewed Australia’s new ACORN temperature set and endorsed it as being “worlds best practice” which (judging by what we’ve seen) it clearly is. What a damning review. The NIWA practice is so bad, that even the Australian BOM can’t return the favor and pretend to say something good about it.

NIWA (New Zealand’s National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research) is the official New Zealand organization responsible for climate pronouncements. They pronounced that the country had warmed almost 1°C during the twentieth century, but, oh dear, when skeptics looked, the raw data showed a rise of only 0.23°C  in the same time period. And in the full record, the trend was only a  0.06°C per century since 1850. (During the 20th Century that’s only a 400% exaggeration of the observed trend. It’s more if we look at the whole record.)

This is extreme man-made global warming in action in New Zealand.

This is what the thermometers recorded from 1850 – 2000.

This is NZ unadjusted temperatures recorded at the sites used in the official 7SS series.


Here another version of those thermometers after adjustments.

This is what man-made global warming looks like.


This is what man-made global warming looks like.

Graph: Warwick Hughes.   See the official version on the NIWA site.

The entire NZ record was based on adjustments described in an  annex in James Salinger’s 1981 thesis. When the skeptics asked for information on the adjustments they became very difficult to find. After years of searching, NIWA finally admitted the statistical calculations were entirely lost. [See “New Zealand – Unaffected by Global Warming”]

Faced with such an inexplicable, hard-to-believe record, the logical next step was to get justice. (If only that were easy). Read on for a brief summary of the High Court action and the latest news.

Legal Proceedings were the Way To Go

The NZ Climate Science Coalition asked for a judicial review of New Zealand’s official temperature record, and put together legal claims in July 2010. NIWA’s response then in defending it’s high quality expert analysis was to take the highly unusual step of declaring that its work was not meant to be taken as being important, official, or anything more than just labnotes for the boys basically. They said: “There is no “official” or “formal New Zealand Temperature Record” and “the NZTR is not a record and is not a public record for the purposes of the PRA”.

Never mind that New Zealand has a carbon reduction scheme written into legislation and it was partly based on the non-official, non-existent, NZTR, and that the IPCC relies on this information too.

NIWA couldn’t justify the upward adjustments to the thermometer data, and promised to redo the lot and get their Australian counterparts to “peer review” it.

In February 2010, NIWA’s minister (the Hon. Dr Wayne Mapp) promised they would reconstruct the 7SS (7 Station Series) and added three further undertakings:

  • the NIWA work would be externally peer-reviewed by two scientists from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).
  • the confidence levels of the adjustments would be calculated and disclosed.
  • by June 2011, a scientific paper describing NIWA’s methods would be submitted to an academic journal for publication, and would be subject to independent peer reviews.

So far they are failing in 3 out of 4 of those objectives. NIWA published their new series in Dec 2010, but oddly, they can’t seem to get public endorsement from their Australian counterparts. The NIWA publications mentioned that the BOM had carried out a peer review, but didn’t say what the BOM concluded.

What did the Australian BOM say?

Richard Treadgold had to resort to an OIA request (Official Information Act) in January 2011. He is still waiting. (NIWA’s review taking a hiding, NIWA’s review: what are they hiding? and NIWA — show us the peer review!)

Warwick Hughes used an FOI to ask the Australian BOM for it’s version. What are the Aussies hiding, No, really — what are they hiding, Some questions for the BoM’s FOI executive. Warwick is appealing the OAIC.

Finally, skeptics resorted to using court ordered “discovery” — surely NIWA would be fast to release the rave reviews they got from the Australians, I mean, really, they would issue a press release with the quotes wouldn’t they? Not so. Whatever the BOM said was so toxic that NIWA spent months working to avoid setting those taxpayer funded thoughts free…

“The Coalition’s legal advisers sought Court-supervised discovery and inspection of the BoM peer-review papers. NIWA’s advisers fought this tooth and nail. After about eight months of constant delays, the parties settled the discovery dispute on a basis which left out the BoM papers.”

The latest news on the NZ court case is:  Affidavits are for ever

Treadgold sums up the current state of things:

NIWA and BoM part company

The Coalition then filed an amended claim to include the Review. NIWA’s amended defence repeatedly referred to it, claiming the BoM peer-review “found the results and underlying methodology used for the 7SS were sound.”

Unfortunately, the BoM don’t agree with them. It was time to split.

So at the eleventh hour, buried at paragraph 306 of Dr David Wratt’s revised affidavit, just a few days before the hearing, we found this surprising abandonment of what was previously the highly-valued and much-touted (such as for assuring the Parliament that all was above board) BoM peer review:

306. TJD113 – TJD120 regarding the BoM review of NIWA’s report: I confirm that NIWA and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) carried out a peer review process. NIWA does not seek to rely on it for the purposes of this proceeding. The reason for that is not that the BOM peer review did not support NIWA’s approach to adjustments and homogenisation of the raw data in temperature records (it did) but, rather, that NIWA and BOM regard the process of peer review and the interchanges between them as confidential, privileged, and subject to public interest immunity. It is inimical to the future relations between NIWA and international agencies such as BOM for these exchanges to be subject to scrutiny in litigation: it impedes the free and frank exchange of information which underpins the value of the relationship between such agencies. Accordingly, rather than rely on the BOM’s work, NIWA proposes to rely on evidence prepared specifically for the purpose of this litigation. In the event that the plaintiff seeks further discovery (which is suggested in Mr Dunleavy’s affidavit) that application will be resisted on the grounds stated above together with the fact that this matter has already been canvassed and settled during the interlocutory rounds of this case when limited orders for further discovery were made by consent. Those orders excluded the BOM material and, so as to put the matter beyond doubt, NIWA does not rely on the BOM review in any event for the purposes of these proceedings.

This boils down to a confession to the Court that NIWA has no evidence to show that the BoM approves of NIWA’s review. NIWA does not even bother to present the ineffectual BoM covering letter at page 15 of the Review, for it expresses no approval of the report – though NIWA claims it does.


When I asked him what it all means, and when it would be decided, Richard replied:

“A judicial review is a request for the judge to review something. Having agreed to a review, he can order changes. Anything, really, that he considers just. It’s wide open, although we don’t know when the decision will be delivered. We’ve asked him to look at the manner of NIWA’s production of the NZTR and the 11SS and have pointed out numerous flaws we found in them.

Specifically, we’ve asked for:

  • A declaration that the Adjustments used in the seven station series temperature record were not lawfully made (actual wording to reflect the Court’s findings).
  • A declaration that the Eleven station temperature series was not lawfully compiled (actual wording to reflect the Court’s findings).
  • A declaration that the NZT7 series was compiled unlawfully (actual wording to reflect the Court’s findings).
  • Orders quashing NIWA’s decisions to do those things.
  • Anything else that may be just.
  • Costs.

There might be other things, too. I didn’t attend the whole hearing, haven’t seen the transcript, and haven’t had a complete debrief with Barry Brill. I do know the lawyers were changing things right up to and even during the hearing.”

Tony Cox wondered about the implications and the possibility of further legal action:

Back in October 2010, Tony Cox was asked what it would mean and he replied off the cuff:

The Defence, parts 7 and 8 are novel; the SOC is basically asserting either nonfeasance [not doing something which had to be done] or malfeasance [doing something wrong which had to be done]; the Defence is saying that nothing had to be done and wasn’t done.

This is extraordinarily stupid. Anyone who has paid, been levied, fined or taxed on the basis of this [non-existent] record because a government, statutory body or private firm which charged the fee did so on the basis of this [non-existent] record could now sue for the recovery of the fee[s] they have paid. Class actions anyone?

My thoughts back then remain the same:

In a nutshell, it appears that what it means is what we make of it.

I’m not sure if there is any legal agency with any power to enforce some action at this point (do enlighten me), but it sure could be a gift — though possibly only if the people of New Zealand (and their friends) decide to run with NIWA’s admissions and pursue this to the end.

All the documents, reports, contracts and parliamentary statements that relied on the New Zealand Temperature Record, are surely now begging to be challenged. All the people that mistakenly believed that the NZTR was more than just an unverified, unaudited, internal document, now need to reconsider where they stand.


WUWT has a story about Jim Salinger and others and the way they twisted peer review and targeted Chris De Freitas

My posts on this topic:

New Zealand – Where did that warming go?

Storm trends in Australia and New Zealand? No evidence that CO2 increases extreme weather

 * 19th Century should have been 20th Century in para 5. Fixed. Thanks to Treadgold.

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