Following years of bitter dispute with climate change sceptics, the Climate Research Unit(CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich yesterday released most of the meteorological raw data it had used to put together a contested global land temperature dataset, CRUTEM. The release had been ordered last month by the UK Information Commissioner.
The CRU had previously rejected several freedom-of-information-act requests to make available raw data, which had been obtained from national meteorological services worldwide, to amateur researchers and climate sceptics, arguing that it had no permission to release the commercial datasets. ‘Gridded’ data derived from daily meteorological station data have been publicly available for many years, but sceptics, including Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre, said they needed the raw data so that they could do their own re-analysis of global temperature trends.
In autumn 2009, unknown offenders hacked CRU computer servers and released more than a thousand emails – some containing aggressive language and alleged hints of data manipulation – exchanged over ten year or so between CRU director Phil Jones and a group of leading climate scientists. Jones and his co-workers were later cleared of all allegations of misconduct. Even so, ‘Climategate’, as critics were quick to dub the affair, prompted a severe confidence crisis from which the climate sciences have not yet fully recovered.
With yesterday’s release, raw data from 5,113 weather stations around the globe are now in the public domain. The only data missing are those from 10 stations in Poland. The Polish meteorological service, say CRU officials, refused permittence to have their data publicly released. But CRU reluctantly opted to release station data from Trinidad and Tobago against the Caribbean state’s express wish.
“We want to place beyond all doubt our determination to be open with our data and to comply with the ICO’s instruction,” Trevor Davies, UEA’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, said in a statement. “We remain concerned, however, that the forced release of material from a source which has explicitly refused to give permission for release could have some damaging consequences for the UK in international research collaborations.”