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The Bering Sea Project: Thoughts on Climategate

After spending 27 days in the sometimes rough, sometimes glassy, and almost always foggy Bering Sea, the RV Thompson docked in Dutch Harbor on July 13th – a half-day earlier than expected. Most of us watched the Unalaska Island shoreline drawing closer, its volcanic hills distinctly more verdant than when we left. Land ho! It’s a precious site after being on a vessel for so long. Most of the equipment is boxed up and tied down, and the Thompson will take it to Seattle, where most scientists will meet the boat to offload. Some items, like Alexei Pinchuk’s krill babies, get packed in ice and shipped home on a cargo plane.

During the last couple of days I asked the principal investigators on board what they thought of “Climategate,” in which Climatic Research Unit (CRU) computers at the University of East Anglia were hacked into. Although an independent review committee found there was no breach of scientific integrity, the emails caused much consternation from all directions, and their publication had its intended effect of causing the public to further mistrust climate change data. Although the folks on board are oceanographers not climate scientists, an explicitly stated goal of the Bering Sea Project is to address how climate change will impact the Bering Sea ecosystem. What did they think of Climategate?

“I think everyone made a whole lot out of nothing,” said Nancy Kachel, who works at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. “The scientists were imprudent, and they used the kind of language that others could misinterpret – like ‘clever trick’ – but it had nothing to do with deception. It’s pretty irrefutable that humans are impacting our environment unfavorably, including the climate.” Her husband Dave Kachel, also a NOAA oceanographer, agreed, “They were making so much of those emails, when the scientists were just joking around.”


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