Associate State Climatologist Fired for Exposing Warming Myths

Published June 1, 2007

University of Washington climate scientist Mark Albright was dismissed on March 12 from his position as associate state climatologist, just weeks after exposing false claims of shrinking glaciers in the Cascade Mountains.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D) had asserted in a February 7 Seattle Times editorial, “the average snow pack in the Cascades has declined 50 percent since 1950 and will be cut in half again in 30 years if we don’t start addressing the problems of climate change now.”

Albright knew from his research that the Cascade Mountains snow pack had not declined anywhere near what Nickels asserted, and that the snow pack has actually been growing in recent years.

Embarrassing Data

Albright sent emails to his colleagues informing them of the factual data.

At most, according to reliable datasets, the Cascade Mountains snow pack declined by 35 percent between 1950 and 2000. Moreover, even that number is misleading. Nickels and other global warming alarmists deliberately choose 1950 as the “baseline” for Cascade Mountains snow pack because 1950 was a year of abnormally heavy snowfall resulting in an uncharacteristically extensive snow pack.

Albright noted in his emails the current snow pack is only marginally lower than the long-term average since 1943. Moreover, the Cascade Mountains snow pack has been growing since the late 1970s.

Albright’s emails were particularly embarrassing to Philip Mote, the Washington state climatologist.

Mote had become well-known within the scientific community through his work documenting an asserted decline in Cascade Mountain glaciers. In late February, University of Washington atmospheric scientist Dennis Hartmann agreed to referee the brewing dispute.

Review Supported Albright

After reviewing the data, Hartmann concluded on February 22, “While some stations show a 50 percent downward trend in April 1 snow water equivalent between 1950 and present, we believe the overall observed trend for the Cascade Mountains of Washington and Oregon is smaller.

“One set of observations using all of the Cascade mountain stations in Washington State … from 1945 until the present shows a snow water equivalent decrease of about 30 percent,” Hartmann noted. “If an earlier starting date is chosen, the trend is smaller, but the number of stations available before 1945 is relatively small and their average altitude is high.

“If a shorter record is chosen, starting in about 1975 for example, there is a small increase in snow water equivalent,” Hartmann concluded (emphasis added).

Censored, Fired

After Hartmann announced his conclusions, Mote became increasingly upset that Albright was distributing emails keeping his colleagues informed of the latest developments regarding the Cascade snow pack.

In early March Albright was told he would have to submit any emails connected with his associate state climatologist position to Mote for pre-approval prior to distribution.

When Albright refused to submit to Mote’s censorship, Mote stripped him of his associate state climatologist title.

Mote asserted he was not trying to censor Albright’s views, but that Albright’s emails simply needed to go through proper quality checks.

Politics Triumphant

Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, told the March 15 Seattle Times, “In all my years of doing science, I’ve never seen this sort of gag-order approach to doing science.”

“Anytime politics intrudes on science, science is degraded and society as a whole is the loser,” said Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “That is why the whole global warming issue is a mess right now. Scientists have not reached a scientific conclusion yet, but the politicians want to jump the gun and be seen as saviors on the issue. This is a recipe for disaster.”

Burnett continued, “The reputation of science as an independent and nonpartisan source of knowledge is put at risk whenever scientists are censored for sharing scientific knowledge. Scientists should never be pressured to come up with predetermined conclusions or punished for challenging the status quo.

“The essence of science is reasoned skepticism and the courage to either be wrong or show that others are wrong–all in the bold pursuit of truth. The bold pursuit of truth should never be discouraged,” Burnett noted.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.