This post has been updated.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) has opened a new line of attack in his battle with federal climate scientists with a claim that they ignored crucial satellite data in a high-profile global warming study.

The prominent congressional climate skeptic says in an Op-ed published in the Washington Times late last week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration focused its study on “often flawed” surface temperature readings instead of “highly calibrated” and more reliable atmospheric satellite data.

Smith argues that temperature readings from satellites have “consistently” shown much smaller rates of warming, bolstering his case against NOAA’s finding that the idea of a global warming slowdown or “pause” is bunk — and his claim that the data was skewed to promote President Obama’s climate agenda.

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Smith writes:

“The ability to remain independent of political consideration seems like a minimum requirement for an agency that should provide unbiased scientific information. But NOAA’s habit of picking and choosing data raises serious questions about the agency’s independence. In fact, it shreds NOAA’s credibility.
As a self-proclaimed “environmental intelligence agency,” NOAA’s reports should be based only on the best available science that takes into account all sources of data. Unfortunately, NOAA continues to rely upon biased science in pursuit of a predetermined outcome. That’s not good science, it’s science fiction.”

The satellite argument also has been made by another Texas Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, as he runs for the GOP presidential nomination. In a much-cited appearance on “Late Night with Seth Myers” earlier this year, Cruz said satellite data have demonstrated “zero warming” for the last 17 years. As has Smith, Cruz challenged data from NOAA and NASA that claim last year as the warmest on record. (Climate scientists are now predicting that 2015 will surpass in 2014).

But our colleague Chris Mooney found that this argument selectively uses one type of data over others and starts the analysis with a single warm temperature year — 1998 — rather looking at the aggregate temperatures of multiple years (or decades).

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Cruz’s staff supported the claim by referring to a blog post by Carl Mears, a physicist and senior scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, as well as another satellite data temperature set to support the idea that “there has been a pause or hiatus in warming during the twenty-first century.” Mooney contacted Mears, who criticized Cruz’s approach and conclusions as a misrepresentation. Mears said that satellite datasets contain more “structural uncertainty” than land and ocean data when measuring climate changes.

Smith’s Op-ed is one of several efforts he’s made to rebut NOAA’s high-profile study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Science in June, which used updated land and ocean measurements to contradict earlier work showing that global warming had paused. The pause has been an influential line of attack of climate change skeptics.

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Soon after the study’s publication, Smith subpoenaed NOAA scientists and political appointees and demanded that they turn over internal e-mails related to their research. (The agency has refused, saying the deliberations are not public). He has accused them of altering global temperature data and rushing to publish their research. Now he appears to be shifting his strategy to focus on satellite data.

In his Op-ed, published on Thanksgiving, Smith argues that NOAA officials have noted the importance of satellite data in the agency’s “environmental intelligence” role predicting changes to climate, weather, oceans and coasts. The agency’s failure to include satellite data in its Science study “is well documented,” he writes, “but has been embarrassing for an administration determined to push through costly environmental regulations.”

He writes:

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“NOAA appears to pick and choose only data that confirms their bias. NOAA then disseminates this incomplete data to the media who manufacture alarming headlines but ignore the uncertainty of the conclusions.
The ability to remain independent of political consideration seems like a minimum requirement for an agency that should provide unbiased scientific information. But NOAA’s habit of picking and choosing data raises serious questions about the agency’s independence. In fact, it shreds NOAA’s credibility.
These are not the actions of an objective agency. NOAA needs to come clean about why it cherry-picked and changed certain data, while ignoring satellite data, to get the results it wanted.”

NOAA spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said in a statement that a range of data sources, including sea and surface temperatures as well as satellites, “all show that the air temperature at the surface of the Earth is warming.”

“The notion that well-respected scientists cherry picked data for a peer reviewed paper to advance a political agenda is false,” she said, citing a new review of the literature on the global warming “pause” published Nov. 24 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature that supports NOAA’s findings.

“This peer reviewed work concluded ‘…there is no “hiatus”, and neither has the climate system ‘paused,’ ” Clayton wrote. “The scientists were not motivated or influenced by any political process. They simply followed the data, wherever it led.”

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