Researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been cleared of any scientific wrongdoing in the 2009 "climategate" uproar.
"We did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures," said the report by the U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General late last week.
It was the latest of several U.S. and U.K. probes into accusations, based on leaked emails, that climate data had been manipulated or deleted to support the theory that global warming is caused by human activity.
The other investigations have also cleared the scientists of wrongdoing.
More than 1,000 emails were stolen from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and posted on the internet in November 2009, just before the big international climate change summit in Copenhagen.
Among them were emails to and from scientists at NOAA, some of which discussed ways to stonewall skeptics of man-made climate change or freeze them out of peer-reviewed journals.
The Inspector General launched its review after a request from Senator James Inhofe in May 2010. Inhofe has publicly expressed scepticism of climate change science.
While the report did not find evidence of data manipulation, it raised concerns about:
- Two instances in which NOAA awarded funding to the University of East Anglia.
- An email that discussed the creation of an image showing Senator Inhofe and several other people stranded on a melting icecap. However, it noted that the NOAA management has taken action to address the scientists' conduct in that instance.
- The handling of certain requests under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
It also noted that NOAA did not review its climate change data specifically as a result of the climategate controversy but that the agency does that anyway as part of a normal scientific process.
NOAA issued a news release Thursday saying that it is reviewing its funding to the University of East Anglia.
It also defended its failure to conduct a proper search for certain documents following a FOI requests, saying NOAA scientists were given legal advice that the information in question belonged to the International Panel on Climate Change, not NOAA. (NOAA also noted that this information was made available by the panel.)
The climategate incident has also been investigated by a British parliamentary inquiry, former U.K. civil servant Muir Russell, a panel of experts recommended by the U.K.'s Royal Society and Penn State University.
All the reports have cleared the climate scientists of wrongdoing, but have been accused by critics of being incomplete or biased.