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Context of 'September 25, 2004: Study Finds That Antarctica May Warm Rapidly over Next 50 Years'

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NASA headquarters informs some climate scientists that any public releases of their research must first be cleared by headquarters and that all interviews with the media must be monitored by a NASA press officer. According to Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, “these were conveyed orally, with no written documentation even when one was requested.” This policy applies only to climate scientists, not to other NASA scientists, such as those researching space or earth science, Shindell later tells Congress. (US Congress 1/30/2007 pdf file Sources: Drew Shindell)

Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, submits a press release to the Goddard Space Flight Center public affairs office (PAO) announcing the publication of a paper he has co-authored on climate change in Antarctica (see September 25, 2004). Shindell and the PAO agree on the title “Cool Antarctica may warm rapidly this century, study finds,” for the release. But NASA headquarters asks them to “soften” it. The next suggested title, “NASA Scientists expect temperature flip-flop at the Antarctic,” is also rejected. The title that is finally approved—over the objection of Shindell—is “Scientists predict Antarctic climate changes.” In testimony before Congress, Shindell will later recall: “I have worked on numerous releases during my 12 years at the Goddard Institute. While previous to this time, press releases had been issued rapidly and with revisions from headquarters that were made primarily to improve clarity and style, this release was repeatedly delayed, altered, and watered down.” (US Congress 1/30/2007 pdf file; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project 1/30/2007, pp. 33 pdf file) The press release will finally be issued on October 6. (NASA 10/6/2004)

The prestigious Geophysical Research Letters publishes a paper summarizing the results of a study that suggests that Antarctica may warm rapidly during the next 50 years. Researchers Drew Shindell and Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies used computer modeling to predict the effect of increased ozone levels over Antarctica. Ozone levels are expected to increase over the next few years due to international treaties that have banned ozone-depleting chemicals. The computer modeling suggested that, while Antarctica has mostly cooled over the last 30 years, this trend may quickly reverse because higher ozone levels will likely lead to the disruption of the westerly winds that currently provide a buffer against the warmer temperatures of lower latitudes. The higher temperatures in turn could result in the loss of the continent’s ice shelves. (Shindell and Schmidt 2004; NASA 10/6/2004)

Randall Schmidt.Randall Schmidt. [Source: US Air Force]FBI agents at Guantanamo prison have been complaining to superiors about military personnel abusing detainees there since 2002 (see End of 2002). However, there is no official investigation until December 2004, after the widely publicized Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the US Army’s Southern Command and a close associate of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, assigns Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt to investigate. Schmidt will later say, “I found some things that didn’t seem right. For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantanamo what was seen at Abu Ghraib.” Schmidt will say that he determined Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Guantanamo prison, “was responsible for the conduct of interrogations that I found to be abusive and degrading. The intent of those might have been to be abusive and degrading to get the information they needed.… Did the means justify the ends? That’s fine.… He was responsible.” Schmidt formally recommends that Miller be “held accountable” and “admonished.” But Craddock rejects this and absolves Miller of any improprieties, and the army’s Inspector General seconds that conclusion. By this time, Miller is in charge of reforming Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq (see March 22, 2004). Schmidt will later learn that Rumsfeld was in contact with Miller about some Guantanamo interrogations and personally approved the most severe interrogation tactics. (Hersh 6/17/2007)


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