NIWA: Records mentioning scientist Patrick Frank

Chris Johnston made this Official Information request to National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited did not have the information requested.

From: Chris Johnston

Dear National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited,

Please provide any records (including but not limited to internal/external: documents, emails, notes, minutes, text messages, or social media messages) mentioning scientist Patrick Frank.

For context - so that you can correctly identify the individual - some links relevant to his work are mentioned in the links below.
1) This is the peer reviewed paper (published on 6 September 2019) which finds that the statistical techniques used for forecasting global surface air temperature have not used an appropriate error propagation technique - and are therefore unreliable forecasts for the IPCC or governments to be using for policiy decisions.

2) This is Patrick Frank's blog about his paper when it was published - which was rather scathing and impolite.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Johnston

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From: Caroline Beamish
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited

Dear Chris,


We acknowledge receipt of your OIA request received on 1 October 2019. We
will reply as soon as possible.


Kind regards,

Caroline Beamish


Caroline Beamish
Communications Advisor
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[1][IMG] National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA)
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From: Caroline Anderson
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited

Dear Chris,

Official Information Act request regarding “NIWA: Records mentioning scientist Patrick Frank”.

Thank you for your request dated 1 October asking NIWA to:
Please provide any records (including but not limited to internal/external: documents, emails, notes, minutes, text messages, or social media messages) mentioning scientist Patrick Frank.

We have been unable to locate any records mentioning Patrick Frank, meaning NIWA does not hold information it can provide with respect to your request.

You have the right to seek an investigation and review by the Ombudsman of this decision. Information about how to make a complaint is available at or freephone 0800 802 602.

Kind regards,
Caroline Beamish

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From: Chris Johnston

Dear Caroline Anderson,

Thank you for searching for the information on Patrick Frank that NIWA holds.

Since there are no NIWA records mentioning Patrick Frank it is highly likely that the NIWA Climate Forecasters (that advise the Ministry for the Environment, other government departments and local councils) are not aware of the peer reviewed and published paper quoted in this OIA. This is important because it has a bearing on the reliability of the predictions that NIWA are making and on which economic decisions are being made.

NIWA's response to the OIA found at ( describes that NIWA "downscales" the 250km square resolution of the Global climate models.

Extract below:
"Global climate models have a resolution of about 250 km, so we can’t get much
fine detail about what might be happening here in New Zealand.
We use NIWA’s supercomputer to downscale those global climate models
through a regional climate model with a 30 km resolution to finally get projections
of rainfall, temperature and other climate variables at a much higher resolution of
5 km.
This means we can understand future climate changes at the national, regional
and catchment scale."

It is clear that any error in the Global climate model will flow through to the NIWA models - because you reuse the output - and into decisions made across the economy.

Decisions worth billions of dollars are being made from these forecasts - from where to place assets, assets to strengthen or abandon, transport incentives, energy generation, exploration for energy resources, and whether the economy should go Carbon Neutral. If the range of uncertainty on the forecasts is very high - especially far into the future - and when "zero change" (including the possibility of natural cyclic change) in the long run is a possibility - then the arguments for precipitous decisions now are less compelling.

The level of Uncertainty critically affects the balance of effort put into Adaptation vs Mitigation initiatives.

Now that Patrick Frank's paper has been raised with NIWA, you have a duty of care to:
a) Undertake due diligence by examining this 2019 paper to establish whether its claims that error propagation is being treated (statistically) incorrectly in the Global climate models. If true, thee mistakes may be leading to the models to estimate false certainty about the effects and cause, and
b) Communicate any caveats NIWA settles on to the recipients of the forecasts produced to decision makers.

To be clear, the science is not settled and there is debate about the practical implications of the Patrick Frank paper. I raise these items to assist NIWA to do a fit for purpose job for NZ. So to assist your scientists make an informed assessment I have included an additional link where a significant critique and discussion took place. I draw your attention to the substantive responses by Patrick Frank lower down in the comments on September 15, 2019 at 11:24 PM and September 17, 2019 at 12:58 AM.

Best wishes on providing New Zealand decision makers with advice around the certainty and uncertainty involved in the journey we are all taking to better understand the Climate.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Johnston

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