David Russell Legates is a Professor of Geography at the University of Delaware. He is the former Director of the Center for Climatic Research at the same university,  and a former Delaware State Climatologist.
Legates has published research papers, opinion editorials, and spoken openly in opposition to the consensus scientific opinion on climate change. More recently, he has been known for his skepticism toward the anthropogenic cause of the observed global warming patterns and the severity of its consequences at the local geographical scale.
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Legates started his career working on precipitation probability modeling. He extended his research to the study of global precipitation and temperature measurement correlation and performed critical analyses of the quality of traditional water budgeting methods applied to recent, better quality measurement data. He also became concerned with the study of the applicability of global circulation prognostication models at the regional and local level. Legates and his team argued for the necessity of technological progress in precipitation measurement used for validating climate change scenarios, and for validation of existing data used for that purpose. They demonstrated disagreement between satellite-based and in-situ precipitation measurements, and pointed out inconsistencies among satellite data processing algorithms. Legates argued for a better adequacy of observation-based climatologies compared to those compiled subjectively. His team concluded that uncorrected centered-pattern correlation statistics applied to the validation of general circulation prognostication models used to predict large-scale climate change may be inappropriate and may yield erroneous results. They proposed modified goodness of fit test methods more suitable for use in hydrologic and hydroclimate model validation. Legates and his coworkers became concerned with the quality of surface instrumental temperature data analysis, treatment and presentation of trends used in the communication of global warming research results.
He co-developed methods to correct biases in gauge-measured precipitation data for wind and temperature effects, with direct applicability in climate change, hydrology and environmental impact studies. His group observed that gauge undercatch was mostly caused by wind turbulence—especially for snow—and has a significant effect on the calculated Arctic water budget. They also studied the correlation between the observed variability in Western US snowpack accumulation and atmospheric circulation in historical measurement data and developed temperature-snowfall correlations based on first principles and observation in order to improve the global radiation balance estimation used in climate change predictions. Legates also developed a calibration method which validates NEXRAD radar precipitation data with gauge measurements to improve the accuracy of precipitation estimates.
Legates and his coworkers extended their research to the development of correlations between satellite crop imaging data and landscape change, crop type and its evolution, and their effects of global climate change. They have also tackled rainfed crop management, modeling and optimization. The group developed a hydrologic model based on meteorological, soil and vegetation measurement data. His groups has demonstrated poor quality of correlation between hydrological cycle data, global runoff and global warming. Legates and coauthors (among which were Willie Soon, Sallie Baliunas, Timothy F. Ball and others) authored a controversial (and non peer-reviewed) paper in the journal Ecological Complexity attempting to disprove an increase in Hudson Bay temperatures in the past 70 years, and cautioning about polar bear-human interaction as a likely cause for any observed decline in bear populations. In this paper the authors expressed doubts regarding the predictive quality of global warming models at the entire Arctic scale and any extrapolation of polar bear population trends.
Position on global climate change
Legates is a signer of the Oregon Petition, which stated: "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth".
In his testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works regarding the Mann, Bradley and Hughes hockey stick controversy, Legates summed up his position as: "Where we differ with Dr. Mann and his colleagues is in their construction of the hemispheric averaged time-series, their assertion that the 1990s are the warmest decade of the last millennium, and that human influences appear to be the only significant factor on globally averaged air temperature."
In his lectures, Legates has acknowledged that humans have a direct impact on the environment. However he has disputed large scale climatological studies where researchers fail to incorporate sufficient data involving increased solar activity, water vapor as a greenhouse gas, data contamination through expansion of the urban heat island effect surrounding data collection points, and many other key variables in addition to the human chemical emissions that are the sole focus of many climatological studies.
In October 2009, Dr. Legates and 34 cosigners submitted a letter to the EPA outlining specific objections to the proposed endangerment rule.
The declaration states:
"We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth's climate system is no exception."
Aftermath: use of his title in public statements
In February 2007, Delaware governor Ruth Ann Minner wrote a letter to Legates stating "Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration,". The letter directed Legates to stop using his title as state climatologist of Delaware in his public statements related to climate change.
According to the News Journal, "the Union of Concerned Scientists published a study listing Legates among several scientists it described as 'familiar spokespeople from ExxonMobil-funded organizations' that have regularly taken stands or sponsored reports questioning the science behind climate change warnings." Legates is a senior scientist of the Marshall Institute, a research fellow with the Independent Institute, and an adjunct scholar of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, all of which have received funding from ExxonMobil.
- Faculty page at UDel Geography Department (accessed 6/27/2009)
- David R. Legates page at UDel College of Marine and Earth Studies (accessed 6/27/2009)
- David R. Legates is an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis and an associate professor and director of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware. Global Warming Smear Targets, by David R. Legates, Washington Times, 2003-08-25
- Legates is the Delaware State Climatologist, Coordinator of the Delaware Geographic Alliance (sponsored by National Geographic), and Associate Director of the Delaware Space Grant Consortium (sponsored by NASA)." Climate Science: Climate Change and Its Impact - About the Author
- Delaware state climatologist David Legates resigns, ABC27 WHTM TV station, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and Lebanon, PA (accessed 7-25-2011)
- Dyck, M. G.; Soon, W.; Baydack, R. K.; Legates, D. R.; Baliunas, S.; Ball, T. F.; Hancock, L. O. (2007). "Polar bears of western Hudson Bay and climate change: Are warming spring air temperatures the "ultimate" survival control factor?". Ecological Complexity 4 (3): 73. doi:10.1016/j.ecocom.2007.03.002.
- Text of the petition. March 13, 2002
- Statement of David R. Legates to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. March 13, 2002
- J. Scott Armstrong; et al (Oct 7, 2009). "This is comment on PROPOSED RULE: Proposed Endangerment and Cause or Contribute Findings for Greenhouse Gases Under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act". p. 7. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
- Prominent Signers of An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming
- MONTGOMERY, Jeff (2007-02-22). "State distances itself from climatologist". The News Journal. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
- Montgomery, Jeff. Del. scientist's view on climate criticized. The News Journal, February 6, 2007
- Marshall Institute biography: David R. Legates
- Independent Institute biography: David R. Legates
- Competitive Enterprise Institute: David Legates
- Adams, David (2005-01-27). "Oil firms fund climate change 'denial'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
- Adams, David (2006-09-20). "Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-02.