I think we should expect that more-even most-papers from skeptics will be of poor quality

Not me guv, but Tom Fuller (just when I’d given up hope he would ever say something sensible). You might say, “well der”. But this chimes in very neatly with a not-fully-discussed problem with the Spencer and Braswell error, which Gavin talks about at RC: With better peer review, Spencer could perhaps have discovered these things for himself, and a better and more useful paper might have resulted. By trying to do an end run around his critics, Spencer ended up running into a wall.

Spencer and his ilk are afraid of peer review. Not for the reasons that they give – that the vast conspiracy will squelch them – but because they know their work is weak, and they really don’t want it exposed to proper scrutiny (you might disagree; but never mind that, my argument doesn’t depend no it. All you need to agree is that the sceptics avoid proper journals). So they send their stuff to journals where they know it won’t get proper review by experts, as happened in this case. This is intended as a cunning plan to evade scrutiny, but it ends up depriving them of the vital feedback and interaction with peers that improves papers. And not just at review stage: from Woy at least you can see a bunker mentality which means he won’t be discussing his ideas with others even as he tries to mature and work on them pre-publication. Its the lack of this feedback/interaction that will doom future skeptic-type papers from the likes of Woy.


* Conspiracy Dog-whistling about GRL and the New Dessler Paper
* “Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong.

Porkies from Woy

One issue about the infamous Spencer and Braswell (incidentally, who is Braswell? Everyone is ignoring him, is he a nonentity? ) is, of course, who were the referees? The suspicion voiced in various places is that Spencer managed to wangle skeptics in as his referees; indeed, Wagner in his resignation letter says “The managing editor of Remote Sensing selected three senior scientists from
renowned US universities… the editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors” (note the slight contradiction in there: first off, it was the managing editor; then it was the editorial team). Now it is not possible to believe that you could, given the pool of climatologists, “unintentionally” select three skeptics: there are just too few of them. It could only be deliberate: either by choice of the managing editor, at Spencer’s private urging, or because Spencer supplied a list of suggested referees (this is commonplace) and the editor just used those.

So one question is: did Spencer provide a list of suggested referees? And if so, who were they? If Spencer has answered this fairly obvious question, I haven’t seen it. Let me know if you know better. I see in the comments on his blog that he was asked this question directly, but evaded.

Another question is, does Spencer know who the referees are? This is where it gets fun, because of course Spencer wants to say “oh yeah my reviewers were great” in order to give credibility to his tattered paper. But then again, reviewers are generally anonymous, no?

Obscurity seems to have detected Woy trying to have it both ways, or (put another way) telling porkies:

“Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. says: September 2, 2011 at 1:03 PM… re Q1: Almost every journal requires a list of suggested reviewers, and except for one reviewer, the identities of the reviewers chosen was unknown to us”:

“Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. says: September 2, 2011 at 5:29 PM Excuse me, but the peer reviewers were all researchers who have actually published on the subject of climate sensitivity. “

Did Woy perhaps learn something new about the reviewers in the 4 1/2 hours between those two entries? It seems rather unlikely. It is also very unlikely that you could find 3 experts in climate sensitivity who are skeptics (although looking closer Woy doesn’t say they are experts, only people who have published on the subject. Woy himself is clearly clueless, but published).

Or, can Spencer Jesuit out of this by the tense, in “the identities of the reviewers chosen was unknown to us”. Will he try to claim that at some point in the past, he didn’t know who they were, but does now? Perhaps he’ll reference the “was” to “the exact point in time when the referees were chosen? It is just possible, but not very plausible.

While I’m here: I was going to do a whole post about this, but there is no news at the moment so I’ll relegate it: why did the editor resign, rather than get the paper retracted? This has shades of von S, who resigned *because* he couldn’t get in a retraction, or a dissociation. Presumably (this is mere speculation on my part) Wagner asked the journal to retract it, and they refused (NS has a nice comment at flopsie’s pointing out how untenable Wagner’s position can look, in certain lights. Also izen a little lower down). Does Wagner’s resignation restore the reputation of the journal? No. It restores his personal reputation, but if anything diminishes that of the journal further.

Incidentally, currently if you google-news “Roy Spencer” you get this, and that nice little piccy is a link to me.

Holy editor resignation, Batman!

This couldn’t be more damming:


the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing… should therefore not have been published… I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing… I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements

Spencer and the Mystery Journal refers, as does the eerily-similar von Storch Climate Research affair.

h/t: JM and FS.

Updated to add: the more detailed reasons are interesting:

If a paper presents interesting scientific arguments, even if controversial, it should be published and responded to in the open literature. This was my initial response after having become aware of this particular case. So why, after a more careful study of the pro and contra arguments, have I changed my initial view? The problem is that comparable studies published by other authors have already been refuted in open discussions and to some extend also in the literature (cf. [7]), a fact which was ignored by Spencer and Braswell in their paper and, unfortunately, not picked up by the reviewers. In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.

What I read that to mean is that Yes, novel and interesting challenges to the established view should be published – perhaps even get given a slightly easier ride, if they are novel. But No: just saying the same old thing again isn’t any good.

Another update: Woy Wesponds: it appears the IPCC gatekeepers have once again put pressure on a journal for daring to publish anything that might hurt the IPCC’s politically immovable position that climate change is almost entirely human-caused. I can see no other explanation for an editor resigning in such a situation. Quite where Woy gets the evidence for IPCC involvement is a mystery; presumably, it is inconceiveable that there could possibly be anything wrong with any of his papers. Spencer’s “Update 2” is funny as well; his “immediately corrected” is a joke; his temperature series was wrong for years on end, before RSS put him straight.

Update, again: this is just too funny: Woy, in the comments section:

Well, well…is that you, Kevin Trenberth, hiding behind a screen name? [Obscurity – WMC] First of all, our results were GLOBAL, so transport between regions are irrelevant to the issue at hand. Secondly, the lag associated with the heat carrying capacity was central to the point we were making!!! If you even bothered to read our paper, you would understand that! OMG! You are wasting time and space here with your straw men and red herrings! CONGRATULATIONS, OBSCURITY, YOU ARE THE FIRST TO BE BANNED FROM THIS SITE. THE CHARGE IS EITHER (1) CHRONIC IGNORANCE, OR (2) MALICIOUS OBFUSCATION. YOUR CHOICE.

Another update: Spencer will be delighted: the creationists are on his side.


* Grauniad
* Beeb Journal editor resigns over ‘problematic’ climate paper
* Remote Sens. 2011, 3(9), 2002-2004; doi:10.3390/rs3092002 Editorial: Taking Responsibility on Publishing the Controversial Paper “On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance” by Spencer and Braswell, Remote Sens. 2011, 3(8), 1603-1613. Wolfgang Wagner; Published: 2 September 2011
* MediaMatters: Journal Editor Resigns After Publishing Flawed Climate Study Touted By Forbes, Fox
* Retraction Watch
* Deltoid
* Bart
* Peter Gleick in Forbes
* QS
* Fluffy

* SMBC (its even vaguely relevant: h/t: BA)
* BB
* arstechnica
* Nurture – but beware porkies in the comments
* Science
* Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham, and Peter Gleick say Spencer is cr*p
* RP Sr foams at the mouth

Spencer and the Mystery Journal

“Dr” Roy Spencer has finally and conclusively demolished all arguments opposing his position that… well, whatever his position is. Read All About It.

But that isn’t the interesting bit, obviously. The interesting bit is that the black helicopters are coming for him and his tin-foil hat:

Given the history of the IPCC gatekeepers in trying to kill journal papers that don’t agree with their politically-skewed interpretations of science (also see here, here, here, here), I hope you will forgive me holding off for on giving the name of the journal until it is actually published.

So, great paper, but in what journal? Has Spencer done a “Lindzen and Choi“? Has he stooped as low as E&E? I can’t wait for the answer so… does anyone know?

[Update: rumour suggests that Spencer isn’t doing well: his journal-of-choice is rumoured to be Remote Sensing, which looks to be too new to trouble itself about trivia like impact factors.]

[Update (and bumped to the top therefore): mystery resolved! It was indeed Remote Sensing that Woy was being so coy about, and you can see why. Its peer-reviewed, you know.

I left this at his blog, it hasn’t appeared yet:

I did win, hurrah for me. No need to be coy any more, Roy. And who better than the Heartland Institute to announce the result?
Its so fitting! http://news.yahoo.com/nasa-data-blow-gaping-hold-global-warming-alarmism-192334971.html



* RC rips Spencer to shreds
* Barry Bickmore rips Spencer to shreds
* Bad Astronomy rips Spencer to shreds
* [Thats enough ripping Spencer to shreds – Ed.]
* Spencer & Braswell 2011: Proof that global warming is exaggerated? Or just bad science?

“Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong

And apsmith’s Mathematical analysis of Roy Spencer’s climate model has the story.

Poor Roy. He has backed himself so far into a corner that he no longer has anyone competent to discuss his ideas with, with the result that he publishes (in a book, because no-one would publish it in a journal) utter twaddle. It is really very difficult to do science all by yourself, and Spencer is certainly failing.

[2015 update: I often think of this post, and this concept, when reading the stuff from the Dork Side. Its not just Spencer; Curry is in the same boat and then so is JoNova with her Force X stuff; and so is any number of posts from WUWT. You might think, in the case of the latter two, “how can they be lonely?” when every blog post gets hundreds of comments. And the answer, of course, is to read the comments. Most of them are off the subject; of the few that are on-subject, most will be mindless praise; and that’s no help at all, to a scientist. Only one or two comments will be actual substantive criticism, and they are easily ignored in the morass.]

The point is that doing science by yourself is very hard. For at least two reasons.

For the first, I’ll quote Feynmann, after all everyone else does: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. Unless you’re very good at being utterly objective, you need other people to look at your work and point out the bits you’ve forgotten, or allowed yourself to gloss over, and so on. And those other people need to want to find flaws in your work.

The second is that unless you’re brilliant (hint: you’re not, and neither am I) you need to bounce your ideas off people, both to knock the rough edges off the ones you have and to spark new ones. This is much much easier if you’re around a lot of other people, some of whom have read more widely than you.

If you’ve come here because I’ve pointed you at this post, and you’re actually open-minded enough to want to know more, then try reading Science, which is an attempt to explain who science actually is.]


* Roy Spencer’s Great Blunder, Part 2
* The simplicity of the forced climate response from Isaac Held.
* I think we should expect that more-even most-papers from skeptics will be of poor quality.

Eating their own

Header shamelessly stolen from Coby. But his post is so wonderful that I can’t help re-saying it.

So: Roy Spencer says that the basic greenhouse effect mechanism is sound; or perhaps, more weakly, that the basic mechanism is phyically possible. You might think that is not very strange, after all it isn’t really very dificult. But alas so many poor innocent young and not-so-young wannabe “skeptics” have been exposed to the denialist meme “cold things can’t make warm things warmer; the upper atmophere is colder than the surface; therefore the atmosphere doesn’t heat the surface; therefore the GHE is wrong” that even Spencer, long a poster boy for the sketpic “side”, gets savaged by some ignorant drivel in the Canada Free Press.

As Spencer says in his comments,

The reason I am addressing this issue is that there is an increasing number of people who are advancing the notion that there is no such thing as “back radiation” (or that “more CO2 is incapable of causing any warming because…”), and as a result I am deluged with e-mails from them and the public asking me for my opinion.

So, all credit to him, he has actually started doing some experiments, although (as he points out) it is all a bit odd, because you can just as easily point an infra-red thermometer upwards at night.

If you actually want some good facts and discussion on the “back radiation” stuff, then Science of Doom has a good post [Update: and even more excuciating detail on the key error in part III], and followups – people really are astonishingly reluctant to accept something very simple. If you can cope with a bit of maths, then [[Idealized greenhouse model]] will help. If you can’t cope with maths, then it really is very simple: the earth is warmer than it otherwise would be because it receives radiation from two sources: the sun and the atmosphere.

This is all yet another example of the “Dumb America fallacy” – people too ignorant to know how ignorant they are. Yes, I know, daarhling “skeptics”, if I was all out to convert you I’d omit that last bit.

[Update: see-also Our Deliberate Slide into Ignorance]

Strangely High Temperatures

David Appell has a rather dramatic graph:

It is from Roy Spencer. As DA says: I’m sure those skeptics who pored over every detail of the sea ice this winter will be touting this picture soon :-).

[Update: BCL points me to http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2009/07/pielke-sr-respnds.html which again suggests problems with UAH. Well, we all know we should use RSS anyway. Hopefully they will provide the funky interface

Update: Picture post: ‘hottest April ever’ says Nurture -W]

Death at UAH

As I was about to write up the latest smoggy stuff, I thought I’d better check out Eli in case he had written it up first. And lo, I thought, Condolences referred to the death of Christy’s scientific reputation. But no, it is about real death. So I need to press on.

[[John Christy]] has been a bit of a skeptic for ages. Quite where he gets it from is unclear – perhaps because he and Spencer did the first version of the [[satellite temperature record]] and, well, they got it wrong. In that it showed cooling, and so they became the poster boys for the real septics like Singer and Michaels and Inhofe. Perhaps some of that seeped in. But it turned out that a longer record showed a different answer, and that their version needed a pile of corrections, and when you do all that it shows warming. In the course of this long slow unravelling they got a fair amount of justified stick; and perhaps that pushed him towards the Dark Side.

But he was still a reputable scientist, somewhat in the mould of Lindzen though less eminent. Whilst clearly on the skeptical side he retained his k. The wiki page can’t really work out what to say about his views, which is correct, as it is hard to wade through the morass of conflicting stuff, and ends up with While he supports the AGU declaration and is convinced that human activities are one cause of the global warming that has been measured, Christy is “still a strong critic of scientists who make catastrophic predictions of huge increases in global temperatures and tremendous rises in sea levels.”

However, he got sucked in the the septic tide and published some stuff with Douglass in IJC in 2007 that was fundamentally flawed (Santer’s letter explains the details). The septics puffed it up; but it all fell apart a year later when Santer et al. ripped it to shreds, but of course there was a year of PR down the drain by then. Now Christy, I think, is not very strong on stats, and may well not have realised the error at the time of publication (though he should have known, because it had already been rejected from another journal for the same error). And a combination of pride, and of refusing to be corrected by the “other side”, and perhaps pressure from his co-authors, meant he never admitted to the error. Nor, as Santer points, did he ever attempt to defend it – defend in a proper scientific sense that is, not just in the sense of saying “we were right”. Instead he has a rather nasty piece which entirely evades the scientific issues (I don’t think their appendix A cuts it). They seem to complain that they never had a chance to respond to Santer’s paper which is odd – they had, and still have, every chance to write a proper response. Just like Santer et al. did. Instead, they chose to evade and whinge.

As Santer said, the paper that ended in IJC was intended for GRL. GRL is a far higher status journal, and has better quality reviewers, including Santer, and these reviews had already spotted the error. IJC is quite a lowly journal, and an odd choice for Americans, and looks like it was deliberately chosen as a journal of last resort for a dodgy paper. Christy relies rather heavily on selective quotes from leaked emails to make his case that the world is against him; it would be rather interesting were he to release the review comments on his paper.

[Update: Santer’s appendix A is here. Thanks Eli -W]