Skip to content

Spencer’s Paper Reviewed; Remote Sensing Editor Wolfgang Wagner Resigns

Wiliam M. Briggs
Monday, September 5, 2011


In one of the most asinine, self-promoting, sniveling, absurd, nakedly political moves Wolfgang Wagner has resigned, with trumpets blazing, his editorship of Remote Sensing.

Why? Because the journal under his command dared follow its editorial guidelines, and follow them properly.

Because while adhering to procedure he allowed the Spencer and Braswell paper “On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance” to be published, as it should have been published.

What happened was this: Spencer and Braswell submitted their paper, and Wagner’s staff gave it to three reviewers. Wagner said, in his public apology, the reviewers were

three senior scientists from renowned US universities, each of them having an impressive publication record. Their reviews had an apparently good technical standard and suggested one “major revision”, one “minor revision” and one “accept as is”. The authors revised their paper according to the comments made by the reviewers and, consequently, the editorial board member who handled this paper accepted the paper (and could in fact not have done otherwise). Therefore, from a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process.

Wagner felt so badly about this excellent process that he resigned. He claims that he did so because the authors “and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements.” This is irrelevant, so he also said other papers by other authors “refuted”—misusing this strong word—Spencer and Braswell’s central claim.

But this is far from the first time that rival groups have published papers that come to opposite conclusions. It happens so often as to be utterly unremarkable. So why did Wagner remark on it?

Spencer and Braswell’s paper is not that exciting (see my review below; very few papers are exciting), and neither Wagner nor any of the reviewers or other staff thought that it would be that big a deal. And so it passed normal peer review into print.

But the paper turned into a spectacle. And then Wagner probably caught hell from “the” consensus. “How could you!” must have been the subject line of all the emails in his inbox. Wagner then said he became concerned because scientists and non-scientist “engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora” that Spencer and Braswell were all wet.

In other words, the blogosphere erupted and Wagner took it seriously. But Wagner also dismissed those on the “internet discussion fora” who supported Spencer and Braswell—those “public statements” he mentioned. So much for consistency.

It takes a man to stand up to this kind of barrage. Wagner was in danger of not being invited to meetings, of being a pariah, of even—it hurts to say this—losing future grants. He had to do something to distance himself from his own journal, a journal he helped create, using rules he helped devise.

Wagner took the path of self-aggrandizing cowards.

Consider: Old Wagner was the first editor of Remote Sensing, and had served nearly two years. My guess is that his term of office was up this January. So by resigning, he was only leaving office a couple of months early. I might be wrong about this, of course, but I’d like to hear the denial.

Richard Black of the BBC and others in the media immediately began promoting Wagner as a hero. Gushing, in effect, “That man loves science so much!”

What rot. If the paper is flawed and its conclusions are genuinely refuted by other papers that Spencer and Braswell, with malice aforethought, ignored, then Wagner would have retracted the paper. That would have been the “honourable” thing to do.

Since Wagner did not do this—he could not, because there is nothing in it to retract—he instead put on his hair shirt and pretended to be affronted. A brazen move transparent to anybody except the ideologically addled. Tellingly, Wagner’s wailing convinced the BBC.

Incidentally, the BBC, in an idiotic but typical move, captioned Roy Spencer’s picture with the words, “Dr Spencer is a committed Christian as well as a professional scientist.” What in the holy hell is the purpose of this except to disparage Spencer and imply that his religious beliefs corrupted his findings.

Are Wagner or Blacks “committed atheists,” or devotees of yoga, or who knows what else, as well as being a professional scientist and reporter? It’s irrelevant and only the devious would use such a cheap trick.

Paper Review

I emailed the same criticisms noted below to Roy Spencer and he answered all of them. He was of course under no obligation to do so, particularly as my questions were sharply worded and more than a little combative.

I assume the reader is familiar with the paper, so I will not summarize it here. Here is a portion of the conclusion of Spencer and Braswell (another is below):

[The] atmospheric feedback diagnosis of the climate system remains an unsolved problem, due primarily to the inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in satellite radiative budget observations.

I concur with this conclusion and agree that the pair have presented evidence to support it.

The evidence, however, is likely overstated. For those who would copy and paste that statement, you would be negligent in your duties if you did not also copy this: this overstatement is likely minor and does not imperil the conclusion. My detailed criticisms follow.

Major: In Fig. 2, the pair ran a smoother over the data to “reduce sampling noise.” Of course, smoothers can’t do this. If there is measurement error in the data it has to be measured separately or estimated by some external means to account for it. Smoothers, unless the serendipitously mimic the measurement error process (extraordinarily unlikely here), merely make the data look more pleasing to the eye.

The smoothed data was then used in the regressions (Fig. 3). The problem is that when two times series are smoothed, it always increases the correlation between them, even if the series have no relation to one another. So when the smoothed data is used as input to the regressions, the effect is to inflate (in absolute value) the size of the regression coefficients.

Since a central finding is the difference between the regression coefficients of the observations against the same from the GCMs, the effect is to claim a larger difference than exists. This is not to say that no difference exists, just that the actual difference is likely to be less than Spencer and Braswell indicate.

Roy told me that he tried his models “Without smoothing, with smoothing” and that “The same conclusions” were found. I see no reason to call his honesty into question.

Minor: I also wondered why the full hundred-plus years from the GCMs were used instead of the same eleven years as the observations, as that seemed a fairer comparison. The answer is that more data gives a better estimate of the GCMs’ behavior. This is true, but it would have been interesting to see what limiting the GCM data did. Best guess is not much.

Minor: The authors had to “detrend” the GCMs’ output. This is always a tricky thing to do, and if done incorrectly it can add spurious correlations or remove existing ones. The authors did not use the most sophisticated methods to model the time series. But, then, neither do most authors in this field.

This is a niggling criticism, since my guess is that even a more sophisticated model won’t change the conclusion much. But skeptics have to be like Caesar’s wife, where even the suspicion of infidelity to best practices is a kind of lapse.

Minor: I would have preferred that Figs. 3 and 4 share the same axes limits. And even that the GCM results (from Fig. 3) would be overlaid on Fig. 4. This would make comparisons easier. With the limits as they are now, the GCM results appear smaller (ni Fig. 3) in comparison to Fig. 4 than they actually are.

Here is another portion of the conclusion:

While the satellite-based metrics for the period 2000–2010 depart substantially in the direction of lower climate sensitivity from those similarly computed from coupled climate models, we find that, with traditional methods, it is not possible to accurately quantify this discrepancy in terms of the feedbacks which determine climate sensitivity.

This also is consonant with their findings, even taking my criticisms into account.

It should be understood by other critics that Spencer and Braswell are not claiming much. They say only that we are not as sure of ourselves as we thought we were. They do not claim the AGM thesis is certainly wrong. They do not claim to have produced the final word on the subject of feedback versus forcing. They do not, really, claim very much.

This is a minor paper—I mean no insult by this; nearly all papers are minor—in a minor journal, which adds to our store of knowledge only a minor nugget. That this nugget appears shiny and of great worth to some and fraudulent to others, that it caused so many people to bleat and moan, that it resulted in the shedding of crocodile tears from a petty scientific official, and that his wailing garnered widespread public notice, only confirms the ridiculous politicization that has befallen climatology.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Posted in Climate Change.

Tagged with , , .

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. klem says

    Why did he really quit? I know of no journal editor who has resigned over a published paper. Even if they found the paper to be full of errors, that has never been good enough reason to quit in the past. Journals publish bad science all the time, the editors don’t quit over it, so why did this guy really quit? I don’t believe this paper by Spencer was the real reason, this does not pass the sniff test. I’m sorry but there is something else going on here that we’re not hearing about. I smell a rat.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

Support #altnews & keep Dark Politricks alive

Remember I told you over 5 years ago that they would be trying to shut down sites and YouTube channels that are not promoting the "Official" view. Well it's all happening now big time. Peoples Channels get no money from YouTube any more and Google is being fishy with their AdSense giving money for some clicks but not others. The time is here, it's not "Obama's Internet Cut Off Switch" it's "Trumps Sell Everyones Internet Dirty Laundry Garage Sale". This site must be on some list at GCHQ/NSA as my AdSense revenue which I rely on has gone down by a third. Either people are not helping out by visiting sponsors sanymore or I am being blackballed like many YouTube sites.

It's not just Google/YouTube defunding altenative chanels (mine was shut), but Facebook is also removing content, shutting pages, profiles and groups and removing funds from #altnews that way as well. I was recently kicked off FB and had a page "unpublished" with no reason given. If you don't know already all Facebooks Private Messages and Secret Groups are still analysed and checked for words related to drugs, sex, war etc against their own TOS. Personally I know there are undercover Irish police moving from group to group cloning peoples accounts and getting people booted. Worse than that I know some people in prison now for the content they had on their "secret private group". Use Telegrams secret chat mode to chat on, or if you prefer Wickr. If you really need to, buy a dumb phone with nothing for the NSA/GCHQ to hack into. Ensure it has no GPS tracking on it and that the battery can be removed. These are usually built for old people to get used to technology storing only a set of numbers to call. However they have no games, applications to install or other ways people can exploit the computer tracking device you carry round with you most of the day - your smart phone. If you are paranoid ensure that you can remove the battery when travelling around and do so to prevent GPS tracking or phone mast triangulation. Even with your phone in Flight mode or turned off, it can be turned on remotely and any features like front or back cameras, microphones and keylogging software can be installed to trace you.

So if your not supporting this site already which brings you news from the Left to the Right (really the same war mongering rubbish) then I could REALLY do with some..

Even if it's just £5 or tick the monthly subscription box and throw a few pound my way each month, it will be much appreciated. Read on to find out why.


Any support to keep this site would be appreciated. You could set up a monthly subscription for £2 like some people do or you could pay a one off donation as a gift.
I am not asking you to pay me for other people's articles, this is a clearing house as well as place to put my own views out into the world. I am asking for help to write more articles like my recent false flag gas attack to get WWIII started in Syria, and Trump away from Putin. Hopefully a few missiles won't mean a WikiLeaks release of that infamous video Trump apparently made in a Russian bedroom with Prostitutes. Also please note that this article was written just an hour after the papers came out, and I always come back and update them.

If you want to read JUST my own articles then use the top menu I have written hundreds of articles for this site and I host numerous amounts of material that has seen me the victim of hacks, DOS plus I have been kicked off multiple hosting companies, free blogging sites, and I have even had threats to cease and desist from the US armed forces. Therefore I have to pay for my own server which is NOT cheap. The more people who read these article on this site the more it costs me so some support would be much appreciated.

I have backups of removed reports shown, then taken down after pressure, that show collusion between nations and the media. I have the full redacted 28/29 pages from the 9.11 commission on the site which seems to have been forgotten about as we help Saudi Arabia bomb Yemeni kids hiding in the rubble with white phosphorus, an illegal weaapon. One that the Israeli's even used when they bombed the UN compound in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. We complain about Syrian troops (US Controlled ISIS) using chemical weapons to kill "beautiful babies". I suppose all those babies we kill in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria are just not beautiful enough for Trumps beautiful baby ratio. Plus we kill about 100 times as many as ISIS or the Syrian army have managed by a factor of about 1000 to 1.

I also have a backup of the FOX News series that looked into Israeli connections to 9.11. Obviously FOX removed that as soon as AIPAC, ADL and the rest of the Hasbra brigade protested.

I also have a copy of the the original Liberal Democrats Freedom Bill which was quickly and quietly removed from their site once they enacted and replaced with some watered down rubbish instead once they got into power. No change to police tactics, protesting or our unfair extradition treaty with the USA but we did get a stop to being clamped on private land instead of the mny great ideas in the original.

So ANY support to keep this site running would be much appreciated! I don't have much money after leaving my job and it is a choice between shutting the server or selling the domain or paying a lot of money just so I can show this material.

Material like the FSB Bombings that put Putin in power or the Google no 1 spot when you search for protecting yourself from UK Police with "how to give a no comment interview". If you see any adverts that interest you then please visit them as it helps me without you even needing to give me any money. A few clicks per visit is all it takes to help keep the servers running and tag any tweets with alternative news from the mainstream with the #altnews hashtag I created to keep it alive!

However if you don't want to use the very obvious and cost free ways (to you) to help the site and keep me writing for it then please consider making a small donation. Especially if you have a few quid sitting in your PayPal account doing nothing useful. Why not do a monthly subscription for less money instead. Will you really notice £5 a month?