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Resignations, retractions and the process of science

Filed under: — gavin @ 6 September 2011

Much is being written about the very public resignation of Wolfgang Wagner from the editorship of Remote Sensing over the publication of Spencer and Braswell (2011) – and rightly so. It is a very rare situation that an editor resigns over the failure of peer review, and to my knowledge it has only happened once before in anything related to climate science – the mass resignation of 6 editors at Climate Research in 2003 in the wake of the Soon and Baliunas debacle. Some of the commentary this weekend has been reasonable, but many people are obviously puzzled by this turn of events and unsupported rumours are flying around.

The primary question of course is why an editor would resign over a published paper. Wagner (who I have never met or communicated with) explains it well in his letter:

After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, 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.

With this step 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. [UAH press release. Forbes article etc.]

He clearly feels as though he, and his fledgling journal, were played in order to get a politicised message to the media. A more seasoned editor might well have acted differently at the various stages and so he resigned to take responsibility for the consequences of not doing a better job, and, presumably, to try and staunch the impression that Remote Sensing is a journal where you can get anything published.

This was nonetheless a very unusual step. Many bad papers are published (some of which are egregiously worse than the one in question here) and yet very few editors resign over the way the process was handled. (In fact, I think this is unique – the resignations at Climate Research in 2003 were not of the editors involved in dealing with Soon and Baliunas, but the other members of the board protesting at the inability and/or unwillingness of the publisher to deal with the resulting mess).

But what makes a paper ‘bad’ though? It is certainly not a paper that simply comes to a conclusion that is controversial or that goes against the mainstream, and it isn’t that the paper’s conclusions are unethical or immoral. Instead, a ‘bad’ paper is one that fails to acknowledge or deal with prior work, or that makes substantive errors in the analysis, or that draws conclusions that do not logically follow from the results, or that fails to deal fairly with alternative explanations (or all of the above). Of course, papers can be mistaken or come to invalid conclusions for many innocent reasons and that doesn’t necessarily make them ‘bad’ in this sense.

So where does S&B11 fall on this spectrum?

The signs of sloppy work and (at best) cursory reviewing are clear on even a brief look at the paper. Figure 2b has the axes mislabeled with incorrect units. No error bars are given on the correlations in figure 3 (and they are substantial – see figure 2 in the new Dessler paper). The model-data comparisons are not like-with-like (10 years of data from the real world compared to 100 years in the model – which also makes a big difference). And the ‘bottom-line’ implication by S&B that their reported discrepancy correlates with climate sensitivity is not even supported by their own figure 3. Their failure to acknowledge previous work on the role of ENSO in creating the TOA radiative changes they are examining (such as Trenberth et al, 2010 or Chung et al, 2010), likely led them to ignore the fact that it is the simulation of ENSO variability, not climate sensitivity, that determines how well the models match the S&B analysis (as clearly demonstrated in Trenberth and Fasullo’s guest post here last month). 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.

Of course, Spencer does not see this in the same light at all. His comments both before the publication of the paper and subsequent to the editor’s resignation indicate that he thinks that he is being persecuted by (unnamed) ‘IPCC Gatekeepers’ who are conspiring to suppress his results – he even insists that this was “one damn fine and convincing paper“. As well as straining credulity to the maximum, I find this both unfortunate and curious. It is unfortunate because this attitude makes it almost impossible for him to take on board constructive criticism, and given that none of us are perfect, there are many times when doing so is essential. It is also curious because there is no evidence of any grand conspiracy, just people disagreeing with and criticising his conclusions (which as a scientist, you really just have to get used to!). It was S&B’s desire to avoid dealing with that, that likely led them to a non-standard journal, whose editor very likely followed the authors suggestions for (friendly) reviewers, whose resulting reviews didn’t do very much (if anything) to strengthen the paper.

Reactions to this turn of events have been decidedly mixed (though falling along existing lines for the most part). A few people have (I think correctly) noted that the paper itself was of ‘minor consequence’ and does not explicitly claim anything much other than correlation analysis over a short time period isn’t going to constrain climate sensitivity, and that at first glance, there was a mismatch between models and observations in a particular calculation. The first claim is actually uncontroversial (despite what Spencer would have you believe), and the second turns out to be less interesting than it first seems (see Trenberth and Fasullo’s RC post). However, the media and blogospheric interest in the paper had very little to do with the actual paper, rather it was provoked by the over-exaggerated press release from UAH and the truly absurd piece in Forbes by the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor.

Roger Pielke Sr. has accused Wagner of ‘politicizing’ the situation by resigning, but this is completely backwards. The politicisation of the situation came almost entirely from Spencer and Taylor, and Wagner’s resignation is a recognition that he should have done a better job to prevent that. Statements from Ross McKitrick that Wagner is a “grovelling, terrified coward” for his action are completely beyond the pale (as well as being untrue, possibly libelous, and were stated with no evidence whatsoever).

The question has also arisen why the paper itself has not been retracted (and indeed will not be). However, that would be a really big step. I can only think of two climate science related papers that have been retracted in recent years – one was for plagiarism (among other problems: Said et al, 2008) and the other was because of a numerical calculation error that fatally undermined the reported results. There are of course many, many more papers that are wrong, mistaken and/or ‘bad’ (in the sense defined above) and yet very few retractions occur. I think (rightly) that people feel that the best way to deal with these papers is within the literature itself, and in this case it is happening this week in GRL (Dessler, 2011), and in Remote Sensing in a few months. That’s the way it should be, and neither resignations nor retractions are likely to become more dominant – despite the amount of popcorn being passed around.


118 Responses to “Resignations, retractions and the process of science”

  1. 1
    Sou says:

    Thanks for the article.

    The link to the Dessler paper goes to a login page. Is there any chance of seeing the paper itself – or is it behind a paywall only at this time. (I’ve seen the abstract, and I’m aware that a site that I don’t patronise has posted a version.)

    [Response: The links now point to the version on Dessler's website. - gavin]

  2. 2
    Jacob says:

    A well reasoned and thoughtful response. Thank you Gavin! I had figured Wagner resigned for reasons other than political or “IPCC” related reasons – he probably considers the journal to be like his own special piece of work (his “baby” if you will), and was not prepared for the controversey of a skeptical paper when his journal was so new. Thus, in order to “direct the lightning elsewhere,” he resigned. A strange move, but not entirely beyond the understanding of the sociology of science. Hopefully Remote Sensing will recover and continue on as it has for a few years now. We shall just have to wait and see.

  3. 3
    J Bowers says:

    First sentence should read “Wagner” not “Warner”.

    [Response: Oops! - thanks. - gavin]

  4. 4
    Andrew Dessler says:

    For those w/o AGU access, you can get a copy of the paper here: http://goo.gl/q4E7f

    [Response: Thanks. I've updated the links above. - gavin]

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Martin Vermeer says:

    I can only think of two climate science related papers that have been retracted in recent years

    Yep, and only one of these retractions went against the wish of the authors. The bar for doing this is appropriately very high (e.g., if a paper is established to contain fraudulent material).

  7. 7
    meteor says:

    Andrew, in his conclusion, write:

    “over the decades or centuries relevant for long-term climate change, on the other hand, clouds can indeed cause significant warming”

    I guess you are thinking long-term action of the clouds by their feedback.

    Or other?

  8. 8
    Big Dave says:

    Gavin,
    Do you have some thoughts on why Wagner would say “I’m sorry” to Trenberth?
    Cheers
    Big Dave

    [Response: "I'm sorry for all the media nonsense that arose out of this" or "I'm sorry that I let the reviewer suggestions go by without sufficient oversight" or "I'm sorry that I allowed my journal to be used so politically" - could be any of those or none. Perhaps if you had the actual text of some communication that could be examined for context we'd be able to get somewhere. Otherwise, it's just pointless speculation with people projecting their own biases on to some imagined statement. - gavin]

  9. 9
    MapleLeaf says:

    Gavin et al.,

    Thank you for a very clam and rational and thoughtful post. RC has been the last blog to post on this fiasco, and i think that speaks volumes. Despite all the claims that RC, I think this post demonstrates that you are first and foremost concerned with the science.

    I eagerly await Spencer or McKitrick actually presenting some facts to support their assertions and conspiracy theories, but I am not going to hold my breath. I think the vitriol and rhetoric and volume of the harrumphing of “skeptics” of late, and on this particular issue, is proportional to how desperate they are and how they are not interested in science, but politics. So very sad.

    Looking forward to a post by RC on Dessler’s new paper.

  10. 10
    SteveF says:

    It’s quite extraordinary how Roger Sr only ever manages to lay blame or find fault in one direction. His critiques of published papers are never against half-arsed “skeptic” efforts and his attacks (sometimes personal) are never against climate change deniers. His credibility is, IMO at least, now somewhat dented.

  11. 11
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Spencer has stated that the point of his work is to achieve a political end. And, of course, Spencer outrageously spun the import of his paper upon its publication. With that firmly in mind, any criticism of Wagner’s resignation that doesn’t acknowledge Spencer’s political intent in the first place should be considered a confession that the critic doesn’t have any intent to engage in an actual discussion.

    Save your breath. Save your ink. Save your bandwidth. Ignore them.

  12. 12
    Former Skeptic says:

    #10:

    “Somewhat dented?” You have a much higher opinion of Pielke Sr. than I have. His past errors are well documented (e.g. do a quick search with his name on this website or on any of the other serious climate blogs), and his continued association with Anthony Watts speaks for itself.

    IMO his loud protests about SB11 leads me to suspect he was one of the paper’s reviewers.

  13. 13
    David Appell says:

    It seems to me very rich that Roy Spencer is accusing others of politicizing science when he is consistently one of the most political of scientists. And not just on his blog–he’s on the Board of Directors of the Marshall Institute. The first thing he could do, to take politics out of the equation, is resign from that Board.

  14. 14
    Davos says:

    I’ve been waiting to see a RC post on this matter…because so often previously the administrators and scientists of this board have encouraged any/all of their detractors to “publish their (response, contrary results, etc.)” in journals. They have also said that peer review is not perfect, and that sometimes “bad” submissions get published and “good” ones do not. Further, they have said that if someone has a work they’d like to see published but isn’t achieving success at a certain impact factor, that they should try a lower level.

    To me, it seems like Dr. Spencer did all of these things, did he not? I’m trying to figure out where the seemingly nefarious ‘end-around’ of the peer review process took place either. I know many probably do not think so, but it seems like any criticism of the actual conduction of the research and the submission/acceptance of the paper for publication would have to fly in the face of previous comments of RealClimate.

    From what I’m reading here, it seems that there isn’t criticism of that sort of thing (besides the use of the ‘end-around’ term), and that’s refreshing. I just hope there isn’t a pattern connecting future ‘unique’ ‘one-time’ rarities involving publishing, resigning, and what-not.

    Speaking about rarities… How about the turn-around on the Dressler paper…What was that, a few weeks from start-to-finish? Ryan O’Donnell would be so jealous ;;)

  15. 15
    Rick Edenkrans says:

    Jeffrey Davis wrote: “Save your breath. Save your ink. Save your bandwidth. Ignore them.” Boy, I wish they would go away if we ignored them, but the truth is they are not going anywhere! I support healthy skepticism, but these deniers do not belong in the skeptic’s category. Just like the Creationism movement, of which some of these guys belong to, climate change deniers are winning the battle of public opinion. Climate change deniers also have powerful political backing who will cut funding to agencies and scientists who are supporting established climate science given the chance….

  16. 16
    Keith Kloor says:

    Gavin,

    The media was certainly culpable in the politicization, as Wagner pointed out in his notel, and as I discuss here:
    http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2011/09/editors-apologetic-resignation/

  17. 17
    bigcitylib says:

    Part of the “end around” in this case was Spencer’s keeping the journal name secret until the paper actually appeared. Quote:

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

    Link:

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2011/07/spencer_and_the_mystery_journa.php

    If he hadn’t done that, others could have intervened sooner, and Mr. Wegner would probably have kept his position. Mr. Spencer almost certainly would NOT have got his paper published, however.

    [Response: I very much doubt this. Once a paper is accepted in a journal that is the final say on the matter - it would be almost completely unprecedented to pull a paper at that stage. Roy being coy was just funny. - gavin]

  18. 18
    Hank Roberts says:

    One thought on the process here — I appreciated Trenberth and Fasullo’s guest post here last month. The thread, though, filled with garbage (and replies to garbage) fast. If I were a visiting scientist I’d stay silent seeing that.

  19. 19
    Russell says:

    Roy’s acute distress reflects a time interval between contrarian papers so long that this one’s half decade lead time merely amplifies Sturgeon’s Law of Scientific Publication ”
    ’90% of the papers published are junk.’
    And the lesser known Minsky Corollary:
    ‘So are 95% of the remainder.’

    Both cut in with axiomatic vengeance when there are less than 20 bona fide scientists publishing on one side of an issue, and only 19 published souls attended the original Heartland Conference, where Roy took his tautology public .

    That was early in 2008, a half decade after S&B 03, and so slow a drip of dud papers seems insufficient to sustain scientific curiosity.

    Or, pace Al Gore, media attention.-it’s hard to fill seats at a geriatric wrassling match when the stars lack strength enough to lift their folding chairs unassisted.

  20. 20
    trrll says:

    I feel kind of bad for Wagner. Yes, he presided over a poor review, but many other editors have made the same mistakes without consequences. Being an editor is hard, because you are receiving papers, many of which are outside your own field of expertise, and it can be hard to find qualified reviewers. So editors end up trusting authors to suggest qualified reviewers, and sometimes an author will suggest cronies who will provide a rubber-stamp review. A good editor will check the literature to make sure that the suggested reviewers are not recent co-authors with the submitter, but it is hard to know what connections people outside your field might have to one another. And of course, when it comes to a field as controversial as climate science, there may be links that are more ideological than scientific.

    Normally, a bad paper that slips through peer review pretty much sinks without a trace, because nobody ever cites it. But because self-styled “skeptics” are desperate for any real science that they can spin to support their position, a paper with even a hint of skepticism can end up receiving national headlines. So Warner’s slip-up ends up in the spotlight, and he has to step down to avoid tainting his fledgling journal. And for his integrity, he now ends up being the target of abuse.

    It does look to me like Wagner was taken advantage of by Spencer and Brasswell. Making public claims about the significance of your results that you were not willing to subject to peer review by including them in the actual paper is probably not scientific malfeasance, but it is skating awfully close to the boundaries of scientific ethics, and it had the effect of putting Wagner in the hot seat.

  21. 21
    Big Dave says:

    Gavin

    Indeed the “I’m sorry” letter itself is not shared, however it is not “imagined” that Trenberth received it… 

    Sept 2, 2011

    In his bid to cast doubts on the seriousness of climate change, University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer creates a media splash but claims a journal’s editor-in-chief. 
    The science doesn’t hold up.
     
    by Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham, and Peter Gleick

    For the Daily Climate

    “Kevin Trenberth received a personal note of apology from both the editor-in-chief and the publisher of Remote Sensing. Wagner took this unusual and admirable step after becoming aware of the paper’s serious flaws.”

    Why did Wagner choose Trenberth?

    Thanks for your thoughts. 

    Cheers
    Big Dave

    [Response: You would have to ask either Wagner or Trenberth. I have no insight into their motivations or thoughts. - gavin]

  22. 22
    John Mashey says:

    I’m too busy, but people might want to be asking questions of UAH:
    do they stand behind their press release?
    Do they have any comments on all this?
    Do they expect more Federal funding for such?
    Good universities guard their reputations and take responsibility for their part of the action. (thus academic freedom is to be protected, but it doesn’t require a university to do press releases for silly papers.)

  23. 23

    #8(Gavin’s answer):
    “I’m sorry that I let the reviewer suggestions go by without sufficient oversight”

    Does Gavin suggest that every scientific journal’s editor should (from now on) “per principia”" distrust his peer reviewers and make a “super-review” himself that would top the traditional ones?

    [Response: They very often do. But the problem is only really an issue if an editor is not sufficiently familiar with the topic/people/issues at hand. Then he has no choice but to trust in the good faith of the submitters and reviewers. Editors who have more of clue can recognise problems earlier on and know enough to ask neutral or otherwise independent reviewers to contribute. - gavin]

  24. 24
    MarcH says:

    Not sure what the point of Wagner resigning is. If an editor resigned every time a problem was found with a published paper, scientific publishing would quickly grind to a halt.

  25. 25
    GSW says:

    Following on from #21 Big Dave,

    It is curious that Trenberth is identified as someone who should be apologized to in the whole affair. It would make some sense if Trenberth had been the third reviewer (thumbs down) and his input had been largely ignored.

    But as you say, this is pure speculation. Odd Though.

  26. 26
    Logical Nick says:

    #23, in this case I believe Wagner feels Remote Sensing, and himself, were played. A paper bound to stir controversy, with a dubious and flawed analysis, is submitted to a journal with little to no expertise in the subject matter. It is accompanied with an overblown press release and an outrageous media reaction.

    This does not appear to be an example of someone forgetting to carry their ones. That sort of thing doesn’t garner headlines and is easily remedied within the journal and the scientific community.

  27. 27
    John Mashey says:

    I suggest that it is worth backing up a level to more systemic issues, of which this is jsut an example.

    1) S&B:
    http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/3/8/1603/pdf
    “This research was sponsored by DOE contract DE-SC0005330 and NOAA contract NA09NES4400017.”

    OK, that’s our tax money, and I wouldn’t want to get into Proxmire’s Golden Fleece turf (it’s easy to0 make almost any research sound silly), but:

    a) Everybody can make mistakes. How often does someone have to be wrong before they stop getting funded? Somebody with time (not me, right now), might want to look up those contracts and see what they are for. (Sometimes people Ack ocntracts that have little to do with the research.)

    b) Universities quite properly protect freedom of academic speech and research … but nothing requires them to support over-hyped press releases.
    http://www.uah.edu/news/newspages/campusnews.php?id=564

    Universities get much public support, and most take care with their reputation, i.e., they try hard to self-police so that we trust universities for truth-seeking more than many other entities. Has UAH said anything about this? Does it seem fair to ask?

    Papers don’t get retracted just because they are poor.
    As a distinguished academic wrote to me, p.7
    “Too bad you can only retract papers when it turns out they were plagiarized, when they should be retracted for not having any coherent or sensible argument!‖ This is sad, but has much truth.”

    Wagner took a very honorable course in resigning to send the message “we screwed up and *we take it seriously*” probably the only way to make the point strong enough to help the journal in the long run. This is a bit akin to “CEO seppuku” (not the real kind, just resigning to take responsibility and show that the problem is recognized. I used to go to Japan often.) For comparison, people might review E-i-C Azen’s actions in the link above, i.e., zero admission of a peer review problem.

  28. 28
    Dan Kirk-Davidoff says:

    Roger Pielke Sr., in his comments on his website goes on about how the paper was accepted in record time, but if you look at the “Papers in Press” you can see that there are a number with even quicker times: 12 days is not uncommon.

  29. 29
    Mike M says:

    As Pielke Sr. has asked – why is Dessler publishing a new paper in GRL as a response instead of simply submitting comments via Remote Sensing. Isn’t the latter the normally accepted way of addressing such disagreements?

    [Response: Sometimes, sometimes not. We've discussed this a number of times - many journals do not like accepting comments, there are often space restrictions, the process can be unnecessarily long-winded and they are not valued as highly as stand-alone papers. Personally, I have both written comments on papers (i.e. Foster et al, 2010, Schmidt et al, 2011) and submitted standalone papers that also rebut other papers (Schmidt, 2009, Santer et al, 2008). Spencer and Braswell itself was supposed to be a rebuttal to Dessler (Science, 2010), though there was a comment submission to Science (which presumably did not pass peer review). But it's easy to find other examples of papers critical of a specific paper that appeared in a different journal (McIntyre and McKitrick, 2003; O'Donnel et al, 2011; McKitrick and Nierenberg (2010) etc.). - gavin]

  30. 30
    dhogaza says:

    As Pielke Sr. has asked – why is Dessler publishing a new paper in GRL as a response instead of simply submitting comments via Remote Sensing.

    Why is Pielke Sr. attacking everything except the actual scientific errors made by Spencer?

  31. 31

    @Mike M,

    At times, too, some journals will respond to a major paper by inviting a gaggle of senior members to read it and write extended comments, often of paper size, although not as formal. The major paper usually advances the field in some way, or provides a controversial insight. To my recollection, this is sometimes done in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, and I do recall seeing it in Journal of the American Statistical Association three decades back. The follow-ups can be critical, or can extend the work, or can pursue some feature of the article in an unorthodox direction. See for a slightly related subject,

    http://pubs.amstat.org/doi/abs/10.1198/016214504000000872

    followed by

    http://pubs.amstat.org/doi/abs/10.1198/016214504000000935

    and

    http://pubs.amstat.org/doi/abs/10.1198/016214504000000944

    and

    http://pubs.amstat.org/doi/abs/10.1198/016214504000000926

    and finally a response by the original authors:

    http://pubs.amstat.org/doi/abs/10.1198/016214504000000953

    The other is Professor Bradley Efron’s famous paper “Empirical Bayes Methods for Combining Likelihoods” which had five comments. The original paper is at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291646, and the comments are at:
    http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291647, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291648, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291649, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291650, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291651, with Efron’s rejoinder at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2291652

  32. 32
    Russ R. says:

    I’m looking at Dessler’s paper (specifically the pre-publication PDF he’s uploaded to his webpage http://geotest.tamu.edu/userfiles/216/Dessler2011.pdf ), and I have a couple of questions:

    1. In lines 183-184 he writes: “Thus, the lead-lag relation between TOA flux and ΔTs tells us nothing about the physics driving ΔTs.” But then in lines 191-193 he writes: “This means in turn that regressions of TOA fluxes vs. ΔTs can be used to accurately estimate climate sensitivity or the magnitude of climate feedbacks.” I may be missing something here, but aren’t these items (climate sensitivity and climate feedbacks) an essential part of “the physics driving ΔTs”?

    2. Figure 2 shows observations (with uncertainty ranges) vs. model outputs. What is most striking is that at the 2, 3 and 4 month lag intervals, none of the 13 model outputs are within the 2σ uncertainty range of the SB11 obvservations, and the majority of model outputs (10 of the 13) are clustered between 4σ and 6σ from the observed regression values. Based on that, how can he conclude that “the observations are not fundamentally inconsistent with mainstream climate models containing positive net feedbacks”? 4σ would appear to be a pretty fundamental inconsistency.

  33. 33
    Steve Metzler says:

    #20 trrll:

    It does look to me like Wagner was taken advantage of by Spencer and Brasswell. Making public claims about the significance of your results that you were not willing to subject to peer review by including them in the actual paper is probably not scientific malfeasance, but it is skating awfully close to the boundaries of scientific ethics, and it had the effect of putting Wagner in the hot seat.

    Touche. Over the years, Spencer has seemingly made a habit of managing to get rather mundane/workmanlike stuff published in the peer reviewed literature, but then doing and end run by sensationalising the findings in the mainstream media. To wit:

    How to cook a graph in three easy lessons

    From that article, by Raypierre:

    However, the thing you have to understand is that what he gets through peer-review is far less threatening to the mainstream picture of anthropogenic global warming than you’d think from the spin he puts on it in press releases, presentations and the blogosphere.

    And he’s at it once again…

  34. 34

    @Russ R,

    Regarding “…are clustered between 4σ and 6σ from the observed regression values. Based on that, how can he conclude that ‘the observations are not fundamentally inconsistent with mainstream climate models containing positive net feedbacks’? 4σ would appear to be a pretty fundamental inconsistency”, where are the estimates of “4σ and 6σ” being used here? From what I saw, the D10 paper only identified 2σ bands …

  35. 35
    Russ R. says:

    @ Jan Galkowski,

    You’re correct… Figure 2 only shows a 2σ shaded band.

    My 4σ to 6σ estimate is eyeballed, as I don’t have access to any of the actual data.

  36. 36
    Deep Climate says:

    #18 (mentioning Spencer being on the board of the Marshall Institute.

    Spencer is also chairman of the Climate Science Coalition of America, one of the climate disinformation outfits set up by Tom Harris (ex-APCO Worldwide etc.).

  37. 37

    @Russ R,

    The caution evident from the Figure is that the 2σ bands are not symmetric (vertically) about the centerline. I’m assuming centerline is median, but don’t really know these datasets. It would be good to see quantiles — always useful when doing comparisons. I also don’t know what “1-2-1″ filtering means here. I’d guess it’s a leading and lagging moving window, weighting the center by two and the lead and the lag by one. The significance of that is, if what’s being presented is *filtered* data, it wouldn’t be surprising that excursions are damped.

  38. 38
    Nick Stokes says:

    I think an important aspect of the resignation is the role of E-i-C in the system of DPMI, a newish outfit that publishes on-line journals like Remote Sensing. They have a kind of factory approach:
    “The Editorial Offices will organize peer-review and collect at least two review reports per manuscript, ask the authors for adequate revision (peer-review again whenever necessary), before requesting the decision of an external editor (usually the Editor-in-Chief of a journal or the Guest Editor of a special issue).”

    It seems that interaction with referees is seen as an Offices function, with a scientist invited to lend his name and reputation to the process at the end. Fine when it goes well, but the scientist is left very exposed when it doesn’t. Prof Wagner isn’t going to get in that situation again.

  39. 39
    Hank Roberts says:

    > DPMI
    MDPI — http://www.mdpi.com/authors/
    “… all articles are thoroughly peer-reviewed …”

  40. 40
    Jeff Id says:

    Libelous???? wow.

    [Response: Oh please. Don't you ever get tired of this שטיק? - gavin]

  41. 41
    Richard Simons says:

    From the resignation editorial, I gather that the decisions regarding the selection of referees were not made by Wagner. I am not clear, in fact, at what stage he would have been able to step in and exercise any control. I suspect he resigned because he felt he had been used as a rubber stamp to give authority to a rather dubious paper.

  42. 42
    dhogaza says:

    I suspect he resigned because he felt he had been used as a rubber stamp to give authority to a rather dubious paper.

    Bingo …

  43. 43
    Edward Greisch says:

    This debate is on http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/a-reality-check-on-clouds-and-climate/#preview

    where we hear

    “More Thoughts on the War Being Waged Against Us”
    September 5th, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/09/more-thoughts-on-the-war-being-waged-against-us/

  44. 44
    Andrew30 says:

    Was the Physical Data from the Remote Sensors in the Satellites that was used in the Spencer and Braswell paper correct?
    Were the Remote Sensors operating correctly?
    Was the Physical Data recorded correct?
    Did the paper present the Measured Physical Data as Actual Measured Data?
    Did the Data show that the amount of energy leaving the system was greater that any of the computer simulation indicated?

    Actual measured data.

    P.S. CLOUD

    [Response: Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, no. - gavin]

  45. 45
    MapleLeaf says:

    Wow, quite the convincing and objective and qualitative comment by JeffId. Not. That is all they have now?

    Mr. McKitrick’s propensity to defame/libel others may catch up with him one day. I wonder if Mr. Id donated money to Tim Ball’s “cause”?

    Sorry, OK, back to the science :)

  46. 46
    EFS_Junior says:

    #32 RTFP!

    lines 183-4 –> “the lead-lag relation between …” “regressions of …” <—

    As to your 2nd point, read lines 161-172.

    If you don't understand english, then I can't help you there dude.

  47. 47
    EFS_Junior says:

    Well, my previous post is missing a part due to my use of ,d’oh!

    It should read;

    lines 183-4 “the lead-lag relation between … ” has nothing to do with lines 191-3 “regressions of … ”

    He’s talking about two entirely different things in those two sentences.

  48. 48

    The climate science community as a whole occasionally publishes flawed papers, but the contrarians only publish flawed papers. It is therefore a tad rich for them to claim there’s a conspiracy against them, a systematic bias, etc. Name me one other field of science in which those pushing a contrary evidence-free position have such an easy ride.

    Another example of this exact same effect: McLean et at. 2009. Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature, J. Geophys Res. v114, doi:10.1029/2008JD011637, which uses a “smoothing” technique that subtracts out the linear trend, then claims that ENSO is the dominant signal in temperature data. One of the authors, Bob Carter, hyped this up as showing that there is “little room for any warming driven by human carbon dioxide emissions”, totally unjustified by the data and an exaggeration of the rather thin conclusions in the paper.

    These people are politicians masquerading as scientists who use the “you’re a bigger one” defence when they get caught out.

  49. 49
    Magnus W says:

    Are you not taking this paragraph that even gets in to the abstract a bit to easy.

    “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.”

    You could interpret that as they have shown that with some constrains a climate model gives a much lower climate sensitivity? Not that it should be, but that never seams to be how things work…

  50. 50
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Russ R. #32:

    none of the 13 model outputs are within the 2σ uncertainty range of the SB11 obvservations

    I suppose that depends on who’s looking… Eyeball-Vermeer-1.0 says three of them (black lines) are within the 2σ range of some observation set (coloured bullets), and do not differ more from the observations than the observations differ amongst themselves…

    Based on that, how can he conclude that “the observations are not fundamentally inconsistent with mainstream climate models containing positive net feedbacks”?

    Actually a fuller quote is

    Second, some of the models (not plotted by SB11) agree with the observations, which means that [your quote. And continues:] Third, the models that do a good job simulating the observations (…) are among those that have been identified as realistically reproducing ENSO [Lin, 2007]. And since most of the climate variations over this period were due to ENSO, this suggests that the ability to reproduce ENSO is being tested here, not anything directly related to equilibrium climate sensitivity.

    So, the “non-inconsistency” is with the sensitivity aspect of GCMs (which was SB11′s claim). Yes, the models are still struggling with ENSO, but that’s an unrelated issue… see also Trenberth at al.’s post making precisely this point.

    Note also the dry “(not plotted by SB11)”…

    (Please give me back the preview!)

    [Response: (Sorry about the preview. We updated and it broke. Should be back now). - gavin]


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