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Misrepresentation from Lindzen

Filed under: — gavin @ 6 March 2012

Richard Lindzen is a very special character in the climate debate – very smart, high profile, and with a solid background in atmospheric dynamics. He has, in times past, raised interesting critiques of the mainstream science. None of them, however, have stood the test of time – but exploring the issues was useful. More recently though, and especially in his more public outings, he spends most of his time misrepresenting the science and is a master at leading people to believe things that are not true without him ever saying them explicitly.

However, in his latest excursion at a briefing at the House of Lords Commons in the UK, among the standard Lindzen arguments was the following slide (which appears to be a new addition):

What Lindzen is purporting to do is to compare the NASA GISS temperature product from 2012 to the version in 2008 (i.e. the y-axis is the supposedly the difference between what GISS estimated the anomaly to be in 2012 relative to 2008). A rising trend would imply that temperatures in more recent years had been preferentially enhanced in the 2012 product. The claim being made is that NASA GISS has ‘manipulated’ (in a bad way) the data in order to produce an increasing trend of global mean temperature anomalies (to the tune of 0.14ºC/Century compared to the overall trend of 0.8ºC/Century) between the 2008 and 2012 versions of the data, which are apparently shown subtracted from each other in Lindzen’s figure. Apparently, this got ‘a big laugh’ at his presentation.

However, this is not in the least bit true: the data are not what he claims, the interpretation is wrong, and the insinuations are spurious.

The annotation indicates that Lindzen is using the GISTEMP Land-Ocean Temperature index (LOTI, i.e. the index that includes weather station data and sea surface temperature data to give a global anomaly index with wide spatial coverage) (“GLB.Ts+dSST.txt”). There is another GISTEMP index (the Met station index) which only uses weather station data (“GLB.Ts.txt”) which doesn’t have as much coverage and has a substantially larger trend reflecting the relative predominance of faster-warming continental data in the average.

Old versions of the data can be retrieved from the wayback machine quite readily, for instance, from February 2006, October 2008 or December 2007. The current version is here. I plot these four versions and their differences below:

As should be clear, the differences are tiny, and mostly reflect slightly more data in the earlier years in the latest data and the different homogenisation in GHCN v3 compared to GHCN v2 (which was used up to Dec 2011). This is however in clear contradiction with Lindzen – the biggest difference in trend (between 2006 and today), is a mere 0.05ºC/Century, and from 2008 to 2012 it is only 0.003ºC/Century – a factor of 40 smaller than Lindzen’s claim. What is going on?

The clue is that the transient behaviour of Lindzen’s points actually resembles the time evolution of temperature itself – not homogenisation issues, or instrumental or coverage changes. Indeed, if one plots the two GISTEMP indices and their difference (using current data), you get this:

Thus it looks very much like Lindzen has plotted the difference between the current Met Station index and an earlier version of the LOTI index. I plotted the Feb 2012 Met index data minus the Feb 2009 LOTI index, and I get something very close to Lindzen’s figure (though it isn’t exact):

This is sufficient to conclude that Lindzen did indeed make the mistake of confusing his temperature indices, though a more accurate replication would need some playing around since the exact data that Lindzen used is obscure.

Thus, instead of correctly attributing the difference to the different methods and source data, he has jumped to the conclusion that GISS is manipulating the data inappropriately. At the very minimum, this is extremely careless, and given the gravity of the insinuation, seriously irresponsible. There are indeed issues with producing climate data records going back in time, but nothing here is remotely relevant to the actual issues.

Such a cavalier attitude to analysing and presenting data probably has some lessons for how seriously one should take Lindzen’s comments. I anticipate with interest Lindzen’s corrections of this in future presentations and his apology for misleading his audience last month.

Update: Lindzen did indeed apologise (sort of) (archived) though see comments for more discussion.

539 Responses to “Misrepresentation from Lindzen”

  1. 51
    MapleLeaf says:

    Eric @15,

    We are all free to behave as idiots on our own time and even….

    I agree with academic freedom and with what you say, but only to a point There are some things to be considered here.

    Lindzen clearly announces his affiliation with MIT and the “Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate Massachusetts Institute of Technology” in his first slide, he also provides his MIT email address.

    In doing so he is thus very clearly giving MIT ownership of his misrepresentations and errors and libelling of NASA, and MIT ought to be very concerned about that.

    IMHO, this is not an example of him doing something on his own time and him stating his own (misguided) opinion. It is an exmaple of him abusing his tenure and status as an MIT professor to promulgate deception and even lies.

    I say enough already.

    [Response: The answer to bad information is better information. Lindzen is free to say whatever he likes, wherever he likes, and you and I are free to point out that he is misrepresenting the science. Other people can then judge whether to give his conclusions any credibility. Note that most of the people he is talking to are only looking to have their prejudices reinforced, and while that is quite interesting psychologically, it has very little to do with anything that actually matters. – gavin]

  2. 52
    MapleLeaf says:

    Just one more comment from me for now.


    I think that NASA would be remiss if it did not take this matter very seriously and request a correction and an apology from Lindzen.

    If he does, good for him. If he doesn’t well then it is probably up to the lawyers to decide his fate.

  3. 53
    Paul D says:

    I pointed this out at Skeptical Science.

    Don’t exagerate Lindzens talk at the Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament by implying it was in the House of Commons.

    He didn’t do it in the House of Commons. Someone rented a conference room at the Palace of Westminster and sold tickets to the event. Unlike Hansen who was officially invited to address a select committee a few years ago, Lindzen was a sideshow (literally).

  4. 54
    Tom Curtis says:

    Cross posted from Skeptical Science:

    If we compare the URL for the 2008 data as provided at Real Climate with that for the current data, it is clear that Hayden’s claim to have got both sets of data from the same website literally cannot be true. The reason is that the 2008 website has as part of its address:


    In contrast, the equivalent section of the address for the current data reads:


    The change in address from tabledata to tabledata_v3 was presumably concurrent with the switch from GHCNv2 to GHCNv3 in December 2011.

    The odd thing is that the address shown on the chart is indeed the current address. However, even a cursory check shows that he cannot have used both the Land Ocean Temperature Index of 2008 and of 2012. Further, he cannot have used the Surface Stations only data from 2008, for that would have generated a negative, not a positive sloping trend. Ergo, while he lists the correct current address he did not use the correct current address to obtain his data. It is difficult, therefore, to see how this can be explained by an accident.

  5. 55
    Radge Havers says:

    Mercenary. Not just Mr. Tobacco:

    Affiliations & Funding: Dr. Lindzen has claimed in Newsweek and elsewhere that his funding comes exclusively from government sources, but he does not seem to include speaking fees and other personal compensation in this statement. Ross Gelbspan, who did some of the first reporting on climate skeptics’ links to industry, wrote in Harper’s Magazine in 1995: “[Lindzen] charges oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; his 1991 trip to testify before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels, and a speech he wrote, entitled ‘Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus,’ was underwritten by OPEC.”

    Dr. Lindzen is a member of the Advisory Council of the Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy, which has received large amounts of funding from ExxonMobil and smaller amounts from Daimler Chrysler, according to a review Exxon’s own financial documents and 990s from Daimler Chrysler’s Foundation. Lindzen is a also been a contributor to the Cato Institute, which has taken $90,000 from Exxon since 1998, according to the website and a review Exxon financial documents. He is also a contributor for the George C. Marshall Institute.


    Why? Who can know, maybe something in his development made him a little mean. OTOH, out of the thousands of climate scientists in the world, he represents a surprisingly small fraction. You all seem to be a remarkably good bunch on the whole.

  6. 56

    I would suggest that NASA GISS should direct a short, simple (less scientific) explanation of this (as well as any statements of indignation) to both the House of Commons as a whole (through the Secretary or whatever other functionary exists) as well as individually to each and every member of that body, clarifying the facts of the issue.

    There’s no way this should be allowed to stand such that Lindzen’s testimony is what remains in their minds, while the truth of the matter is clear only to those who bother to pursue the truth.

  7. 57
    Dan Lufkin says:

    If you look at the MIT catalog of spring semester courses in atmospheric science (Here), you’ll see that Lindzen is currently teaching no classes at all. I’ve watched the 12.3xx classes (climate dynamics & change) for a couple of years and noted that L. still taught graduate courses in his particular specialty (waves and tides), but had nothing to do with climate.

    (I’m MIT BS & MS from old course XIX, before meteorology got thrown in with geology and astronomy.)

  8. 58
    dbostrom says:

    Gavin: Note that most of the people he is talking to are only looking to have their prejudices reinforced, and while that is quite interesting psychologically, it has very little to do with anything that actually matters.

    Actually, there is a Tory backbench rebellion concerning energy and the environment that David Cameron & his deck officers are having a tough time containing. Lindzen’s presentation is part of a concerted push to regress the UK back in time with regard to energy policy; this effort is enjoying some success, thanks to the help of many little pushes including those of Lindzen (and such as Donald Trump, bizarrely enough).

    If you’re in a boat leaking water through many holes, you have to pay attention to all the leaks. Lindzen is a relatively copious leak, so Lindzen does matter

    Lindzen is absolutely trading on his connection with outfits such as MIT and AGU. To the extent that these concerns have stated policies concerning ethical behavior, he should be treated the same as every other member, arguably more so as his profile is so high.

  9. 59
    SecularAnimist says:

    Gavin replied to MapleLeaf: “Lindzen is free to say whatever he likes, wherever he likes, and you and I are free to point out that he is misrepresenting the science.”

    Gavin, it appears to me that MapleLeaf and a previous commenter or two are not talking about Lindzen “misrepresenting the science” but rather about Lindzen accusing NASA of misrepresenting the science — in your words, “The claim being made is that NASA GISS has ‘manipulated’ (in a bad way) the data”.

    This, I believe, is what MapleLeaf characterizes as “libel” — not Lindzen’s own erroneous and/or dishonest “misrepresentation”, but his apparent accusation that NASA is, in essence, faking the data.

    Your replies have admirably expressed a commitment to academic freedom, which must allow Lindzen to freely express his views on the science.

    But I don’t think you have really addressed MapleLeaf’s point, which is not about Lindzen’s views on the science, but rather about Lindzen’s apparent accusation of deliberate dishonesty by NASA.

  10. 60
    Martin Lack says:

    #51 Response from Gavin (Schmidt?) Dear Gavin – is that you or another Gavin?

    Either way, with respect, surely the charge of bringing MIT into disrepute is a fair one? I think every right-minded climate scientist in the USA should submit a complaint to MIT.

    Not only has Lindzen spent the last decade or so whispering “there is no cause for alarm” in the ears of everyone from Dick Cheney downwards, he is endlessly cited as a legitimate expert by bogus, self-appointed, non-scientist, climate experts like Lord Monckton and James Delingpole. In so doing, the Merchants of Doubt do what they have always done; they have institutionalised “policy inaction” (Hansen).

    Also, if you believe in real democracy, our political representatives will only act when the public demands they do so (i.e. if all the money that controls politics could be got rid of). Therefore, we simply cannot dismiss these “contrarians” and/or all the misguided journalists that do their bidding; and wait for the public to come on board. Will everybody please wake up? – That is never going to happen unless the Merchants of Doubt are silenced!.

    So, I say it again, people need to see what Lindzen has now done as part of a pattern of behaviour of a group of people that goes back decades. He may be due to retire next year, and Dr S Fred Singer may be dead soon, but the Merchants of Doubt are not going to be defeated any other way than in the Courts and/or by being found guilty of professional misconduct and/or bringing their respective institutions into disrepute. Therefore, if we can have one person investigated and found guilty, that might just be enough to induce the collapse of the entire denialist house of cards.

    If people want to see what I mean, please read this (i.e. from “It seems highly likely that Richard Lindzen is just telling you what you want to hear…”)

  11. 61
    KAP says:

    For the record, the video of Lindzen’s lecture can be found here in two parts. Lindzen’s discussion of this graph is in part I, starting 27:25 in.
    “Now, with manipulation, one of the most curious ones is at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies …”

  12. 62
    Ric Merritt says:

    Lindzen’s email address is readily available from MIT, so it may do no great harm to reproduce it here, but I would still suggest removing it from #34. That sort of campaign doesn’t need a push from this blog.

    And the murine fecal reference in Ray’s #47 has been deposited well outside the litterbox, and should be redacted.

  13. 63
    Jim Eager says:

    Gavin inline @51: “it has very little to do with anything that actually matters.”

    With all due respect, Gavin, deliberately and deceitfully prolonging BAU matters a great deal in our current sitution.

  14. 64
    dbostrom says:

    Let’s try to find a charitable way to treat Richard Lindzen, one that finds him free of ethical transgressions:

    — Richard Lindzen understands the science he’s speaking of but sincerely believes the public policy outcomes of heeding that science are so negative that he must misrepresent the science so as to help avoid those policies being enacted. Acting under moral suasion he is engaging in deception.

    — Richard Lindzen understands the science he’s speaking of, understands the consequent requirement to beneficially adjust public policy to take heed of this science, but for reasons we cannot know chooses to misrepresent the science. He is engaging in deception for reasons apparently unconnected with moral compulsion.

    — Richard Lindzen understands the science but is consistently careless, sloppy and inattentive when it comes to making presentations of that science, hence does not consider himself to be misrepresenting science even though he is conveying inaccurate information. He is innocent of deception.

    — Richard Lindzen simply does not understand the science and thus does not consider himself to be engaging in “misrepresentation” though in fact he is conveying inaccurate information. He is innocent of deception.

    — The vast majority of other actors in climate science are misrepresenting science and Richard Lindzen is not. He is innocent of deception.

    Any other possibilities?

  15. 65
    MapleLeaf says:

    SecularAnimist @59,

    Yes, that is indeed what I was driving at. Thanks for clarifying.

    PS: I would also be interested in other readers’ thoughts on my observations on slides 13 and 14 form Lindzen’s talk.

  16. 66
    Martin Lack says:

    #61 Yes, and has anyone else apart from me noticed that the most apalling piece of data manipulation to make a point out of nothing – a mismatched graph of Keeling Curve v Temp at 28:30 in the video – is/was missing from the PDF? Why is/was this?

    Is it because it was a blatant piece of hypocrisy Lindzen knew third parties would spot; but which went un-noticed by an un-critical audience and left them all with the very strong impression that CO2 and temperature rise do not correlate?

    Again I ask it, why is Lindzen not being censured for such blatant hypocrisy, obfuscation of relevant data, and misdirection of his audience; on at least 3 occasions since May 2010?

  17. 67
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #63 Jim Eager): +1

    I think that in a generation or so people looking at the present will be unable to understand how scientists collectively were unable to deal with the scientists who spread lies about climate.

    Were Woodrow Wilson alive today, would he be able to say “Politics within the climate science community is so polite precisely because so much is at stake”? Probably, sadly.

    I recall a brief exchange I had with Andy Revkin some years back. I had asked how he could justify continuing to use Christy as a source despite the latter’s long record of errors, and he replied that it was because other scientists continued to treat Christy with respect. And still do, I might note. They might (and certainly do) mock him amongst themselves, but hardly ever in public, and he still gets invited to conferences and continues to publish (albeit in journals of decreasing prestige). So the Revkins of the world, who while having to admit that not all facts are equal remain committed to the idea that opinions about those facts can be considered so, sail on unimpeded. (For those who may think Revkin is just a blogger, be aware that he’s still considered to be very much the gold standard for climate coverage by other journos.)

  18. 68
    R. Gates says:

    I would hope that one or several professional climate scientists will write a letter (or better, do a presentation) to the House of Commons and rectify the errors that Lindzen has spread. This is a battle of perception which of course greatly affects policy. It is imperative that for every mistatement and error, that the truth at least gets a chance to see the light of day. I will not question Lindzen’s reasons for the misrepresentations– and indeed, doing so actually gets us further from the science. All scientists can (and should do) is make sure the truth as shown by the data and the science gets a fair shot at getting heard and seen, but that can be a very tall order in itself.

  19. 69
    Martin Lack says:

    #62 Ric Merritt
    I have already asked for the offending comment to be deleted. Please don’t let this detract from the rest of what I have said within this discussion…

  20. 70
    John says:

    Simple question for Gavin. Have you personally called Professor Lindzen and spoken to him about the data he presented? Nowhere do you indicate you have tried to communicate with him DIRECTLY on this.

    I find it disturbing that supposedly educated men are incapable of picking up a phone and having direct discourse. (I do include Lindzen in this comment)

  21. 71
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thank you Tom Curtis for pointing out:

    “Hayden’s claim to have got both sets of data from the same website literally cannot be true.”

    So Hayden screwed up or misrepresented his source;
    Junkscience copied Hayden’s piece without checking it, and
    Lindzen used the same piece or a copy of the copy, also without checking.

    Thank you Paul D. above for pointing out that Lindzen’s audience and venue wasn’t the British government — just a slide show in a rented meeting room in a government building, puffed up in the PR to fool people.

    Seems like we just can’t believe any second hand report these days.

    Thank you both for looking this stuff up in depth.

  22. 72
    Hank Roberts says:

    (PS, looking at the original post, both the corrected text (Commons replacing Lords) needs to be amended again — something like ‘rented room near …”?
    And “Lords” at the bottom of the first image never got the first correction)

    [Response: fixed. thanks – gavin]

  23. 73
    dbostrom says:

    Martin Lack: “Again I ask it, why is Lindzen not being censured for such blatant hypocrisy, obfuscation of relevant data, and misdirection of his audience; on at least 3 occasions since May 2010?”

    An excellent question. Lindzen is an AGU Fellow and his activities go straight to the core of AGU’s principles, recently restated:

    AGU expects its members to adhere to the highest standards of scientific integrity in their research and in their interactions with colleagues and the public. Among the core values articulated in AGU’s Strategic Plan are ‘excellence and integrity in everything we do.’ The vast majority of scientists share and live by these values.”

    Any AGU members reading this, particularly any who have recently expressed dismay and disappointment with the behavior of other AGU members?

  24. 74
    ari says:

    It’s scary to see the reaction of certain people here. The efforts of Gavin and Eric to maintain sanity should be commended.

  25. 75
    Martin Lack says:

    Professional misconduct complaint against Professor Richard S. Lindzen Sent by me to MIT today:

    Dear Sirs,

    I should appreciate some guidance about whether and how – as a non US citizen – I can make a formal complaint against Professor Richard S Lindzen for apparently repetitive hypocrisy, obfuscation and misdirection of several audiences, including the following:
    1. At the Heartland Institute’s 4th International Climate Change Conference in May 2010;
    2. In testimony to US House Subcommittee on Science and Technology hearing in November 2010; and most recently
    3. At a meeting in Committee Room 14 of the Palace of Westminster (at which I was present) on 22 February 2012.

    I have now sent Professor Lindzen 3 emails (on 23 and 25 February, and 5 March but, as yet I have had no explanation – let alone a satisfactory one – for the issues I have raised in my emails to him.

    Transcripts of my 3 emails have been published on my blog as follows:
    An open letter to Richard Lindzen (28 February 2012) – 1800 word email with questions from me.
    Prof. Lindzen – try this instead! (29 February 2012) – Many of my questions re-formulated as 17 statements via which I invited Professor Lindzen to explain his position.
    There is no cause for concern? You cannot be serious! (5 March 2012) – about 900 words – plus some very interesting comments from me and others.

    If nothing else, Professor Lindzen’s repetitive divergence from – and ridicule of – the genuine scientific consensus regarding the nature, scale and urgency of the problem we face (i.e. anthropogenic climate disruption) and/or his invocation of conspiracy theory as a grounds for dismissing the validity and reliability of that consensus would appear to be in severe danger of damaging the international reputation of your highly-esteemed establishment.

    Therefore, if I do not hear from you within 7 days, I shall forward this email to Suzanne Goldenberg (US Environmental Correspondent for the Guardian newspaper) suggesting that she publish it forthwith because, in the continuing absence of a satisfactory explanation from him, I am inclined to believe that Professor Lindzen is part of an organised campaign to downplay, deny and/or dismiss anthropogenic climate change being orchestrated by right-wing, ideologically-prejudiced Conservative Think Tanks (CTTs) such as the Heartland Institute and the CATO Institute. I have reached this conclusion, in no small part, as a result of my reading of research done by Peter Jacques et al., the findings of which may be summarised as follows:

    In prefacing their research, Jacques et al. observed that:
    “Since environmentalism is unique among social movements in its heavy reliance on scientific evidence to support its claims… it is not surprising that CTTs would launch a direct assault on environmental science by promoting environmental scepticism… (2008: 353).

    Furthermore, based on their findings, they concluded that:
    “Environmental scepticism is an elite-driven reaction to global environmentalism, organised by core actors within the conservative movement. Promoting scepticism is a key tactic of the anti-environmental counter-movement co-ordinated by CTTs…” (ibid: 364).

    Jacques has also highlighted the central aim of CTTs as being to cause confusion and doubt amongst the general public, in order to prevent the creation of a popular mandate for change (i.e. achieved by using a tactic developed by the tobacco industry of countering supposedly “junk” science with their “sound” science), which he refers to as the “science trap” (2009: 148).

    Based on the findings of the research published in 2008, Jacques therefore also concluded that environmental scepticism is a social counter-movement that uses CTTs to provide “political insulation for industry and ideology from public scrutiny”; and that this deliberate obfuscation stems from a realisation that “anti-environmentalism is an attitude that most citizens would consider a violation of the public interest” (2009: 169). However, Jacques does not blame the CTTs for the ecological crisis he feels we face, as they have merely exploited a dominant social paradigm; “because neoliberal globalism and its logic are protected from critique” (ibid: 119).

    I therefore trust that I may hear from someone regarding this in the very near future.

    Kind regards,

    Martin C. Lack. BSc (Geology), MSc (Hydrogeology), MA (Environmental Politics).
    Author of the Lack of Environment blog – ‘On the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems….’

    Jacques, P. et al. (2008), ‘The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’, Environmental Politics, 17(3), pp.349-385.
    Jacques, P. (2009), Environmental Skepticism: Ecology, Power and Public Life. Farnham: Ashgate.

  26. 76
    vendicar decarian says:

    Is he free to yell fire in a crowded theater?
    Is he free to perjure himself?
    Is he free to commit slander?

    He is free to admit his error, or forever be known as a liar.

    “The answer to bad information is better information. Lindzen is free to say whatever he likes, wherever he likes, and you and I are free to point out that he is misrepresenting the science.” – Gavin

  27. 77
    MapleLeaf says:

    dbostrom @71,

    Lindzen is not a fellow of AGU. IIRC, he may be a member of AGU.

    Lindzen has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1977. Not sure what their policy is on scientific misconduct by a member.

  28. 78
    Axel says:

    In his testimony, Lindzen seems to also make the argument that the lack of changed summer temperatures in the Arctic is evidence that sea ice loss is largely export (wind) drive. The way he presents this argument is by showing surface air temperatures averaged over 80N apparently from the ERA-40 Renalysis. Now 80N is largely ice covered (sea ice and bits of the Greenland ice sheet) with very little open water. He is correct that the temperature is controlled by the radiative balance which includes a term for ice melt. Take the temperature of the water in a glass with ice in it. It won’t change until the ice is gone. This is the “crucial physics” he claims that are missing or ignoring. Maybe I just don’t get his argument but it sure sounds wrong. If he plotted the surface air or ocean temperatures over the areas where there is no ice, there would clearly be an increase over time. Though admittedly a cause and effect is more difficult to tease out.

    I’ve seen this argument from him before (US congressional testimony), I would have hoped somebody pointed out the problem with his argument to him by now.

    [Response: Actually it’s worse than that. He is using the data from the DMI server which is a blend of current analyses (i.e. the actual weather forecasts using T512) and the ERA-40 historical data without any adjustment for biases between systems. The ERA 40 model is significantly lower resolution and probably has less sophisticated (?) physics packages and it is well known that this can induce spurious non-climate trends. Using this for trend analysis is foolish. – gavin]

  29. 79
    dbostrom says:

    ari says:
    7 Mar 2012 at 3:03 PM
    It’s scary to see the reaction of certain people here.

    Indeed it is. When an organization is motivated to revisit ethics only when it is scared of losing face, that’s a scary thing. On the other hand, seeking to avoid controversy by failing to consistently apply stated ethical goals is also scary. Not only is such fearful behavior scary in itself, it’s also deeply degrading to everybody associated with that organization. Where’s the “excellence” in cowardice?

  30. 80
    Hank Roberts says:

    > hypocrisy, obfuscation and misdirection

    I doubt you’ll get far with that complaint. You’re not complaining about something published in a peer reviewed science journal, but about simple misrepresentation to fool people for political or commercial purposes.

    These aren’t illegal in the United States, and indeed our version\1 of the free market couldn’t function if they were proscribed.

    These are called “puffery” — it’s a lovely intellectual conceit.
    The “puffery” is stuff that a knowledgeable reader would recognize and not rely on, not be fooled by — by definition

    The trick is, an uninformed reader _will_ be fooled by puffery.
    There’s good academic research\2 done on this — the less the audience knows, the more susceptible they are.

    That’s why we’re downgrading our educational program, to pump the economy.
    That’s how we sell tobacco to minors and steal homes from widows.

    That susceptibility comes under the “fool me twice” rule.
    I’m not cynical enough yet, but I’m working on it.

  31. 81

    #15 Re. Eric’s Response:

    I just wrote a piece on free speech the other day. My context was different but the message is the same. Free speech is one of the greatest liberties for those that can enjoy it. That does not mean that people won’t say silly or even ridiculous things.

    The problem is not ‘free speech, it’s Lindzen (or Limbaugh in my article), or anyone else’s less informed, or even deplorable use of the right.

    The fact that some are less informed or even ignorant is only a single issue. The underlying issues are more relevant; such as inadequate education and systemic corruption. Better to attack those issues than free speech.

  32. 82
    WhiteBeard says:

    # 17, oneiota, 6 Mar 2012, 11:37 PM,

    Then the choice of venue for this particular presentation, and any repeat of “the” presentation or citing of points taken from it, are garden variety, “Lord” Moncktonian lily guilding, and almost surly to be included in repeat presentations or cites. Play bills including “as presented at Westminster” will vastly outnumber those with the more descriptive and informative, “a farce”.

  33. 83
    Fred Staples says:

    The chart comes from Howard Hayden, as follows:

    In 2008 I downloaded a file of historical temperature data from
    Today I downloaded the file from exactly that place, looking to put four more points onto a graph. WHOA! The temperatures were different.

    Hmm. The difference is increasing in time at the rate of 0.14 ºC per century, and there is considerable scatter. See graph below. (Were there merely a change in reference period, the light would be horizontal and have no scatter.) Evidently, NASA-GISS is massaging data to increase perceived “global warming.”

    Is he correct? Does 0.14 degrees per century matter? [edit]

    [Response: This description is not accurate – though it is conceivable that Hayden did not realise this. Given a choice between two possibilities a) that Hayden messed up, and b) that “NASA-GISS is massaging data”, it is clear which has the weight of evidence behind it. (Note how carefully worded that is so that you can reinforce your prejudices if you care to). – gavin]

  34. 84
    GSW says:

    @Martin Lack #74 and #others

    I read your posts and thought, is this guy serious? I then saw your MA (Environmental Politics) and realised you probably were. Oh dear.

  35. 85
    Thomas says:

    Folks, can you please help me understand why subtracting the two data sets, and Lindzen seems to have done, would result in something that looks like the change in global temperature with time. Does this mean that there is a stronger global warming signal in the MET station index–perhaps because these are land-based data? Thanks.

    [Response: Yes. The land temperatures are following the same basic path as the ocean temperatures but with a larger amplitude (i.e. T_land ~ 1.5 * T_ocean (roughly), thus the global mean will have a similar pattern to the land-only data (i.e. T_glob = 0.3*T_land + 0.7*T_ocean ~= (0.3 + 0.7/1.5) * T_land = 0.77 * T_land). i.e. the difference will be 0.23*T_land. GISTEMP Met is not really T_land though, but the principle is same. – gavin]

  36. 86
    Jim Eager says:

    I recall reading that Lindzen has had factually erroneous slides publicly pointed out and corrected at presentations, eliciting his promise to correct them in future, only to show the exact same uncorrected slides at subsequent public presentations.

    Anyone else recall reading about this?

  37. 87
    caerbannog says:

    (Second try — server timeout on first try — if this is a duplicate, please delete it).

    Tom Scharf@45:

    I have seen probably >10 different articles on the net effect of post hoc data manipulations on the various sites I look after. Typically they are on Hansen’s adjustments.

    Not withstanding this particular case, the meme is that the large majority of these adjustments to past data tend to increase the temperature trend, flatten out the 1940 – 1950 dip, etc. And from my view that appears to be accurate on the whole.

    Those “post-hoc adjustments” make almost no difference when you are computing global-scale results.

    If you do the following, you will get results that look so much like the NASA/GISS land-temperature index that it’s just amazing.

    Grab the raw GHCN data and metadata (i.e. the data-set that NASA does not own, control, or “manipulate”).

    Write a program that where you do the following:

    Compute 1951-1990 monthly baseline temps for all stations with enough data during that time period to get good estimates (your call here; results are *very* insensitive to the definition of “enough data”).

    For each station, compute temperature anomalies for each year / month by subtracting the appropriate baseline temps. Average the monthly anomalies to produce annual anomalies for each station.

    Divide up the Earth into 20deg x 20deg grid-cells (at the equator; adjust grid-cell longitudes to keep grid-cell areas approximately equal as you move north/south) — this approach, while crude, makes sure that the grid-cells stay big as you go n/s. Great big grid-cells are the lazy-man’s way of avoiding having to do stuff like grid-cell interpolation.

    Average the annual anomalies together for all stations in each grid-cell. Then average your grid-cell anomalies together to get global-average annual anomalies.

    Spit ’em out in .csv (or whatever) formatting for easy Excel/OpenOffice plotting.

    Compare with the NASA/GISS results and be amazed at what you when you run raw temperature data (no adjustments, manipulation — post-hoc or otherwise) through a very straightforward gridding/averaging procedure.

    Then feel the shame of finding out that NASA’s results do not depend on data manipulation, and that you could have figured out this for yourself years ago if you would have bothered to do a little work.

  38. 88
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Vendicar Decarian: “He is free to admit his error, or forever be known as a liar.”

    I’m sure he’ll be in tears all the way to the bank.

  39. 89
    dbostrom says:

    MapleLeaf says:
    7 Mar 2012 at 3:18 PM
    dbostrom @71,

    Lindzen is not a fellow of AGU. IIRC, he may be a member of AGU.

    Oh, maybe I have the wrong Richard Lindzen?

    Nope, that sure looks like the same guy.

  40. 90
    Martin Lack says:

    #83 GSW – Come now, don’t be shy, tell us all what you mean. Or are you using such inanity (or is it “insanity”?) to obfuscate (yes, I do like the word) the fact that you cannot falsify my arguments, which are founded on facts and peer-reviewed literature (remember them?)…

  41. 91
    MapleLeaf says:

    dbostrom @88,


    That is odd. How I arrived at my conclusion was by searching the AGU site, here. There they do not list Lindzen as an AGU fellow. And their search engine does not show him as a fellow either.

    So this raises an interesting dilemma. Is Lindzen padding his CV, or did AGU somehow fail to recognize that Lindzen is a fellow?

  42. 92
    Isotopious says:

    From Skeptical Science:

    “There has been a doubling of equivalent CO2 over the past 150 years.”


    “This assertion is simply false. A doubling of CO2 corresponds to a 3.7 Watts per square meter (W/m2) radiative forcing. According to the NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, the greenhouse gas (GHG) radiative forcing (compared to 1750) in 2010 was 2.81 W/m2 – only 76% of the way to doubled CO2-equivalent.”

    Yeah, I guess. But what is the difference between 76% vs. 100% with regards to the logarithmic temperature response?

    If its close enough to 0.9 deg C than I am happy to swallow this misinformation, given the error bars, etc..

  43. 93
    MapleLeaf says:

    There is of course another option to the ones suggested above, that sometime after 10 February 2010 (date his Cv was updated) Lindzen ceased to be an AGU fellow.

  44. 94
    Martin Lack says:

    #88 Given that I was criticised for posting RSL’s email address (despite it being widely known), I think that CV should be deleted as it shows his home address and telephone number (maybe not so widely known)… But just let me download it first, ROTFL!

  45. 95
    Ross Cann says:

    I would be very interested to hear how he gets along with collegues at MIT.
    When I read stuff he writes for the WSJ and elsewhere I see work being done for a paycheck from Big Oil.

  46. 96
    Mike Schepper says:

    This is not helping the cause.
    If your only objection to Lindzen’s presentation is a single slide (a mere detail in his presentation) you might as well agree with his main conclusions.
    The proper response is : wait and see, temperature increase will resume and that will prove positieve feedback.
    When it will, the “right side” will win the debate, if it doesn’t, no ad hominem will help, the cause is lost.
    (that is not a bad thing, cause in that case Lindzen would be right)

    I don’t understand. It’s like you don’t trust the models.

    It’s not a presidential campaign, to be won by smearing the opposition. It’s a multidecadal thing and the truth will prevail.
    That’s not an expression of hope, it is a fact.

    [edit – inflammatory rhetoric]

    Let the global temperatures win the battle for you.

  47. 97
    dbostrom says:

    dbostrom @88,


    That is odd.

    Yeah, maybe Prof. Lindzen uses Wikipedia to assemble his CV, heh! To be quite honest, I looked first at his Wikipedia entry and only after your suggestion at Lindzen’s own CV. Risky, risky!

  48. 98
    Hank Roberts says:

    The best puffery article ever

    Much recreational typing could be avoided by understanding this concept.

  49. 99
    Chris Colose says:


    I’m not as familiar with the Arctic data as gavin, but your physics-based argument is correct. A lot of regions over the globe exhibit interesting seasonal structure- some might appear roughly sinusoidal, some might have a sharp wet season in association with the summer monsoon, but large regions of the Arctic tend to be pegged to near freezing during the summer owing to all that energy going into melting or evaporation. Mark Serreze has a good paper showing how the temperature manifestation of the ice-albedo feedback is actually weakest in summer, even though one might intuit it to be strongest.

    What’s even more, “storms” and wind have always been part of the Arctic system. So if you see a trend in sea ice, then there needs to be some difference in the atmospheric circulation (or radiative forcing) between now and at least the beginning of the satellite era. Simply arguing that natural variability exists in the Arctic is not sufficient to make a positive or negative attribution.

    Now there is little doubt that change in the phase and strength of large-scale climate oscillations (namely the Arctic Oscillation, AO) are important for the Arctic, and even large regional differences exist between regions (for example, there is strong multi-year ice decline in many regions but little trend in Canadian Arctic Archipelago multi-year ice owing to dynamic import from the Arctic Ocean). But no one has successfully argued that changes in greenhouse gases are irrelevant for these anomalies.

  50. 100
    Jim Eager says:

    Mike Schepper @95: “I don’t understand…”

    Well at least you got that right.

    “Wait and see” is exactly the purpose of Lindzen et al’s misinformation campaign, for as long as they can possibly stretch the wait out.