Roy Spencer has another go

Regular readers will recall a recent post pointing to Dr Roy Spencer being cannabalized cannibalized over his stubborn insistence that the Greenhouse Effect does not violate the laws of thermodynamics.

Well, he seems to be a glutton for punishment as he is taking another crack at it.

This time, I am only pointing it out because he has taken a high tech experimental approach to observe the actual atmospheric back radiation and an interesting post results (hi tech compared to his last hotplate device!).

I just skimmed the comments, like last time, and while the die-hards are still hard to make die, this time there is a little bit more utility in the discussion.

He also shot down another denialist talking point in the coments:

The lack of a hotspot has nothing to do with the existence (or non-existence) of the greenhouse effect. It has to do with how we expect warming to occur as a function of height, especially in the tropics (average lapse rates are different in different parts of the world). If real, the lack of a hotspot says there is something wrong in the climate models, which I agree with.

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Header shamelessly stolen from Coby. But his post is so wonderful that I can't help re-saying it. So: Roy Spencer says that the basic greenhouse effect mechanism is sound; or perhaps, more weakly, that the basic mechanism is phyically possible. You might think that is not very strange, after all it…

He also shot down another denialist talking point in the coments:

"If real, the lack of a hotspot says there is something wrong in the climate models, which I agree with".

PSSSST Coby, thats the point.......

"If real, the lack of a hotspot says there is something wrong in the climate models, which I agree with".

PSSSST Coby, thats the point......."

and if not real, then what crakar? Say, oops, sorry I convinced some people to wait until the tropospheric hotspot signal was clear, in spite of all the other clear signs of antropogenic global warming? Sounds most unwise.

By t_p_hamilton (not verified) on 09 Aug 2010 #permalink


And if not real? Well we know it is real the hotspot predicted by the models does not exist.

I am not interested in discussing "signs" as if AGW were a religion. Next thing you will be telling me is a plague of locusts is another sign of AGW.

Aw strewth Crakar, we went over that tropospheric hot spot thing only a month or two back!. Does information only reside in your brain for such a minuscule time frame, before it falls out?.

By Dappledwater (not verified) on 09 Aug 2010 #permalink

For those of you who find cannibalism entertaining, I suggest you GOOGLE "Judith Curry" in connection with "RealClimate".

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 09 Aug 2010 #permalink

Hey Jack, I'll see your Judith Curry at RC and raise you a Dr. Oppenheimer at Pielke Jr's blog:

"Such analyses are no better than astrology"

"A study like delibrately playing the racist card."

"This is nothing more than political lobbying wrapped up in science themed wrapping paper."

"Geez, this is pathetic"

"This story is just the kind of daft alarmism that confuses rather than informs"

"Does this blatantly shoddy work not call into question everything else ever done by this scientist?"

Has Judith Curry recently suffered blunt force trauma to the head?. It would explain a lot.

By Dappledwater (not verified) on 09 Aug 2010 #permalink

I like to see it. No one should get so complacent that they believe a) they are always right and b) they have a army of blind followers who will nod through their every word as gospel. Everyone needs a wake up call every now and again to remind them they are mortal.

The conclusions of that Oppenheimer paper was a bunch of old hooey though, was it not? All sides of the climate debate ought to agree with that.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink

Jack, WRT Curry and RC, do you really see an equivalence? Juddy Curry has patiently answered the questions of her detractors who deny basic physical reality and are angry because she won't? I don't think so.

Coby....Cannibalism is cannibalism.
You gave it the name.If your characterisation of what was going on at Roy Spencer's blog is "eating their own" then the antics at Real Climate certainly are! Not just eating, but hunting, bludgeoning, butchering, skewering, mincing ,peeling, rolling in salt and boiling in oil!
Do I see an equivalence between the monstering of Judith Curry and the polite discussion over at Roy Spencer's post? No, I do not.
However, they are both examples of how, if you are a figure of any significance on either side of the man made climate change debate, any deviation from the party line tends to bring down a bit of a shitstorm.

However, hearing you defend Roy Spencer must be a bit of a one-off.

I happen to think his views, as set out in his "For Dummies" post, are as balanced and sensible a view as I have seen about the science of climate change.…

I have linked to it,although I expect most visitors to this site have seen it or something similar. And dismissed it out of hand.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink


"Has Judith Curry recently suffered blunt force trauma to the head?. It would explain a lot. "

Is that just a thoughtless, unfunny, tasteless and rather offensive attempt at a "joke" or was there some point to your comment which has completely eluded me?

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink

@Jack Savage

No, not dismissing Roy Spencer out of hand. His conclusions are very attractive. I for one would be ecstatic if he turned out to be right. Unfortunately, if he has the right answer, he's got the wrong reasoning to back it up.

Until he has all his ducks in a row - and we see evidence that warming is not getting out of hand - I have to agree with others who know a lot more than I do that he's got it wrong.

The Oppenheimer paper isn't great & i won't attempt to defend it (though I will say that there are those that claim it's conclusions were much farther reaching than they actually were). I find it interesting though that his attempt to engage his critics on Pielke's blog met with such vociferous opposition, and that it went relatively unremarked in the blogosphere.

Compare this to the Judy Curry 'incident' at RC. There Dr. Curry made several unsubstantiated claims, said they weren't her claims when questioned on them and then made even more unsubstantiated claims all in response to a book review that she herself challenged RC to write. If she was A.N.Other blog commentator a lot of this would have been dismissed as standard trolling (and yes, read it and compare to other similar statements that were along the lines of "read the book and the scales will fall from your eyes"), as it was the darling of Climate Audit then 1) the opprobrium was more vociferous and 2) it was disseminated across the blogosphere.

There are examples of AGW 'alarmists' giving short shrift, but then compare that to the constant and strident claims of "fraud" "data fudging" "global scientific conspiracy" and other libellous and, frankly, insulting broad-brush generalisations about science and its practicioners, usually made with barely a shred of evidence then it's understandable to see some snark is it not?

PSSSST Coby, thats the point.......

I though the point was there was warming but it's not due to increased amounts of CO2. The assumption being that the hotspot is the major indicator of warming due to CO2 - an incorrect assumption.

However, hearing you defend Roy Spencer must be a bit of a one-off.

Well that depends on Roy Spencer, doesn't it?

Jack Savage,
Point 8 is outright laughable. Even before CO2 was increasing significantly, people predicted warming due to increased CO2, because of the physics of the greenhouse effect (which Spencer so nicely defends).

Point 9 contains a falsehood: the 13C change is NOT the reason scientists believe the increase is manmade. It is a combination of evidence. In fact, the 13C change is a *prediction* of the hypothesis that CO2 increase is due to anthropogenic emissions. That prediction has held, making the hypothesis stronger.

Point 10 contains a non-supported claim: he claims most of the 50% of anthropogenic CO2 that 'nature' absorbs is taken up by photosynthesis. Those scientists actively studying the carbon cycle indicate that the land sink, likely plants, is perhaps up to 25% of the CO2 that is taken up. 75% goes into the oceans.

And in his concluding remarks he states "The total amount of CO2 humans have added to the atmosphere in the last 100 years has upset the radiative energy budget of the Earth by only 1%. How the climate system responds to that small âpokeâ is very uncertain.", while in point 14 he states "I think small, long-term changes in atmospheric and oceanic flow patterns can cause ~1% changes in how much sunlight is let in by clouds to warm the Earth. This is all that is required to cause global warming or cooling." Contradicting oneself much?

Those are just a few issues I identified after rapidly reading through his points...sad, really, that 5 minutes is enough to show Roy Spencer is either dishonest or ignorant on several issues that are directly related to his research field.

"@dappledwater"Has Judith Curry recently suffered blunt force trauma to the head?. It would explain a lot. "Is that just a thoughtless, unfunny, tasteless and rather offensive attempt at a "joke" or was there some point to your comment which has completely eluded me?" - Jack Savage.

It's a hypothesis.

By Dappledwater (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink

I feel like you must be reading a different article from the one I linked to.

Point 8.
"Even before CO2 was increasing significantly, people predicted warming due to increased CO2, because of the physics of the greenhouse effect"
What in point 8 do you find contradicts your assertion? Surely if anything it supports it. Break it down. "Yes, and most strongly in the last 50 years.." That's true.
"Which is why âmostâ climate researchers think the CO2 rise is the cause of the warming." Presumably building on the predicted warming you mention , otherwise they would be guilty of the "correlation / causation fallacy. I do not understand what you have to argue with at all here, let alone calling this laughable.
Point 9. Surely Roy is agreeing with you again. He says the man made CO2 driven hypothesis is apparently "proved" (and I think we all know that what he means is that this is not a scientific proof as this cannot be done( consequently he has put "proof" in inverted commas ) but it is supported and not disproved) by the C13 increase. Your complaint if any would surely be that you did not agree with his contention that the increase might be from another biological source. I note you do not seem to have any quarrel with this.

Point 10. Your figures are also disputable.…
Your claims are as un-supported here as those of Roy Spencer but at least he has the grace to say "about". Can we agree that these proportions are up for grabs? If he had said 25% in his article..would it have altered his main thrust?

As for your final claim about him "contradicting" himself, I have read those two statements several times now and I am struggling to find a contradiction in them. They are not both talking about the same thing.

Remember this is "for Dummies" (like me!)and not a doctoral thesis! I think you are subjecting it to inappropriate scrutiny and I remain unimpressed by your nasty "ignorant or dishonest" conclusion.


Book yourself a visit to your local hospital's head injury unit and tell them your jokes.Let me know any more you may have and I will tell them to a girlfriend of mine who was trampled by a horse and had to learn to speak,walk and eat all over again.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink

Jack Savage, Spencer claims in point 8 that "Is Atmospheric CO2 Increasing? Yes, and most strongly in the last 50 yearsâ¦which is why âmostâ climate researchers think the CO2 rise is the cause of the warming."
That's false. Or otherwise very, very poorly worded. It's the simple physics of the greenhouse effect that makes scientists 'believe' the CO2 rise is the cause of the warming.

I actually DO have a quarrel with his contention there may be another source, apart from my quarrel with his contention that the change in 13C is 'the proof' that it is anthropogenic in origin (again, there are several converging lines of evidence). I've said this before elsewhere, and I'll happily repeat it here again: if anyone claims the increase is NOT anthropogenic in origin, they will have to find a sink of several tens of gigatons A YEAR. Let us know when you guys find it.

Regarding point 10:…
Read the whole piece. The biosphere may even have been a net SOURCE of CO2. And yes, it WOULD have mattered, as it is part of his "doubt"-narrative (and "CO2 is plant food").

The contradiction is that he claims CO2 just has a small effect on radiative imbalance, and that it is unknown how the climate reacts to such a small poke, while elsewhere he claims that a 1% change in cloud cover is enough (not "could be") to cause warming or cooling. That *is* a contradiction: "1% change is enough to cause a difference", versus "1% change, nobody knows what happens".

"@dappledwater Book yourself a visit to your local hospital's head injury unit and tell them your jokes.Let me know any more you may have and I will tell them to a girlfriend of mine who was trampled by a horse and had to learn to speak,walk and eat all over again." - Jack Savage.

A rocking horse? or a saw horse?.

[followups on this topic will not be allowed - admin]

By Dappledwater (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink


I think you have the wrong end of the stick. Are you forgetting that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas? Roy Spencer (it seems to me) is saying that the cause is attributed to CO2 rather than water vapour, methane etc because of it's rapid accumulation as opposed to the other greenhouse gases. I would agree the wording is loose. I suppose the only way to know for sure what was meant would be to ask Mr.S. Still,not much point in asking that dishonest or ignorant man.
You have lost me on your second contention. Why would the finding of a previously unknown carbon sink of whatever size have any bearing on whether the increase in CO2 was man made or not? Again, all Roy Spencer is saying that the rise in C13 would also be consistent with a natural, biological source. Are you saying this is not true? Are there no natural sources of C13? I have to say Roy rather leaves his statement hanging, which is a trifle disingenuous, even if true.
I would also be astounded if it were discovered that the rise in CO2 was not a consequence of burning fossil fuels etc but then discoveries in science can often be astounding.

Further on point 10. You are blinding me with science. What I gathered from that paper was that the matter is complex and far from easy to determine. However the "cartoon figure" seemed to suggest that of the 9 produced, 2.3 petagrams were absorbed by the oceans and 2.7 adsorbed on land. So,of the half which does not remain in the atmosphere, 50% aprox is adsorbed by "land" and 50% by ocean. Which is what Roy said. "about 50% of what we produce is sucked out of the atmosphere by nature, mostly through photosynthesis ".

Finally....There is no contradiction. You can disagree with his conclusions but there is NO contradiction. You are not comparing like with like! A 1% addition to my cup of tea of water is not significant. A 1% addition of cyanide would be highly significant. Can you really not see that? If you cannot concede this point there is no point in us discussing further.

Thank you anyway. This has been useful.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink

Can I take this opportunity to direct peoples eyes towards two excellent recent blog posts on the subject of communicatong climate science?

Simon Donner at maribo has this to say about explaining Climate Change to a layperson:…

Whilst high school student Kate has an insightful post that takes Hansen's latest open access paper as a starting point and goes on to make some interetsing points:…

Apologies Coby, I just figured he was conveniently making it up.

By Dappledwater (not verified) on 10 Aug 2010 #permalink

Chris. This latest post just confirms my view that Kate is a young lady with a bright future. This is nice work.

Jack, clearly Spencer is claiming the change in 13C is "the proof" for anthropogenic CO2 increase. It isn't. There are MULTIPLE lines that converge. His suggestion that 13C changes may have another cause is, on its own, correct. But in connection with all the other evidence, it doesn't work. As such, mentioning in it the context he did is disingenious. Thanks for noting that.

Second, the article may be a bit poorly formatted, as that first figure is not a summary of what their data shows. In the summary, the note that oceans take up 2.3 PgC/y, while that of the biosphere has averaged 1.1 PgC/y. Fair enough, that's not 25% of all the sink, but 33%. Still not more than 50%.

Finally, that last point will remain a matter of semantics. In my opinion, in one point Spencer says 1% is enough, in the other that 1% is a small number. If he means what you indicate he means, he sure has a poor way of putting his argument on paper...

Re "PSSSST Coby, thats the point......."

Mckitrick has had a paper published recently where he shows the models are wrong

This of course shows Santer etal to be wrong, here are some comments from Mckitrick.

"We requested this data from S08 lead author Santer, who categorically refused to provide it (see Instead of supplying what would be at most 1 MB or so of monthly data collated by specialists as part of their research work, Santer directed us to the terabytes of archived PCMDI data and challenged us to reproduce their series from scratch. Apart from the pointless and potentially large time cost imposed by this refusal, the task of aggregating PCMDI data with which we are unfamiliar would create the risk of introducing irrelevant collation errors or mismatched averaging steps, leading to superfluous controversy should our results not replicate theirs."


"Following this refusal by lead author Santer, we filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request to NOAA, applying to coauthors Karl, Free, Solomon and Lanzante. In response, all four denied having copies of any of the model time series used in Santer et al. (2008) and denied having copies of any email correspondence concerning these time series with any other coauthors of Santer et al. (2008). Two other coauthors stated by email that they did not have copies of the series. An FOI request to the U.S. Department of Energy is under consideration."

Apparently Santer viewed this as nothing more than a fishing expedition…

However Mr Smith did not think so here is what he had to say.

Smithg wrote:
Dear Dr. Santer,

I'm pleased to see that the requested data is now available on line.
Thank you for your efforts to make these materials available.

My "dog in this fight" is good science and replicability. I note the
following references:

The American Physical Society on line statement reads (in part):

"The success and credibility of science are anchored in the willingness
of scientists to:

1. Expose their ideas and results to independent testing and
replication by others. This requires the open exchange of data,
procedures and materials.
2. Abandon or modify previously accepted conclusions when confronted
with more complete or reliable experimental or observational

Looks like "the team" could not manipulate the peer review process in this case.


We are getting there. You say "Spencer is claiming.."
Read it again. HE is not claiming. He is saying that it is a "proof" relied on by others. I have to say it is the one "proof" I have most often heard stated,and usually as gospel, but perhaps it is because it is the easiest one to quote. I do not think Spencer would quarrel with you that there are other indicators. I have to say they do not get much airtime.
So we have got your criticism here of the "ignorant or dishonest" Spencer down to the fact that he should (for balance) have gone on to say after "could be attributed to a natural source" something along the lines that "no such source as yet shows any sign of existing."
Phew. Do you not think in retrospect you might have been a bit hard on the man here?

Regarding the conclusion of paper you linked to,I will take your word for it. The "cartoon " was one of the few bits of the paper I could completely understand! It did however purport to set out the accepted thinking before the learned conclusion. As I said before... the figures are NOT SET IN STONE. He had to choose some figure.I apologise on his behalf that he did not choose your current favourite. Does this really make him ignorant or dishonest?

Regarding the last point, if you think it is a matter of semantics, then we will have to redefine which point it all gets a bit silly.

Remember, this was not a scientific paper. It was an attempt by Spencer briefly to set out his broad views on global warming for "dummies" (presumably non-scientists) in easily understood terms. This does require a certain sacrifice in precision.

Ignorant or dishonest? I really do not think he deserved that. Tell you what..his little essay is constructed round a series of questions. How would you like to post your version of the answers, making them easily understandable to the layman, of similar length and without using any heavy duty climate science terms or expressions? Some of us can then subject that to scrutiny.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 11 Aug 2010 #permalink

"This of course shows Santer etal to be wrong"

Is this your own personal view based on years of study in this field or are you simply parroting the climateaudit teams view?

Jack, a scientist should be accurate, and even more so if he works in the field and makes large claims. Just picking one number and portraying that as fact (which he did) is wrong.

The "climate change for dummies" narrative also does not hold. In that case he should, for example, not even mention the 13C change, which only people who know about isotopes would even remotely understand. Moreover, his "could be natural source" is, in my opinion, a clear attempt to cast doubt. The same goes for the "changed by a tiny amount" in reference to CO2.

I may make a summary some day, but remind me in a month or two. I'm busy with student exams (and needed a short break while grading).

@ Marco

Fine. That is settled then. Ignorant or dishonest he remains. Well argued.

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 14 Aug 2010 #permalink