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Monday, January 25, 2016

Desperate Deniers Part 7: Roy Spencer PhD tells fibs and flips and flops

Sou | 12:14 AM Go to the first of 19 comments. Add a comment

Roy Spencer is a rather nasty little man who has said some horrible things about his fellow scientists as well as leaders of nations all over the world. He has made vile racist posts, called fellow scientists "nazis" and wished that the people attending COP21 were shot at by terrorists.

Roy is an "intelligent design" believer who doesn't "believe in" evolution. Oddly (or perhaps not so oddly) he doesn't espouse Christian ethics or teaching or moral code. Instead he belongs to a pseudo-religious cult called the Cornwall Alliance, which believes that it's every man's (probably not woman's) right if not duty to pillage and plunder the planet. His particular cult expects their god will clean up the mess afterwards. His god is not all powerful, however. His powers  (Roy's particular god is undoubtedly of the male gender) don't extend to cleaning up economic messes, as Victor Venema has pointed out.

I don't bother with Roy's blog very much. It's ugly and uninteresting and mostly wrong. I go there about once a month to pick up the latest satellite data. I was told that Roy had posted a scatty article about the hottest year on record (thanks, D). So I figured I'd include it in the current "Desperate Denier" series, which is devoted to the multiplicity of imaginary reasons deniers and conspiracy theorists are inventing to try to dispute the fact that 2015 really is the hottest year on record.

A wishy washy list of random, wrong excuses

Roy can't decide if it was or not. Here are some of his excuses:
...our satellite analysis has 2015 only third warmest which has also been widely reported for weeks now. I understand that the RSS satellite analysis has it 4th warmest.
That shows that Roy lives in his own little bubble. Both RSS and UAH lower troposphere data have:
  • 2015 as the third hottest year in the lower troposphere. Yes, it's third hottest in the RSS satellite record, too. Not just UAH. Roy is wrong.
  • The past three months as the hottest ever on record - the hottest ever October, the hottest November and the hottest December.
Figure 1 | Lower troposphere temperature. Data sources: UAH and RSS

Then he cites Anthony Watts, the man who can't even read a temperature chart, as if he'd know! Roy said:
...thermometers over land appear to have serious spurious warming issues from urbanization effects. Anthony Watts is to be credited for spearheading the effort to demonstrate this over the U.S. where recent warming has been exaggerated by about 60%, 
No Roy. Your 60% is way off. It seems that Anthony Watts isn't the only one who fails arithmetic. Anthony's AGU poster claims:
The United States temperature trends estimated from the relatively few stations in the classes with minimal artificial impact are found to be collectively about 2/3 as large as US trends estimated in the classes with greater expected artificial impact.
So "about 2/3 as large" - which would mean the "perfectly sited" weather stations show 33 1/3 less warming. That's a long way from the entire record "exaggerated by 60%". And Roy thinks that can be extrapolated to the whole world? On what grounds? None at all. Maybe he thinks the USA is the whole world.

Since Anthony hasn't published his paper no-one can check his claims. Previous studies, including one co-authored by Anthony Watts, have demonstrated that siting makes no difference to the overall trend of US temperature. Not only that, but the data set that Anthony Watts himself often describes as "pristine" is almost indistinguishable from the larger dataset used to report US temperature. The pristine record is a smidgen higher than ClimDiv for the past three years. Not a 60% in sight. (Anthony's data stops in 2008 I think, and doesn't include the last seven years, but you can see from the chart below that there's still virtually no difference between the pristine and larger dataset in that early period.) Click the chart to enlarge it.

Figure 2 | Contiguous USA surface temperature 2005 to 2015. Source: NOAA

Roy Spencer claims to have proven back in 2010, that urban heat islands (UHI) are biasing the warming trend in the raw data, and UHI cooling is also biasing it. Only he didn't prove anything that the keepers of the temperature record haven't already adjusted the raw data for. He was going to get his partner in crime John Christy to write a paper about it, but that was six years ago, so I guess that didn't work out.

Roy takes a shot at the new ERSSTv4, but only by vague unsubstantiated innuendo. He provides no evidence for his claim whatsoever, which means it's an empty groundless claim typical of science deniers. (Deniers make a habit of making wild baseless claims and not being able to back them up.)

Roy does a Bob Tisdale and tries on "it's El Nino" for size. He doesn't make any effort whatsoever to explain why this particular El Nino would warm the earth so much more than any previous El Nino. What a dimwit.

By now you'll be very confused, given Roy can't make up his mind whether to believe the data and all the evidence or not.

Finally he signals his meaning. He seems to be conceding, grudgingly that yes, 2015 really was the hottest year on record. He tries to make out that it's outside what the models projected but once again, doesn't back it up with any evidence. That's because if he plotted it, he'd have to admit that the warming is well within the projections - even the projections that had forcings greater than turned out to have happened.

Close to the end of his article, he decides to embellish the truth once more (does he ever not?), writing:
Then we have scientists out there claiming silly things, like the satellites measure temperatures at atmospheric altitudes where people don’t live anyway, so we should ignore them.
No, Roy. No-one is saying to ignore upper air temperature measurements. Notice the absence of evidence again. That's because if he tried to link to an article or video, people would notice that scientists don't say any such thing. Roy made it up.

Upper air changes are very interesting and important for climate science. Not just the temperature, but moisture and other variables. The thing is that most people live on the surface, and that's why surface temperatures are of particular importance to non-scientists and scientists alike. As well as that, most heat is being stored in the ocean (around 93%), the next "most" is being stored on the surface (land), and the least of all is being stored in the upper air.

Having built his strawman, Roy lets fly with:
Oh, really? Would those same scientists also claim we should ignore the ocean heat content measurements — also where nobody lives — even though that is supposedly the most important piece of evidence that heat is accumulating in the climate system?
Since Roy couldn't produce anyone who said anything about ignoring upper air measurements, this last comment of his is silly.

Roy has a beaut conspiracy theory

Roy concludes with his own conspiracy theory. He didn't make it up all by himself, you can read it on any climate conspiracy website. It's just the one about climate science is a bit of a hoax because scientists only produce research that governments want. And wouldn't you know it, it's every politician's dream to have to deal with the biggest problem humankind has ever had to face.

You didn't know that? It must be true. Just ask your local MP if she hasn't been hanging out to be the one who is going to bring peace to the world, or lift everyone out of poverty, or stop terrorism - nope. What you'll find is that she knows anyone can solve those problems. What she has dreamt about since she was a little girl is to have to be the one to single-handedly shift the economy to a clean, green economy. It's an election winner, a real vote-catcher.

Roy finished up accusing his fellow scientists of fraud and fakery, writing:
Because scientists, I have learned, will tend to find whatever they are paid to find in terms of causation…which is sometimes very difficult to pin down in science.
Is Roy saying he was paid to lower the UAH record, or is he hoping that someone will come up with some inducement for him to lower it even more?

Figure 3 | Lower troposphere temperature - UAH versions. Data source: UAH

A record that might surprise you

While we're on the subject of records, here's one that might surprise you. Even though HotWhopper is mainly demolishing disinformation from WUWT, Roy Spencer has the dubious honour of having his disinformation the subject of the most-read, most-promoted, most-popular, most-widely distributed HotWhopper article of all time. It has the simple title: Roy Spencer's latest deceit and deception.

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. ...thermometers over land appear to have serious spurious warming issues from urbanization effects. Anthony Watts is to be credited for spearheading the effort to demonstrate this over the U.S. where recent warming has been exaggerated by about 60%,

    Actually, Anthony Watts or at least his co-worker Evan Jones explicitly stated that urbanization is not the problem. That they do not see any sign of urbanization being important in their Watts et al. (2012, 2025) manuscripts. They claim it is mirco-siting.

  2. so roy spencer has basically dismissed the surface temperature record based on Anthony watts' poster? didn't BEST do an analysis with no urban stations and actually found that that trend was higher? and I may be wrong about this, but doesn't GISS, to some degree, exclude urban stations from their analysis altogether?


    1. You're probably thinking of the paper by Zeke Hausfather et al. There's an article on realclimate about it too.

      Z. Hausfather, M.J. Menne, C.N. Williams, T. Masters, R. Broberg, and D. Jones, "Quantifying the effect of urbanization on U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperature records", Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, vol. 118, pp. 481-494, 2013.

  3. ehak gets after him. Gotta love it.

    1. It's amazing the number of people who think speculating on ehak's identity somehow discredits him. They think he worked for RSS, whose chief scientist steps outside his door and reads a thermometer when he wants to know the temperature in his backyard. He could get on the phone and ask one of his satellites. He does not do that. He looks at his thermometer. How would working for a honest man like Mears discredit ehak?

    2. Bizarre experience. First time I had too google who I am supposed to be. Also very telling when McIntyre continued on the same track.

      Tells a lot about the weirdness of the denialati culture and "minds".

      There is an ethical issue here though. Other people could do a web search on the person I am supposed to be and come to think he lacks the wisdom to not engage in discussions with such loonies.

  4. As someone who has known Roy for decades, though not well, let me correct your characterization of him in your first sentence. Roy is not little.

    1. But you do agree he's nasty. Interesting.

      As far as I can tell from the phoney theology he espows, Spencer believes God adjusts the temperature so it doesn't matter anyway.

    2. I thought he believed God has his headquarters in Houston.

    3. No Millicent. His God is headquartered in Wichita

    4. The Cornwall Alliance (what a disservice to a fine county, not to say nation) believes that the creator in his (yes, definitely his) infinite wossname designed and built a world and a set of physical laws such that, try as we might, we can't possible screw it up.

      I believe some people need to get out more.

  5. Spencer would carry more weight if he focused on improving and publishing his methodology for microwave-derived atmospheric temperature estimates rather than spending time on blog posts, newspaper op-eds and Congressional testimony.

    But he probably knows why his priorities are what they are.

  6. Love your blog. Can you do me a favour? I'm lousy with graphs and data, can you post a chart of the latest annual temp anomaly vs IPCC projections? I have a feeling that this last year puts the IPCC projections right on the money, but would love to see it. thanks

    1. ehak:

    2. And here is Gavin Schmidt:

    3. What strikes me looking at the two graphs posted by JCH and Lars above, is how well the early modelling fitted the subsequent empirical data. This tells me that the science is accurate, which in turn tells me that the future is not bright...

    4. Thanks, those are both great charts. Schmidt's in particular is really quite clear. It really shows how accurate those IPCC projections are when you factor in those natural forcings that can't be predicted. Impressive and scary at the same time.

    5. Yes, but the wuwt crowd (and like minded wing nuts) insist that the measurement series is one big scam by scientists.. especially now that there was a common event with NOAA, NASA and MetOffice.. Conspiracy, conspiracy...

  7. Meanwhile there is a state university full of budding and real scientists wondering what the hell they have done to deserve this.


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