Addressing Criticisms of the UAH Temperature Dataset at 1/3 Century

December 21st, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

The UAH satellite-based global temperature dataset has reached 1/3 of a century in length, a milestone we marked with a press release in the last week (e.g. covered here).

As a result of that press release, a Capital Weather Gang blog post by Andrew Freedman was dutifully dispatched as damage control, since we had inconveniently noted the continuing disagreement between climate models used to predict global warming and the satellite observations.

What follows is a response by John Christy, who has been producing these datasets with me for the last 20 years:

Many of you are aware that as a matter of preference I do not use the blogosphere to report information about climate or to correct the considerable amount of misinformation that appears out there related to our work. My general rule is never to get in a fight with someone who owns an obnoxious website, because you are simply a tool of the gatekeeper at that point.

However, I thought I would do so here because a number of folks have requested an explanation about a blog post connected to the Washington Post that appeared on 20 Dec. Unfortunately, some of the issues are complicated, so the comments here will probably not satisfy those who want the details and I don’t have time to address all of its errors.

Earlier this week we reported on the latest monthly global temperature update, as we do every month, which is distributed to dozens of news outlets. With 33 years of satellite data now in the hopper (essentially a third of a century) we decided to comment on the long-term character, noting that the overall temperature trend of the bulk troposphere is less than that of the IPCC AR4 climate model projections for the same period. This has been noted in several publications, and to us is not a new or unusual statement.

Suggesting that the actual climate is at odds with model projections does not sit well with those who desire that climate model output be granted high credibility. I was alerted to this blog post within which are, what I can only call, “myths” about the UAH lower tropospheric dataset and model simulations. I’m unfamiliar with the author (Andrew Freedman) but the piece was clearly designed to present a series of assertions about the UAH data and model evaluation, to which we were not asked to respond. Without such a knowledgeable response from the expert creators of the UAH dataset, the mythology of the post may be preserved.

The first issue I want to address deals the relationship between temperature trends of observations versus model output. I often see such posts refer to an old CCSP document (2006) which, as I’ve reported in congressional testimony, was not very accurate to begin with, but which has been superseded and contradicted by several more recent publications.

These publications specifically document the fact that bulk atmospheric temperatures in the climate system are warming at only 1/2 to 1/4 the rate of the IPCC AR4 model trends. Indeed actual upper air temperatures are warming the same or less than the observed surface temperatures (most obvious in the tropics) which is in clear and significant contradiction to model projections, which suggest warming should be amplified with altitude.

The blog post even indicates one of its quoted scientists, Ben Santer, agrees that the upper air is warming less than the surface – a result with which no model agrees. So, the model vs. observational issue was not presented accurately in the post. This has been addressed in the peer reviewed literature by us and others (Christy et al. 2007, 2010, 2011, McKitrick et al. 2010, Klotzbach et al. 2009, 2010.)

Then, some people find comfort in simply denigrating the uncooperative UAH data (about which there have been many validation studies.) We were the first to develop a microwave-based global temperature product. We have sought to produce the most accurate representation of the real world possible with these data – there is no premium in generating problematic data. When problems with various instruments or processes are discovered, we characterize, fix and publish the information. That adjustments are required through time is obvious as no one can predict when an instrument might run into problems, and the development of such a dataset from satellites was uncharted territory before we developed the first methods.

The Freedman blog post is completely wrong when it states that “when the problems are fixed, the trend always goes up.” Indeed, there have been a number of corrections that adjusted for spurious warming, leading to a reduction in the warming trend. That the scientists quoted in the post didn’t mention this says something about their bias.

The most significant of these problems we discovered in the late 1990’s in which the calibration of the radiometer was found to be influenced by the temperature of the instrument itself (due to variable solar shadowing effects on a drifting polar orbiting spacecraft.) Both positive and negative adjustments were listed in the CCSP report mentioned above.

We are always working to provide the best products, and we may soon have another adjustment to account for an apparent spurious warming in the last few years of the aging Aqua AMSU (see operational notes here). We know the data are not perfect (no data are), but we have documented the relatively small error bounds of the reported trends using internal and external evidence (Christy et al. 2011.)

A further misunderstanding in the blog post is promoted by the embedded figure (below, with credit given to a John Abraham, no affiliation). The figure is not, as claimed in the caption, a listing of “corrections”:

The major result of this diagram is simply how the trend of the data, which started in 1979, changed as time progressed (with minor satellite adjustments included.) The largest effect one sees here is due to the spike in warming from the super El Nino of 1998 that tilted the trend to be much more positive after that date. (Note that the diamonds are incorrectly placed on the publication dates, rather than the date of the last year in the trend reported in the corresponding paper – so the diamonds should be shifted to the left by about a year. The 33 year trend through 2011 is +0.14 °C/decade.)

The notion in the blog post that surface temperature datasets are somehow robust and pristine is remarkable. I encourage readers to check out papers such as my examination of the Central California and East African temperature records. Here I show, by using 10 times as many stations utilized in the popular surface temperature datasets, that recent surface temperature trends are highly overstated in these regions (Christy et al. 2006; 2009). We also document how surface development disrupts the formation of the nocturnal boundary layer in many ways, leading to warming nighttime temperatures.

That’s enough for now. The Washington Post blogger, in my view, is writing as a convinced advocate, not as a curious scientist or impartial journalist. But, you already knew that.

In addition to the above, I (Roy) would like to address comments made by Ben Santer in the Washington Post blog:

A second misleading claim the (UAH) press release makes is that it’s simply not possible to identify the human contribution to global warming, despite the publication of studies that have done just that. “While many scientists believe it [warming] is almost entirely due to humans, that view cannot be proved scientifically,” Spencer states.

Ben Santer, a climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said Spencer and Christy are mistaken. “People who claim (like Roy Spencer did) that it is “impossible” to separate human from natural influences on climate are seriously misinformed,” he wrote via email. “They are ignoring several decades of relevant research and literature. They are embracing ignorance.” “Many dozens of scientific studies have identified a human “fingerprint” in observations of surface and lower tropospheric temperature change,” Santer stated.

In my opinion, the supposed “fingerprint” evidence of human-caused warming continues to be one of the great pseudo-scientific frauds of the global warming debate. There is no way to distinguish warming caused by increasing carbon dioxide from warming caused by a more humid atmosphere responding to (say) naturally warming oceans responding to a slight decrease in maritime cloud cover (see, for example, “Oceanic Influences on Recent continental Warming“).

Many papers indeed have claimed to find a human “fingerprint”, but upon close examination the evidence is simply consistent with human caused warming — while conveniently neglecting to point out that the evidence would also be consistent with naturally caused warming. This disingenuous sleight-of-hand is just one more example of why the public is increasingly distrustful of the climate scientists they support with their tax dollars.

76 Responses to “Addressing Criticisms of the UAH Temperature Dataset at 1/3 Century”

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  1. Denis Rushworth says:

    Dear Drs. Braswell and Spencer,

    Can you see a solution to the misinformation problem? In my mind, the antics of skeptics, such as the Climate Depot people at the recent conference, are not helpful. They simply establish such skeptics as sophomoric showoffs, not serious scientific critics.

    Climate change is a very important topic. Extremely expensive “solutions” to the AGM “problem” are being proposed that would likely be very disruptive of our current way of life; probably great steps backwards. If necessary, then OK. But if not, as seems to be the case, there are many other significant problems deserving of the money and effort now being spent on AGM.

    How do you fix it? You guys are smart. Figure out something.

    Yours truly,

    Denis Rushworth

  2. Fred says:

    Really? Any and all attribution studies are ‘pseudo-scientific fraud’?

    What about attributing the cooling of 1992/93 to Pinatubo? Fraud?

    Or attributing the warming in 1998 to El Nino? fraud too?

    Or the antarctic polar ozone hole to CFCs and PSCs? Fraud?

    This is just nonsense. Attribution is done all the time in all scientific fields – and in none of those fields is absolutely everything known with certainty. The suspicion arises that you don’t like attribution of late 20th trends purely because of what the answer is, rather than any fundamental issue with the methodology. And accusing people of fraud because you don’t like their results is pretty low.

    • Scott says:


      Stop with the straw man argument. Roy didn’t say anything about “all attribution studies”. The example he gave was CO2-induced warming versus increased water vapor-induced warming. Both are GHGs, as Barry below seems to have forgotten or neglected.

      The other issue is that all of your examples (with the possible exception of the ozone hole) are shorter-term signals that are much easier to diagnose and evaluate than a slanted baseline that covers the entire instrumental record. An equivalent example would be evaluating the pH of a series of essentially identical solutions throughout the day, with a few solutions having known perturbations from strong acids or bases. Say you measure a different solution every 5 minutes. The obviously different solutions (the ones adjusted by strong bases are acids) are easy signals to remove because of their high frequencies. But say that after doing that you’re left with a result that has a sloping baseline. What is that baseline due to? It could be due to well-known electrode drift, but it might also be due to changing temperatures in the room (that thus change the dissociation constants of many compounds in the solution), and finally it might be due to an actual change in pH due to kinetically slow chemical reactions. The thing is, one can’t attribute the actual mechanism to one of those three without more information because of the low frequency of the signal.


      • Scott,

        Water vapor cannot act as a primary climate driver, only a feedback, because it condenses in the atmosphere. So if you do a statistical analysis of the temperature trend to attribute CAUSES, you wouldn’t address something like that. You would assume water vapor is part of the response, not the cause.

        • Barry, you are missing the point. Increased water vapor in response to warming says nothing about what caused the warming in the first place (e.g. clouds). If you instead insist that clouds can’t cause climate change, as do Trenberth and Dessler, then I have to question how much you (and they) understand about the myriad factors that influence cloud formation.

          • Roy,

            I think you’re the one missing the point. I’m talking about sorting out the effects of KNOWN climate drivers, which would operate over short or long timescales to alter the energy budget. Using these drivers and climate sensitivity higher than you want to admit, we can explain how the climate has changed over everything from the last 100 years to the last 400 million years.

            You’re talking about clouds altering the energy budget, but the energy to change the cloudiness of the sky has to come from somewhere. Everyone admits that it’s possible this can come from random fluctuations in whatever part of the climate system over short time periods, but there has to be a timescale over which things like this average out. Otherwise, energy is not conserved.

            So when, on the one hand, we have the standard sort of models with higher climate sensitivity that can explain most of the data from the last 100 years to the last 400 million years, and on the other hand, we have your models that can only explain very short periods of data, it’s natural to conclude that random fluctuations in cloud cover probably aren’t that important over the sort of timescales climatologists care about.

  3. Roy,

    Several recent studies have attempted to remove the influence of ENSO, solar, volcanoes, and so on, from the temperature data. They still find a strong GHG warming signal. Some of the people who have authored these studies have been actual statisticians, and they have paid close attention to what one can and cannot responsibly say about the data.

    Meanwhile, you have published books and papers where you have 1) left out data you said you analyzed, but which contradicted your conclusions, and 2) used made-up statistical methods capable of giving you any answer you wanted.

    And yet, YOU say that Ben Santer and co. are guilty of “pseudoscientific fraud”? “Physician, heal thyself.”

    • Scott says:

      Barry Bickmore says:
      December 21, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      Several recent studies have attempted to remove the influence of ENSO, solar, volcanoes, and so on, from the temperature data. They still find a strong GHG warming signal.

      Did they find a strong GHG warming signal, or just a warming signal that they attributed to GHG? A big difference between the two, and claiming the former when it’s actually the latter is just the type of sleight-of-hand that Roy is referring to. Did the signal they obtain equal ~1.1 C/doubling of CO2? If not, why not? If it was higher, then it’s not just a GHG signal. Also, did those statistical methods figure out why temperature trends have not been higher with altitude?


      • Scott,

        The analyses in question were over fairly short time periods and involved a system out of equilibrium. The 1.1 °C figure refers to equilibrium climate sensitivity, so you need longer time periods to sort that out satisfactorily. We have paleoclimate data for that, but unfortunately, Roy says he doesn’t believe it.

        Anyway, the short answer is that I don’t think an analysis like that could answer that question very well.

  4. Salamano says:

    What say you about the recent attribution study that Tamino did to factor out various natural variants to hone in on the anthroprogenic signal..? His research appears to indicate a 50% of the total, but perhaps if the combination of the rest is a net cooling effect, the attribution could be higher (75%?)

    I believe Tamino would say that the specific enterprise of divining the exact component of the warming that is anthroprogenic is not a fruitful exercise– compared to just understanding that it is (a) real, and (b) significant.

    The coverse I suppose would be that it is not real, or insignificant. I suppose if it’s one or the other, you fall on the latter side.

  5. Tom says:


    I would say that Tamino is rather arrogant to #1 think that he can quantify the effect of things like ENSO when we still know so little and #2 think that he is able to every single natural variant with 100% accuracy laving nothing but anthropogenic signal. Fundamentally he assumes that we know absolutely everything there is to know about what effects the climate.

    Lastly if alarmist what to start citing Tamino as a credible source Tamino better start using his real name. Till then GF doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    • Tom,

      Real climate scientists don’t assume they know everything about the climate. But they may well assume they know the main factors involved. Using such an assumption, they can construct physical models that can be used to explain climate and paleoclimate data over the last 100 years, the last 2000 years, the last 20,000 years, the last 400,000,000 years…. All assuming about the same climate sensitivity. One starts to suspect that maybe they have nailed down the most important factors.

      • Barry, you can’t know what the “main factors involved” are unless you know the other factors are NOT main factors. Your statement is a tautology.

        • Roy,

          I’m not sure what you mean by saying my statement is a “tautology.” I know what a “tautology” is, but don’t understand how you are using it.

          In any case, here is what I’m talking about. 1) You start with a hypothesis about what the main climate drivers are. 2) You make a physical model that incorporates these drivers. 3) You see how much data this model can explain. 4) If it explains lots of data in varied contexts (such as vastly different timescales), and the model parameters are physically reasonable (e.g., no 700 m ocean mixed layers and the like,) then the model starts looking like it might be on the right track. In other words, I’m talking about what is generally known as “The Scientific Method”.

          If, on the other hand, my model has such low climate sensitivity that it can only explain the data over relatively short time periods (e.g., if I have to throw up my hands and say “we don’t have a clue” what caused the ice ages), and then only by using unrealistic parameter values (e.g., a 700 m ocean mixed layer), I would typically come to the conclusion that my model is missing something important (e.g., a higher climate sensitivity). If I refused to come to such a conclusion, one might infer that I was a little too eager to find a low sensitivity.

      • David A says:

        Sure Barry, all past climate studies come to the same conclusion (sarc)
        There are no flaws in Mann’s papers (sarc)
        Cheery picked tree rings are perfect treemonitors. (sarc)

        Barry many papers, using more proxies (Then thosed used by the team) over a broader area show that the MWP was real and global. Here is a recent one from the SH

        • David,

          I don’t have a problem with the MWP being real or global. The weight of evidence is that it didn’t ever get as warm as it is now, however. The paper you referenced is not a global reconstruction. It’s about “Southern South America,” a rather small region.

        • And by the way, David, if it’s true that the MWP peaked warmer than it is now, then it follows that climate sensitivity is HIGHER than previously estimated using data from that time period. Roy’s low-sensitivity models couldn’t explain that, any more than they can explain the ice ages.

  6. Joe Bastardi says:

    A simple test:

    We have the temps in 1978 at the start of the satellite era, and the start of the warm PDO. Since the PDO is now cold, lets see where the temps goes by 2030.

    Forecast: if it, as I believe, using objective satellite data, falls back to the levels in 1978, then we know that its not AGW.

    Actually we wont according to the AGW crowdn because given the ilk of this crowd, they would argue in the classic “jobs saved” mentality of people in that fight.. that it would have dropped further.

    No matter what happens, they own every answer

    • Joe Bastardi says:

      By the way, history will prove the political linkage between the agenda of the “jobs saved”mentality crowd and the agw crowd has a much stronger correlation than that of co2 and global temps. Sorry to bring politics and agendas in.. but guess what.. that is what this is really all about.

      As I said, by 2030, we are back to where we were in 1978.. at the start of the warm PDO if one uses the constant objective method of the earths satellites, rather than hansen derived adjustments or proxy tree rings ( unless we use Chinas, since they mysteriously show no hockey stick in China.. imagine that, the chinese are immune from the affects of the rapidly warming world

  7. Nik says:

    Attribution is important in litigation. Causation must be proved if liability is to attach ant that is where attribution comes in. The insistence on attribution probably has more to do with the ultimate goal of empowering expensive litigation than climatology. Nothing would put the dampers more fiercely on corporate action than the threat of litigation. See the recent attempts to link insurance costs due to extreme climate events to AGW.

    Anyone who refutes attribution is obviously spoiling the pitch for those that want to compel via litigation.


    • I can’t wait for the science of global warming to go on trial. On this subject, I co-authored an article just published in Energy Law Journal with attorney Brooks Harlow, entitled “An Inconvenient Burden of Proof? CO2 Nuisance Plaintiffs will Face Challenges in Meeting the Daubert Standard”.

      As Nik stated, causation is what will sink such cases. The article addresses the fact that the climate models which global warming predictions (and “hindcasts”) are based upon have no known error rate, and so should not even be admissible as evidence in court.

  8. Obscurity says:

    Dr. Spencer,

    You claim:

    “As a result of that press release, a Capital Weather Gang blog post by Andrew Freedman was dutifully dispatched as damage control, since we had inconveniently noted the continuing disagreement between climate models used to predict global warming and the satellite observations.”

    Please provide concrete evidence to support this assertion. Who dispatched Freedman to write this article? Or is this just another of your conspiracy theories?

    It appears that you do not understand techniques to investigate attribution such as Granger causality. Consider these papers;

    From Granger causality to long-term causality: Application to climatic data by Smirnov and Mokhov (2009):

    “Apart from mathematical examples, we apply both approaches to find out how strongly the global surface temperature (GST) is affected by variations in carbon dioxide atmospheric content, solar activity, and volcanic activity during the last 150 years. Influences of all the three factors on GST are detected with the Granger causality. However, the long-term causality shows that the rise in GST during the last decades can be explained only if the anthropogenic factor (CO2) is taken into account in a model.”

    Also, look at all these papers:

    Are the above researchers all also part on your conspiracy theory and frauds– “In my opinion, the supposed “fingerprint” evidence of human-caused warming continues to be one of the great pseudo-scientific frauds of the global warming debate.”

    You are entitled to your own (misguided) opinions Dr. Spencer, not your own facts. And the facts do not support your opinions.

  9. Brian H says:

    I see the warmist trolls are out in farce today. Heh.

  10. I’m always baffled when someone like Obscurity “demands” evidence yet the evidence – the peer reviewed papers – were already cited in the argument presented. If you want to debate someone I think basic reading comprehension is a preliminary requirement…

  11. Obscurity says:

    Hello Will,

    You would do well to improve your own comprehension skills. I requested evidence concerning Roy’s claim that the Freedman article was “dutifully dispatched as damage control”.

    Brian H.,
    Questioning Spencer’s and Christy’s repeated misinformation and distortion and cherry picking with the scientific literature is now considered trolling? Wow.

    But let it be noted:

    Spencer and Christy agree that the planet is warming and that Arctic amplification is real (an anthropogenic fingerprint actually). Many of Roy’s followers do not even agree on that key point, but I do not expect Roy to set them right when they make such claims.

    • Eric (skeptic) says:

      ‘But let it be noted: Spencer and Christy agree that the planet is warming and that Arctic amplification is real (an anthropogenic fingerprint actually)…”

      Let it be noted that Obscurity believes in the warming effect of black carbon since the other portion of Arctic amplification is due to albedo changes (agnostic to natural or manmade warming).

  12. Obscurity,

    If you wish to be petty and frame the argument (in a rather silly way) as a “conspiracy theory” rather than address the broader scientific issue as I was hoping, then I can’t see how you can “demand evidence” when someone expresses an opinion on an issue. What is self evident to most of us, is, apparently, not self evident to you.

  13. Nic Lewis says:

    Dr Spencer

    Thanks for posting this article. I note your important point about the inability of fingerprinting to distinguish greenhouse gas from at least some types of natural warming.

    I was interested in your comment that “surface development disrupts the formation of the nocturnal boundary layer in many ways, leading to warming nighttime temperatures”. Can you give a full reference to the paper concerned, please?

    You might want to change the date of the operational notes “Update 1 Dec 2012” about the slight spurious warming in AMSU5 (at!

  14. Obscurity says:


    Stop arguing in circles– besides, I asked Roy, not you and I think he is old enough to speak for himself.

    I simply requested that Roy back up his assertion. I never used the word “demand”, you are misrepresenting my question. You seem to be OK with Roy and John making unsubstantiated claims and assertions, but I suspect you are not OK if a ‘warmist’ climate scientist does so.

    What seems self evident to you and Roy is the opinion that there is some kind of conspiracy and fraud afoot. But those claims remain nothing more than “opinion”.

  15. Obscurity,

    You’re the only one using the word “conspiracy” here. I prefer to use words such as “politics” and “advocacy” instead. Although I do agree with you in the sense that I am not comfortable with the word “fraud”. It strikes me as far more likely that words like “hubris” and “self interest” better describe the situation. Obviously, though, Dr Spencer wants to take a strong stand on the issue (which is his prerogative). In fact, you do exactly the opposite, accusing scientists you don’t like of making false claims… You would at least sound more credible if you did not complain about rhetoric while simultaneously engaging in rhetoric.

  16. slimething says:

    Santer 08 fits the definition of pseudoscience.

    Why doesn’t it Obscurity?

  17. Obscurity says:

    Christy claims that:

    “Both positive and negative adjustments were listed in the CCSP report mentioned above.”

    I was unable to find any specific reference to negative adjustments in the report. Regardless, while negative corrections have probably been made, in the end the positive adjustments clearly dominated, yet the UAH mid-tropospheric trends are still much LOWER than those for STAR, the University of Washington analysis of the UAH and RSS data and the RATPAC weather balloon data. Can we expect Roy to revise the UAH temperatures up again soon? Chrsity and Spencer would have their readers believe that theirs is the only satellite or upper-air product out there, and would have them believe that is is the one that is correct.

    After re-reading the CCSP report (it has been a while) I can see why John is desperately trying to distance himself from it because the key findings therein contradict his past and present position. Odd how he now states that a report on which he was a lead author “was not very accurate to begin with, but which has been superseded and contradicted by several more recent publications.”

    His latter claim is misleading. I would like to know from Christy specifically which findings in that CCSP report have been refuted and by which paper/s. Thorne et al. (2010), Menne et al. (2010), Huber and Knutti (2011), Foster and Rahmstorf (2011), Santer et al. (2011), and Hausfather et al. (2011, submitted) do not contradict the CCSP findings. Hausfather et al. conclude:

    “Our estimate for the bias due to UHI in the land record is on the order of 0.03C per decade for urban stations.”

  18. Obscurity says:

    Will @December 21, 2011 at 5:17 PM,

    Some facts. Spencer routinely engages in conspiracy theories– just spend some time perusing his blog.

    Another fact, he is making an unsubstantiated claim here about the origin of the Freedman article. All I’m asking is that he backs up that assertion. If my language was perceived as heavy handed, my apologies. And yes, I get your point about me engaging in rhetoric, I’ll try to tone it down. Now please let Roy answer the question about Freedman.

    The self interest here that you refer to, is not so much with the people Spencer is slandering, but with the originators of the UAH product. They would have you believe that their product is THE product to be trusted, that is vastly superior to the surface record and other satellite products etc. The data show that to not be entirely true, they are playing with half-truths.

    “In fact, you do exactly the opposite, accusing scientists you don’t like of making false claims”

    I never said that I don’t like Spencer and Christy. That is now the second time you have tried to misrepresent me, that is enough. What I do not like is their distortions and misrepresentations which have been well documented by several groups and scientists– you ought to know that if you were paying attention. I can provide a list of links that highlight their misinformation if you like.

    I have backed up my assertions. I find it troubling that this is the second press release within months that the UAH team have overstated and misrepresented their own work.

  19. Obscurity says:

    Eric(skeptic) @December 21, 2011 at 6:51 PM,

    First Will and now you are misrepresenting my position. It seems that misrepresentation par for the course here at Roy’s blog. Not to mention trying to make strawmen arguments.

    • Eric (skeptic) says:

      No misrepresentation, just trying to figure out what you mean by “amplification”. Is it the fact that CO2 has a stronger effect in the cold, dry Arctic? How about Antarctica? Or is amplification the fact that melting ice lowers albedo? That seems like a better definition, but in that case amplification is not anthropogenic. The original melting may be, but not the amplification.

  20. Obscurity, why do you insist on cherry picking some semi-flippant comment of mine, while ignoring the core of the argument? This kind of behavior is why you became the only commenter I have ever banned from this blog.

    And speaking of that…I guess I need to find out how you got back in. With a name like Obscurity, and the obvious stealth involved, there must be a vast left-wing conspiracy at work behind the scenes. 😉

    • Roy, the easy way out of this would be to just admit your “semi-flippant remark” has no backing. What’s so difficult about that? People make “semi-flippant remarks” without much backing all the time, so what’s the big deal about admitting it here?

      Note how Obscurity acknowledged above that maybe his rhetoric knob was turned a little high, so he said he’d try to tone it down. That’s all you would have to do to make this particular mini-issue go away.

  21. Tom Curtis says:

    CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere, while water vapour varies significantly with both altitude and latitude due to temperature variations. This means that, contrary Spencer’s claim it is perfectly possible to distinguish between warming caused by increases in CO2 (along with a water vapour feedback) and warming caused water vapour alone. Most obviously, CO2 related warming in the troposphere is associated with stratospheric cooling, while water vapour driven warming does not effect stratospheric temperatures.

    Spencer has long been driven to deny the obvious, but it serves his cause not good to make such obviously false statements, and to accuse of fraud those who point out the truth.

  22. HL Mencken says:

    I note that by 5:02 PM Obscurity’s “pettiness” had
    degraded to full-blown petulance.

  23. Mike Davis says:

    You must be new to the game if you need a link between Freedman and the Chicken Little Brigade.
    Your reference to the Granger Causality is proof the old term GIGO still applies and is in full play, because the long term GST is, to be overly generous, Total Garbage, with known errors larger than the reported trend.
    For all we know the globe has been cooling for the last five thousand years with short warm periods mixed in, Which we have been lucky to have experienced one of the short warm periods.
    You should hope that CO2 does have a drastic effect on long term climate to off set the expected cooling.
    Enjoy what little warmth we have left!

  24. MikeN says:

    It’s hard to take Tamino seriously when he only spits out numbers when it suits him. In this post,

    he claims that someone is wrong for saying there is no increasing trend in sunspots, but looking at the chart I see a positive trend. He disputes the similar trend claim, but doesn’t tell us what the trends are.

    Then there is his post on China, responding to analysis that cutting emissions in America won’t solve anything because China is increasing so much, his response is don’t be a coward.

  25. Tom,

    We live in the (bottom of) the troposphere. Not the stratosphere. It’s fantastic that we can detect possible stratospheric warming caused most likely by CO2, except it’s a point that is completely irrelevant to the debate about what is happening to the biosphere and why…

    CO2 does cause warming. Dr Spencer has explained this many times. So you seem to be confused over what the scientific debate is actually about.

  26. Llew Jones says:

    Obscurity is your typical semi informed troll.

    The Santa’s and Dessler’s of this world don’t seem to be aware that the science has moved on and they are still fighting shifting erstwhile certainties. Of more interest is what Drs. Christy and Spencer allow, namely that natural climate variability may turn out to be the most significant factor.

    Here’s an indication, given Trenberth’s “missing heat” and the latest stated IPCC uncertainty of distinguishing between human induced and natural factors in climate change, of where science is likely to lead us in the future.

    Carbon dioxide follows temperature – what else?

    August 6, 2011

    The lecture given by Murry Salby at the Sydney Institute is causing waves and he has a new paper in the works. Professor Murry Salby is Chair of Climate Science at Macquarie University. He’s been a visiting professor at Paris, Stockholm, Jerusalem, and Kyoto and has been deputed to the Bureau of Meterology in Australia.

    Salby was once an IPCC reviewer, and he comments, damningly, that if these results had been available in 2007, “the IPCC could not have drawn the conclusion that it did.” After speaking in carefully selected phrases, he finished his presentation saying that “anyone who thinks the science is settled on this topic, is in fantasia”.

    His talk is available here: “Global Emission of Carbon Dioxide: The Contribution from Natural Sources”

  27. Llew Jones says:

    A sub heading of Professor Murry Salby’s lecture is: “It’s not just that man-made emissions don’t control the climate, they don’t even control global CO2 levels”.

  28. Tom Curtis says:

    Will Nitschke, we can detect stratospheric cooling (not warming), which is caused by reducing ozone levels and increasing CO2 levels (by different amounts at different levels of the stratosphere, so the effects are distinguishable). That means that we have yet another independent test that the radiative forcing of CO2 is that which is predicted by the models, and hence can confidently attribute part of the current warming to anthropogenic emissions.

    It was very nice of you to try and drag a herring across the trail, but it remains the case that Dr Spencer has called “pseudo-scientific fraud” studies which are clearly able to do as they say they do. He is very lucky, IMO, that his colleagues still remember some of the courtesy of academia which he evidently does not. Where they similarly inclined, by now he would be served notice of a substantive and action for libel.

  29. Tom,

    The models predict many things correctly. They predict, for example, that the stratosphere should cool. They predict that volcanic eruptions that expel large amounts of particulates into the upper atmosphere should cool the atmosphere for certain lengths of time, and so on. But they also predict many things that turn out to be wrong. They predict far more warming than has actually been measured on 30+ year timescales. They incorrectly predict heat content changes that are not consistent with observations. They predict an atmospheric “hot spot” that is as yet, undetected. They predict a greater warming trend in the upper atmosphere versus the lower atmosphere… while observations show the opposite.

    I’m pointing this out because certain “advocates” have problems recognizing that a theory that gets a few things right (but most things wrong) is not actually vindication of anything… Very few scientific theories are ever “completely” wrong. They must get at least *some* observations right, even when they turn out to be mostly wrong.

  30. Sean Ogilvie says:

    I like the last line in the Washington Post article:

    “It’s also worth noting that there have not been any similar revisions to the surface temperature data, despite the fact that people have looked at it very, very carefully.”

    Yes many people have looked at it very, very carefully and found huge issues. When a 93% failure rate of your USHCN stations results in no revision I have to question their dedication to accuracy.

    Starting on 8/22/2009 I started to pull selected data from GISS on a monthly basis.

    At the time they claimed that the earth was 0.50 C above the 1951-1980 base period for January 1880. In January 1/30/2010 it was 0.49 C above the 1951-1980 base period. On 2/18/2010 it was 0.02 C below the 1951-1980 base period. That’s a change of 0.52 C. I call that a revision. Currently it is 0.01 C below the 1951-1980 base period.

  31. Mervyn says:

    Now why is it that whenever I see that name Ben Santor, I cannot trust the work of the man, let alone anything he says?

    Is it because 1995 left an extremely bad taste in my mouth over the IPCC Climate Change Report?

    Didn’t that report, which was reviewed by consulting scientists in late 1995, conclude there was no human-signal regarding global warming, yet when the printed report appeared in May 1996 the scientific reviewers discovered that major ‘off-the-back-of-a-truck’ changes had been made after the scientists had signed-off on the science chapter’s contents?

    Despite the shortcomings of the scientific evidence, wasn’t it Santer who had inserted strong endorsements of man-made warming in chapter 8, which he was the IPCC-appointed lead author?

    How could he dare do this? Who instructed him to do this?

    Simple words therefore come to mind that explain what happened…. words like unscientific, unethical, unprofessional, dishonest, manipulating, conniving, corrupt, untrustworthy…

    Oh yes… why does anyone take Ben Santer seriously? He lost that right back in 1996, didn’t he?

    Or are we talking about another Ben Santer?

  32. Steveta_uk says:

    In the Andrew Freeman article that Christy and Spencer are responding to is this:

    “Santer, along with several coauthors, recently published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Atmospheres that found there are many independent observations showing that temperatures at the surface and lower atmosphere are warming in a way that is consistent with expectations, although surface warming has outpaced atmospheric warming. The paper found the lower troposphere has warmed by 0.5 degrees C, or 0.9 degrees F, during the past 32 years.”

    This is apparently proof that Christy and Spenser are completely wrong as they said

    “Globally averaged, Earth’s atmosphere has warmed about 0.45 Celsius (about 0.82° F) during the almost one-third of a century.”

    So exactly what is Freeman complaining about?

  33. Carrick says:

    CO2 is well-mixed?

    There’s substantial diurnal and seasonal variation in atmospheric CO2 concentration that depends on both latitude and longitudes:

    Also see this:

    It may be there is a unique finger print for CO2 forcing, but because of the regional scale nature of the forcings, I think we will have to wait until the global climate models catch up before we can identify it.

  34. Noblesse Oblige says:

    AR4 and TAR central projections are also significantly higher than the surface measurments, esp. CRU.

    The boys are thrashing about as their favorite issued deflates. We can expect more of the same.

  35. Sam says:

    What I find to be hilarious is that we are arguing over very precise measurement of the global temperature now on two sides and this crowd of politicians and hockey stick people use much less precise measurements and extrapolations of the past as cores of their “scientific” arguments. The data from UAH is what it is (good data to me and those with a free mind)! Accept it as better than what we have had in the past regardless of your mind-numbing argument of AGW and move on! Be THANKFUL we have the satellite data.

  36. An Inquirer says:

    Tom, The fingerprint of AGW is not in the stratosphere. The cooling of the Stratosphere has occurred only around major volcanic eruptions in low latitudes. When those ended 16 years ago, the cooling of the stratosphere stopped. I used to accept stratospheric cooling as a fingerprint — until I dug deeper and truly started to understand the data.

  37. An Inquirer says:

    Barry Bickmore says @ December 22, 2011 at 8:24 AM:
    “. . .You have been accused of making MISTAKES that make the trend cooler. Your CORRECTIONS tend to make it warmer.”
    I suppose that I should thank you for making this statement. In several blog postings, you have made statements that intrigued me, but when I try to connect your conclusions with the source data, I became highly puzzled. Now this 12/22 statement of yours explains the puzzle — for whatever reason, your analysis is driven by a closed mind that produces a predetermined outcome, whatever the evidence. Your statement contradicts reality, focusing on an incident years ago that was handled professionally — in contrast to the obfuscation, cherry picking, and data-hiding practices of his “opponents.”
    Now, I know that I will not miss anything by ignoring your comments. Like a broken clock, you may be right occasionally, but your closed mind produces so many unreliable conclusions that it would be better to ignore all of your comments. You have poisoned your own well.

  38. Joel Shore says:


    While I agree with John Christy that the graph of the trend vs time shows the effect of a longer data set as well as the effect of the corrections, it is not correct to say that the longer data set is the primary reason for the rise in the trend over time.

    It is in fact not very hard to figure out how much is due to each since you can just take the data from the current analysis and cut it off at various times. I did that as of a few years ago (Dec 2008). The original trend that you had before any (or at least, most) major corrections was -0.076 C / decade for the Jan 1979 – Apr 1997 data (according to your 1998 paper). When I looked at the trend over the same period in the version of the analysis current as of Dec 2008, I got +0.029 C / decade for that period. The trend over the entire data set as of Dec 2008 was +0.127 C / decade. Hence, 0.105 C / decade of the change from the old trend to the Dec 2008 trend was due to the corrections and 0.098 C / decade was due to the longer data record.

    Therefore, as of Dec 2008, just over half of the change in trend could be attributed to corrections in the analysis and just under half to the longer data record. I haven’t updated my analysis since then, but since you say corrections since then have had only a very minor influence on the overall trend, my guess is that this roughly 50-50 division in attribution is still accurate.

  39. Roy, I think the John Abraham mentioned here is the same one affiliated with the AGU. This is the guy who got the Climate Rapid Response team all psyched up.

  40. Lewis Guignard says:


    I thank you all, from whichever side of the political aisle, for discussing this issue here. Some of you have referred to the politics of the situation. That is entirely what is being discussed. You are not even discussing the science or history of climate change. If you were the language used would be different.

    And, as some of you have stated, the science is slowly and steadily being learned. But what it is being used for, what the various arguments are about, are political control of the economy, of man’s actions and behavior.

    In one respect the AGW fearmongers (as I like to call them) are no different than the people of different ages who sought solace from the gods by sacrificing a virgin or some such. Man was the cause, he had done something wrong, and forgiveness must be asked. That emotional and selfabsorbed point of view is still with us, in different mode.

    Certainly man has an influence on the weather, so do the trees and oceans, maybe even the sun,(Personally I like Milankovitch’s thoughts) and all else. The question for those who find this so critical, which I don’t, is whether by our actions or inactions we can CONTROL the weather/climate.

    That question is never addressed by the AGW fearmongers. Those on the other side, Dr. Spencer try only to address the relatively small input man’s actions actually are.

    So I ask you gentlemen, especially those who are Fearful, what actions should we take which will control the climate? Perhaps Dr. Spencer and his side are completly wrong. So what. What actions do you recommend.

    Already the EPA is taking action to shut down US coal fired power plants. The price and availability of electricity will change for us all. Is that good? Will we be better off then?

    Actually, from what I can tell, the only problems caused by a higher temperature are those of humans living on or near the oceans edge. Perhaps we should just move them and stop subsidizing their hazard insurance. We will still be able to produce food. Fields in Canada and Russia, not tillable due to cold, will become available if global warming continues. Is that a bad thing? No wonder Canada opts out of the agreements.

    No virgin sacrifices for me. I enjoy the weather and the climate where I live. Nor do I have any expectation the AGW Fearmongers will learn to control the climate. But I do expect them to use their fearmongering as a way to try to control my life.

    And that is why I oppose them.

    Lewis Guignard
    Crouse, NC, USA

  41. David A says:

    Barry, all these studies dispute your handfull of pal reviewed team papers. Your known climate senstivity assertion is DOA

  42. David A says:

    Sorry Barry, here is the link to the scientific literature that debunks your handful of past reconstructions

  43. Camburn says:

    Tom Curtis:
    Where in the world do you get the idea that the stratosphere is cooling? Stratospheric temperature has been flat with a positive bias for 15 years.

  44. Camburn says:

    “However, due to increasing CO2, the CCMs simulate a continuous linear cooling by 1~K per decade over the entire 1979 to 2010 period. This is not consistent with the near-constant temperatures observed since the late 1980s.”

    This from the conclusion of :

    Ozone and Temperature Trends in the upper stratosphere.

  45. Camburn says:

    Seems there are a lot of urban myths presented at times that just need to be debunked.
    Santor/Foster certaintly did not help debunk any of these with another poor paper.

    Thank you Dr. Spencer for your interaction on the clearly poorly researched op-ed piece.

  46. gallopingcamel says:

    Barry Bickmore says:
    “….[climate scientists]…………can construct physical models that can be used to explain climate and paleoclimate data over the last 100 years, the last 2000 years, the last 20,000 years, the last 400,000,000 years…. All assuming about the same climate sensitivity. ”

    What a load of nonsense. There is no point in arguing with people who have faith in a false religion.

    You UAH guys just keep on producing data using the best technology you can find; thank you for that. The people who put GCMs above measurements belong in an alternate universe.

    • Ross James says:

      ” WE can construct physical models that can be used to explain climate and paleoclimate data over the last 100 years, the last 2000 years, the last 20,000 years, the last 400,000,000 years…. All assuming about the same climate sensitivity. ”

      And reply typical of a narrow Christian world view:

      What a load of nonsense. There is no point in arguing with people who have faith in a false religion.


      The above accusation “false religion” has not revealed to any reader honesty. The above reference to false religion is simply a statement by one who adheres to LITERAL 7 day creationism – young Earth Creationism. However there are many believers in OEC – Old Earth Creationism which enables one to look at the science based on re-constructs of our deep past. Our earth’s history. These finger prints of climate long ago.

      We today can more fully understand CLIMATE SENSITIVITY. How the impact of certain levels of atmospheric CO2 will have on climate.

      Based on those findings left in layers of ice and rock, we get insightful indicators of past climate. Dr Roy Spencer never ENTERS in ANY such findings. WHY? I would hate to think that a YEC bent prevents one from looking into this branch of excellent science. This builds a picture for Catastrophic AGW being PLAUSIBLE.

      If John or Roy wish to be contrary to mounting evidences of from this science then be very careful. YOU COULD BE VERY WRONG.

      Therefore from my perspective – the evidence holds. Heed the historic record of our earth that God created.

  47. Big Dave says:

    Dr. Spencer,
    Thanks for your courteous and engaging blog persona. Your science rewards common sense. Happy New Year!
    Big Dave

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  50. Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    Dear Dr Spencer:

    I´m not a scientist, but my education makes me think that nor water vapour neither clouds are driving mean temperatures.
    Having water vapour a strong greenhouse effect, its average global concentration over a year cycle must be nearly constant, for a given nearly constant mean temperature. Otherwise, temperatures would have changed much more, even with the buffer effect of seas.
    If atmosphere were completely quiet – but beeing possible for the water vapour to mix into the atmosphere – and with a uniform temperature, it would be water vapour saturated, due to the high proportion of total water surface relative to the surface of the planet. The highly complex atmospheric dynamic results in huge differences and changes, but vapour mean global concentration over a complete season cycle must be the saturation value for the mean global temperature.
    And something similar must happen to clouds. Otherwise their global effect must be nearly null: nor warming neither cooling effect.
    For me it´s almost imposible that with a small deviation from what above proposed – stronger deviations would have historically caused bigger temperature changes – vapour and/or clouds could have recently produced:
    “The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.
    … Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”

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