Gleick’s Watergate Too

March 11th, 2012 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

I don’t usually blog about posts on other blogs, but I’m making an exception for Steve McIntyre’s excellent analysis showing how similar Peter Gleick’s actions were to the Watergate burglary, primarily because both were covert attempts to obtain financial donor lists from the ‘enemy’.

Given Gleick’s expertise in water science, I think we should re-brand the event “Watergate Too”.

22 Responses to “Gleick’s Watergate Too”

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  1. Iceskater says:

    Dr Spencer

    You might be interested that I found an experimental proof that radiation from a cold flame can be absorbed by a very hot flame in ‘Theory of heat’ by James Clerk Maxwell 1871 on page 225, where the continuous frequency light from a colder Lime flame (limelight) is projected onto a screen by a prism, where a very hot colourless flame containing sodium vapour is **between** the prism and the screen. This means that the yellow light of sodium is shining over the entire screen in equal amounts and is thus adding to the brightness of the observed limelight spectrum in most areas of the screen

    However, wavelengths of yellow coming from the colder limelight that match the emission from the hotter sodium are absorbed by the hot sodium vapour, and are therefore revealed by two distinctly dark lines against the brighter background of sodium light (that was not refracted by the prism) superimposed upon the unabsorbed limelight spectrum.

  2. anotherskeptic says:


    Following on from the point above I’d like to take you up on something you included in a post some while ago about back radiation and two plates in a vacuum. This is what you gave as an real world example:

    Almost everyone has experienced the fact that cloudy nights tend to be warmer than clear nights.
    The most dramatic effect Ive seen of this is in the winter, on a cold clear night with snow cover. The temperature will drop rapidly. But if a cloud layer moves in, the temperature will either stop dropping, or even warm dramatically.
    This warming occurs because the cloud radiates much more IR energy downward than does a clear, dry atmosphere. This changes the energy budget of the surface dramatically, often causing warming even though the cloud is usually at a lower temperature than the ground is. Even high altitude cirrus clouds at a temperature well below than of the surface, can cause warming.
    So, once again, we see that the presence of a colder object can cause a warmer object to become warmer still.

    This must be wrong and here’s why:

    At night there is no primary energy source as that (the sun) has gone down. Hence any additional IR that comes in the form of back radiation from the clouds can only stop the surface from cooling as quickly and not add additional warming; there is no mechanism by which the surface can get hotter (even with your two plate example) when there is no primary energy source,therefore the warmth must have come from elsewhere. Also the theory with back radiation is that it warms the land surface and not the air, as the air is 99% oxygen and nitrogen and is invisible to the spectrum of IR involved. How with a layer of snow between the surface and the air is the surface going to warm enough to make a dramatic on the temperature of the air which must be by conduction and convection? It cant!

    Of course the truth is not rocket science, the simple reason the air warms is because its a new bank of warmer air that has moved in with the clouds!

    I think you and others suggesting that back radiation has a large part to play on warm nights etc is why a reported 70% of US state climatologists/meterologists don’t believe in AGW.

  3. Dr. Roy Spencer, has either avoided or has not been able to come to terms with the fact, that when the climate has changed in the past ,it has more then often been abrupt.

    Not one speck of information or insight has been given to this important reality, which is climate change can be abrupt ,and has been.

    This is why in my opinion much of the discussions on these boards , really don’t address the area of climate change and the causes for it, at all.

    If you all ,including Dr. Spencer want to igore abrupt climate change ,and why it has happened in the past, you are in reality ,really not coming to terms with what makes our climae change and why.

    As I have said the reason for abrupt climate change is likely because from time to time certain tipping points will be met,by the items that control the climate. Those items being the solar activity,volcanic activity,soi index,pdo/amo,Milankovitch cycles, earth’s magnetic field strength, which if they phase in a particular direction long enough, and in a degree of magnitude strong enough those tipping points, to bring about abrupt climate change could be acheived.

    Yet all choose to igore this important fact, which is at the heart of climate change.

    Dr. Spencer ,has never ever addressed this ,it has just been ignored as if it never happens, making his forcast for future climate expectations irrelevant, in my opinion.

  4. Jostemikk says:


  5. harrywr2 says:

    “At night there is no primary energy source as that (the sun) has gone down. Hence any additional IR that comes in the form of back radiation from the clouds can only stop the surface from cooling”

    Stopping from ‘cooling’ is the same thing as ‘reflecting’ heat.

    Infrared radiation(heat) is emitted from the surface..some of that hits a water or CO2 molecule heating the water or CO2 molecule. The water or CO2 molecule then re-emits the heat in all directions equally. Some up, some down, some side to side.

    The effect is to ‘slow the cooling’ as you would say or ‘warm’ the earth above what it would be otherwise be without water and CO2 molecules in the atmosphere.

    If their were no water or CO2 molecules in the atmosphere nights would be very,very cold…just like on the moon.

  6. Scott Scarborough says:

    “Watergate too” or “Watergate two?”

  7. Mario Lento says:

    I would love to hear Dr. Spencer’s response to some of these interesting posts. I have to thank Dr. Spencer for the fresh and easy to understand explanations of these sometimes complex sciences.

  8. anotherskeptic says:

    Thanks Harrywr2…..I do understand the theory of back radiation but the real world observations dont support it and thermodynamics dont require it.
    If a significant process of additional warming was by the reflected IR from the clouds warming the surface, and then the surface warming the air via conduction and convection…which is what the theory demands…then there is no way there could be a ‘dramatic warming’ when there is snow providing an insulating layer on the surface. The snow is incidental however as significant back radiation does not occur when the snow is not there either. The snow just helps to prove the point that real world observations dont support the theory.
    I agree that without water the air would chill quickly; but this is due to the massive heat retention properties of water that has collected and retained the heat from the daytime by convection and conduction from the earths surface. The cloud cover on a warm night simply indicates that the air below is moist and warm (else a temperature inversion would occur and it would probably rain). The cloud also stifles any convection currents (although at night these will be limited) and helps keep the warm air in place. Warm nights under clouds are characterised by high humidity just as one would expect as the water is ‘carrying’ the heat.

    I’m afraid a significant level of back radiation is not needed to explain the way the atmosphere is heated; just as it’s not relevant in a sauna or real greenhouse; it’s all about thermodynamics and the fantastic heat capacity of water!

  9. THE WHAT???

    Abrupt climate change ,what??? This concept does not exist with Dr. Spencer ,or any of the folks on this board.

    Until that concept is addressed any thoughts about what makes earth’s climatic system work and change, really can’t be taken seriously.

    It is just idol talk.

    For example saying the rate of warming due to CO2 increase will be much less then what the computer models predict (a no brainer) does little to address why the climate changes.

    Earth’s climate system is NOT stable as we are trained to believe. If it were, earth would have never had past Ice Ages, followed by warmth,only to be followed by another Ice Age,etc etc.

    As I have said, I think it is a phasing in of the items that control earth’s climate, and if the phase in, is STRONG enough,and LONG enough ,tipping points can be accomplished which could change the climate of the earth in a dramatic fashion over a short period of time. That is the only explanation that makes any sense, but this whole area is never addressed.










    I believe if they phase in a particular manner ,long enough ,and in a degree of magnitude strong enough, that is when dramatic climate change can occur.

    The Ice Cores ,show abrupt climate change to have happened many times during earth’s past.

    I say until this is addressed,any other talk about earth’s climatic system is hollow, to say the least.

    • Mario Lento says:

      To: salvatore del prete,
      I am not sure that anyone has suggested that abrupt climate changes don’t occur. To the contrary, I believe, most scientists say abrupt climate changes have been shown to have happened many times. Am I confused on this issue?

      • Mario Lento says:

        Maybe “Tipping Points” is what you are referring to as in how Al Gore refers to a tipping point? I would say that there are no permanent tipping points such that climate runs on in one direction forever may be what you are referring to, but I do not want to put words in your mouth. But I would say, in that sense, there are no tipping points. I’d most respectfully like to hear your clarification on this.

  10. Let’s see the slience, that will probalby come about, over this central issue to climate change, which I have been trying to address, while everyone else pretends it does not exist.

    I wonder why? Maybe it’s because in order to address this issue, one would have to think outside of the box, and try to come to terms with concepts, they wish not to.

    Those are my thoughts on this subject, and the cause for it. I say prove me wrong.

  11. Iceskater says:


    I live in Finland and snow is on the ground. It is beginning to become milder but the sky temperature is still around -30 even during the day, whereas the local air temperature is around 0C. If the sky temperature was -270C our home heating would be totally unable to deal with the huge cooling our house and our environment would undergo.

    Think about it please, cooling when facing an object at -270C or cooling when facing an object at -30C. If the atmosphere was not radiating we could not radiatively face the atmosphere at -30C. Instead we would be facing a much hotter atmosphere but radiatively facing an object at -273C

    I realise you think you are correct but you are not really thinking about the topic correctly at the moment.

    Ps. Can anybody here tell me why i get the message ‘name and email are not filled in’ when i reply to a specific message?

  12. John says:


    Please re-read the James Clerk Maxwell post you provided.
    The dark lines only appear when the sodium vapor is cooler than the limelight. The cooler object (sodium vapor) absorbs the energy of the hotter source (lime-light). The post indicates the opposite of what you suggest.

  13. anotherskeptic says:


    I’m not suggesting that the sky would be -273C. The sky will always be warmed a) locally by the sun during the day which would provide a means of warming the air via conduction and convection from the surface (even if it is cold itself as its warm relative to -30C); b) by the incoming electromagnetic waves warming the water content of the air and transfering this to the oxygen/nitrogen element by collision and; c) air from elsewhere (although I accept this could always be colder!). My point is that the air warms and retains heat directly from the surface and sun, I’m sure there’s IR involved but its level is irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. A cloud 6km away which is -30C is not going to warm the surface air to 0C from a sub-zero temperature. There is a lot of IR being emmited from a large block of ice but I’m afraid the block of ice is only ever going to make you colder!

    Your point seems to be that if the sky was -273C then you’d lose heat faster; which I agree with…but the reason it’s not -273C is because of the thermodynamics of the atmosphere effectively collecting heat and moving it from one place to another, not because the intense cold is in some way keeping you warm!

  14. Iceskater says:

    John, the third paragraph of the page i provided begins with something like ‘in performing the experiment with the limelight we suppose that the sodium flame is placed before the slit’ The point being that when placed between the screen and the slit or the slit and the eye a different version of the experiment can be done for the hotter sodium flame which now shines yellow light evenly across all of the spectrum of lime, apart from where the yellow from lime is absorbed

  15. Iceskater says:


    I am finding it hard to follow you. You jump around quite a bit. Cold cannot keep you warm unless the alternative is a far worse cold.

    It is basic meterology that if the air water content is higher then the sky temperature is higher and less heat is lost to outerspace.

    If a small warm mass of air 6km away is -30C and all around that cloud there is colder air then from where you measure the sky temperature you will see the average sky temperature and see a colder sky. The cold sky cannot warm the warm suface at 0C, but under the warm surface at 0C it can be 10C and so the sub surface layers warm the surface if the surface cools less quickly.

    If think you need to be less quick to rush to judgement and consider that you might not have all the knowledge you need at this point in time to be so dismissive

  16. anotherskeptic says:


    We seem to be agreeing on some points at least! The water content of the air is the important factor along with conduction/convection of heat from the surface. Back radiation (whilst I will agree it must exist at some level) doesnt have a significant role. What is proposed by the GHE theory is that the surface can be one cold temp (say 0C) and a cloud another (say -20C) and that as a result the air between them warms to a middle temp (say +5C). There is no similar effect found anywhere else in science and it is obviously incorrect. If it were correct it would revolutionise the heating industry and you’d be able to heat your home from IR alone; the only way we get hot from cold at the moment is by condensing the heat by means of heat pump.

  17. Iceskater says:

    >>What is proposed by the GHE theory is that the surface can be one cold temp (say 0C) and a cloud another (say -20C) and that as a result the air between them warms to a middle temp (say +5C).

    It is still true if the surface is being heated by subsurface layers or the Sun. Cooling is reduced once the cloud arrives. Same as when your food warms at the surface when you stop blowing on it, so you know it is still hot inside.

    Backradiation is always part of a cooling process when the surface is warmer than the radiating sky temperature.

  18. John says:

    I read dana1981’s article on Skeptical Science entitled “Roy Spencer’s Bad Economics,” and all I can say is that everyone should read it to see where the alarmists are coming from. It is so poorly reasoned that one comes away almost not believing that it is meant to be serious.
    I think that Dr. Muller is the only warmist that gets the economics behind attempted mitigation. As a practical matter, nothing the developed world does will have any effect unless China and India participate. The numbers are simply staggering as they are on track to surpassing the US in CO2 output per capita. And that is alot of “capita.” China and India know that the fastest way to bring their people out of poverty is to build coal power plants as fast as they can.
    The idea that the US should “lead the way” by doing something very expensive that would have little effect as some kind of symbolic gesture is simply absurd.
    Especially fallacious is the tragedy of the commons argument. Even if you could argue that the atmosphere’s ability to handle CO2 is a “resource,” its effect on the atmosphere is logarithmic. The more you output the less effect additional output has on the atmosphere. That is why our output will have little effect one way or another compared to the colossal output that is coming from China and India.
    So, even if you believe that coming climate change is going to be a problem (which seems very unlikely), Roy has it right. The best way to be able to deal with it is to create wealth throughout the world now.

  19. No the climate wil NOT go in one direction either way, but at times will flip from glacial to interglacial conditions, due to the phasing in of the items that I mentioned that I think control earth’s climate. Those items can phase into a cold mode, a neutral mode or a warm mode.

    For this decade indications are they are all phasing toward a colder mode, so I expect colder temperatures if this does come about. Time wil tell.

    The basis for my contentions is the sun, and I say the solar flux reading on the sun needs to be 90 or lower to start thinks in motion. Time will tell.

    I meant on this board ,including Dr. Spencer ,the subject of abrupt climate change has not been brought up at all.

    I have never heard Dr. Spencer address this issue.

  20. let me clarify, a little more. The climate wil never keep going in one direction becasue the items I think that control the climate wil never phase in the same direction or mode forever. They will change,thus changing the climate.

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