Gavin Schmidt's new climate picture book: Anti-Science?

Reprinted here by request from Harold Ambler – Anthony

What follows is an open letter to the Salon writer Peter Dizikes, who recently published an article about a new book by NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt on climate change.

The water level of Lake Powell, like that of all reservoirs in the American West, has fluctuated since the day it was dammed.

The water level of Lake Powell, like that of all reservoirs in the American West, has fluctuated since the day it was dammed.

Dear Mr. Dizikes:

I recently saw your overview of Gavin Schmidt’s new book as well as your interview with him on Salon.

I was surprised to see that you consider the effects of manmade global warming to be “oddly invisible.” Having studied the subject for a couple of years now, while performing my own research, it has been my observation that newspapers, magazines, and television news sources show images of supposed manmade climate change on a daily basis. Such images include: floods, polar bears, glacial calving, etc. If anything, images of global warming might be said to saturate western media.

As with so many other products generated by the AGW industry, Schmidt’s book Climate Change: Picturing the Science is part of an ongoing effort to frighten the credulous. Its messages include: weather will kill you, our moment on Earth is unique, climate did not used to change.

Had you wanted to fulfill the responsibilities of an objective and hard-hitting journalist, you might have asked Schmidt about the image of Lake Powell on his book’s cover book. Now, of course, we are all told never to judge a book by its cover – but this is a visual book that demands to be judged on visual terms. There are a lot of people, unfortunately, who don’t know enough about the facts to perform this kind of analysis themselves. Failing to do so for them is a pity.

Were you aware, may I ask, of the controversial nature of the damming of the Colorado River that led to Lake Powell? Environmentalists were and are appalled by this particular dam. It has changed an important piece of the American natural landscape. But, like all manmade dams on Earth, it has changing water levels. Dammed lakes in the American west are particularly prone to fluctuating water levels, within single years, year to year, and on the decadal level. Water use varies as well, although it can be counted on to slowly increase. Using an image of lowered water level on Lake Powell, which is a reservoir, sitting in a desert, to indicate anything about climate change is perverse. I would even go to far as to call it anti-science.

The assumption that industrial production of co2 has altered precipitation patterns is exactly that, an assumption. Further, what you are going to find, in the next decade, is that global temperatures are going to remain flat (as they have since 1998) and/or start to decline. What you are also going to find is that science writers in the American media establishment are going to peel off, one by one, from the AGW heterodoxy.

Group-think has affected many societies negatively, and it has not disappeared during our own time. The fact that neither Mr. Schmidt’s editor, nor his publisher, nor you, nor the photographer, nor Mr. Schmidt himself would stop to reflect on the oddity of this cover is enough to give one pause.

Sincerely yours,

Harold Ambler


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Good propaganda is highly visual. Pictures can more easily get people to suspend their critical thinking skills than the written word. AGW propaganda needs all of the help it can get i keeping people from actually thinking about the validity of what is claimed.
Schmidt, having lost his debate with the late Chrichton, knows better than to try and actually use words to sell AGW. He tries, and fails, daily over at his blogsite, Real Climate. His only hope is to use misleading pictures to sell his position. And he knows it.
The other point of the article, that AGW is maybe only topped by Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie as to over exposed images, is extremely good. AGW has, in effect already lost the war. The AGW promoters made specific predictions, and those predictions have failed. But the AGW industry still ahs a huge amount of social capital, and it will take a few years for it to dissipate.

The alarmists have often resorted to visual hyperbole. Here is one of my favorites.
Best Regards,

Douglas DC

Powell, indeed, varies from year to year.The warmists must be desparate…

Barry Foster

I recently tried to contribute on realclimate’s web site. I composed a detailed explanation that ‘Warming-worriers’ had only themselves to blame for leading the public perception that by now we would (should) be in a much warmer world than we actually are. As their software wouldn’t let my piece pass, Mr Schmidt kindly sent me an email saying that he had read it through and, although he disagreed with it, could see no reason why the software rejected it. So he pasted it onto the site personally. Naturally, my piece was derided by a mouth-foaming mob, so I countered their arguments. However, this time my reference to ‘warming-worriers’ was edited out and I was told in no uncertain terms to “cut out the abuse”. I sent Mr Schmidt an email explaining that he had originally personally passed the comment as okay as he had read it! But more than that, he constantly allows “Deniers” with all its connotations as acceptable. I drew the conclusion that realclimate is an odd place, with odd perceptions, and run by an odd person.


A picture is as good as a thousand words. Propagandists use these pictures intentionally; not by accident. In my RAF days I saw two five minute propaganda films made by our RAF film club; one showing British wealth and over consumption the other showing British poverty and despair. Both were filmed inside 5 minutes drive of the RAF station (base to our US readers).
This book is yet more AGW propaganda.


Its messages include: weather will kill you, our moment on Earth is unique, climate did not used to change.

I challenge you to find any place in the book where the claim is made that climate did not change in the past.
Ignoring the fact that the book is about climate, not weather, I’m curious about the claim that weather will not kill you. Tell that to the investigators trying to figure out what happened to the Air France flight that was recently lost over the Atlantic.
On the other hand, our moment on earth *is* unique, as Homo sapiens time on earth has been a very tiny fraction of the history of the planet. An eyeblink.


It’s a book by Gavin Schmidt, what did you expect?


Here’s an authoritative piece on the lower of water levels in Lake Powell.
It’s not due to changes in water use or management, it’s due to extended drought.

George E. Smith

Well I have a Comment. Note the book has a forward by Jeffrey D. Sachs.
Sachs is a sometime opinionator in the pages of “Scientific American” magazine.
I have been taking SA for something like 40 years; but I am likely to stop any time soon, because in recent years, SA editors have fully intoxicated themselves on the looney left coolade; and the Mag has tended to become more of a political rag, than a scientific mag.
For something over 30 years I have also paid for a subscription for my former Florida Keys tarpon fishing guide, for his edification. A now retired South Carolina lad, he now runs a Gun range in western Florida. I imagine he soon will be refusing delivery of SA, because of their taking a dive.
But some of these Chicken Little books, are worth having around, to see what is being pushed as the current agenda.
It’s a sad commentary on science and scientists; that they now prostitute themselves to the one world agenda to keep their research grant funds coming.
That leads to the absurdity of a US President standing up in front of the whole world and declaring that a “religion” that was born in the 600 ADs, somehow sparked the invention of Arches (some Roman examples of which were already falling down in earthquakes by this time), as well as Algebra, and Music.
Hello, Earth to Obama, music is banned in most Islamic cultures.
Truth, it seems, is what one declares it to be.
Well Gavin Schmidt fully understands that.
Funny thing; when I lived in St Louis Mo, and told the locals, that my name was Smith; the next question was:- “Is that two t’s or dt ?”
I think I’ll elect to go with the two t’s.

Richard P.

I think that the front cover epitomizes the AGW case.
To wit:
Lake water levels:
1. Man made the dam.
2. The dam made the lake.
3. Man controls the flow rate from the dam.
4. Thus, lake level variation is manmade.
1. Man made the instruments (thermometers).
2. Man made the computers.
3. Man places thermometers near heat sources.
4. Man wrote the programs for the models.
5. Man manipulates the models and data for effect.
6. Models make global warming.
7. Thus, global warming is manmade.
An aside issue why is it when we talk about global warming being “manmade” is acceptable, but when talking about other issues the male gender representation of humanity isn’t appropriate?


Has Mr Schmidt’s book got that photograph of the poor old polar bear floating off to oblivion on his ice-floe? Has me in floods of tears every time, that one.

Agreed, Lake Powell is affected by regional conditions (including effect of the ENSO and PDO & AMO states), and water outflow. Last year while the Lake had been recovering levels a major sustained discharge was made for ‘environmental’ purposes of the river and wildlife. Such discharges are another factor in Lake level.
Year / Max / Min elevations
1966 3545.68 3521.45
1970 3601.77 3566.62
1972 3619.71 3603.02
1979 3684.77 3626.93
1982 3687.83 3661.89
1992 3634.01 3615.91
2008 3633.72 3588.24
All of the data can be found here.

UK Sceptic

Taking jounralists to task over their slavish devotion to AGW has got to be a good thing. What Harold Ambler said was spot on. We could do with a few Harold Amblers on this side of the pond.


A hearty well done Harold!

Stephen Brown

Succinct, accurate and scathing; very nice to read.

As with so many other products generated by the AGW industry, Schmidt’s book Climate Change: Picturing the Science is part of an ongoing effort to frighten the credulous. Its messages include: weather will kill you, our moment on Earth is unique, climate did not used to change.

I wonder if Dr. Schmidt ever had to take a geology class while he was getting his BA in Mathematics and his PhD in Applied Mathematics…If “climate did not used to change” there’s a whole lot of sedimentary section out in the Gulf of Mexico that someone needs to return to North America…;-))

Anthropogenic global warming isn’t even pseudoscience, it’s a religion.
Carbon dioxide is less than 00.038% of the atmosphere.
Only someone who is completely off their heads could go on about that.

From the letter: Schmidt’s book, Climate Change: Picturing the Science, is antiscientific, definitely.


Fluctuating water levels in the Southwest? Yup, they’ve got your scary images.

Lake Powell has bee rising for 2 years now and is projected to keep rising. See the projections and historic levels here:


How do you know temperatures are going to decline?
Recently this site put up a post with a chart showing the opposite.


I read Salon on a daily basis (I’m kind of a masochist I guess?) Anyway when the interview was first published, the little slideshow of pics from the book that went along with it had a picture of a collapsing house in Alaska with a caption along the lines of “house collapsing due to melting permafrost.” Well, a couple of Alaskans commented in the letters thread that this house was actually a casualty of the 1964 earthquake and had nothing to due with melting permafrost. The picture was removed from the slideshow, and Schmidt posted a correction at the end of the letters thread, but I guess the book is already published. OOPS. That, along with the Lake Powell thing, and also another comment by someone about the bark beetle problem being due to lack of forest fires rather than global warming, pretty much convinced me this book is bunk! The scary thing was how the Salon community ate it up.

Further, what you are going to find, in the next decade, is that global temperatures are going to remain flat (as they have since 1998) and/or start to decline.

This is as much of a guess as saying temps will rise. We simply don’t know what will happen, why are people afraid to say that?


dhogaza (11:18:42) : – you DID notice that linky of yours was from 2003, didn’t you? As Alan Cheetham (11:34:28) posted – the levels seem to be going up. Think 6 years might make a difference?

Frank K.

Ah yes. The book. Schmidt uses his time at GISS to write coffee-table books, and even gets the government to advertise them:
Meanwhile, the Model E sits there, a horribly documented pile of FORTRAN junk, as always – untouched…because Gavin Schmidt doesn’t have ANY TIME to write any proper documentation for it, you see…
And all they while, he keeps churning out stuff like this…
“Dangerous change, even loosely defined, is going to be hard to avoid.
Unless emissions begin to decline very soon, severe disruption to the climate system will entail expensive adaptation measures and may eventually require cleaning up the mess by actively removing CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Your tax dollars at work…

Here is the United States Drought Index through 2005.
Also you can find a similar slide in the author of Climate of Extremes at the Heartland conference Thursday.


“I have been taking SA for something like 40 years; but I am likely to stop any time soon, because in recent years, SA editors have fully intoxicated themselves on the looney left coolade; and the Mag has tended to become more of a political rag, than a scientific mag.”
After my 40 years, I cancelled this year.

Adam from Kansas

Here’s a climate picture that the IPCC might try to put a spin on (even though it’s a map and not a real pic. but has pretty colors)
Today’s map shows the cool PDO area is history, coincidentally it seems the horse-shoe shaped cool area only is very noticable when the ENSO region is cool as well as seen in other years.

Arthur Glass

I wonder if Roger Pielke, Sr will pick up on the Lake Powell story; it would seem to be right up his alley.

John Galt

Oh look, the climate is changing! It must be from carbon dioxide emissions!
First of all, the fact that the climate is changing does not suggest nor does it prove what caused the change. More important is that fact the climate is supposed to change. From the moment the earth developed a climate, it has always changed and will always change.
This book does not offer any evidence that the observed changes are unnatural or out of the ordinary.
BTW: When is weather climate? When it supports the catastrophic man-made climate change hysteria belief. Otherwise, it’s just weather.

Adam from Kansas

Hmm, but wait, maybe they can spin the whole PDO thing on that map, but what about on this map where it shows the PDO cool area is still there?
Why is the PDO area shown with the cool phase as gone in the NOAA map but still somewhat holding on this other map? I know the colors are different, but still…

John Galt

I remember when some people sued to keep 2-cycle watercraft out of Lake Mead. The exhaust was destroying the natural environment, you see. But Lake Mead is a man-made lake.

Gary Hladik

Actually, Peter Zikes’ comment about the effects of manmade global warming being “oddly invisible” is pretty much correct, though not in the sense that he meant. 🙂


Does anyone else find it ironic that the dam at Lake Powell has the potential to generate 1.296 kw of EMISSIONS-FREE energy yet the very religious environmental zealots that post such misleading pictures also support elimination of the dam?
Just doesn’t make sense…

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Hank Hancock

Lake Powel will be silted in long before the climate changes enough (naturally or anthropogenically) to be a concern. Rapid silting has been an ongoing problem for the chain of dams along the Colorado and one reason they do sustained releases of water – further lowering the lake water levels. Lee Kington (11:21:09) points out the environmental objectives which are served.
I had the opportunity to hike out to St. Thomas, a small town that went under water when Lake Mead was filled. Due to lower water levels, St. Thomas was above water and accessable by foot a few years back. What amazed me the most is how much silt built up around foundations and filled the concrete structures.
Here is a photo that I took that illustrates the silting: Click
Now watch this photo show up completely out of context in some scare story about AGW.

Mike McMillan

George E. Smith (11:19:06) : . . .
I have been taking SA for something like 40 years; but I am likely to stop any time soon, because in recent years, SA editors have fully intoxicated themselves on the looney left coolade; and the Mag has tended to become more of a political rag, than a scientific mag.

Scientific American has long been in the loony left, “nuke bomb = evil = nuke power” camp. Back in ’84 or ’85 they had an article by Herbert Lin proving that anti-ballistic missiles would never work because computers would never be fast enough to calculate all the trajectories in a full scale attack. I think they were also fretting about how computers would soon be burning up a huge percentage of the world’s electric power.
It’s unfortunate that its editors are letting Politics burn up a huge percentage of SA’s page count.

Frank Kotler

Where’s the cow? Where’s the dyke?
Oops, wrong SF illustration… 🙂

It is a shame that almost all occidental climate data/science sources seem adulterated, nobel prize included.
Good work!


This article from The Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology is from a study started in 1996 and uses ‘paleoclimatological and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the environment’…
“Cantabrian cornice has experienced 7 cooling and warming phases over past 41,000 years”

Nice Book to fix the short leg on the coffee table. I starting reading the salon piece and stop and commented on it under my real name regarding the misinformation on the Pine Bark Beetle.
I hate reading the recycled mantras that the Forestry Services in the USA and Canada adopted to hide their incompetence in managing the threat.


You’re gonna love this!
The following was from 1997 — in the case you may have missed it:
Study says sun getting hotter
WASHINGTON (AP) – The sun is getting hotter, adding heat to an Earth already thought to be warming from greenhouse gases.
Solar radiation reaching the Earth is 0.036 percent warmer than it was in 1986, when the current solar cycle was beginning, a researcher reports in a study to be published Friday in the journal Science. The finding is based on an analysis of satellites that measure the temperature of sunlight.
Blah, blah, blah and then they talk about AGW. BUT the THRUST IS: THE SUN!

Nice succinct letter. Well done.


dhogaza: don’t appeal to authority… actually check the data.
That “authoritative” piece you linked to was actually published in 2003. And, yes, lake water levels HAD decreased compared to the previous few years. But, if the changes in lake water levels were actually due to additional human release of CO2, one would expect to see steadily declining water levels over time. That is NOT what has been observed. Water levels have increased from 2004 to the present. And, values from 2005 to the present are ALL greater than the values that existed throughout ALL of the 1960s.


Just remove the c, m and d from the author’s name for a clearer picture of the quality of the science.


Visual propaganda like this is absolutely outrageous. I recall a recent image, of a wallaby in snow, being used to misdirect in this way.

And don’t even mention the prolonged drought in NE Georgia caused by man made climate change. If we don’t enact laws immediately there will be a drought over the region for a long long time and…
June 2nd 2009
Er, uh, never mind.


Yep, that picture of Lake Powell goes in the same collection of the picture of those two polar bears clinging to that melting iceberg that was photographed by that student… because she was just passing by and thought it was cute.
If a picture can tell a thousand words, a deceptive picture can tell a thousand lies.

Jerry Haney

dhogaza may site what claims to be an authoritive article about extended drought being the cause of lower water levels at Lake Powell, but anyone who was familiar with the draw down of Lake Powell as I was (I have a second home at Lake Powell), knows that the power shortages in Cailifornia several years ago was the real cause. Because California would not allow new power generating plants to be built, they were trying to buy power from anywhere. So, the operators of Lake Powell were releasing more water than they should for several years to sell the generated electricity to California.
That is why Lake Powell went from 90 percent full to 35 percent in a few years. Lake Powell receives most of its water from the snow melt on Colorado, and snow pack in Colorado was only slightly below normal during those years.
The blame for low water levels in Lake Powell can be attributed to the California legislature and their refusal to allow power plants to be built.

Steve (Paris)

cotwome (12:51:58) :
Interesting link, thank you