BREAKING: Editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing resigns over Spencer & Braswell paper

UPDATE: Sept 6th Hot off the press: Dessler’s record turnaround time GRL rebuttal paper to Spencer and Braswell

(September 4) Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. continues his discussion at his blog: Hatchet Job on John Christy and Roy Spencer By Kevin Trenberth, John Abraham and Peter Gleick. And I’ve added my own rebuttal here: The science is scuttled: Abraham, Gleick, and Trenberth resort to libeling Spencer and Christy

Dr. Judith Curry has two threads on the issue Update on Spencer & Braswell Part1 and Part2  and… Josh weighs in with a new cartoon.

UPDATE: Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. weighs in with his opinions on this debacle here, additional updates are below from Dr. Spencer.

UPDATE: Dr. Spencer has written an essay to help understand the issue: A Primer on Our Claim that Clouds Cause Temperature Change  and an additional update Sept 5th: More Thoughts on the War Being Waged Against Us

September 2nd, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.



Scientific Progress: 0

It has been brought to my attention that as a result of all the hoopla over our paper published in Remote Sensing recently, that the Editor-in-Chief, Wolfgang Wagner, has resigned. His editorial explaining his decision appears here.

First, I want to state that I firmly stand behind everything that was written in that paper.

But let’s look at the core reason for the Editor-in-Chief’s resignation, in his own words, because I want to strenuously object to it:

…In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal

But the paper WAS precisely addressing the scientific arguments made by our opponents, and showing why they are wrong! That was the paper’s starting point! We dealt with specifics, numbers, calculations…while our critics only use generalities and talking points. There is no contest, as far as I can see, in this debate. If you have some physics or radiative transfer background, read the evidence we present, the paper we were responding to, and decide for yourself.

If some scientists would like do demonstrate in their own peer-reviewed paper where *anything* we wrote was incorrect, they should submit a paper for publication. Instead, it appears the IPCC gatekeepers have once again put pressure on a journal for daring to publish anything that might hurt the IPCC’s politically immovable position that climate change is almost entirely human-caused. I can see no other explanation for an editor resigning in such a situation.

People who are not involved in scientific research need to understand that the vast majority of scientific opinions spread by the media recently as a result of the fallout over our paper were not even the result of other scientists reading our paper. It was obvious from the statements made to the press.

Kudos to Kerry Emanuel at MIT, and a couple other climate scientists, who actually read the paper before passing judgment.

I’m also told that RetractionWatch has a new post on the subject. Their reporter told me this morning that this was highly unusual, to have an editor-in-chief resign over a paper that was not retracted.

Apparently, peer review is now carried out by reporters calling scientists on the phone and asking their opinion on something most of them do not even do research on. A sad day for science.

(At the request of Dr. Spencer, this post has been updated with the highlighted words above about 15 minutes after first publication.- Anthony)

UPDATE #1: Since I have been asked this question….the editor never contacted me to get my side of the issue. He apparently only sought out the opinions of those who probably could not coherently state what our paper claimed, and why.

UPDATE #2: This ad hominem-esque Guardian article about the resignation quotes an engineer (engineer??) who claims we have a history of publishing results which later turn out to be “wrong”. Oh, really? Well, in 20 years of working in this business, the only indisputable mistake we ever made (which we immediately corrected, and even published our gratitude in Science to those who found it) was in our satellite global temperature monitoring, which ended up being a small error in our diurnal drift adjustment — and even that ended up being within our stated error bars anyway. Instead, it has been our recent papers have been pointing out the continuing mistakes OTHERS have been making, which is why our article was entitled. “On the Misdiagnosis of….”. Everything else has been in the realm of other scientists improving upon what we have done, which is how science works.

UPDATE #3: At the end of the Guardian article, it says Andy Dessler has a paper coming out in GRL next week, supposedly refuting our recent paper. This has GOT to be a record turnaround for writing a paper and getting it peer reviewed. And, as usual, we NEVER get to see papers that criticize our work before they get published.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Be careful what you write, above all, be careful what you think. The thought police are everywhere.


You knew where you stood 500 years ago with science and the catholic church .. no longer it seems

Dennis Wingo

His resignation sounds much like the defenders of the aEther theory of the fluid that the Earth rides in after the results of the Michelson-Morely experiment.
All it takes is one fact to deconstruct an entire edifice of science.

Mark Nutley

He complains that the reviewers may have been sceptical? No loss reall to see him go, another gatekeeper out of the way.

Very sad day indeed ;-(
Common sense science has been replaced by corruption, power and politics.

Alan Clark of Dirty Oil-berta

7. Trenberth, K.E., Fasullo, J.T., O’Dell, C., Wong, T. Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 2010, 37, L03702.
Nuff said.


Hmmm…interesting letter of resignation. Seems he has based his “opinion” one two things, 1. Some of the reviewers might hold some heretical thoughts and 2. a lot of other scientists have published papers saying otherwise.
I think the direct implication of point to is that minority views should never be published.
If that is the case then today is a sad, sad day.

Elizabeth (not the Queen)

From Wagner’s letter, “Therefore, from a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the
review process. But, as the case presents itself now, the editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors.”
I thought reviewers are impartial? Isn’t that what they always say when reviewers who share AGW notions reject papers that conflict with their personal views?


I wonder what his new position in the IPCC will be.


In his editorial Wagner puts blame on selection of reviewers who apparently shared heretical notions of the authors:
“But, as the case presents itself now, the editorial team unintentionally selected three
reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors.”
What is needed is an IPCC version of Act of Uniformity to keep heresy at bay:


So the stated reason is the suspicion that the 3 peer reviewers may have shared a bit of AGW skepticism. Good thing that never happens among Warmists. Where a scientist speculating things like extra-terrestrials are going to destroy mankind so the planet can be pristine again or that AGW causes kidney stones can be published after a review by a panel that resembles the three stooges. Using the word ‘stooge’ in both senses.
The fact that upsets these people is the paper is devastating to their hypothesis of an ever warming planet. It demonstrates that the modeled assumptions regarding heat retention are simply wrong by a factor of 2 or so.And that shit cans a whole lot of climate models and explains why they have dramatically failed to predict either weather or ‘climate’.


“I can see no other explanation for an editor resigning in such a situation.”
Well, I’m impressed.


“But, as the case presents itself now, the editorial team unintentionally selected three
reviewers who probably share some climate “Warmists” notions of the authors.”
But this is OK for science??????????

Bernard J.

Here’s an idea – Spencer & Braswell 2011 was and remains crap, and Wagner is calling it.
Ockahms razor gentleman. It just happens to cut you the wrong way.
REPLY: Heh, your argument reminds me of the many that pronounced “plate tectonics” to be “crap”. Oh and it is Occams razor– Anthony

Different standards I guess when you want to point out the emperor’s nudity, than when you want to compliment him for the millionth time on his fine threads.
Would be great to find out whats behind all this. Could be another scandal if there were threats or intimidation.


I think this is also quite pertinent “I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions”
Surely that wouldn’t have happened here?


Can you link to the paper(s) you are alleged to have ignored?

Dave L.

AGW has become a major business entity with powerful political tenacles pulling strings in the background. The science of climatology has been totally corrupted. Time to turn off the federal money faucet.

John W

“In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents.”
It’s not ignoring them, it’s challenging them.
How could one paper be so disastrous to science as to require a career to be sacrificed? Even if it’s dead wrong, there are plenty of dead wrong peer-reviewed science articles, it makes no sense. Cult nut stuff!
What you ignore will become more.
What you tolerate will take over.
What you challenge will change.


“…the editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors.”
I see. The editorial team didn’t run it by the Pope first. Odd, when you consider how in the previous paragraphs the reviewers receive praise for their scholarly and scientific prowess, a showing that their “sceptic notions” may well be with foundation.
As Dr. Spencer advocates, let the science of the arguments be played out in public.

Future public statements are nowadays part of the editorial process in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Who would have guessed.

Wagner’s editorial is just about the most cowardly thing I have ever seen. Here he finds it scandalous how many people are actually reading his journal:

Unfortunately, their campaign [Spencer and Braswell’s campaign to publicize the availability of their paper] apparently was very successful as witnessed by the over 56,000 downloads of the full paper within only one month after its publication.

Wagner’s actual objection is not to anything in the paper, but to the way Forbes Magazine and others have promoted the paper as “blowing a gaping hole in global warming alarmism.” The meat of Wagner’s protest, to the extent that there is any meat, is to deny that the paper does what these statements that are not in the paper say it does:

But trying to refute all scientific insights into the global warming phenomenon just based on the comparison of one particular observational satellite data set with model predictions is strictly impossible.

Ludicrous. I want to ask, “how could someone with such a livid yellow streak ever become editor of a journal”? But then it’s obvious isn’t it? Nobody can make editor of a climate journal today unless they are yellow.

Prediction time — who out of the mainstream climate establishment will stick up for Spencer — or will they pile on — since it’s apparently safe to do so because Abraham has come down from on high?

This reminds me of the fact that almost immediately after publishing Lindzen’s 2001 “Iris” paper, the Editor of BAMS was replaced, and the new editor immediately had published a separate paper (not a comment!) “rebutting” the paper, mainly making an argument which Lindzen et al. showed to be wrong quite easily.


Makes you despair! Let’s face it, we’re fighting a losing battle. Reality doesn’t count any-more the politicians aren’t going to change the course they’ve embarked on. We’ll just have to put up with our friends and family members being reduced to superstitious simpletons.

Once again we see the attacks on our 1st Amendment; a continuation of demonizing truths, in an organized and deliberate effort to silence any who attempt to enlighten us ignorant uneducated morons. How dare you appose the findings of such political powers as the all knowing IPCC!
Next will be pressure to sensor the internet, cleansing and punishing those who are not in step with the global agenda Mesiters political gain. Big brother government oversight designed on the premise to “protect the innocent.” Agency powers driven by political goals.
A sad day for all of us.
Support truth in science, and stand for a higher road of ethics. Stand together in exposing those who sensor truth of any genre.


In my opinion, good riddance to the editor. He basically is saying in his letter of resignation that as “Gate keeper” he let a skeptical paper get through and he accepts responsibility for that and resigns. I also find it interesting he makes this very telling remark in his letter. “Interdisciplinary cooperation with modelers is required….” Basically, he is saying that in order to get published, the data has to agree with the models and in this case it doesn’t.


Ryan Maue – why on earth should the climate establishment stick up for Spencer if they think the work was crap too?
[Ryan: some think it has flaws — but i see how censorship is the new tactic of the left to quash dissent.]


[But trying to refute all scientific insights into the global warming phenomenon just based on the comparison of one particular observational satellite data set with model predictions is strictly impossible.]
Trying to refute computer model output by using observational data is strictly impossible.
OK, we completely understand your belief system:
“Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

Nuke Nemesis

What are the odds it was an offer to resign or else?

Anyone can get something wrong. It is telling the truth that is unforgivable.

Almost every day now I’m hearing of yet another academic who couldn’t get their work published because they made the fatal mistake of finding evidence that counters the hysteria about scaled up CO2 warming.

If a paper is “crap”, it is retracted. Since Wagner didn’t retract it, the paper is NOT “crap”.


Another interesting thought….. if 98% of scientists agree that man is primarily responsible for climate change… how did three randomly selected scientists all happen to be skeptics? The odds of that would have been less than 1 in 100000. Lucky day for us of the more skeptical persuasion I guess :-).

Mechanical engineer John Abraham to the Guardian: “It is commendable that Wagner has reacted responsibly to the situation“.
Be afraid, be very afraid…

R. Shearer

I thought the ratio of warmists to skeptics was on the order of 100,000 to 1. How is it even possible that 3 reviewers shared some AGW skepticism?


In other words, the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view (which was later unfortunately much exaggerated by the public media) but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents.
They said the same thing about Barry J. Marshall and J. Robin Warren in regard to bacterium causing ulcers.


Hockey team fires goalie for allowing score.
Film at 11:00.

D. Holliday

Doesn’t this really fall under the old Einstein axiom, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”
In this case, the computer models are the theory, the observational data disproves them. Game over!

From the resignation letter:

In hindsight, it is possible to see why the review process of the paper by Spencer and Braswell did not fulfill its aim. The managing editor of Remote Sensing selected three senior scientists from renowned US universities, each of them having an impressive publication record. Their reviews had an apparently good technical standard and suggested one “major revision”, one “minor revision” and one “accept as is”. The authors revised their paper according to the comments made by the reviewers and, consequently, the editorial board member who handled this paper accepted the paper (and could in fact not have done otherwise). Therefore, from a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process. But, as the case presents itself now, the editorial team unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors. This selection by itself does not mean that the review process for this paper was wrong.

Hmm, perhaps there are more skeptical academics out there than I thought. Is this a warning to future editors that they have to look more carefully to ensure they find reviewers without “climate sceptic notions” (and the proper level of alarmist notions)?
BTW, to fully appreciated the context of the letter, you have to read the rest of the paragraph that I didn’t quote. Wagner goes on to explain why he no longer thinks the paper is worthy of publishing, but his reasoning seems to be more over-reaction than logic. I wouldn’t be surprised if more is happening behind the scenes than appears in the letter, but I’ll leave that to the conspiracy theorists.

Same process with Galileo, 500 years ago…
History repeating itself…

Viv Evans

Cross-posted at Climate etc:
“I am absolutely staggered by the reasons Mr Wagner proffers for his resignation.
He says that the authors and other sceptics ‘exaggerated’ the findings in the MSM – as if no other paper by any scientists supportive of AGW has ever been exaggerated in press releases in the MSM.
In fact, anybody who hasn’t been living in a cave these past few years cannot have failed to notice the daily horror stories about the terrible effects of AGW we’re given, based on ‘new research’ – pushed by the PR departments of the various universities and colleges.
Then he complains that ‘the sceptics’ were so successful in their ‘campaign’ that in a month the paper was downloaded 56,000 times! So why is that bad? How does he know that only sceptics downloaded this paper?
He then has the effrontery to suggest that the three scientists, invited to review this paper by the managing editor, who gave the paper their thumbs up, were somehow sceptics themselves, insinuating that they did not do their job properly.
There have been too many examples of ‘pal review’ by The Team not to grasp what Mr Wagner is complaining about, namely that only The Team should have the right to review and reject papers, especially those which do not comply with their take on AGW.
I am sickened by this resignation letter, the reasons given therein, and can’t help wondering why Mr Wagner choose to resign rather than embrace open dialogue between sceptics and warmists.”

Has anybody else noticed, the end result of this brouhaha is that BLOGS (“various internet discussion fora“) are considered at the same level as peer-reviewed papers. So when the usual brainless warmist pops around saying “you haven’t published your results!” we have a ready-made example that blogs are enough, to answer peer-reviewed papers.
In fact, the idiotic twitter bot now answers my tweets with references to SkepticalScience, no less.
Congratulations to all and especially to Anthony. A new era has begun.

This resignation is completely over the the point where it can only be contrived. What Editor-in-Chief complains that an article in his journal has been downloaded TOO many times? Is the goal of scientific journals for publish articles for a readership of zero?
That’s just the beginning.
He states clearly that the peer review process was in no way circumvented, and the process was conducted with integrity. So why resign?
He then claims that the reviewers “may” have shared the views of the authors. He presents no evidence that this is so. So why resign?
Further he explains, there are publications out there that supposedly refute this paper, and that he only became aware of them after publication. Again, so why resign? IF the argument had merit, any merit at all, it would be the responsibility of the Editor-in-Chief to conduct an impartial investigation, and if circumstances warranted, recommend a retraction.
The only way that an Editor-in-Chief, or anyone else in a position of authority for that matter, resigns a prestigious position is when they attempt to impose their will on the organization, and fail. Had he demanded of his staff a retraction and been refused, that would be cause for resignation. Had the process been shown to lack integrity of which he was aware and did nothing about, that would be cause for resignation. But this explanation?
This explanation should read:
AGW theory shown by artifical models is correct. We accidently publisherd a paper that showed the opposite from actual observation of the real world, after subjecting it to thorough and rigorous peer review processes that confirmed the observational science, and we cannot provide sufficient or logical reasoning to justify retracting it, and so, our Editor-in-Chief is resigning, protesting as he does the number of people who have read the paper when clearly they should not have been allowed to see it because it refutes the artificial models. We repeat, AGW theory shown by artificial models is correct.

Roger Knights

This is what happens when someone offends the PC brain police.

John in L du B

None of this makes any sense. In fact, for mainstream cliamte science, it only makes matters worse. I sense another climategate coming on here.


It all sounds very odd. What the chap is basically saying is that if it had been reviewd by warmistas and thrown out that would have been alright as that’s the majority view. If we used that logic then we’d still have the inquisition and the world would still be flat.
I wonder where he will pop up next, no doubt the warmistas will welcome him with open arms, well he is one of them with out a doubt.

Bernard J.

Wagner resigned because it became apparent to him that the review process was flawed by letting through work that had previously been shown to be crap. He probably sees his primary responsibility as giving up his position as editor, and that it is either Spencer’s & Braswell’s responsibility to retract their own paper, or for it to be scientifically refuted by peer review, as will happen next week in Geophysical Research Letters, in a paer by John Abraham.
Wagner is after all just the editor. He’s not the arbiter of all science – or are you now suggesting that science be conducted soley by editorial primature and prescription? It would certainly cut out that inconvenient nastiness of experimentation, replication, and peer-review…

mark t

Sounds like a legit libel case. Discovery would be interesting.