Photoshopping in the "worseness"

Readers may recall that we caught NOAA NCDC red handed putting in a photoshopped flooded house a couple of years back for an official government report.

Image above taken directly from the CCSP report. Read more here

Then there’s the famous polar bear on the ice floe image ursus bogus.


And let’s not forget Al Gore’s hurricanes for his book cover:

So when Tom Nelson asked today “Who’s got time to investigate BlackSmokeGate?” I decided to take on the task. Here’s the photo in question:

Tom was rightfully concerned that white steam rather than smoke comes out of these plants, as shown in this photo.

This station has been identified in the comment section of the article using it as Eggborough power station. Check out the white cloud coming from the power station in this Wikipedia photo.

I decided to run a simple but well known tool to detect if Photoshop had been used. Bingo!

Output from

Basically all that was done was to highlight a part of the steam with the point to point select tool, feather it and adjust the contrast to make it look darker.

[UPDATE: I found a different version of the image on the web at Sky News here and ran it through PSKiller’s detector. It’s even more damning:

PS Quantization tables are a dead giveaway. ]

I’ll bet somebody could find this image original in some stock photo library. It is from John Giles PA Wire. It gets a lot of play according to Nelson. For example here it is used in conjunction with Climategate2:

Nelson asks:

If you have time to compile a list of the mainstream media uses of this photo, please let me know. If you’ve taken some action to protest this propaganda (maybe a letter to an editor?) please also let me know.

By the way, has this photo been altered in any way? [YES – Anthony]

Update: A TinEye search for the top image yields 92 results.

A TinEye search for the bottom image yields 94 results.

To illustrate how easy this is to make black smoke from steam, I located an image of a smoke stack online of the Zimmer Power Plant Smoke Stack in Moscow, Ohio, here

Then I applied the simple technique I described.

  1. highlight a part of the steam with the point to point select tool
  2. feather it
  3. adjust the brightness and contrast to make it look darker.

Granted it was a rush job and I didn’t go all the way to the right in the plume, but this took all of 45 seconds:

See how easy that is to make black smoke where there was only steam before?

UPDATE2: Here’s another example of Photoshop at work. The greens must really hate this power station in Britain. “Black” smoke from cooling towers? Really? Everyone knows they produce water vapor, and even the sun angle doesn’t look right in this one from the Guardian.

Eggborough cooling towers Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

It doesn’t survive the test either:

And yet if you do an image search for this power station, you’ll find nothing like this image anywhere else except on the Guardian Website.

UPDATE: Autonomous Mind looks into the photo above, conversing with the photographer is interesting more for what he doesn’t say. Well worth a read here:

Has the Guardian published fauxtography?

– Anthony


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Maybe this is why Phil Jones and his fellow travellers don’t know how to use Excel. They spend too much time playing with Photoshop! ;->

Nick Shaw

LOL, Paul! Can’t add to that at all!


Charlatans, fraudsters and snake oil sellers the lot of them…


One can also position themselves so that the plume is directly between the photographer and the sun. This will, if the plume is dense enough, make the plume appear dark just as a cloud can appear dark if the sun is behind it but white if viewed from a different angle.
Judging from the lighting and shadow on the stacks, it appears as that is what has been done here. The plume is directly in front of the sun so the photog is taking a picture of the “shadow” side of the plume.
REPLY: I also thought about that possibility, and doing an image search for Eggborough power station I can’t find any image at all like it. I don’t think that is the case here, especially since a contrast adjustment was made. Finding the original will tell for certain. – Anthony

If I remember my PhotoShop, some Replace Color will do even better. Try green fumes 🙂

chris y

Why would you deliberately change the color of water vapor? As we all know, water vapor is a very dangerous greenhouse gas, with an atmospheric lifetime (based on the climate scientist definition of ‘lifetime’) that is essentially infinite. This is much more dangerous than CO2, which has a climatian atmospheric lifetime of *only* a few centuries. Once this anthropogenically released hydrogenated hydroxy poison, this *universal acid*, is dumped into the atmospheric commons, it never goes away. There have already been thousands of documented deaths caused by this toxin, many of them children.
The malicious alteration of this type of photograph to make water vapor look like carbon soot is a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from the real climate threat lying before us-
Watery Anthropogenic Vapor Emissions!

A picture tells the story of photoshop edits 😉 if man made global warming is so obvious why the need for photoshop? I think the problem is the lack of sacrifice of the people. We need to burn more people to appease the economic and volcano gods. If the results are not as models predict then we obviously didn’t burn enough people /sarc


I just opened it in CS5, it’s only 250 X 400 pixels so it is very pixelated. But I don’t think I quite agree with your analysis. I assume you mean the polygonal lasso tool when you say point to point selection. But even feathered that would leave straight edges which this black area does not have.
Maybe they took another plume, darkened it and then layered that on top of the other white plume. I have worked at power plants for 40 years or so and agree that the image is bogus. Plants can emit dark plumes and do so when they are soot blowing which happens daily at least. But the time limit on the dark plume is less than 6 minutes or it has to be reported to the regulatory agencies. And to be honest this is usually done after sunset to avoid public alarm. And if there is an event which trips a unit off line then you can also get dark plumbs while they bring the unit down.
But there is no way to generate a segregated half white half black plume like this one shows out of any stack that I’ve ever seen.

I live in Leeds quite close to the massive power stations of the Yorkshire coalfield – Ferrybridge, Drax and Eggborough. I have always considered them quite monumentally grand and impressive in the flat landscape. Steam comes out of the eggcup shaped cooling towers and the tall chimneys vent the combustion products from burning the coal and also now some biomass. The flue gases have been scrubbed by various processes to render them less noxious.
It seems very wasteful to me just to vent so much hot steam into the atmosphere, In Europe they have urban combined heat and power stations (though not on this massive scale) that provide both electricity and domestic and commercial space heating via steam pipes.


There is a power plant near where I currently live in SW Pennsylvania. When first installed (long ago), it had no pollution controls, but these have been added over the years. Recently my wife said look at all the dirty pollution coming from the stack. Because of the viewing angle, the location of the sun, and the thickness of the plume, it did look quite dark. I pulled to the side of the road, pointed out the SO2 scrubbers, electrostatic precipitators, etc. and told her it was nothing but steam. When we drove back past a little later, it was obviously a white stream of steam.
Even without the SO2 scrubbers, you will not see a dark billowing clouds of smoke. More like a faint non-white mist. I can’t recall seeing a billowing smoke stack in more than 30 years, maybe longer. The Green Peace folks have done the same misleading photo trick at Thailand’s Mae Moh power plant. I know from first hand experience that the Mae Moh plant has modern scrubbers, precipitators, baghouses, etc. Unfortunately for Mae Moh, the low BTU lignite they burn has a high sulfur content and removing 90%+ of the SO2 still releases a lot of SO2.

The BBC regularly uses footage of steam billowing from the cooling towers when talking about “CO2 emissions” and “pollution.” Similar pictures accompany much Greenpeace propaganda and the same for Fiends of the Earth and other eco-terror organisations.


The photo is currently on show (yet again) in the UK Guardian under the rather appropriate headline
“Howlers and omissions exposed in world of corporate social responsibility”
Funnily enough they omit to mention their own howler and lack of social responsibility.
Link is


While not quite a photoshop “worseness”, and more a presidential “worseness”, our honorable President Zuma (South Africa) welcomed our guests to Cop17 in a presidential TV broadcast tonight. Luckily our kids are grown; otherwise they would have been frightened to learn from the President that climate change is already upon us, affecting the lives of millions of our people. So, as long as everybody brought a cheque credit card, cash we should be able to compensate all those millions to make everything right again. Please, if climate change (the catastrophic kind) is already “upon me”, will somebody please point it out – I seem to be missing it.
PS I hope the strikeout across “cheque” and “credit card” works, sort of loses its effect if it doesn’t.


Geoffrey Lean, the Telegraphs environmental correspondent has the same picture on his 24th Nov blog with photo credit (Photo: PA)

Alix James

You can also get this effect by burning (i.e., dodging and burning).

Steve McIntyre

The first photo continues in use by the Government of Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, who use it in a poster.


Simple use of the ‘burn’ tool with a wide brush is more effective. I imagine that’s what was done here..

Bill Marsh

Does anybody really need a tool to think that was photoshopped?
I’ve never seen the delineation between dark and light in a moving smoke cloud that sharp. Please, I guess if earth had no atmosphere it might look like that, but, since it does (oh wait there;s that pesky observation thing again getting in the way) there’s no way that is possible.

geography lady

Steam from a stack makes for a very impressive looking pollution problem. Having worked for a local agency and having to learn to read smoke–you get to calibrate your eyes to the amount of density of smoke coming out of a machine–I haven’t seen much in the last 30+ years from smoke stacks. Just impressive steam pictures. But much of the public thinks it is pollution because the media or the TV celeb says it is pollution.
—Discusting to me.

This reminds me of a journey I made in Germany by train. I saw from quite some distance a white plume going into the air, apparently a condensating steam plume from a powerplant. It was nice bright white and formed half a bow just like a rainbow does do when it shows up while rain and sun are acting together. At the top of the bow the white bright bow disappeared and turned into somewhat greyish shine, then the bow continued downwards and when the train and me in it approached the site somewhat closer the bow went down and was completely black! It shadowed the sky behind it, the light could hardly come through the black plume although it was widening already. So in these nice white shiny droplets coming up from the big chimney there were black condensation nuclei where the steam had condensed upon. This black plume went completely opposite and mirrorwise to the white plume and went down to earth again. So the people about ten kilometers further away from the plant may have smelt some unpleasant odour and there laundry may have turned black.
So Anthony, maybe you speeded up the reality by blackening this plume at the shadow side and maybe you thought having illustrated a falsification, but meanwhile it could be just the simple truth:
white plumes (often) hide black plumes.

Dire Wolf

With or without photoshop, this is an old and treasured technique of Global Warmism. A few years ago at a barbershop I found my self yelling at a TV showing a Discovery Channel warmist screed illustrated by huge plumes of steam obviously ascending from the cooling towers of a nuke plant. What made it even more bizzare in context was that this was near Charleston, WV where everyone regularly passes an identical plant on the highway. For Warmists any plume is CO2 (even though CO2 is invisible).

Of course the blackish plume is photoshopped, it is because the edges and the sky behind would be to shiny, so you have to do something to get these too large contrasts in light in good proportions. The plume could consist of very big droplets and then there is so much light backscattered that the backside is completely shadowed. The same happens with nimbo cumulus even without cloud and lightsource being in the same direction.
To find in such a minor contrastfull made photo a proof for window dressing or whatsoever is just very childish, please keep yourself to more appropriate comments on climate news.

Dire Wolf, it is not the “warmists” who use such photos for articles, but it is the media: they want to show plumes if the subject is emission. by the way, only white plumes from cooling towers are not accompanied with CO2, al other plumes are. So in fact it is not really wrong to couple CO2 tot plumes.


Scorle says:
November 25, 2011 at 11:46 am
“This reminds me of a journey I made in Germany by train. […]
So in these nice white shiny droplets coming up from the big chimney there were black condensation nuclei where the steam had condensed upon. ”
Hmm. We installed a lot of flue gas scrubbers approx 1995 in old East German power plants. In which year did you travel, and was it Western or Eastern Germany?


The plume contains some water vapour, but it is not steam. It is mainly nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Water vapour comes partly from dampness of the fuel, but also water contained in crystal form in mineral impurities (coals are typically about 50% carbon).
A great deal of design effort goes into making power stations as efficient as possible. There are reasons why the flue gas is hot. One reason is to avoid condensation inside the stack, to avoid corrosion due to the acidity of some of the combustion products (even after scrubbing).
Another important design objective is the work done by the heat contained in the flue gases. The heat ensures that the flue rises and disperses, and energy needs to be provided to achieve this.
The main reasons why power stations are not more efficient are: (1) the third law of thermodynamics; and (2) restrictions on building new plant which leave us with no choice but to run relatively inefficient 1970’s technology (the power station equivalent of those quaint old cars in Cuba).

I find this particularly worrisome. When the next Pope is elected (signalled by a puff of white smoke from the Sistine chapel smoke stack) the worlds media will not be capable of discerning it through their global warming glasses.
It could be a long election process as black smoke signals – no result.


Scorle says:
November 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm
“Dire Wolf, it is not the “warmists” who use such photos for articles, but it is the media: they want to show plumes if the subject is emission.”
Most of the media are warmists.
” by the way, only white plumes from cooling towers are not accompanied with CO2, al other plumes are. So in fact it is not really wrong to couple CO2 tot plumes.”
So it is not really wrong to photoshop the material you want to use in reports? You must be a fan of Hisbollah and Reuters.

Dirk H. I am fan of posting relevant information on scientific climate issues on a site that is claiming willing to do so. However discussions about if a condensing cloud looks dark at the shadow site or not is interesting from physics and photographers point of view, but it has nothing to do with global warming issues.
The the story about the white cloud turning black after evaporation of the droplets.
The white cloud I saw was formed outside the chimneys: to capture the droplets they should have
made sufficient supersaturation (cooling) before the chimney and more precisely before the droplet capturing devices. May be they did, probably they did even, but even then you have a lot of interstitual aerosol, sized 100 to 500 nanometer, not acting as cloud condensation nuclei and again supersaturation behind the chimney as long as you end up above ambient temperature. Since it was a bit freezing on that day it would have been a hell of a job to get the dew point from about 30 to 40 degrees to below zero to avoid supersaturation in ambient air.
So you see it was a normal plume from a burning process at a company 9in West-Germany) and although I do not know what kind of company, I assume they are restricted by legislations concerning the emissions.
It is not strange to see such amount of black aerosol if there was for instance a coal fired process of a steel company.
It is just that they cannot capture all the aerosol. However, my point was: even when a white plume seems to be clean with shiny bright waterdroplets, it can hide a lot of nasty blackish stuff (in the droplets and between the droplets) that becomes often only visible after loosing the camouflage of the light effecting droplets.


I should add that my previous post was referring to stack emissions.
The visible plume rising from cooling towers is water vapour. However worth repeating that nobody is wilfully being wasteful, the rejected heat comes from basic thermodynamics.
It is being wasteful to operate old power stations – new coal fired plant would be somewhat more efficient (although “somewhat” equates to a lot of fuel), but would be blocked by planning and permitting.


Everyone knows it is evil black “carbon” that is causing the earth to burn and what it should look like. It is just inconvenient that it does not show up where it is needed to be. Referring properly to CO2 “would just dilute the message” of course.

why don’t we reverse engineer it back to it’s pre photoshop image? Searching for it’s twin would be easier.
Now how to do that? Don’t know. But I think Crosspatch is on to something with his guess that the clouds are back lit by the sun. Perhaps this photo is a combination of careful camera placement and photoshop enhancing.

The angle of the sun in the sky would be about 15 – 20 degrees above the horizon. That means the background blue sky is shaded too dark.

There is no evidence of “Photoshopping” as you call it. When you constantly cry wolf, especially in areas you don’t understand, you are going to destroy your own credibility.
According to the AP guidelines ( you can use Photoshop for minor adjustments, like cropping and resizing the image. This will result in PhotoShop tags and quantization tables being used. PhotoShop automatically does some minor contrast and sharpening adjustments. It’s not a ‘smoking gun’ that the image has been intentionally distorted.
The distortion in this image comes from taking the picture with the sun behind the towers, causing the exhaust plume to have deep shadows. Except for a full image contrast adjustment, there is no need for the type of techniques described by Anthony. (I suspect a full image contrast adjustment may have been done to emphasize the difference between light and dark, making the dark blacker).
I found a similar image ( and ran it through te PSKiller website, and it found nothing except for missing EXIF info.
If Anthony had any real evidence, rather than insinuation, this would be a major scandal, the photographer John Giles would be fired, and the AP would remove his images from the collection (eg.
If you want to learn about finding real evidence of image manipulation, you should check out Neal Krawetz’s blog

Hmm… Just an idea, don’t know if it would work but if you wanted to remove those particular traces of photoshopping, why not do your photoshopping, then take a picture of the photoshopped picture and then present that as the original?

Warren in Minnesota

I disagree with the identification of the station. The Wikipedia photo of the Eggborough station shows one flue at the top of the chimney. The photo associated with BlackSmokeGate has two flues. This difference is my disagreement.

Scorle says:
To find in such a minor contrastfull made photo a proof for window dressing or whatsoever is just very childish, please keep yourself to more appropriate comments on climate news.
Except that the entire global warming enterprise is an endless parade of window dressing, and that is exactly what this picture is used for, 94 times and counting.


I am a press photographer and made comments under this post of Tom’s on him blog this morning. I invite you all to go and read them. The photographer works for Associated Press (Press Association in the UK). If anyone so suspects that the image was altered beyond what he took, feel free to ring him up and discuss, or email. As a fellow press photographer, I would surmise there is no ‘enhancement’ in this photo, perhaps some contrast added. In our profession, it is a firing offense to meddle with nature. It is what it is. Billowing steam, possibly on a cool morning, backlit by sun, just as clouds are perpetually backlit. Clouds that are ‘thick’ darken, sometimes to near black, clouds that are ‘thin’ tend to white. The poster above who suggested the dark side is the shadow of the thick steam has it correct. This photo was taken for greatest visual impact, for better or for worse. The “problem” with it is that most innocent viewers will assume it is filth they are seeing instead of a cloud.

I note an oil slick emerging from behind the pinkish house?

Here is another image by John Giles of the same stack, that you can analyze with TinEye and PSKiller:,,2306742_4,00.jpg

Steve from Rockwood

crosspatch says:
November 25, 2011 at 10:21 am
One can also position themselves so that the plume is directly between the photographer and the sun. This will, if the plume is dense enough, make the plume appear dark just as a cloud can appear dark if the sun is behind it but white if viewed from a different angle.
An honorable person would not use a darkened photograph of “steam” in a photo on pollution.


Reply to Marchesrosa:
Power plants generate a LOT of water vapor. But by the time it gets to the top of the stack it has been run thru a number of heat extraction devices to suck every bit of recoverable eanergy from the hot gasses. However you have to leave the gasses hot enough to carry up to the top of the stack and away into the air. So you cannot remove all the heat.


The issue is not the content of the photo, but what the photo is said to represent. Don’t forget, there was never any enhancement or alteration of the beautiful photos of polar bears said by crooks to be ‘stranded’. That photo was taken innocently enough but was subsequently used for nefarious purposes. Such is the case with this steam photo. I live in a steel producing factory town. We received complaints over the years for using dramatic looking photos of steam from our stacks as if … well, just as this photo is being used and arguably abused.


And finally… 🙂 We press photographers use photoshop for every single photo we take. Like some people use Word for every single word they write. The verb ‘to photoshop’ has connotations beyond, and is subject to misuse. If the photographer enhanced this photo beyond what he and the camera fairly saw, he and the AP should be taken to task. Like I’ve said, we don’t take kindly to undeclared manipulation, as in Al Gore’s hurricane set up above.


Lol – I live in Fort McMurray – the most photo-shopped stacks on the planet. In by far the most photo-shopped tailings ponds, landscape – or moonscape if using the photo-shopped version – since this planet was formed 4+ billion years ago. You guys are ALL small time amateurs – we destroy entire planets. We are the only true professionals on a planet destroying level these little pipes shown here wouldn’t even qualify as a home furnace chimney in my neighborhood. Sorry if this appears rude – but my response is indeed correct.


The last photo with the “black” steam rising from the cooling towers has also been cropped. The tall stack is emitting a plume that is casting a shadow over the cooling towers and making the steam from the cooling towers look blacker than it should. The full photo is very small, but can be seen at:
This is not to say that other tricks have not been played with the pictutre: heightening contrast, etc.




The UK has a code of practise that all news editors are supposed to adhere to. Lets see what the first clause is

1 Accuracy
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.



Found a similar photo. Looks like the same power plant. Steam cloud is slightly different, but has been photoshopped in a similar way. Actually, it almost looks like they did a better job on this one, as the one you have posted above has definite artifacts of contrast change (with apologies to robertdavidgraham, but my husband was able to see the artifacts after just a few seconds of looking at the picture).

Vince Causey

The Giles picture could well appear dark because it is backlit. More interesting is the Eggborough photo by Murdo Macleod.
It is clear from the shadows that the sun is positioned to the left of the towers and from a direction that is behind the camera. We know this to be true by considering 2 distinct shadows. The front right cooling tower does not have any shadow from the left towers falling upon it. If you look at where the shadow of the front left tower falls, you can see it is upon the second tower from front in the right hand row. Notice also, that of the four towers in the left hand row, all are bathed in sunlight except for a vertical shadow falling on the third tower from the front. Where does this come from?
To find the answer, scroll up to an earlier, wider shot of Eggborough, where the camera has captured a tall stack. This stack is positioned well to the front of the tower with the shadow. This further confirms that in the Macleod picture, the sun is to the left and behind the camera.
Now, we can be certain that the dark shadows cannot be the result of deliberate underexposure of a back lit object. There is absolutely no explanation why the cloud appears dark in that area. Then if you look closely at the dark area, you can see that it has a straight edge to it. This is an impossible result of natural shadow, because there is no straight edge at that position that could have caused such a shadow.
The only conclusion is that the photo has been doctored to render a dark area.

Gail Combs

I think I agree with the Prof. Photographer. The Photo was not “Photoshopped” It was created using filters and high contrast type film. The very dark blue of the sky and the unrelieved black of the towers are the dead give away.
I created some very dramatic sunset pictures in the 1970’s just by underexposing the film.Might be worth an experiment to see if one of us can reproduce this type of picture just by under exposing the film in an old 35 mm camera.