Q. How did WUWT get started?
A. WUWT started out as a broad interest science blog under the umbrella of the Chico Enterprise Record Newspaper “NorCalBlogs” in 2006, where it is still listed. I decided to start blogging there because I had an interest in exploring and doing some experiments about “gee whiz” things. For awhile, it was general science and tech interest, catering mainly to local readers, but in the spring of 2007 that changed. One of the experiments in 2007 was something I’d always wondered about when I was in college in 1976, charged with setting up a remote weather station for Purdue University as a student assistant to the meteorology department (I was later hired full-time as a staff member). When I assembled the Stevenson Screen shelter, I was shocked to discover that whitewash was coming of in my hands, and even more shocked to discover that was still the standard coating for all U.S. Weather Bureau shelters. Later I learned that about 1979 the standard was switched to latex paint. I’d always wondered what that did to the ambient temperature characteristics, but never investigated it until I started blogging. In spring 2007, I did some paint experiments to test the differences, and while inspecting local NOAA weather stations to see how their paint characteristics were, discovered oddities in station siting in nearby station Chico and Marysville that led me to realize that there was an even bigger issue with station siting, one that eclipsed the paint issues. That led to the surfacestations.org project, which grew to international interest. In late 2007, to handle the traffic and to provide better blogging features, WUWT moved from the Chico ER Newspaper server to wordpress.com, where it remains today.
Q. Why do you blog?
A. I’ve been a TV and radio broadcaster since 1974, when I helped my high school setup a student radio station program. In 1978, I began doing television at WLFI-TV in West Lafayette, IN while working at the Purdue Meteorology Department as a meteorological technician and later at KHSL-TV in Chico, CA from 1987 to 2002. Currently I do daily radio broadcasts at Newstalk 1290 in Chico. Broadcasting and blogging seem much alike to me. Both jobs require you to be always “on”, and both jobs require you to be able to keep an audience interested. I simply see blogging as a natural extension of broadcasting in a different medium. The best part about blogging is that I can do it from anywhere, anytime. I don’t have to put on a suit and tie, do makeup, or be in a studio. Blogging also allows more freedom than TV or radio because there are no time constraints, and presentations can be far more detailed.
I also blog because it is interesting, mentally challenging, and it allows me to meet new and interesting people. Prior to blogging, I had few contacts outside of my local sphere of influence. Now, I have friends and associates worldwide.
Now that WUWT has become the most viewed (and arguably the most well-known) website in the world on climate related issues, I feel a sense of duty to keep people informed. I also feel a duty to make known what I see as the untold story of the climate debate from the climate skeptic side.
Q. Were you always a climate skeptic?
A. No, actually in June 1988 I recall watched the newsfeed at KHSL-TV of Dr. James Hansen’s address before congress telling of the issues of CO2 and its effects and that we a as nation had to do something about it. That moved me, and I though we needed to do something. I had wondered what I could do and in 1990 I came up with an idea that combined my emerging talents in computer graphics for television weather with doing something about the global warming problem. I approached the National Arbor Day Foundation in Lincoln Nebraska about an idea which was to provide TV weather-casters nationwide a series of computer graphics slides and animations that would tell the global warming story, and explain how planting trees could help offset CO2. Then president John Rosenow granted me the greenlight, and the production was put into motion. With the help of CBS Newsfeed’s Steven Ackerman, the graphics presentation was sent via their satellite newsfeed to all CBS affiliate stations and through an announcement on AP newswire, non CBS stations were told how to tune in and capture the video feed for use on their station. The program ran on TV stations during weathercasts in the week leading up to Earth Day 1990 and was dubbed “Arbor Day Weather Week”. 174 TV stations participated, and about 250,000 trees were planted (according to National Arbor Day’s logged requests for free Colorado Blue Spruce Seedings) as a result of the program. The program was repeated in 1991.
Clearly, I was fully engaged in the idea that global warming was a serious problem. It wasn’t until the mid 1990’s that I began to question the issue. My questioning started due to a professional friendship that came about with Jim Goodridge, who was the State Climatologist of California, and had retired to Chico. He had showed me some of his investigations into California’s temperature and precipitation records that didn’t quite add up to some of the claims about warming I was reading about. In a short essay published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 1996, Mr, Goodridge demonstrated that California counties warming rates varied with population, and when I saw this graph from his BAMS paper, that was the moment when I really began to question if the observed surface warming was really a signal of CO2 or an artifact of UHI and population growth.
Q. How often do you create blog posts?
A. Typically during weekdays, about 5-8 per day. On weekends, typically 2-4, though sometimes none except an “open thread” where people can talk about any topic. It all depends on how many other things I have to do.
Q. What’s a typical blogging day for you?
I typically scan the news, RSS feeds, and email contacts each morning about 630AM PST, and have one or two blog posts immediately following that. I then schedule other blog posts for auto-publishing later in the day. Some of these might be news items or guest essays submitted by the community. I then go to my regular business office during the day. I typically write another blog post around lunchtime, and one later in the afternoon, one in the early evening from home, and one or two for auto-publishing late at night around midnight to 3AM for people in Europe to read.
Q. Are you paid to blog?
A. No. There are some people who have this idea that because I put so much effort into WUWT that I must be on somebody’s payroll and that my stories are “pay for play” or something like that. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being a broadcaster, the surest way to kill a career is to run afoul of the FCC’s payola laws, and because I see blogging as just another style of broadcasting, I’d never consider “pay for play”. Besides, most people don’t know how I abhor “dead air”, be it on radio, TV, or in blogging. I’m self motivated to keep it interesting and fresh. Plus, WUWT’s reach gives me a larger sense of purpose.
WUWT doesn’t run articles for hire, it is not nor has it ever been on the payroll of any company or organization (and that goes for me personally too), and it is managed mostly by myself with the help of about half a dozen volunteer moderators.
That said, I do get some revenue from some Amazon book sales via their referral program, and from the wordpress.com sponsored advertising program which is a revenue sharing arrangement. Advertising is placed on WUWT by wordpress.com and WUWT gets a portion of the ad revenue from wordpress.com just like many other wordpress hosted blogs do. WUWT also gets occasional personal donations via the PayPal button on the right sidebar, and we sometimes sell promotional items such as coffee mugs, t-shirts, and calendars. One of the most humorous episodes of the “you are in the pay of some big oil/big activist outfit” meme WUWT often gets accused of came in December 2012 when our volunteer community cartoonist “Josh” in the UK decided to collect some of his artwork into a calendar. He offered WUWT a version for the US as well, and I had to come up with a way to print them and sell the for readers. I chose COSTCO’s calendar service because they could print and drop ship and I never had to touch them.
For fun and since it was Christmas time, I sent a few calendars out to some well known climate activists, Gavin Schmidt, Peter Gleick, Dana Nucitelli, and the infamous Dr. Michael Mann. The insular Dr. Mann had apparently never seen COSTCO before (since there isn’t one in State College, PA where he resides) and upon receipt of the free calendar, got the hilarious idea that it was funded by some activist campaign. I set the record straight here: Too Funny! I send Michael Mann a free WUWT calendar as a Christmas gift, and he goes full conspiracy theory including showing my COSTCO Photo Center receipts. It just go to show how perceptions by people who want to paint you as being a bad guy can be erroneous.
Q. Do you accept paid advertising?
A. Generally no, as it conflicts with the wordpress.com ad sharing program. There are some ads on WUWT’s right sidebar for my own business interests and for some Amazon books. Occasionally WUWT may highlight a product or service of interest, or promote a cause that needs funding such as the 50 to 1 project, but WUWT takes no portion of these promotions and they are done as a community service.
Q. What about that $44,000 that supposedly came from the Heartland Institute that was written about by document thief Dr. Peter Gleick?
A. First, that didn’t come from Heartland, it came from an independent donor that Heartland helped me find through their networking.
Second, that was specifically for a special project my company is doing to make data from the Climate Reference Network more widely available and easier to view for the layman. Currently NOAA does not include the state of the art Climate Reference Network data in their monthly State of the Climate Reports, even though it is a superior system. More about this here.
The project was to be funded to completion in 2012, but due to interference by Gleick, that second phase funding seems unlikely to materialize. That said, an effort is being made to complete the project sans that second half funding. Preliminary output maps were highlighted on WUWT here. Year end data for 2012 was announced here. The second phase was to be completed in 2013, and it is hoped that can be done and the finished fully automated website made fully operational and public then.
Q. Aren’t you paid to go to Heartland conferences?
A. Yes, and that’s nothing any different from what any other organization does. Like any other invited speaker at a conference, trade show, or conclave, Heartland pays a small honorarium and travel expenses for people they invite to speak at their conferences. For example, Dr. Scott Denning, a scientist who is on the opposite side of the climate debate from me who has spoken at Heartland conferences, got the same honorarium and travel reimbursements that I did. (Update: as of 4/4/2019 I am now listed as a “senior fellow” of Heartland, which means I will be writing and contributing op-ed pieces they will distribute)
Q. How much traffic does WUWT get?
A. In a typical month, about 3 to 4 million page views, about 25-30% if which are unique visitors. As of this writing WUWT is closing in on 150 million views. The current views counter is near the top of the right sidebar.
Q. How can I submit a guest essay to WUWT?
Q. Why do a couple of guest essays have nom de plum names? Aren’t you adamant about people putting their names behind their words?
A. Anyone who publishes on WUWT must be known to the proprietor, and they are all known to me. This requirement is mainly for legal reasons. When running a large enterprise such as this, there may be a legal challenges to writing, and the writer must be held accountable for his/her own words in that case. For the few occasions where somebody wants to publish on WUWT using a nom de plume, the first requirement is full disclosure before publication, and that communications is recorded should there ever be an issue in the future. Of the nearly 10,000 posts on WUWT, there are just a few that were given the opportunity to publish this way. For good reason, some of those authors fear things like this from activists such as Greenpeace: We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.
Publishing on WUWT under a nom de plume known to the proprietor is different from anonymous commenters or some of my Doppelganger blog children who use the cloak of anonymity to launch personal attacks against me or contributors to WUWT. For example, in a U.S. court of law, the accused is given the right to openly face the accuser(s). WUWT’s author policy of allows for that if need be. With external attackers who claim self-righteousness under the cloak of anonymity, not so much.
Q. Why are some topics unwelcome at WUWT?
A. WUWT is often bombarded with topics that have a track record of being never-ending tar pits of discussion that often turn ugly. Quite frankly, I simply don’t have the time nor the inclination to play babysitter/umpire for some of those discussions that get out of hand. For that reason our policy page lists topics that we don’t cover.
Q. Why haven’t you responded to (insert some wailing claim about WUWT on somebody’s website)?
A. Never explain – your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway. Elbert Hubbard