Lindzen, Soon and Spencer debunked?

By Andy May

On Bret Stephens facebook page, I complimented Mr. Stephens on what I thought was a very good column. I also noted that the eminent climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen had said similar things. To this a George Smith replied, in part, as follows:

“Few “skeptics” have been debunked as much as Lindzen and Spencer.”

Link to comment here.

If you follow the link you will see it is followed with a google search for “Lindzen debunked.” No support, no data, no peer reviewed references, just anything that says “Lindzen debunked.” This is “internet slime” at its worst. We see a lot of this sort of reprehensible behavior around climate science, often by people who have no scientific background at all. But, I am a scientist with 42 years’ experience and have been studying and writing about climate science for years, so I do want to address some of the scurrilous attacks found in this google search.

The first reference in my search led to desmogblog, here. This post is by an anonymous author who calls himself “climate nexus.” The climate nexus group, including Jeff Nesbit and Robert Tanner, does not include anyone with scientific training that I could find. They seem to be a team of professional writers and political hacks.

Their arguments appear to be as vacuous as their resumes. First they claim that climate models are accurate. This has been disproven by Dr. John Christy for the recent past and by Liu, et al. for the entire Holocene epoch. In the figure below (source Javier, here) proxy global average temperatures for the whole Holocene (last 11,500 years) are shown in black. Computer model temperatures calculated by Liu, et al. (2014) are shown in green, carbon dioxide and methane concentrations from ice cores are also shown. For the Neoglacial Period, temperatures go down, but the computer model temperatures go up, so does the carbon dioxide level. Quite obviously, for the Holocene, neither CO2 nor the computer models are predictive of temperature. This has been called the Holocene Temperature Conundrum.

Figure 1 (source here)

Below we see Dr. Christy’s graph comparing computer model temperatures with satellite and weather balloon measurements. I should mention that the satellite and weather balloon measurements are completely independent of one another and support each other:

Figure 2 (source here)

All of this “hottest year on record” nonsense is absurd, we are talking about very small changes in the average temperature. The surface temperature records are only accurate to +-0.2°C at best and almost all of the last 35 years of satellite and weather balloon data fit between -.2°C and +.2°C. The exceptions are the 1998 and 2015 El Ninos and a few other anomalies. Also, see the discussion of temperature accuracy by Lindzen here and especially his figure 1. See below:

Figure 3 (Data sources here and here)

There is a secular warming trend that has persisted since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 19th century. But the Little Ice Age was a very cold period where multiple solar and ocean cycles hit their lows all at once. This is a period of cold that is unlikely to occur again for a very long time, except in a major glacial episode. We should be grateful we are coming out of it. In the Little Ice Age the cold was devastating, glaciers advanced and destroyed villages. The Little Ice Age cold was blamed, in part, for plagues. The public at the time often blamed the cold on Jews and witches and murdered supposed witches by the tens of thousands because they thought the witches were controlling the climate and causing the cold, see the story here. The figure below is a 1486 woodcut of a supposed sorceress conjuring up a hailstorm. It is from Professor Wolfgang Behringer’s excellent book A Cultural History of Climate.

Figure 4, “Anthropogenic Climate Change” (source here)

Then, as now, the public chose to blame people for climate change without proof. We really have not advanced very far in the last 500 years.

For more details about the cause of the Little Ice Age, see the post by Javier here, especially the top frame of figure 6. We can easily see the minimums of the Eddy cycle and the Bray cycle occurring in the Little Ice Age, along with the Wolf, Sporer, Maunder and Dalton solar minima. Coming out of such a cold period we would expect dramatic natural warming.

Desmogblog posts the following comparison of supposed projections by Lindzen and Hansen to an unnamed observation record of global temperatures. Their reference is a blog post at Skeptical Science. Below is the graphic, showing the supposed “comparison.”

Figure 5, the misleading graph in Desmogblog here.

When we go to the source article at skepticalscience here, we find that Dr. Lindzen did not make any temperature predictions in 1989 or in any other year. The line shown above is the author’s (Dana Nuccitelli’s) interpretation of someone’s (Eugene Mallove’s) notes of a lecture given by Dr. Lindzen in 1989. We do not even have Dr. Lindzen’s own notes of the lecture! Below is the actual comparison of Hansen’s 1988 projections to the GISTEMP dataset of surface temperatures.

Figure 6 (source)

Ignore the Lindzen lines, they are made up. Hansen et al., 1988 provided three scenarios. His scenario A is way off, scenario B isn’t bad until the pause (see here) begins about 2000, then it overshoots actual temperatures by quite a bit. They stop the GISTEMP graph in 2008, so we don’t see how bad it actually gets. See figure 2 for a better picture against more accurate measurements. Scenario C is probably the best, but it is not a problem for mankind. Either way, the graph in DeSmogblog is misleading. I would accuse the team of scientific malpractice if they were scientists, but they are not.

They go on to say Lindzen’s Iris effect from tropical clouds has been debunked, which is nonsense. Lindzen’s idea (see here) is alive and well and the subject of vigorous debate, as are all good ideas in science. No one knows whether clouds are a net positive feedback or a net negative feedback on global temperatures, evidence goes both ways. For interesting discussions of clouds and their effects on climate see here and here. I favor Lindzen’s idea personally, as do many scientists, but others disagree. For more on this interesting idea see these posts by Judith Curry and Rud Istvan.  Only time will tell.

Then they go on to my friend Dr. Willie Soon, who was viciously attacked in the New York Times by a Greenpeace written slander piece published on the front page of the paper, disguised as reporting by Justin Gillis and John Schwartz, for more details see here and here.

As for Dr. Roy Spencer, one of the inventors of satellite atmospheric temperature measurements, the idea that he has been debunked is absurd. He is the team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for NASA’s Aqua satellite. His landmark original algorithm for measuring temperature, in the early 1990’s, did not properly take into account satellite orbital decay for sure. But, this was fixed 20 years ago! Why beat a 20-year-old drum! Dr. Spencer is an evangelical Christian, but in the United States we are not supposed to discriminate based on religion, one is free to have their own beliefs. So far as I know, and I’ve read most of what Dr. Spencer has written on climate, his views are very mainstream. None have been debunked, although not everyone agrees with him on all issues.

I write for blogs, including my own, but I try and document what I do and keep it as accurate as possible. Doing google searches for a phrase like “Lindzen debunked” and then picking out headlines that agree with your preconceived ideas and posting them without checking them is disgusting.  Just my opinion.

Published by Andy May

Petrophysicist, details available here:

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