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Friday, September 2, 2011

Another one bites the dust… Editor of Remote Sensing Resigns Over Spencer-Braswell Pal Review

Another one bites the dust… Editor of Remote Sensing Resigns Over Spencer-Braswell Pal Review

by She Wonk, The Policy Lass blog, September 2, 2011
Denizens of the climate blogosphere will be familiar with Dr. Roy Spencer, who along with William D. Braswell, recently published an article titled “On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance” in an obscure open source journal Remote Sensing.   
Much ado was made of it at the time in the climate denialosphere, such as this post which proclaims “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole in Global Warming Alarmism”.
But wait — what’s that I see?
Turns out that the paper was stinky, as Skeptical Science points out, and as discussed at Real Climate here.
Also turns out that the peer review process was inadequate, so much so that the Editor of Remote Sensing, Wolfgang Wagner, has resigned as a result.
Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science. Their aim is to achieve highest scientific standards by carrying out a rigorous peer review that is, as a minimum requirement, supposed to be able to identify fundamental methodological errors or false claims. Unfortunately, as many climate researchers and engaged observers of the climate change debate pointed out in various internet discussion fora, the paper by Spencer and Braswell [1] that was recently published in Remote Sensing is most likely problematic in both aspects and should therefore not have been published. After having become aware of the situation, and studying the various pro and contra arguments, I agree with the critics of the paper. Therefore, I would like to take the responsibility for this editorial decision and, as a result, step down as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing.
Wagner, who is the head of the Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing at the Vienna University of Technology, added he “would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements”.
Wagner specifically referred to headlines such as “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism” on the Forbes magazine website and “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” on, which both attracted considerable attention online.
The paper in question – which, Wagner says, was downloaded 56,000 times within one month after its publication in July, as a result of the attention it attracted – purported to show how the Earth’s atmosphere is more efficient at releasing energy into space than is programmed into the computer models used to forecast climate change.
An excellent summary posted by Greg Laden here:
A study published in late July made false claims and was methodologically flawed, but still managed to get published in a peer reviewed journal. The Editor-in-Chief of that journal has resigned to symbolically take responsibility for the journal’s egregious error of publishing what is essentially a fake scientific paper, and to “protest against how the authors [and others] have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions” taking to task the University of Alabama’s press office, Forbes, Fox News and others.
Just to refresh your memories, what was the conclusion of the Usual Suspects back in the day, such as Forbes?
The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed.
The key claim:
When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a “huge discrepancy” between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are.
If you want a taste of the original response on the part of self-styled ‘skeptics’, you can go toJudith Curry’s blogWUWT and at Pielke Sr’s Blog, who wrote at the time:
…the Spencer and Braswell is a very major contribution to the climate science debate.   If, as they have shown,  the models are unable to properly represent how the climate system responds to radiative imbalances on short time periods, it certainly raises serious questions on the robustness of the models in terms of their modelled physics which necessarily would result in flawed model simulations on multi-decadal time scales.
I find it quite amusing and vexing how the “skeptics” bleat on about “pal review” and yet afaik, the only two journal editors who have resigned so far have been over skeptic papers. Readers will remember the Climate Research debacle and the resignation of Hans von Storch over the Soon and Baliunas paper.
No, I’m not gloating. I’m not. Really. I’m saddened.
This is just one more sad episode that shows where the real mockery of science and peer review resides and how the media takes poorly reviewed and errantly published denialist dreck and gives it undue traction, and ultimately adds to the noise, obscuring the very serious signal.

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