Climategate 2009 (preserved but not deleted)

Link: back to my original climate science page

Do the Climategate Emails Cut Both Ways? (yes)

Two scientists (Roy Spencer and John Christy) at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) where getting a lot of attention from the denier community which prompted me to investigate further. While in the middle of reading some of their publications I received an email containing this URL ( ) which will allow any visitor to search through the stolen emails at the heart of the November 2009 controversy known as Climatgate. I pulled up the main web page then entered the phrase "spencer christy" into the search box which brought up 34 hits. One of them presented this 2005 email:
From: Phil Jones <>
To: "Michael E. Mann" <>
Subject: Empire Strikes Back - return of proper science !
Date: Fri May 20 13:45:26 2005


Just reviewed Caspar's paper with Wahl for Climatic Change. Looks pretty good.
Almost reproduced your series and shows where MM have gone wrong. Should keep
them quiet for a while. Also they release all the data and the R software. Presume
you know all about this. Should make Keith's life in Ch 6 easy !
Also, confidentially for a few weeks, Christy and Spencer have admitted
at the Chicago CCSP meeting that their 2LT record is wrong !! They used the wrong
sign for the diurnal correction ! Series now warms - not quite as much as the surface
but within error bands. Between you and me, we'll be going with RSS in Ch 3
and there will be no discrepancy with the surface and the models. Should make Ch 3
a doddle now ! Keep quiet about this until Bern at least. Can tell you more then.
RSS (Carl Mears and Frank Wentz) found the mistake !
The skeptic pillars are tumbling !

Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email
This was the first time I knew of this issue which prompted me to look elsewhere.

Using Search Engines to Learn More

  1. Dropping the next line into a Google text box will allow you restrict your search to the IPCC site: Mears Wentz Spencer Christy

    note: the "site:" parameter is used to restrict Google searches to any web site you specify; no need to include the "http://" or "https://" prefix
  2. Next you should Google these phrases (blogs will be less useful to you than scientific journals or pages from NASA or NOAA):

    Mears Wentz
    Mears Wentz Spencer Christy
  3. One interesting hit came from a 2005 article in Science ( which is run by the AAAS) titled: "The Effect of Diurnal Correction on Satellite-Derived Lower Tropospheric Temperature". Since I didn't have a subscription to read the full article, I dropped the quoted title into Google which yielded this hit:
    Abstract: "The Effect of Diurnal Correction on Satellite-Derived Lower Tropospheric Temperature" by Carl A. Mears and Frank J. Wentz

    Satellite-based measurements of decadal-scale temperature change in the lower troposphere have indicated cooling relative to Earth's surface in the tropics. Such measurements need a diurnal correction to prevent drifts in the satellites' measurement time from causing spurious trends. We have derived a diurnal correction that, in the tropics, is of the opposite sign from that previously applied. When we use this correction in the calculation of lower tropospheric temperature from satellite microwave measurements, we find tropical warming consistent with that found at the surface and in our satellite-derived version of middle/upper tropospheric temperature. - original paper published in SCIENCE

The "Coles Notes" Summary of this Dispute

Introduction to Climate Measurements

Radiosonde weather probes are launched from balloons at eight hundred locations every day (and this has been going on since the late 1950s). Nearly all routine launches occur 45 minutes before the official observation times of 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC, so as to provide an instantaneous snapshot of the atmosphere. The measurements are sent to various groups like the World Meteorological Organization where they are made available to everyone in the whole world. Since error-prone humans were involved in collecting radiosonde data, many people believed more accurate and consistent measurements could be obtained using weather satellites.
But satellites can't measure temperature directly so how do they do it? Most people reading this will already possess some hands-on practical experience using microwave ovens where microwave radio waves are employed to induce water molecules to oscillate, thus producing kinetic energy in the form of heat. The reverse is also true in that atmospheric heat will induce atmospheric molecules to oscillate which, in turn, will release microwaves which can be detected by specially constructed radio receivers. The intensity and frequency of these microwaves enable satellites to infer, by proxy, the temperature and composition of the atmosphere below.
  • Each molecule has its own signature microwave frequency but the NOAA satellites only measure the EM signals generated by Oxygen
  • It is really important to properly interpret satellite spot measurements from successive polar orbits. For example, after you remove the changes due to a rotating tilted Earth, if you compare measurements at 7:09 today with measurements from 7:10 yesterday, you might falsely infer a cooling trend (because today's measurement was one minute closer to sunrise).
  • The NOAA satellites are above the atmosphere with sensors banks "pointed out the side" and "downward" to approximate measurements from different altitudes. Remember that measuring downward requires you collect all downward signals then subtract middle and upper measurements. Lots of error bars here.
  • The first generation of satellites only employed three primary channels and provided data from 1978 to 1998
  • The second generation of satellites employed 15+5 primary channels starting with 1998
Two Groups, Two Results

It turned out that there had been previous disagreements between the two published interpretations of publically available raw satellite measurements.
  1. One interpretation came from RSS (Remote Sensing Systems) and indicated global warming. This agreed with radiosonde data.
  2. The other interpretation came from UAH (University of Alabama at Huntsville) and indicated global cooling. This disagreed with radiosonde data.
It wasn't until 2003 that the RSS researchers finally got access to the algorithms used by the UAH researchers. The RSS researchers noticed two critical errors: One of them was a sign error in the diurnal correction term, the other was an algebraic error. Mears and Wentz of RSS published their findings in the 2 September 2005 issue of Science which is a weekly publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In the letters area of the same issue, Roy Spencer and John Christy acknowledged the errors then added "that the UAH numbers now indicate a slight warming”. The letters go back and forth for a few months.

This is why this corrected chart titled Surface and Satellite Temperatures contains almost identical trend lines (slopes) for both RSS and UAH. Reading the description under the chart will throw more light onto the subject. The observant viewer will have noticed that the slope indicates a rise of 0.16C per decade. This translates into 0.29F per decade for those few countries not yet on the metric system.

Articles describing Satellite Temperature Measurement Science can be found here (listed in order of simplicity):
Satellite measurements of warming in the troposphere

Of Satellites and Air – A Primer on Tropospheric temperature measurement by Satellite

Climate Change & Tropospheric Temperature Trends

Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedback

The Political Controversy

No scientists have ever, or would ever, fault Roy Spencer and John Christy for making mistakes. All humans make mistakes; though scientists are trained to avoid the pit-falls which usually trip up non-scientists. This is why scientists value the peer-review publishing process so that errors don't escape into the wild where they would be picked up by the popular press.

However, while Spencer and Christy admitted their mistakes to the scientific community in 2005, they continued to tell the world that their interpretation of satellite data still proved there was no global warming. In fact, Spencer authored two books along this line: "Climate Confusion" (2008) and "The Great Global Warming Blunder" (2010)

When non-science people began searching through the Climatgate emails meant to discredit climate science as well as the climate scientists at the CRU they stumbled on the names of Spencer and Christy. Oops! Hey, aren't these two guys always on FOX News and conservative talk radio saying Earth is cooling? Once you learn that Roy Spencer is on the board of directors of George C Marshall Institute (an organization previously known for publishing misleading papers doubting the hazards of "smoking tobacco", "second hand smoke", etc.) then you realize that the invisible hand of big business is involved.

But then John Christy lied to congress while helping to destroy the reputation of another scientist

I stumbled across this Record of U.S.A. Congressional Testimony where John Christy is caught lying (I do not know if he was under oath but this guy is a self-described Christian who still teaches the Bible classes at a Sunday school. Shame)

  • 109th Congress House Hearings
    From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
    DOCID: f:31362.wais
  • Document links:
  • then search for the phrase "I want to ask Dr. Christy"
  • Excerpt:
    • MR. WAXMAN. Thank you. I want to ask Dr. Christy about this because you stated that you provided your computer code to other researchers when it has been requested, and you specifically mentioned providing your code to Remote Sensing Systems or RSS. Is that accurate?
    • DR. CHRISTY. We provide the part of the code that was in question.
    • MR. WAXMAN. Well, I contacted RSS about your testimony and Mr. Frank Wentz sent me a letter last night, and he wrote to say, "Dr. Christy has never been willing to share his computer code in a substantial way," and he provides the text of a 2002 e-mail exchange between RSS and yourself. And according to this letter when asked for your code, you replied "I don't see how sharing code would be helpful because there are at least seven programs that are executed (several thousands lines of code) and we would be forced to spend a considerable amount of time trying to explain coding issues of the spaghetti we wrote." In light of this letter, Dr. Christy, I would be interested if you care to clarify your testimony because Mr. Wentz wrote further, "I think the complexity issue was a red herring. My interpretation of Dr. Christy's response is he simply didn't want us looking over his shoulder, possibly discovering errors in his work. So we had to take a more tedious trial-and-error approach to uncovering the errors in his methods." And then he went on to explain "RSS manages data software from a large array of climate satellites." What do you say about that? That sounds inconsistent with what you have told us.
    • DR. CHRISTY. We shared with them the parts of the code that they were most concerned about. What is called the drift effect was one of them. Because ours were machine dependent and so on like that but we did share not only that but we also shared the intermediate data to say, okay, if you implement this code this is the intermediate data you should get, and that is what they published.
    • MR. WAXMAN. I must say I am a politician as all the people here at our dais are and all of us engage in politics as we know it, but here is a session with scientists, and you went ahead and attacked Dr. Mann, who is an accomplished and respected climate researcher. I think you and Dr. Wegman attempted to smear his good name. Now I just got a letter from another person--
    • MR. WHITFIELD. The gentleman's time has expired.
    • MR. WAXMAN. --in your field who says that you haven't been forthcoming, so I just want to point out to all of you, we don't do the back biting as frequently as it seems to me that some of you scientists seem to do to each other.
    • MR. WHITFIELD. But Dr. Christy did say that he shared part of the code that he asked for.
    • DR. CHRISTY. Yes. They got what they wanted.
    • MR. WAXMAN. May I ask unanimous consent to put the letter from Dr. Wentz in the record?
    • MR. WHITFIELD. Without objection.
    • MR. STEARNS. I would object, Mr. Chairman.
    • MR. WHITFIELD. Okay. Objection.
    • MR. STEARNS. I object just because I think staff should have an opportunity to see the letter first.
    • MR. WHITFIELD. Okay.
    • MR. WAXMAN. I certainly would share it with staff. Assuming staff sees no objection from the letter that I received last night, I would like to--
    • MR. STEARNS. Mr. Chairman, you remember last time that I asked a letter to be submitted to the record and they objected until they saw it--
    • MR. STUPAK. But we put the letter in.
    • MR. STEARNS. I know, but I produced a letter for the gentleman.
    • MR. WHITFIELD. If I could have order a minute. We will look at the letter. We will have staff look at the letter. In the meantime I recognize the Chairman of the full committee for 10 minutes.

Academic Proof (from 2003)

Original Paper (from 2005)

Abstract: "The Effect of Diurnal Correction on Satellite-Derived Lower Tropospheric Temperature" by Carl A. Mears and Frank J. Wentz

Satellite-based measurements of decadal-scale temperature change in the lower troposphere have indicated cooling relative to Earth's surface in the tropics. Such measurements need a diurnal correction to prevent drifts in the satellites' measurement time from causing spurious trends. We have derived a diurnal correction that, in the tropics, is of the opposite sign from that previously applied. When we use this correction in the calculation of lower tropospheric temperature from satellite microwave measurements, we find tropical warming consistent with that found at the surface and in our satellite-derived version of middle/upper tropospheric temperature. - original paper published in SCIENCE

Those questionable blogs

I decided to search a little further and came up with theses blog pages which do not contain the academic coolness of a published peer-reviewed science paper. Nevertheless, it throws a little more light on the bad science produced by some people (Caveat: beware, almost all blogs contain questionable material)
So, thank the deity for the Climategate hackers because I might have never found out about this HUGE mistake. My main questions now are:
  1. If Roy Spencer and John Christy knew about their mistake in 2003 why did they not come clean until 2005?
  2. Why do Roy Spencer and John Christy still claim that they are correct while the combined efforts of several thousand, actively publishing, peer reviewed scientists in this field are wrong? Are they just saving face? Did they think Joe Citizen wouldn't read the papers published in professional scientific journals?

Spencer and Christy "Fess Up" (sort of)

  • introduction to microwave satellite measurements used by Roy Spencer and John Christy
    • (overview and critique)
    • Christy Quote from 2009: "I am writing the American Meteorological Society's report on upper air temperatures {to the IPCC}. I have seven data sets in there. Turns out there all very very close together. So the planet is warming about 0.14 degrees C per decade right now."
      • NSR Comments: 0.14 C per decade translates to 1.4 C per century; this is equivalent to 2.52 F per century
    • Roy Spencer Quote to the BBC: "I think when we made that correction, if I'm remembering correctly, I think we went from a cooling trend to a slight warming trend and ever since then it has been a warming trend, actually by ever increasing amounts"
      • NSR Comments:
        • here Roy Spencer does the honorable thing by referring to changes in UAH publications before and after algebraic errors were discovered in the UAH algorithms
        • but perhaps 0.15 C or 0.16 C per decade more accurately reflect the 0.30 C increase seen in the last 18 years (see next line item)
        • New Scientist 21-May-2016 : Hot, hot, hot. April was the seventh month in a row to smash global temperature records, but a brief respite could be on the horizon.Since October, every month has exceeded the 1951-1980 monthly global temperature average by more than 1 °C. The ongoing heat wave is being fuelled by a double whammy – background global warming and a strong El Niño cycle.The relative contributions of these two phenomena are difficult to gauge, but clues can be found in previous El Niño cycles, says Blair Trewin of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. “If you compare the temperatures of the last 12 months with the same stages of the last strong El Niño event in 1997 and 1998, it’s about 0.3 °C warmer this time round,” he says. “This is consistent with an overall warming trend.” However, the record run may be interrupted when La Niña, the opposite weather cycle to El Niño, kicks in towards the end of the year, he says. El Niño is a cyclical weather pattern that warms the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, while La Niña has the opposite cooling effect. The US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported last week that the current El Niño phase, which began in 2015, has a 75 per cent chance of switching to La Niña as early as September. This transition is likely to reduce sea surface temperatures in the central tropical Pacific to between -0.5 °C and 0.5 °C from average, from a high of more than 2 °C above average when El Niño peaked in November, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. Average global temperatures are likely to fall slightly as a result, Trewin says. “A strong La Niña like we saw in 2010 and 2011 will drop global temperatures by 0.1 to 0.2 of a degree, but weaker events won’t have as strong an impact,” he says. Even if La Niña does put the brakes on global temperature, the effect is likely to be short-lived, says Agus Santoso of the University of New South Wales, Australia. “La Niña sometimes lasts for a year, sometimes two years,” he says. “It will be very interesting to see what happens when La Niña emerges. If records are still being broken, it will suggest that it is background warming that is playing the key role.”
The truth about the Climategate Emails (what they contain, and what they do not)

Words and Phrases Taken Out of Context (what really happened)

  1. Most Christians are shocked to learn that the Bible actual says "There is no God" and it will be found between double quotes.
    Yep. The actual quote comes from Psalm 14-1 and you should all look it up.
    But the quote I just gave was take out of context. Here is the full quote:
    The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none who does good.
  2. This quote comes from Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)
    "If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him."
    (which reminds me of things written about Galileo by the church when the Roman Catholic church when they found him guilty of professing a world view different than that of the church)
What Really Happened
During Climategate 2009 many email phrases were taken out of context then presented to the public (by the mostly-American science-denial echo-chamber) as evidence of various conspiracy theories. So, in a nutshell, this is what really happened:

While creating a diagram for the cover of a WMO periodical, the phrase "Hide the decline" was used in emails and refers to the fact that tree-ring growth stopped following instrumental temperature measurements starting around 1960 (no one knows why but some believe this has something to do with industrial pollution). Since tree-ring growth represents proxy data, and this data was questionable since it conflicts with other proxies as well as instrumental temperature measurements, the authors "hid the decline of tree ring data" (done in one color) with the instrumental record (done in another color)

Would any of us want our ad-hoc informal email communications to be made public? Probably not. And if we knew that all communications would, some day, come under close scrutiny then I am certain we would all be a lot more careful. Anyway, this is the main reason why the dozen different investigations into this incident found zero evidence that scientists committed any crime. 

Bad Science - A decade later

I was unaware of this until I watch this video ( on 2016-12-27) published by potholer54 where non-scientist Lord Christopher Monkton makes the claim: "one climate model shows no warming from 1997 to 2014-5"

It turns out that he (Monkton) ignored all the other models which showed global warming (IIRC, there are now ~ 30 universities generating climate models in order to cross-check modeling techniques while looking for errors). The thing that interested me was this: "climate deniers were now using a data model published by RRS to support their claims" Whoa! Wasn't RSS the group that found errors in the UAH data set between 2003 and 2005?

So it turns out that Mears and Wentz of RSS had been using data from Satellite NOAA-15 which is in a decaying orbit for which RSS had used a bad diurnal cycle drift (yes, it would seem that Karma is a real thing). Other modelers had dropped data from NOAA-15 or replaced it with NASA Aqua AMSU as Roy Spencer correctly states here:

  • quote: Anyway, my UAH cohort and boss John Christy, who does the detailed matching between satellites, is pretty convinced that the RSS data is undergoing spurious cooling because RSS is still using the old NOAA-15 satellite which has a decaying orbit, to which they are then applying a diurnal cycle drift correction based upon a climate model, which does not quite match reality. We have not used NOAA-15 for trend information in years…we use the NASA Aqua AMSU, since that satellite carries extra fuel to maintain a precise orbit.

and Mears and Wentz state here in May-2016:

The Media (again)

Now that we know that all the climate models (including the one from UAH) except one (RSS) show warming, and that the lone outlier (RSS) is based upon suspect data gathered from an older satellite in a decaying orbit, why do politicians as well as the corporately controlled news rooms give any credence to climate change deniers?


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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.