An extraordinary resignation

A new study just came out in the journal Remote Sensing purporting to show that the climate was a lot less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought. FoxNews loved the story, headlining “Does NASA Data Show Global Warming Lost in Space?”. Forbes followed along as well, publishing an editorial called “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole in Global Warming Alarmism.”

Both sites have been quiet so far about the resignation of the Remote Sensing editor-in-chief in a dramatic, unusual step to display his conviction that the article never should have been published. According to Bob Ward from the Grantham Institute,

Last week, Wolfgang Wagner […] resigned as Editor-in-Chief of Remote Sensing after his journal published a controversial paper by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, which purported to show that climate models make wrong assumptions about the amount of energy that escapes from the Earth’s atmosphere.

In an extraordinary resignation statement, Wagner admitted that the journal had “unintentionally selected three reviewers who probably share some climate sceptic notions of the authors”. He accepted that the reviewers of the paper had failed to acknowledge that Spencer and Braswell had simply ignored published research which refuted their findings. Wagner declared that the paper “should therefore not have been published” and announced that he was stepping down as a result.

Pretty juicy stuff. As Gavin over at RealClimate writes,

It is a very rare situation that an editor resigns over the failure of peer review, and to my knowledge it has only happened once before in anything related to climate science – the mass resignation of 6 editors at Climate Research in 2003 in the wake of the Soon and Baliunas debacle.

The decision wasn’t based on the conclusions of the research, but rather the shoddy methodology used to compile the research and the failure of the authors to cite any of the work that refutes their claims. Some examples of the shortcomings from RealClimate:

The signs of sloppy work and (at best) cursory reviewing are clear on even a brief look at the paper. Figure 2b has the axes mislabeled with incorrect units. No error bars are given on the correlations in figure 3 (and they are substantial – see figure 2 in the new Dessler paper). The model-data comparisons are not like-with-like (10 years of data from the real world compared to 100 years in the model – which also makes a big difference). And the ‘bottom-line’ implication by S&B that their reported discrepancy correlates with climate sensitivity is not even supported by their own figure 3. Their failure to acknowledge previous work on the role of ENSO in creating the TOA radiative changes they are examining (such as Trenberth et al, 2010 or Chung et al, 2010), likely led them to ignore the fact that it is the simulation of ENSO variability, not climate sensitivity, that determines how well the models match the S&B analysis (as clearly demonstrated in Trenberth and Fasullo’s guest post here last month).

It’s ironic that every newspaper in the country will report on finding the word “trick” in one of thousands of “ClimateGate” emails written by a global warming scientist, but when you find the uncountable errors in the published work of climate skeptics, the story is mostly buried.