Forbes Runs False Quote In Attack On Climate Data


A Forbes column falsely attributed to climate scientist Phil Jones a quote that appears to have been written by conservative commentator Steven Hayward. The Forbes column also attempts to undermine global surface temperature records with several other misleading claims.

Forbes Column Attempts To Undermine Surface Temperature Records

Forbes Column: NASA "Relies On Surface (Not Satellite Data)." Throughout his column, Larry Bell, an architecture professor who thinks global warming is a "hoax," attempts to discredit all of the major global surface temperature estimates. For instance, the column states that NASA's data cannot be "relied on to give us the real scoop":

The next time you read that NASA declares this or that day, month or year the hottest since yadda, yadda, yadda -- you might want to check the source. It's a pretty safe bet that it came from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and probably quotes its director, James Hansen.


One would certainly believe that they could be relied on to give us the real scoop. Unfortunately, one might be very wrong, at least regarding [NASA's] Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

First of all, GISS is actually only a climate modeling shop that relies on surface (not satellite) data that is mostly supplied by others. [, 7/19/11]

In Fact, Satellite Data Confirms Warming Trend

Temperature Data From Satellites Agrees With Surface Temperature Data. The following chart complied by geographer Ole Humlum shows global temperature data derived from satellites (for lower atmosphere rather than surface) by both the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) and by the research firm Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), dating back to 1979 when the first satellite information is available. The chart also plots data from the three primary global surface temperature datasets. The black line is an average of all five records. Humlum notes that "the different types of temperature estimates appear to agree quite well as to the overall temperature variations on a 2-3 year scale, although on a short term scale there may be considerable differences."

satellite temperature chart

[, accessed 7/21/11]

Satellite Temperature Expert: Trends In Surface Data "Are In General Agreement With Satellite Measurements." Contacted via the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, Dr. Carl Mears, senior scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, stated via email:

I have carried out a number of comparisons of the various surface datasets (GISS, CRU, and NOAA) with satellite estimates of the lower tropospheric temperature. These led to two basic findings. First, the various surface datasets are in excellent agreement with each other, suggesting that what we call the "structural uncertainty", i.e. the uncertainty that arises from different choices of analysis method, is relatively small for the surface datasets, which increases our confidence in these datasets.

Second, the both the overall amount of warming and the spatial patterns of warming in the surface datasets are in general agreement with satellite measurements of atmospheric temperature (in this case I am talking about the lower tropopsheric temperature, sometimes called TLT) made by the Microwave Sounding Units (MSUs) and Advanced Microwave Sounding Units (AMSUs). I am the creator of one of these satellite datasets, the Remote Sensing Systems, or RSS, dataset. [Email to Media Matters, 7/21/11]

UAH Satellite Data Has 2010 Tied As Warmest Year On Record. The University of Alabama in Huntsville reported that according to their satellite data, "2010 finished in a photo finish with 1998 for the warmest year in the 32-year satellite temperature record." They further noted that "[b]oth 1998 and 2010 were years in which an El Nino Pacific Ocean warming event raised temperatures around the globe." [, 1/18/11]

Temperature Record Isn't The Only Evidence Of Climate Change

NOAA: Warming Trend Is "Confirmed By Other Independent Observations." From NOAA's National Climatic Data Center:

Thousands of land and ocean temperature measurements are recorded each day around the globe. This includes measurements from climate reference stations, weather stations, ships, buoys and autonomous gliders in the oceans. These surface measurements are also supplemented with satellite measurements. These measurements are processed, examined for random and systematic errors, and then finally combined to produce a time series of global average temperature change. A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends. The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels. [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, accessed 7/20/11]

Preliminary Results Of Study Led By Critic Support The Temperature Records

Richard Muller Said The Three Global Temperature Centers Have Done "Excellent" Work. From an April 4 Los Angeles Times article about the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study, which "sets out to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record":

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called "the legitimate concerns" of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated.

But Muller unexpectedly told a congressional hearing last week that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is "excellent.... We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups."


Muller said his group was surprised by its findings, but he cautioned that the initial assessment is based on only 2% of the 1.6 billion measurements that will eventually be examined.

The Berkeley project's biggest private backer, at $150,000, is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch are the nation's most prominent funders of efforts to prevent curbs on the burning of fossil fuels, the largest contributor to planet-warming greenhouse gases. [Los Angeles Times, 4/4/11]

Muller: "The World Temperature Data Has Sufficient Integrity To Be Used To Determine Temperature Trends." From Muller's testimony:

Based on the preliminary work we have done, I believe that the systematic biases that are the cause for most concern can be adequately handled by data analysis techniques. The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends. [Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, 3/31/11]

Forbes Falsely Attributes Quote To Scientist Phil Jones

Forbes Column Falsely Claims Jones Said Temperature Data "Are In Such Disarray They Probably Cannot Be Verified Or Replicated." From the July 19

CRU Director Phil Jones, in an interview with BBC, admitted to big problems, confessing that "...surface temperature data are in such disarray they probably cannot be verified or replicated." [, 7/19/11]

UPDATE (7/24): The quote has been deleted from the column and the author posted the following statement in the comments section:


The quotation in this article attributed to Dr. Phil Jones referring to an interview with BBC confessing that CRU "...surface temperature data are in such disarray they probably cannot be verified or replicated" , as also reported in numerous other publications, appears to be inaccurate, and in any case, is not a direct quotation.


My sincere apologies are extended to Dr. Jones for citing and perpetuating this broadly reported but inaccurate statement attribution.

Conservative Writer Steven Hayward Appears To Be Real Source Of That Statement

Phil Jones: "No Data Have Been Lost And All Can Be Verified And Reassembled." A February 2010 BBC News report quoted Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, stating that "We do have a trail of where the (weather) stations have come from but it's probably not as good as it should be." In an email to Media Matters, Jones confirmed that he "certainly did not say" what Forbes attributed to him. He added:

All temperature data that are sent to us are a copy of data held by other bodies (principally the National Meteorological Services, NMSs) and I acknowledged to the BBC that past filing systems about when we got the data needed improvement.

This is an area that we have addressed in the past couple of years. No data have been lost and all can be verified and reassembled. We are releasing the basic station data soon, with the agreement of the organizations (NMSs) which supply it to us and will continue to do so. [Email to Media Matters, 7/21/11]

Weekly Standard Commentary Appears To Be Real Source Of The Claim. From a March 15, 2010, Weekly Standard piece by Steven F. Hayward, who also contributes to National Review:

The scientist at the center of the Climategate scandal at East Anglia University, Phil ("hide the decline") Jones dealt the science-is-settled narrative a huge blow with his candid admission in a BBC interview that his surface temperature data are in such disarray they probably cannot be verified or replicated, that the medieval warm period may have been as warm as today, and that he agrees that there has been no statistically significant global warming for the last 15 years--all three points that climate campaigners have been bitterly contesting. [Weekly Standard, 3/15/10, emphasis added]

March 2010 Letter By GOP Senators Suggested The Quote Was From Jones. [, 3/31/10]

Climate Contrarians D'Aleo And Watts Falsely Attributed The Quote To Jones In August 2010 Report. [Science & Public Policy Institute, 8/27/10]

False Quote Resurfaced At Several Media Outlets In January 2011. [The New American, [1/18/11] [Orange County Register, 1/20/11] [Energy Tribune, 1/28/11]

Forbes Falsely Suggests Location Of Stations Biases The Temperature Record

Forbes Column Cites Anthony Watts' Finding That Most Stations Don't Meet Guidelines. From the column:

Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who has conducted extensive surveys of NOAA temperature recording posts, told in February 2010 that "...90 % of them [surface stations] don't meet the [government's] old, simple rule called the '100-foot rule for keeping thermometers 100 feet or more from biasing influence... and we've got documentation". [, 7/19/11]

Multiple Analyses Reject Claim That Poorly-Placed Stations Exaggerate Warming Trend

Watts Only Reviewed Stations In The United States. In 2009, Watts released a report summarizing a review of 860 of the 1,221 climate monitoring stations in the continental United States. Watts said "we found that 89 percent of the stations - nearly 9 of every 10 - fail to meet the National Weather Service's own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/ reflecting heat source." But at the time Watts did not actually analyze the data to see if the poorly sited stations were biasing the temperature record or if the adjustments made to the data adequately account for the siting issues. [, May 2009]

Peer-Reviewed Study Found Slight "Cool" Bias, Not Warm Bias, From Poorly Placed Stations. A peer-reviewed study by NOAA scientists and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research addressed Watts' research and found "no evidence" that the temperature trends "are inflated due to poor station siting":

Recent photographic documentation of poor siting conditions at stations in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has led to questions regarding the reliability of surface temperature trends over the conterminous United States (CONUS). To evaluate the potential impact of poor siting/instrument exposure on CONUS temperatures, trends derived from poor and well sited USHCN stations were compared. Results indicate that there is a mean bias associated with poor exposure sites relative to good exposure sites; however, this bias is consistent with previously documented changes associated with the widespread conversion to electronic sensors in the USHCN during the last 25 years. Moreover, the sign of the bias is counterintuitive to photographic documentation of poor exposure because associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative ("cool") bias in maximum temperatures and only a slight positive ("warm") bias in minimum temperatures. These results underscore the need to consider all changes in observation practice when determining the impacts of siting irregularities. Further, the influence of nonstandard siting on temperature trends can only be quantified through an analysis of the data. Adjustments applied to USHCN Version 2 data largely account for the impact of instrument and siting changes, although a small overall residual negative ("cool") bias appears to remain in the adjusted maximum temperature series. Nevertheless, the adjusted USHCN temperatures are extremely well aligned with recent measurements from instruments whose exposure characteristics meet the highest standards for climate monitoring. In summary, we find no evidence that the CONUS average temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting. [Journal of Geophysical Research, 6/8/10]

Preliminary Results Of Muller's Study Show Poor Station Quality Does Not Exaggerate Estimates Of Global Warming. From Richard Muller's March 31 statement to Congress:

Many temperature stations in the U.S. are located near buildings, in parking lots, or close to heat sources. Anthony Watts and his team has shown that most of the current stations in the US Historical Climatology Network would be ranked "poor" by NOAA's own standards, with error uncertainties up to 5 degrees C.

Did such poor station quality exaggerate the estimates of global warming? We've studied this issue, and our preliminary answer is no.

The Berkeley Earth analysis shows that over the past 50 years the poor stations in the U.S. network do not show greater warming than do the good stations.

Thus, although poor station quality might affect absolute temperature, it does not appear to affect trends, and for global warming estimates, the trend is what is important. [Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, 3/31/11]

Watts' Own Analysis Shows That The Station Siting Isn't Exaggerating The Warming Trend. In his May 2011 analysis published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Watts and his co-authors stated that the overall temperature trends from properly placed stations are "nearly identical" to those from poorly placed stations:

Temperature trend estimates vary according to site classification, with poor siting leading to an overestimate of minimum temperature trends and an underestimate of maximum temperature trends, resulting in particular in a substantial difference in estimates of the diurnal temperature range trends. The opposite-signed differences of maximum and minimum temperature trends are similar in magnitude, so that the overall mean temperature trends are nearly identical across site classifications. [Journal of Geophysical Research, 5/3/11]

Forbes Cites James Hansen's "Former Boss" To Cast Doubt On Allegations of Scientific Interference During Bush Admin

Forbes Column: Hansen's "Former Boss" John S. Theon "Took Issue With The Interference Charge." From the op-ed:

In a Jan. 29, 2006, New York Times interview Hansen charged that NASA public relations people had pressured him to allow them to review future public lectures, papers and postings on the GISS website. Yet in January 15, 2009 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works-Minority Committee, his former boss John S. Theon, retired chief of NASA's Climate Processes Research Program, took issue with the interference charge, stating: "Hansen was never muzzled even though he violated official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind's effect on it). Hansen has embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claim of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress." [, 7/19/11]

But Theon Wasn't Even At NASA During Bush Administration

Theon Retired From NASA In 1995. According to an email posted by Marc Morano, then-Communications Director for Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Theon said: "I worked with Hansen from about 1983 to 1994 during which time he was at GISS in NYC and I was at NASA HQ in Washington DC. I retired from NASA in 1995." [, 2/5/09]

Theon Was Not Hansen's "Boss." Theon told Sen. Inhofe in a January 2009 letter: "Yes, one could say that I was, in effect, Hansen's supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results." Theon added: "I did not have the authority to give him his annual performance evaluation." [The Inhofe EPW Press Blog, 1/27/09]

  • Hansen: "John Theon Never Had Any Supervisory Authority Over Me." In an email to blogger M.J. Murphy, Hansen wrote: "John Theon never had any supervisory authority over me. I remember that he was in the bureaucracy at NASA Headquarters, but I cannot recall having any interactions with him. His claim of association is misleading, to say the least." [, 2/5/09]
  • NASA's Schmidt: "He Was Not Hansen's 'Boss.'" In a comment on, NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt wrote: "Dr. Theon appears to have retired from NASA in 1994, some 15 years ago. Until yesterday I had never heard of him (despite working with and for NASA for the last 13 years). His insights into both modelling and publicity appear to date from then, rather than any recent events. He was not Hansen's 'boss' (the director of GISS reports to the director of GSFC [Goddard Space FlightCenter], who reports to the NASA Administrator)." [, 1/28/09]

Hansen's Statement Was Backed Up By Colleagues Who Were Actually At NASA During The Bush Administration. From the January 29, 2006, New York Times report:

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

Normally, Ms. McCarthy would not be free to describe such conversations to the news media, but she agreed to an interview after Mr. Acosta, at NASA headquarters, told The Times that she would not face any retribution for doing so.

Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's supervisor, said that when Mr. Deutsch was asked about the conversations, he flatly denied saying anything of the sort. Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta.

Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?"

Mr. Acosta said that for the moment he had no way of judging who was telling the truth. Several colleagues of both Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Hansen said Ms. McCarthy's statements were consistent with what she told them when the conversations occurred. [New York Times, 1/29/06]

NASA Inspector General Confirmed That Public Affairs Office "Reduced, Marginalized, Or Mischaracterized Climate Change Science Made Available To The General Public." From the June 2008 NASA Inspector General report discussing the results of an investigation which "included reviewing over 10,000 pages of documents and congressional testimony, as well as the forensic examination of six Agency computers used by NASA employees":

Our investigation found that during the fall of 2004 through early 2006, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public through those particular media over which the Office of Public Affairs had control (i.e., news releases and media access).


The supporting evidence detailed in this report reveals that climate change scientists and the majority of career Public Affairs Officers strongly believe that the alleged actions taken by senior NASA Headquarters Public Affairs officials intended to systemically portray NASA in a light most favorable to Administration policies at the expense of reporting unfiltered research results. [NASA Office of Inspector General, 6/2/08]

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Larry Bell
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