Debunking Lord Monckton, Part One

April 11, 2010

He’s everywhere on the climate denial circuit.  He’s not a scientist. He’s a classics major and journalist.

How is it that he’s been able to sell himself to climate deniers as their number one spokesman? First, like any good salesman, Lord Monckton knows his customer.


When climate deniers seek answers to the big questions, they turn to the smartest man in the whole world.


Lord Christopher Monckton..

Lord Monckton, aaah, …. is…ahh…

Lord Christopher Monckton, former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher..

He’s everywhere on the climate denial circuit.  He’s not a scientist. He’s a classics major and journalist.

How is it that he’s been able to sell himself to climate deniers as their number one spokesman?  First, like any good salesman, Lord Monckton knows his customer.

Monckton: “I’m practicing to run for President. I understand that all I need is a nice, freshly minted, Hawaiian birth certificate.”

Crazy woman 1: “HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!”

Crazy woman 2: “He’s an Arab…”

Crazy woman 3: “Obama was born in Kenya..”


…and he’s mastered some of the time honored techniques for creating an air of mystery and authority.   For instance…

Monckton:  …speaking Latin

That’s right. Talk in Latin. It’s been a time honored technique for bedazzling the rubes for thousands of years.

Wizard of Oz: “The universitatus committe-atum e pluribus unum….”

Once you’ve got ’em going with the Latin lingo, throw in some mathematical jargon. That’s as good as Greek to most of em, and helps create the illusion of credibility.

Musical: “I’m very well acquainted too with matters mathematical. I understand equations both the simple and quadratical. About binomial theorem I am teaming with a lot of news..”

To the goobers in your audience, it all sounds like magic.

Monckton:  “F of zed equals zed squared, or rather, maps to, zed squared plus c, a complex number, this is an iterative equation, it goes round and round..”

The aim, of course, is to show that you’re revealing hidden knowledge, that proves what they’ve always known, that they’re smarter than all those crazy scientists and so-called experts.

Musical:  “With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse!”

(chorus, repeat)

Once you’ve done that, they’ll suck up and repeat anything you have to say.

But just because he’s a good salesman, doesn’t mean he’s wrong about the science. So let’s examine a few of his lordship’s claims.

Monckton: “You see there, the purple, is the sea ice extent in 2007, at the summer minimum, then 2008, and then 2009, where the sea ice extent, on September the 15th, just a couple of weeks ago, was 24% higher than it had been in 2007.”

You’d think a math genius like Lord Monckton would understand a simple concept like the difference between surface area  and volume.  These animations from NASA satellite data [Fall and Winter Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Declining Rapidly] show thick multi-year ice as the lightest white color. You can watch the seasons come and go from 2003 to 2008, and see why ice experts tell us that the total amount of ice is decreasing precipitously.

But wait, there’s more.  Lord Monckton has entertaining things to say about global temperature as well.

Monckton: “The strong red line through the jiggily-uppy-downy data, that’s known as the least squares linear regression trend, and what that looks to me like, is a fairly hefty, and indeed it is, statistically significant rate of fall.  We’ve had nine years of a global cooling trend, since the first of January, 2001.”  [Image is from his CO2 Report, Dec 09]

The global cooling canard is popular on the denier circuit, and in the fall of 2009, the Associated press gave temperature data,  to 4 statistical experts, and asked them to look for trends without telling them what the data was. [AP IMPACT: Statisticians reject global cooling]

The experts found no true temperature declines over time.  They noted that cherry picking a micro trend in the data is particularly suspect as a means of analysis, and it is deceptive to say that the globe is cooling.

Atmospheric scientist John Christy is among the 2% of working, publishing climate scientists who do not think global warming is a problem. With his associate, Dr Roy Spencer, he manages a satellite temperature database at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, which is the preferred data set for climate deniers.

The data made news recently when it showed January 2010 as the warmest in the satellite record, part of a long-term warming trend. [“Global Temperature Trend Update – February, 2010“]

(CNN weather men)

I know no one up and down the East coast will believe this graphic, but this was, here, .72 degrees Celsius, uh, a degree and a half Fahrenheit, above normal, for January.  It was at least as warm, if not the warmest all the way since 1999, right there…  If you look at Quebec, and Ontario, and up in the Maritimes, that’s 2 to 4 degrees above normal here.  Europe was cold, we had all the stories about how cold Europe was, but then you go back and you look at something different here, we’ll use a green, Africa was hot, the Middle East was hot, China was hot.  And so when you average all of the reds and all of the blues together,..””.. you end up with a warmer January than we would have thought..”

“January is the warmest January on record for 11 years, ..”

“and all those people who were saying, Where’s global warming? ….there it is.”

The warming continued, as March 2010 became the warmest March on the record.

Lord Monckton also has things to say about the reported melting of global ice sheets.

Monckton: “How many of you have heard that Greenland is melting away? Yes, that’s right, you’ve all heard that, right.

Here is a paper by Johannesen, et al [“Recent Ice-Sheet Growth in the Interior of Greenland“], very diligent Danish researcher, using laser altimetry, and what he found was that between 1992 and 2003, the average thickness of the vast Greenland ice sheet increased by 2 inches a year.”

A peer reviewed study is always a good place to start, so let’s see what this study actually said.

“Warmer temperatures actually increase accumulation at higher altitudes, due to more moisture being available.  Lower altitudes see more melting.”

So the buildup that Lord Monckton refers to, according to Johannesen, is actually caused, in part,  by Global Warming.

The remote sensing satellites that Johannesen employed did a good job on measuring higher elevations, but not such a good job in resolving the lower elevations closer to the coast.

The map that Lord Monckton refers to is color coded, with the white areas showing where the satellites were unable to obtain good measurements.  In other words, the areas where we would expect the most melting to occur, were exactly the places with the poorest data in this study.

Johannesen tells us:

“we cannot make an integrated assessment or elevation changes, let alone ice volume and its equivalent sea level change..for the whole Greenland ice sheet, including its outlet glaciers, from these observations alone because the marginal areas cannot be measured completely using (this satellite system.)  It is conceivable that pronounced ablation in low areas could offset elevation increases in the interior areas.

Therefore there’s a need for continued monitoring using new satellites, more advanced ones, and other remote sensing and field observations.”

The instruments Johannesen called for are now available. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite system consists of two satellites that measure landmass changes with extreme sensitivity.  The twin satellites detect gravitational changes in mass balance by measuring the change in distance between them, accurate to the width of a human red blood cell.

A  series of studies using this and other new data are now available. [“Ice loss from Greenland ice sheet spreading to northwest coast“]

This animation [“Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Changes…”] shows measurements of mass loss on the Greenland ice sheet since 2003, the year of Johannesen’s last reading.  The graph in the lower left makes clear the steady, sustained ice loss trend.

The results are consistent with a number of other published papers, by different teams, using different methods. [“Spread of ice mass loss into northwest Greenland observed by GRACE and GPS“, “Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE“]

This study [“Extensive dynamic thinning on the margins of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets“, Pritchard et al] uses yet another satellite system, NASA’s ICEsat, to derive data about both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

The results are consistent, clear, and unsettling.

We find that dynamic thinning of glaciers now reaches all latitudes in Greenland, has intensified on key Antarctic grounding lines, has endured for decades after ice shelf collapse, penetrates far into the interior of each ice sheet and is spreading as ice shelves thin by ocean-driven melt.

Pritchard et al

Lord Monckton’s traveling snake oil show affords so much twaddle, bunkum, bollocks and codswallop that I can’t treat it all in one video.  Part two will be premiering in a  live webcast on Thursday, April 15, at – part of the new live chat version, of Climate Denial Crock of the Week.


  1. Recent Ice-Sheet Growth in the Interior of Greenland“, Ola M. Johannessen, et al
  2. Spread of ice mass loss into northwest Greenland observed by GRACE and GPS, Khan, et al, Geophysical Research Abstracts
  3. Nature: “Dynamic thinning of Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheet ocean margins is more sensitive, pervasive, enduring and important than previously realized”
  4. Discussion: Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet decay, The Way Things Break, Sept 26, 2009, and continued Oct 13, 2009
  5. Extensive dynamic thinning on the margins of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets, Pritchard et al, Nature Letters, October 2009
  6. Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE, Geophysical Research Letters, Velicogn, Oct 13, 2009
  7. GRACE observes small-scale mass loss in Greenland, Geophysical Research Letters, Wouters et al, Oct 16, 2009.
  8. Global Temperature Trend Update – February, 2010 – “warmest January and the third warmest month overall in 32 years”, Ronald Bailey, February 10, 2010
  9. Another Warmer than Normal Winter Reported, by Randolph E. Schmid, AP Science Writer, Mar 26, 2010
  10. UAH Globally Averaged Satellite-Based Temperature of the Lower Atmosphere (Jan. 1979 thru Mar. 2010),
  11. Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – The Global Implications of a Warming Arctic – David Carlson: “a meter or more of sea level rise in this century from Greenland alone”
  12. Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Changes from NASA GSFC GRACE Mascon Solutions, Scott B. Luthcke, Dec 14, 2009
  13. Fall and Winter Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Declining Rapidly, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio; The Next Generation Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).

Ice loss from Greenland ice sheet spreading to northwest coast


8 Responses to “Debunking Lord Monckton, Part One”

  1. […] April: Debunking Lord Monckton, Part One. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Sorry — but this is about climate change […]

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  3. […] Sinclair’s superb online video series, ‘Climate Crock of the Week’ dedicated two full 10-minute clips to exposing and eviscerating the tricks of Monckton’s trade, uncovering the intellectual sleights of hand involved in his “scientific” […]

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