Fox Climate Reporting Rates “Pants on Fire” – “Retired Accountant” as Climate Expert

February 17, 2015

Birth of a climate denial crock.


“They’re (the White House) actually kind of lucky that we don’t cover climate change as much as we should,” Perino said. “Because yesterday, it was reported that the temperature readings have been fabricated and it’s all blowing up in their faces.”

Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle interjected that it was “fraud science” and Perino said, “Yes, I agree.”

We have checked this sort of claim before and found it wrong, but some time has passed, and Perino referenced new reporting. So we wanted to fact-check her claim that temperature readings “have been fabricated.”

We reached out to Perino to find the source of her statement and did not hear back. However, a couple of days before she spoke, the British paper The Telegraph carried an opinion piece entitled, “The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever.”

I, of course covered this last week – but let’s recap.


Who needs an expert, when you can have a Foxpert?

Not long ago, Paul Homewood, a blogger that Fox News itself describes as “retired accountant, blogger, and self described “climate historian”‘ (that certainly inspires confidence) –  posted that he had looked at data from several stations in Paraguay, and that those temperatures had been “adjusted” to bias them toward warming.   Rabidly right wing columnist Christopher Booker of the Telegraph newspaper picked this slim reed up and declared it the “Biggest Science Scandal Ever”.

Cue the right wing echo chamber. Here’s one thing that the climate denialist right wing does well. They don’t have many thoughts, but the ones they do have, they repeat and amplify endlessly.


This tactic worked well a few years ago when deployed in the so-called “climate gate” non-scandal, and managed to snooker a number of unwary mainstream media outlets into parroting Limbaugh-esque talking points that confused a lot of people, for a while.
Since then, scientists, and pro-science communicators, have formed a number of alliances – mail groups, blogs, personal and professional networks,  and rapid-response teams to bat down disinformation as soon as it starts to circulate, and a certain amount of awareness building has taken place in the mainstream media.  It helped that the “climate gate” nonsense turned out to be a hoax of WMD proportions.

The reason this latest kerfuffle has been confined mostly to the Fox News Noise machine and the denial blogosphere speaks to the effectiveness of the science counter measures.
It also speaks to the fact that in the last few years, the Planet itself has been weighing in heavily on the debate.  More and more, climate denial talking points end up orbiting in ever tighter circles in the hermetically sealed, impenetrable logic loop of the conspiracy set.

To sum up – yes, adustments are made in data. They can be because a station has moved, or perhaps because a city has grown up around a rural station, or because the daily measuring time has been changed at some point.  Sometimes adjustments push temperature trends up, and sometimes down.
Over the long haul, they’ve been a wash.

NOAA maintains about 1,500 monitoring stations, and accumulates data from more than a thousand other stations in countries around the world (many national and international organizations share this type of data freely). There are actually fewer monitoring stations today than there used to be; modern stations have better technology and are accessible in real time, unlike some older outposts no longer in use. The raw, unadjusted data from these stations is available from many sources, including the international collaboration known as the Global Historical Climatology Network and others.

As the years go by, all those stations undergo various types of changes: This can include shifts in how monitoring is done, improvements in technology, or even just the addition or subtraction of nearby buildings.

For example, a new building constructed next to a monitoring station could cast a shadow over a station, or change wind patterns, in such ways that could affect the readings. Also, the timing of temperature measurements has varied over time. And in the 1980s, most U.S. stations switched from liquid-in-glass to electronic resistance thermometers, which could both cool maximum temperature readings and warm minimum readings.

Monitoring organizations like NOAA use data from other stations nearby to try and adjust for these types of issues, either raising or lowering the temperature readings for a given station. This is known as homogenization. The most significant adjustment around the world, according to NOAA, is actually for temperatures taken over the oceans, and that adjustment acts to lower rather than raise the global temperature trend.

Politifact again:

Every month, readings from thousands of land-based weather stations around the world are shared through the Global Historical Climatology Network. To measure ocean temperatures, there is a flow of data from buoys and ships. Climate trends play out over long periods of time, and the challenge has been to deal with changes in the way temperature is measured that have nothing to do with the weather itself.

For instance, local officials might move a station from a valley to a nearby hilltop. They might change the time of day when they record their measurements from sunrise to sunset. They might change the kind of thermometer they use. In the ocean, the practice once was to haul up a bucket of water. Later, the standard practice was to measure the temperature from the engine’s intake valve.

Homewood is right that the Paraguay adjustments raised the temperature reported for that station. But what Homewood leaves out, NOAA says, is that nearly half the time the adjustments made by researchers lower the temperature below what was actually recorded.

Zeke Hausfather of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group tweeted a graph demonstrating this point. This graph shows how little impact adjustments have – showing also that the oldest data is most likely to need adjustment.


The Berkeley Group itself is interesting, because it was formed several years ago specifically to investigate the charges of tampering that were part of the “climate gate” non scandal.
I was part of a team that interviewed Berkeley Lead Scientist Richard Muller on his findings, a few months ago in San Francisco.

Bottom line for Politifact:

The allegations raised by skeptics like the author of The Telegraph item have had no effect on the consensus that the Earth has seen an increase in temperatures over the past 100 years.

This claim has been debunked before. To continue to repeat it moves it into the realm of the ridiculous. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

Finally, Scientist Kevin Cowtan has produced a new, and excellent video, further describing how and why temperature adjustments are made, and inviting anyone to check the scientists work, using several online tools, provided in the video description.  Whether you choose to investigate on your own or  not, this video is valuable and enlightening.

14 Responses to “Fox Climate Reporting Rates “Pants on Fire” – “Retired Accountant” as Climate Expert”

  1. Peter Mizla Says:

    well you know , I am an expert in oncology- despite lacking an MD degree in that specialty. Do you need some medical advice?

    • How about all the medical experts linking autism to vaccination? You know, those Hollywood types and food faddists. I can’t think of a better background to make you an expert on the subject.

      Better yet, Tom Cruise as an expert on mental disorders and antidepressants. Hey, he was a Top Gun pilot wasn’t he?

  2. That nonsense popped up on my hometown newspaper’s on-line forum. I responded; local deniers responded with the usual tinfoilhattery.

    Linky here:

    The fun begins with message #16 in that thread.

    My responses begin with #18.

    (I plead guilty of ignoring Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount advice re: casting pearls before swine.)

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Wow! Big Wave Dave is quite the “swine”, and you are to be commended for trying so hard in your attempts to educate him. Unfortunately, he knows what he wants to believe, and it’s not the truth.

      We need him back east—-he is such a flaming anal orifice that we could use him to melt all that snow that global warning is bring us.

      • you are to be commended for trying so hard in your attempts to educate him.

        To be honest, I’ve given up on trying to educate him. But he does make a nice educational “prop” that helps me impress on lurkers how completely delusional the climate-denial community is.

        Very few people actually post to the SD UT climate-change forum, but the feedback I’ve gotten indicates that enough folks read the posts there that responding to BWD and other deniers there isn’t a complete waste of time.

        BWD’s arrogance and cluelessness make him a very entertaining “straight man”.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          this is an important concept.
          some of my favorite trolls are here so that
          a. I can keep an eye on them
          b. so I can use them as object lessons from time to time

          • andrewfez Says:

            What happened to Dave [forgot his last name], who had the computer program that produced a decelerating sea level rise over the 21st century?

            I’ve already dealt with a few trolls on The Young Turks regarding the Paraguay temp corrections. In fact, one of the guys that sits on TYT’s channel, night after night, pushing conservative talking points, is linked in Google+ to some of your old trolls on your channel, which showcased the selfsame behavior. They have their own little gang of channel sitters.

            I imagine TYT, with its Wolf-PAC, pushing for a constitutional convention to get money out of politics is seen as enough of a threat as to warrant a few channel sitters…

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Dave Burton is “Mr. Sea level rise is not accelerating”—-don’t recall that he had a program that actually said the rate of rise was decelerating, just staying the same. You can google him and get a fair number of hits. He has been peddling his horsepucky in lots of places. There’s a laughable Youtube clip also.

          • andrewfez Says:

            Oh yeah – ha, ha! Dave Burton. I looked on his page just now, but couldn’t find his projection (though I only spent a couple minutes looking).

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Don’t spend too much time there—-you’ll lose IQ points if you do.

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    What stings is to know that Dana Perino was a White House Press Secretary. Even as a Faux News pundit, you would think that would caution her to err on the side of truthfulness in her comments. Undeniably, her one-time employment as the ‘voice of the President’ lent gravity to anything she might say as a pundit and led to her current position. To hear her repeat such easily debunked flakery, indeed AFTER it had already been debunked, and the WAY she presented it, as an explanation for why Faux News doesn’t cover Climate Change more often, was like stepping in dog poop. You WANT to hear Rush Limbaugh say these things, but you feel ill seeing someone of Perino’s stature wallow in such whoppers.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      What “stature” does she have? Being a spokesperson for George W. Bush is hardly “all that one can be”, and her shilling on Faux os going to elevate her only in the eyes of the ignorant.

  4. Glenn Martin Says:

    You can lead an ass to data but you can’t make him think.

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