Roy Spencer (meteorologist)

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Roy W. Spencer
Born (1955-12-20) December 20, 1955 (age 68)
Alma materUniversity of Michigan (BS)
University of Wisconsin–Madison (MS, PhD)
AwardsNASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1991),
AMS Special Award (1996)
Scientific career
University of Alabama in Huntsville
ThesisA case study of African wave structure and energetics during Atlantic transit (1981)
Doctoral advisorVerner E. Suomi
WebsiteOfficial website

Roy Warren Spencer (born December 20, 1955)[1] is an American meteorologist.[2] He is a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite.[3][4] He has served as senior scientist for climate studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.[3][4] He is known for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work, for which he was awarded the American Meteorological Society's Special Award.[4] Spencer disagrees with the scientific consensus that most global warming in the past 50 years is the result of human activity, instead believing that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused some warming, but that influence is small compared to natural variations in global average cloud cover.

Education and career[edit]

Spencer received a BS in atmospheric sciences from the University of Michigan in 1978 and his MS and PhD in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1980 and 1982.[3] His doctoral thesis was titled, A case study of African wave structure and energetics during Atlantic transit.[5]

After receiving his PhD in 1982, Spencer worked for two years as a research scientist in the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[3] He then joined NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center as a visiting scientist in 1984,[4] where he later became senior scientist for climate studies. After leaving NASA in 2001, Spencer has been a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). As well as his position at UAH, Spencer is currently the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite, a position he has held since 1994.[3]

In 2001, he designed an algorithm to detect tropical cyclones and estimate their maximum sustained wind speed using the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU).[6][7]

Spencer has been a member of several science teams: the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Space Station Accommodations Analysis Study Team, Science Steering Group for TRMM, TOVS Pathfinder Working Group, NASA Headquarters Earth Science and Applications Advisory Subcommittee, and two National Research Council (NRC) study panels.[3] He is on the board of directors of the George C. Marshall Institute,[8] and on the board of advisors of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.[9]

Spencer's research work is funded by NASA, NOAA, DOE, and the DOT.[4] He also received money from Peabody Energy.[10]

Peer-reviewed articles on climate change[edit]

Negative cloud feedback[edit]

In 2007, Spencer and others published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters regarding negative cloud feedback in the tropics that potentially supports Richard Lindzen's Iris hypothesis, which proposes that as the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease, allowing infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space.[11][12] Spencer stated, "To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent. [...] Right now, all climate models predict that clouds will amplify warming. I'm betting that if the climate models' 'clouds' were made to behave the way we see these clouds behave in nature, it would substantially reduce the amount of climate change the models predict for the coming decades."[12][13]

Cloud formation and temperature change[edit]

In 2008, Spencer and William Braswell published a paper in the Journal of Climate which suggests that natural variations in how clouds form could actually be causing temperature changes, rather than the other way around, and could also lead to overestimates of how sensitive the Earth's climate is to greenhouse gas emissions.[14][15] Spencer stated, "Our paper is an important step toward validating a gut instinct that many meteorologists like myself have had over the years, [...] that the climate system is dominated by stabilizing processes, rather than destabilizing processes – that is, negative feedback rather than positive feedback."[16]

Energy lost to space as compared to climate models[edit]

In 2011, Spencer and Braswell published a paper in Remote Sensing concluding that more energy is radiated back to space and released earlier than previously thought.[17][18] Spencer stated, "The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show. There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."[18][19][20]

The paper was criticized by climate scientists.[21][22] Kerry Emanuel of MIT, said this work was cautious and limited mostly to pointing out problems with forecasting heat feedback.[21]

The editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing, Wolfgang Wagner, later resigned over publication of Spencer and Braswell (2011),[23] stating, "From a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process. [...] the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view ...but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal."[24] Wagner added he, "would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate skeptics have much exaggerated the paper's conclusions in public statements".[23][24]

Andrew Dessler later published a paper opposing the claims of Spencer and Braswell (2011) in Geophysical Research Letters.[25] He stated, among other things:

First, [they] analyzed 14 models, but they plotted only six models and the particular observational data set that provided maximum support for their hypothesis. Plotting all of the models and all of the data provide a much different conclusion.


Climate change[edit]

Spencer has published two books on climate change: In 2008, Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor,[26] and in 2010, The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World's Top Climate Scientists.[27][28]

He believes that most climate change is natural in origin, the result of long-term changes in the Earth's albedo and that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused some warming, but that its warming influence is small compared to natural, internal, chaotic fluctuations in global average cloud cover.[29] This view contradicts the scientific consensus that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities".[30]

In February 2014 Spencer posted on his blog that he was going to start referring to those who referred to those questioning the mainstream view of global warming (such as Spencer himself) as "climate change deniers" as "global warming Nazis", contending that "...these people are supporting policies that will kill far more people than the Nazis ever did."[31][32] The Anti-Defamation League responded with a statement condemning Spencer's comparison. Shelley Rose, the ADL's Southeast Interim Regional Director, argued that the comparison of global warming advocates to Nazis was "outrageous and deeply offensive," and "This analogy is just the latest example of a troubling epidemic of comparisons to Hitler and the Holocaust."[33]

Intelligent design[edit]

Spencer believes in the pseudoscience of intelligent design which was criticized by Phil Plait, in Slate as advocating "warmed-over creationism".[34] Spencer's views on the matter were used as an example in an exploration by the Christian Science Monitor as a possible connection between climate change denial and creationism.[35]


See also[edit]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Spencer, Roy W. (June 30, 2006). "Star Search". TCS Daily. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  • Spencer, Roy W. (January 16, 2005). "World warms to Kyoto, but research will save the day". USA Today.
  • Spencer, Roy W. (February 26, 2007). "NOT THAT SIMPLE – GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT WE DON'T KNOW". New York Post.
  • Spencer, Roy W. (May 1, 2008). "More Carbon Dioxide, Please". National Review.


Peer-reviewed papers[edit]


  1. ^ "ISNI 0000000122132141". Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  2. ^ Fong, Jocelyn (January 27, 2011). "Fox Tries To Debunk Global Warming, Fails Miserably". Media Matters for America. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Aqua Project Science". NASA. Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Spencer, Roy W. (March 19, 2007). "STATEMENT TO THE COMMITTEE" (PDF). United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 28, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2007.
  5. ^ Spencer, Roy Warren (1981). "A case study of African wave structure and energetics during Atlantic transit". University of Wisconsin–Madison. Bibcode:1981PhDT.......218S. OCLC 8338410. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ "Detecting Tropical Cyclones Using AMSU". NASA. Archived from the original on August 6, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  7. ^ Spencer, Roy W.; William D. Braswell (2001). "Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Monitoring with AMSU-A: Estimation of Maximum Sustained Wind Speeds". Monthly Weather Review. 129 (6): 1518–1532. Bibcode:2001MWRv..129.1518S. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(2001)129<1518:ATCMWA>2.0.CO;2.
  8. ^ "The Marshall Institute – Staff". George C. Marshall Institute. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  9. ^ "Cornwall Alliance Board of Advisors". Cornwall Alliance. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. Retrieved April 3, 2013.
  10. ^ "Big Coal Funded This Prominent Climate Change Denier, Docs Reveal". HuffPost. June 14, 2016. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  11. ^ Spencer, Roy W.; Braswell, William D.; Christy, John R.; Hnilo, Justin (2007). "Cloud and radiation budget changes associated with tropical intraseasonal oscillations" (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters. 34 (15): L15707. Bibcode:2007GeoRL..3415707S. doi:10.1029/2007GL029698.
  12. ^ a b Milloy, Study (November 1, 2007). "Clouds Mitigate Global Warming, New Evidence Shows". Heartland Institute. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  13. ^ "Cirrus disappearance: Warming might thin heat-trapping clouds" (Press release). University of Alabama in Huntsville. August 9, 2007. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  14. ^ Spencer, Roy W.; William D. Braswell (2008). "Potential Biases in Feedback Diagnosis from Observational Data: A Simple Model Demonstration" (PDF). Journal of Climate. 21 (21): 5624–5628. Bibcode:2008JCli...21.5624S. doi:10.1175/2008JCLI2253.1. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  15. ^ Rice, Doyle (June 18, 2008). "Global warming forecast: Partly cloudy". USA Today. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  16. ^ "Has global warming research misinterpreted cloud behavior?". PhysOrg. June 8, 2008. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  17. ^ Spencer, Roy; William Braswell (2011). "On the Misdiagnosis of Climate Feedbacks from Variations in Earth's Radiant Energy Balance". Remote Sensing. 3 (8): 1603–1613. Bibcode:2011RemS....3.1603S. doi:10.3390/rs3081603.
  18. ^ a b Orlowski, Andrew (July 29, 2011). "'Missing heat': Is global warmth vanishing into space?". The Register. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  19. ^ "Data contradict climate model predictions". UPI. July 29, 2011. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  20. ^ Horton, Daniel (July 29, 2011). "Climate models make too hot forecasts of global warming". PhysOrg. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  21. ^ a b Borenstein, Seth (July 29, 2011). "Skeptic's small cloud study renews climate rancor". Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  22. ^ Black, Richard (September 2, 2011). "Journal editor resigns over 'problematic' climate paper". BBC News. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  23. ^ a b Hickman, Leo (February 9, 2011). "Journal editor resigns over 'flawed' paper co-authored by climate sceptic". The Guardian. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Wagner, Wolfgang (2011). "Taking Responsibility on Publishing the Controversial Paper "On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth's Radiant Energy Balance" by Spencer and Braswell, Remote Sens. 2011, 3(8), 1603-1613". Remote Sensing. 3 (9): 2002–2004. Bibcode:2011RemS....3.2002W. doi:10.3390/rs3092002.
  25. ^ Dessler, Andrew E. (2011). "Cloud variations and the Earth's energy budget" (PDF). Geophysical Research Letters. 38 (19): n/a. Bibcode:2011GeoRL..3819701D. CiteSeerX doi:10.1029/2011GL049236. S2CID 17463106. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 29, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  26. ^ Climate Confusion
  27. ^ Bickmore, Barry (February 27, 2011). "Roy Spencer's Great Blunder, Part 1". Skeptical Science.
  28. ^ Ghan, Steve (April 28, 2011). "Review of Spencer's ‘Great Global Warming Blunder’". RealClimate.
  29. ^ "Interview With A Global Warming Skeptic: Dr. Roy Spencer" (Interview). Interviewed by Cameron J. English. Science 2.0. May 13, 2010.
  30. ^ "Climate Change 2001: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis" Archived June 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. GRID-Arendal, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2001. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  31. ^ Spencer, Roy W. (February 20, 2014). "Time to push back against the global warming Nazis". Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  32. ^ Abrams, Lindsay (February 21, 2014). "People who call climate deniers "climate deniers" should be called "Global Warming Nazis," says climate denier". Salon. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  33. ^ Gattis, Paul (February 26, 2014). "UAH climate expert Roy Spencer calls critics 'global warming Nazis'; Anti-Defamation League objects". The Birmingham News. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  34. ^ Plait, Phil (July 29, 2011). "No, new data does not "blow a gaping hole in global warming alarmism"". Slate. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  35. ^ "Are climate change deniers like creationists?". Christian Science Monitor. August 28, 2009. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  36. ^ Horack, John; Dooling, Dave (January 1996). "SSL 1996 Annual Report – Earth Science". NASA.

External links[edit]