Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Article using tin foil, cling wrap to debunk ocean warming retracted after urgent peer review

with 10 comments

wessexA conference proceedings paper that attempted to debunk ocean warming due to climate change using tin foil and cling wrap has been retracted by the Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) Press.

The paper, “A Comparison Of The Efficacy Of Greenhouse Gas Forcing And Solar Forcing,” was published as part of the proceedings of a July 2014 conference in Spain called Heat Transfer 2014.

Here’s what author Robert (Bob) A. Irvine, about whom we haven’t been able to find information, claimed to have done in the paper:

Basically, two tubs of warm water, one under a clear cling wrap roof and one under a reflective foil roof, are allowed to cool. In test A they are both free to evaporate and both cool at the same rate. In test B evaporation is restricted by placing cling wrap on the surface of the water in both tubs. In test B the tub under the foil sky is significantly affected by downward long wave radiation and cools more slowly.

Retraction Watch commenter Kevin O’Neill left a comment here, saying that he received the following message from WIT after contacting them in regard to the paper:

I have now received the result of a peer evaluation carried out urgently yesterday on the paper you brought into question, and have decided to withdraw it from our eLibrary.

We appreciate you bringing the matter to our attention.

We got in touch with the editor of the conference precedings, Carlos Brebbia, who confirmed that the quote had come from WIT. He would not, however, give more details about the incident:

The comment you refer to is correct. I appreciate the importance of Retraction Watch, but in this case it may be premature to make any further statement and we are now in discussions regarding this matter. Notice that the issue here is the quality of the work in a very controversial field, ie climate change.

There is no notice. Instead, the article link now pulls up the abstract with a note that says “Paper removed from elibrary.”

Irvine wrote a guest essay about his theory on climate skeptic site Watt’s Up With That? on October 11. Hot Whopper, a blog that debunks articles from what it calls the “deniosphere,” quickly jumped on the argument and took it down. Here’s an image, courtesy of Hot Whopper, with the basics of how increased greenhouse gasses warm the oceans:

ocean warming

We’ve asked Brebbia for Irvine’s contact information, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 10 a.m. Eastern, 10/22/14: Author Bob Irvine, whom we found with the help of a Retraction Watch commenter, has emailed us the following response:

1.       The reduced conduction, mentioned by  Big Whopper, certainly will have some effect on ocean heat content (OHC).  The point I’ve consistently tried to make in the paper and elsewhere is that there is no reason why this conduction would have the SAME effect on OHC as solar radiation that penetrates the ocean to a depth of many meters.  If the people at Big Whopper believe that these two mechanisms produce the same result then they should provide some evidence.   They, of course, won’t be able to as Short Wave Solar  Radiation is a far more efficient method of getting energy into a body of water than is conduction.

2.       The experiment outlined in the paper has a control and proves conclusively, to me at least, that nearly all the Long Wave GHG Radiation is absorbed in the first fraction of a millimetre of the surface and returned almost immediately to the atmosphere and eventually space as latent heat of evaporation.  The control in the experiment, is that Long Wave Radiation DOES warm a body of water when evaporation (Test B) is restricted but DOES NOT significantly warm the same body of water when that water is free to evaporate (Test A).

3.       The model I’ve produced, based on this accepted science, reproduces the extent and profile of the earth’s measured temperature for the last 120 years extremely well (R2=0.89) and, importantly produces the current temperature hiatus.  One would expect this to excite some interest instead of the knee jerk rejection it has received.

Written by Cat Ferguson

October 21st, 2014 at 9:30 am

  • Narad October 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Here’s what author Robert (Bob) A. Irvine, about whom we haven’t been able to find information….

    The affiliation on the paper is “SRG Industries, Australia.” Voilà.

  • herr doktor bimler October 21, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    A search for “Wessex Institute of Technology Press” + “VIDEA” or “bogus academic conferences” is also revealing.

  • uknowispeaksense October 22, 2014 at 1:03 am

    Found him….. He’s the inventor of a concrete slurry guard.

  • John Mashey October 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Fortunately, some people have a good supply of tin foil.
    People might also see discussion at Richard Telford’s Bob Irvine is bringing engineers into disrepute

    • JATdS October 22, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      I wonder, what would have their result been had they used aluminium foil rather than tin foil?

    • Bob Irvine October 26, 2014 at 1:24 am

      I have replied to Richard Telford at the link above

  • Konrad. October 30, 2014 at 4:20 am

    I feel it is fair that I comment here. I am the person who published the experiments that Bob Irvine replicated. I did not agree to their publication, let alone the publication of the original images. I have made it clear that I wish those experiments, and the later variants using constant not reflected LWIR, remain outside the pal-reviewed literature.

    That’s the whole point folks. Pal-Review has become corrupt. The correct answer must be on the web, not in the literature.

    Much as I have the grumps with Bob using my early work out of context, his result here has been effective. So many new names to add to the list….

  • Christopher J. Shaker February 4, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    The Hot Whopper Blog is written by Miriam O’brien, aka ‘Sou’. She claims to have an MBA and a BA in Agricultural Science, according to her company’s advertisement

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