Don Easterbrook’s Academic Dishonesty


As Don Easterbrook has shown no signs of withdrawing his article claiming that most of the last 10,000 years were warmer than present, and as his university has shown no appetite for addressing the issue, Professor Scott Mandia of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team and I decided to write to the local press. The letter below was sent to The Bellingham Herald (local newspaper) and to Western Front Online (Western Washington University newspaper) on Monday January 9, 2011. Scott also called and left a message with the Bellingham Herald News Editor. He did not hear back from either newspaper, so we’re reprinting the letter in full here and at Scott’s blog.

Sir or Madam,

Don Easterbrook, a Professor Emeritus at Western Washington University has been promoting his belief that natural cycles of the sun and oceans are going to cause global cooling over the next few decades and this will offset the CO2-caused warming headed our way. In 2001, he announced that global cooling was about to begin and would last for the next 25 years. Of course, the previous decade was the warmest in over 150 years and 2010 is likely to be the warmest or second warmest year in that period. Easterbrook wants to persuade us to ignore global warming despite the fact that most of his peers, climate scientists, military and intelligence experts, health officials, and insurance companies expect major societal disruptions due to the current and expected human-caused climate disruption.

It is ok to be wrong. Science cannot prove an idea is true but only that it is false. Correcting mistakes is how science moves forward. But Easterbrook is not just wrong, he is playing fast and loose with the data. He was caught red-handed using a doctored graph in a 2007 conference (see and in subsequent articles and talks. Easterbrook not only edited these graphics to change the information they contained, but did so in order to minimize the evidence of recent global warming. This is, at the very least, academic malpractice. More recently (12/28/10) he incorrectly labeled a graph of temperatures for the previous 10,000 years to claim that most of these years were warmer than present. His “current temperature” was really 1855 and not the much warmer present day. He was notified of his mistake but refuses to issue a retraction (see A good scientist corrects and learns from mistakes, but this seems foreign to Easterbrook.

WWU officials were notified of Easterbrook’s doctoring of data last May and again this January but have so far chosen to do nothing. Academic freedom must be cherished and defended but dishonesty should never be condoned – whether at WWU or any other institution of higher education.

Scott Mandia and Gareth Renowden


Bios: Scott Mandia is a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York and has been teaching meteorology and climatology courses for 23 years.

Gareth Renowden is an NZ-based science writer and blogger, author of Hot Topic – Global Warming & The Future of New Zealand. He has written extensively on Easterbrook’s cavalier approach to climate data.

30 thoughts on “Don Easterbrook’s Academic Dishonesty”

  1. Nice timing for your letter Gareth! The Editor will no doubt read it as he sits beside his heater drinking hot chocolate to keep out the biting cold as much of north America freezes under snow, ice and record low temperatures. I’m sure the Ed will be very sympathetic and throw away his warm clothes. Maybe you should also send your lovely ‘I know more than him’ letter to the UK Met office so they can advise Heathrow to throw away their snow plows and build wind turbines which seldom work.
    Your skills may be better put to use as a NZ-based fiction writer and blogger.

    1. Oh dear! – the ol – “its snowing so it must be getting colder” fallacy. What a brilliant argument that is! Why does this elementary fact – snow means its getting cold – escape the minds of Climate Scientists world wide? Meanwhile the sea off Thames today was like a warm bath – just saying. (Of course the NH is far more important than the SH – except when it comes to rugby).

    2. This guy’s been turning up over at Deltoid, too. From just 2 posts here’s a representative sample of what he reckons, like, over there –

      Most scientists accept that the world has been warmer than today for most of the last 10,000 years. Only people who think CO2 matters keep repeating that it’s warmed from 1850 to now without pointing out the larger perspective.

      Temperature records have been set by thermometers often located at airport next to asphalt and jet motors or next to concrete, roads and exhaust vents. There probably weren’t too many airports, car parks or air conditioners in the 1800s……. Not to mention the non-random adjustments, and that mystery about how 75% of thermometers are ignored.

      Bong! Bong! and Bong! ‘Most scientists’ is bog-standard, hand-waving bollocks, ‘warmer for most of the last 10 000 years than now’ can be corrected immediately by actually reading the post above and the relevant links – difficult, I know, but keep at it – and as for the badly-sited weather stations furphy – oh dear!

      But never mind, doubtlessly it’s cold somewhere right now, therefore it can’t be true.

      See, I’ve done your work for you. Don’t slam the door on the way out.

      Methinks the LRB was invented for such as these! Click when ready…

      1. Carol Cowan asks whether Sceptic Lank has heard of the four seasons.

        I think I can answer in the affirmative that he has.

        Lank knows that the four seasons are variously (i) an instrumental pop group (who had hits like “Big Boys Cry” and “Run Like a Girl” in the early 40s) that has occasionally been fronted by/featured the sound of Frankie Laine, (ii) a collection of five piano sonatas by the Austrian composer Antonio Salieri, and (iii) a 70s Broadway musical directed and starring Alan Arkin.

        These well-known “four seasons” Lank facts (sadly not verified anywhere in the standard literature) parallel his excremental understanding of what is correct and what is not in blogospheric climatology.

    3. Yes, it is nice timing for Gareth’s letter. Shame about the timing of your drivel, though. Right now it is 11°C in Bellingham, WA. (The historical average daily max for Jan in Bellingham is 8°C, BTW).

      But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant, eh, Septic?

  2. I see that the lanky skeptic has read the most recent Easterbrook “work” but obviously hasn’t had time nor the inclination to read the rebuttals. Neither has he bothered to critically examine the work for himself. (Why else would he pop up here to make such outlandish claims of warmer for 10000 years?)

    No doubt he holds E Beck and K Ring in high regard as well.

  3. Who is the right person to correspond with at WWU? It’s not obvious to me. Especially since he is retired. And maybe it would carry more weight if “Global Warming Art” was to join the complaint?

    1. The head of the Academic Senate (or appropriate committee thereof) might be a better place. Probably start with the question of whether they will even consider instituting discipline against an emeritus who so far has avoided publishing his claims in the peer-reviewed literature. A possible angle is that they might require that he cease to mention his affiliation with WWU.

      1. Thanks. I tried writing a letter a little while ago and had some difficulty. I had thought that the Dean of Science would be a good place to start, but I couldn’t navigate their website to an equivalent. You’ve given me a useful hint.

  4. As a retired university professor and an active environmental scientist, I have difficulty imagining anyone claiming to be a scientist who denies global warming or who writes nonsense concerning well-known facts about global warming. Could it be senility? Dishonesty? Stupidity? Ignorance? All of the above? Really, we would be better off if we could just ignore it, but that would not be honest. We have to attack it and defeat it with facts. As Thomas Henry Huxley said, “The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.”

  5. I’d like to thank Gareth for writing up the original Easterbrook’s Wrong (Again) post. Shortly after Easterbrook’s mess was published on WUWT, I began seeing the claim come up in other places and have had to read up on the situation to see if it was a trustworthy claim in the first place. Getting confirmation from Richard Alley that the most recent data in his series is from 1855 has helped tremendously, and later I found the NCDC’s FTP site with the GISP2 core data and commentary confirming the dating convention.
    Keep the pressure on Dr. Easterbrook. Emeritus professor or not, there’s no excuse for him to be perpetuating this misinformation and any official sanctions are richly deserved.

  6. Dr Easterbrook is a geologist and bases his conclusions on the evidence available in the adjacent mountains.

    H. H. Lamb made many of the same points in his original Climate History of the Earth, may have misquoted the title as am away from my library for an extended period.

    The sun seems quiet, the PDO has gone negative or cold, La Nina is still active, anyone care to wait for the actual observations?

    It is a bit easier to check the next 20 yrs than wait for the next 100 years, eh?

    1. Terry, firstly Hubert Lamb died in 1997. Unfortunately, he no longer is.
      But secondly and more IMPORTANTLY by referencing his first work (done in 1965) exclusively, and overlooking his latter work, you appear to completely misrepresent his position on Climate Change.
      It may be more instructive to read this:

      “At first his view was that global cooling would lead within 10,000 years to a future ice age, but over a period including the UK’s exceptional drought and heat wave of 1975–76 he changed to predicting that global warming could have serious effects within a century. His warnings of damage to agriculture, ice caps melting, and cities being flooded caught widespread attention and helped to shape public opinion. “

      1. Macro,I agree completely of H.H. Lamb’s views and their evolution. However, the point was that his research showed significant evidence of people living and farming at elevations where it was no longer possible, and remains impossible, If the evidence shows arable land existed at a higher elevation and was demonstrated by discernible ruins/relics it contradicts any other finding that the past at that point was notably colder, unless there is a mechanism not discussed that could explain the actual physical evidence. Put another way, Lamb’s research and published work discuss his findings, and his findings indicatr one or more periods of notably warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons then at present. His conclusions, and their evolution, do not refute the evidence he presents.

        1. Terry, I think the point you are missing, in the whole of this is explained below by Mauri Pelto.

          “Easterbrook certainly does not base his ideas on observation in the adjacent mountains. He borrows photographs I took and ignores the data we have obtained from those same glaciers that shows an increase in their melting and retreat in the last decade, while the PDO became more negative.”


          As Bill above asks:

          “this makes 1855 ‘the present’ how, precisely?”

          Easterbrook’s claim is based on his misconception that the he can:

          a. Take temperatures at the top of the Greenland ice sheet as a proxy for Global temperatures,

          b. Use the set of Ice data from one location and imply it is from another 28 km away, and

          c. Incorrectly take the begining of this Ice data as 2000 wheras it actually starts in 1855.

          These last two errors combined account for around 3.6 degrees C in difference between Easterbook’s “present” and the actual present.

          If you haven’t already read the original post by Gareth – it is here:

          (I hope I have summarized you correctly Gareth)
          There may or may not have been habitation of a kind on Greenland in the middle ages. People choose to live in the most inhospitable of places for many different reasons – there are people at this very moment living in Antarctica. I doubt that they would have been living on the top of glaciers, however. So Lamb’s early work is really neither here nor there in this debate.

  7. Easterbrook certainly does not base his ideas on observation in the adjacent mountains. He borrows photographs I took and ignores the data we have obtained from those same glaciers that shows an increase in their melting and retreat in the last decade, while the PDO became more negative.

    1. Mauri, you’re ever so polite. I know, I know, you’re a working scientist but these “skeptics” are endangering millions if not billions of lives with their never ending stream of deception.

  8. Where have all the trolls gone? Perhaps they are licking their wounds, taking time out to rethink their strategy of hoodwinking the naive.

    In all honesty the debate is not about climate change, it is what should be done about climate change. If we start rattling off some drastic policy measures, that might bring a few of our endearing trolls back to life again.

    1. Let’s see – John burned out on Godwinning us all repeatedly (as the rule says, if you reach that stage you’ve lost the argument); Easterbrook is nailed so bang-to-rights that even R2’s capacity for creative interpretation cannot stretch (plus he’ll still be smarting from being unceremoniously unmounted from his moral high-horse on the ‘teardrops’ thread); Steve’s latest catchphrase is ‘not unprecedented’, and since we’re currently witnessing an amazing series of record-breaking events that are in line with the AGW ‘theory’ there’s not a lot of call for it, really. Plus he’ll be asked those awkward questions about floodgauges in ’74 and now if he reappears.

      And, as nommopilot has observed, ‘Graham’ / ‘James’ / ‘Spot the Dog’ is still stuck with his fingers gaffer-taped together in that yurt in Uzbekistan…

      I suggest we enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t.

  9. Tony, two factors in the temporary absence of trolls:

    1) Flooding makes it a sticky wicket to use, plucking a random 😉 example, the Chris de Freitas line: “More warmth may, in fact, mean a more stable climate” (NZ Geographic vol 64; seems to have gone from their website).

    2) As you say, when the trolls take a beating, they lick their wounds – then return as if nothing happened. The identities they establish are important to them: Genuine People ™ make an investment in the troll and keep up correspondence. A casual visitor (to be honest probably not many) sees ‘debate’.

    Consider the resurrection of Lank: Why not just make up a new identity? Because Lank wants responses and in the past got them. The dismissive response here (rather than attempting to debunk) is appropriate and must frustrate it.

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