Does anyone care about Theon?

Nowadays I seem to rely on wikipedia for my news stories. Not necessarily for the truth, but that something has occurred. So this little thread at global warming piqued my interest (note, BTW, how the poor dear septics don’t even bother trying to edit the page any more, having been crushed so often by the Mailed Fist): I’m a sceptic now, says ex-NASA climate boss says The Register. Working in an office full of software engineers (not to mention the odd visiting hardware bod) I see lots of people reading El Reg (very briefly of course, in their very short lunch breaks, did I say lunch break, I meant… actually we have a very nice free canteen), but hadn’t realised it had become a septic rag.

My usual suspects (see blogroll) don’t seem to have looked this one up [update: that was true when I wrote this, but no longer. Deltoid snipes, and provides helpful links to Gavin's take and BCL], so I was forced to. The US senate wacko index gives him a high rating, and bolsters him with a handy link to his google scholar count, which I suppose is what passes for a citation index nowadays in this debased world. I’m not sure why they link to his scholar count, because its deeply unimpressive, event by comparison with my own hardly stellar career. Theon’s count shows he hasn’t published for ages, and hardly anyone bothers to cite what he did write (he seems to have been involved in TRMM, which is worthy enough). Clearly, his reputation doesn’t rest on science, but on being some kind of administrator.

What sort of administrator? An “ex-NASA climate boss” according to the Reg. Or “formerly in charge of key NASA climate programs” – these are clearly his credentials, and why we should believe whatever it is he is saying. [per update above, it looks rather strongly as though these claims of prominence have been exaggerated].

In his correspondence with Morano, Theon starts off by establishing his technical competence:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jtheon [mailto:jtheon@XXXXXXX]
Sent: Thursday, January 15, 2009 10:05 PM
To: Morano, Marc (EPW)

Subject: Climate models are useless

Marc, First, I sent several e-mails to you with an error in the address and they have been 
returned to me. So I'm resending them in one combined e-mail.  

But we can trust what he says on global warming because

As Chief of several NASA Hq. Programs (1982-94), an SES position, I was responsible for all weather and climate research in the entire agency, including the research work by James Hansen, Roy Spencer, Joanne Simpson, and several hundred other scientists at NASA field centers, in academia, and in the private sector who worked on climate research. This required a thorough understanding of the state of the science. I have kept up with climate science since retiring by reading books and journal articles.

I don’t think that’s credible. Anyone with a thorough understanding of the science would be able to make a better stab at finding holes in it; Theon just blunders around repeating garbled versions of the std.septic stuff.

Errm, there isn’t much else; read it yourself if you care.

I tried to find something he had written during his tenure as Head Honcho in the 80’s that says something about climate, but failed. Can anyone do any better? [BCL wins the prize: Undoubtedly, humankind is affecting the environment. Inadvertent climate system changes brought about by mass loadings of carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methane, etc." Notice how earlier Theon claims to have been thoroughly on top of the science in those days?]

Incidentally, did you know that drroyspencer is a wacko? And did you realise he’s a Dr? With A Ph. D.? You should trust him, because of that. These things are important.

[Theon declared non-nontable: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/John Theon]]. Some interesting stuff in the debate about how important he was. Answer, not very -W]

Comments

  1. #1 Adder
    2009/01/29

    Well, Web of Science finds 8 papers between 1976-1993. Four have been cited 0 times, one (WILHEIT TT, CHANG ATC, RAO MSV, et al. SATELLITE TECHNIQUE FOR QUANTITATIVELY MAPPING RAINFALL RATES OVER OCEANS. JOURNAL OF APPLIED METEOROLOGY Volume: 16 Issue: 5 Pages: 551-560 Published: 1977) 227 times. My Web of Science version only produces records from 1975 onward though. So I also did a “Cited Reference Search” which reveals that there are 35 papers altogether that have received references (more than 10 are NASA or other technical reports though), the first one being from 1967. Looks like that beginning year has been some kind of science career highlight with 2 papers in Science (22 and 1 citations so far) and one in J. Atmos Sci. (92 citations). One more Science paper in -69 (5 citations).

    [Thanks for doing a Real Search. Google pulls out the highly cited JAppMet one, but he is Nth author on that. google doesn't seem to find the JAtmosSci one. Getting only one cite from a Science paper is an achievement - nowadays practically anything in there is bound to be cited lots. Probably things were different in the old days -W]

  2. #2 dreikin
    2009/01/29

    El Reg would probably take being called ‘septic’ as an honor – but in the same way some techs would take the title of ‘geek’ as an honor. Tech and tech policy is their predominant focus as far as factuality of stuff, but in a lot of ways they’re analogous to the Onion. Basically, they have an ‘odd’ sense of humor and like to provoke reactions on stuff. Take a look at their Rise of the Machines category – same supercategory (Odds & Sods) as that article..

  3. #3 Dunc
    2009/01/30

    El Reg make a very sharp turn into AGW denialism shortly after they introduced their comments feature. My own theory is that they noticed the tone of the majority of the comments on any piece even vaguely related to climate (“Evil commie scientists are engaged in a massive global conspiracy to TAKE AWAY OUR TOYS!!!!!!”) and decided to run with it. They’ve really gone downhill since went all Web 2.0…

  4. #4 Adam
    2009/01/30

    “They’ve really gone downhill since went all Web 2.0…”

    Reminds me of this:

    “Certainly ignorance shouldn’t be a bar. You may not know anything about the issue, but I bet you reckon something.”

    http://reportr.net/2008/03/25/mitchell-and-webb-ask-what-do-you-reckon/

  5. #5 Adder
    2009/01/30

    Here’s what I found using Google:

    J. Atmos. Sci, 24, 428–438 (1967):
    Some Observations on the Thermal Behavior of the Mesosphere
    J.S. Theon, W. Nordberg,L.B. Katchen, J.J. Horvath

    Science 157, 419-421 (1967): Temperature Measurements in Noctilucent Clouds J. S. Theon, W. Nordberg, and W. S. Smith

    I think he probably published only one Science paper in 1967 that just has been incorrectly cited once, therefore two apparent -67 Science papers produced by the cited reference search. The title of the -69 Science paper is “Wind Measurements in Noctilucent Clouds” – looks like he found a recipe that worked for a while…

  6. #6 lenny
    2009/01/30

    Yes, in fact, I did know that.

  7. #7 Steve Bloom
    2009/01/30

    Theon’s cv has been circulating:

    “Education: B.S. Aero. Engr. (1953-57); Aerodynamicist, Douglas Aircraft Co. (1957-58); As USAF Reserve Officer (1958-60), B.S. Meteorology (1959); Served as Weather Officer 1959-60; M.S, Meteorology (1960-62); NASA Research Scientist, Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (1962-74); Head Meteorology Branch, GSFC (1974-76); Asst. Chief, Lab. for Atmos. Sciences, GSFC (1977-78); Program Scientist, NASA Global Weather Research Program, NASA Hq. (1978-82); Chief, Atmospheric Dynamics & Radiation Branch NASA Hq., (1982-91); Ph.D., Engr. Science & Mech.: course of study and dissertation in atmos. science (1983-85); Chief, Atmospheric Dynamics, Radiation, & Hydrology Branch, NASA Hq. (1991-93); Chief, Climate Processes Research Program, NASA Hq. (1993-94); Senior Scientist, Mission to Planet Earth Office, NASA Hq. (1994-95); Science Consultant, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (1995-99); Science Consultant Orbital Sciences Corp. (1996-97) and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab., (1997-99).”

    Among other things, note the 2-year PhD acquired in his mid-50s while continuing to work. Hmm.

    [Looks like the one from Morano. 83-85 *could* be 3 years; nearly the same years I was an undergrad -W]

  8. #8 Steve Bloom
    2009/01/30

    Theon’s cv is interesting:

    “Education: B.S. Aero. Engr. (1953-57); Aerodynamicist, Douglas Aircraft Co. (1957-58); As USAF Reserve Officer (1958-60),B.S. Meteorology (1959); Served as Weather Officer 1959-60; M.S, Meteorology (1960-62); NASA Research Scientist, Goddard Space Flight Ctr. (1962-74); Head Meteorology Branch, GSFC (1974-76); Asst. Chief, Lab. for Atmos. Sciences, GSFC (1977-78); Program Scientist, NASA Global Weather Research Program, NASA Hq. (1978-82); Chief, Atmospheric Dynamics & Radiation Branch NASA Hq., (1982-91); Ph.D., Engr. Science & Mech.: course of study and dissertation in atmos. science (1983-85); Chief, Atmospheric Dynamics, Radiation, & Hydrology Branch, NASA Hq. (1991-93); Chief, Climate Processes Research Program, NASA Hq. (1993-94); Senior Scientist, Mission to Planet Earth Office, NASA Hq. (1994-95); Science Consultant, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (1995-99); Science Consultant Orbital Sciences Corp. (1996-97) and NASA Jet Propulsion Lab., (1997-99).”

    Were I of a suspicious nature, I’d wonder about a PhD acquired in his mid-50s in just two years while continuing to work at NASA. That it’s in atmo science but apparently granted by an engineering program seems even stranger.

  9. #9 Steve Bloom
    2009/01/30

    That’s weird. It seemed to have completely eaten the first one, but now here it is. Anyway, please delete it.

  10. #10 Steve
    2009/02/03

    El Reg is skeptical about everything, I enjoy their energy and climate coverage. The readers comments are pretty loony, mostly Americans I imagine, but the articles are sensible.

    Tim Lambert should stop shrieking like a Victorian Lady imagining a mouse in the room, it doesn’t do us any favours.

  11. #11 Alex Harvey
    2009/02/26

    Dear Mr. Connolley,

    I see your comment above, “note, BTW, how the poor dear septics don’t even bother trying to edit the page any more, having been crushed so often by the Mailed Fist.”

    1) Is it consistent with the Wikipedia philosophy for you to silence all Wikipedia editors whom you call ‘septics’ which I take to mean anyone who doesn’t share your own take on the so-called ‘consensus’ of climatology?

    [Alas, I am unable to silence all the septics, though they have gone quiet recently. This appears to be because they lost the battle of ideas, not of reverting. But if you think I'm partial, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Andrewjlockley -W]

    I understand that by profession you work in the IT industry. Well, so do I. As an IT professional, I am bound by a code of ethics not to abuse system administrative privileges, which means they should be used purely for system maintenance and so forth.

    2) Is it consistent with your professional ethics that you function simultaneously as a Wikipedia editor and a Wikipedia administrator? I have noted a number of instances of your use of the administrator account for completely non-administrative purposes, namely, to silence those who disagree with you. How do you justify this ethically?

    [Wiki admins are the mailed fist of Jimbo. But they don't form a corps apart: pretty well all admins continue to edit wiki, and this is considered a Good Thing. But we're banned from using our Super Powers in our own interests. Check my block log (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Log/block&user=William+M.+Connolley) if you like. I was going to make a joke about embedded programmers having no ethics, but that would probably be a bad idea -W]

    Best regards,
    Alex Harvey

  12. #12 excalibur
    2009/05/21

    I notice that John Theon is being wheeled out again for the DC Heartland traveling circus AGW conference. This appears to be a light version of the March NY conference.Detail;s can be found at: http://www.heartland.org/events/WashingtonDC09/index.html.

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