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Richard Betts Misunderstands Basic Science

September 30, 2020

By Paul Homewood


When in a hole, stop digging Richard!


From NTZ:


Just recently Anthony Watts posted an article on wildfires penned by Paul Homewood. Lately alarmists have been blaming the active forest fire season on global warming. They warn that warmer temperatures will lead to more wildfires.

Is it so?

First it’s important to note that warmer temperatures don’t necessarily lead to more drought and wild fires. For example in 2018 I reported here how the Sahara desert has shrunk by a whopping 700,000 sq km over the recent decades, even though this is a region with very warm temperatures.

Also we know that the earth’s surface has often been drier during cooler times.

Moreover, aspiring meteorologist Chris Martz here explains that long-term forest fires have not been getting worse in the USA, and “are nowhere near as bad as they used to be”.

U.S. wildland fire counts by year since 1926 (Figure 5a – left) and U.S. wildland fire burn acreage over that same time period (Figure 5b – right).

Climate scientist doesn’t understand why forests dry

On the WUWT article I commented at Twitter that when it comes to wildfires, temperature is not a factor behind them, to which University of Exeter, Met Office, IPCC. UK Climate Prof. commented:


Most laypersons of course believe that higher temperatures “dry out” surfaces and fuel faster, as climate expert Prof. Richard Betts obviously did. After all, we use a hair dryer to dry our hair more quickly, or throw our wet laundry in the dryer. So most people think that it’s the high temperature that is doing the drying. But that’s not quite how it works.

Astonishing misunderstanding of fundamental science

We can forgive a layperson for misunderstanding this fundamental science, but it is spectacularly astonishing that a supposedly distinguished climate professor such as Prof. Betts would misunderstand it. How on earth could someone with such a fundamental misunderstanding be expected to explain climate to us, let alone model it?

Or perhaps, in his desire to be dramatic, he got sloppy and miscommunicated it.

It’s the relative humidity, stupid!

There’s only one factor behind drying forest, grassland, ground surface: the relative humidity of the air next to the surface (difference temperature and dew point) and precipitation.

If the air has a very high relative humidity, then drying will take a long time, no matter what the temperature is. If temperature was the main factor behind drying, then places like the Amazon, Congo  or Southeast Asian rainforests would have dried up and burned long ago. But they haven’t.

In fact the planet’s biggest deserts are the Arctic and Antarctic. Last I checked they are still cooler than the Amazon.

It’s not the temperature!

To help drive the point home to the MetOffice climatologist, veteran meteorologist Jörg Kachelmann at Twitter joined in, asking Prof. Betts:


Kachelmann added:



Remember, these are the scientists who provide the input into the climate models.

Full story here.

  1. September 30, 2020 10:19 pm

    Consider this term: ‘equatorial rainforests’.

  2. ThinkingScientist permalink
    September 30, 2020 10:46 pm

    I stand by what I wrote on the previous thread. Hot deserts are hot because they are dry. Betts needs to go to a rainforest on the equator where solar isolation reaches the maximum. On a cloudless day with the sun directly overhead at the equator there is enough incoming solar radiation to potentially raise the surface temp to around 85 deg C. Doesn’t happen though. Why? Could the answer be water?

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      October 5, 2020 8:51 am

      You and your facts and logic. Heretic!

  3. clipe permalink
    September 30, 2020 10:55 pm

    OT, sorry

    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

    Is China a green saviour – or the ultimate climate villain?


    “So is China a climate villain or a climate champion? Sorry to be Jesuitical, but it is both”

  4. It doesn't add up... permalink
    September 30, 2020 11:31 pm

    The other factor is wind. It dries things very rapidly – much faster than heat. I have a 3kW dog blaster that has twin 1100W fan motors, and variable heating elements. I rarely bother with the heat. Kinder to the dogs too. Wind will speed evaporation of a puddle, dry out a muddy rut, dry the leaves of a tree.

    The downside of humidity is that it lowers the density of the air, and thence the power output of wind turbines. Helps with rusting too.

    What rusted Betts’ mind?

  5. Phillip Bratby permalink
    October 1, 2020 7:35 am

    I suspect that Richard Betts has long forgotten the physics he studied many years ago. His ignorance is staggering – either that or his need to remain onside to protect his career and income means he remembers his physics but has forgotten his integrity.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      October 1, 2020 8:03 am

      Indeed. From Wikipedia:

      “After studying physics at the University of Bristol, Betts switched to meteorology at the University of Birmingham and then studied for a doctorate in meteorology at the University of Reading. He is noted for engaging with critics of climate science on Twitter and was selected by TIME as one of the 140 best Twitter feeds of 2012. He was awarded the 2019 Climate Science Communications Award by the Royal Meteorological Society for “engaging widely with both environmentalists and sceptics, being trusted and respected by both”.

      With respect to the last sentence, I suspect his credibility with sceptics is now somewhat lower than it was…..

    • October 1, 2020 8:36 am

      Phillip, I think it is more basic than that. He is caught up in the general warm fuzzy glow of the evangelical theocracy where baseless comments made by one are picked up and run with by others. He is caught up in the business of promoting a cause not discovering the truth which “should” be fundamental desire of any scientist. I would argue in reality that science has played little part in the climate industry since the get go. Indeed one look at the name of the IPCC and its framing documents reveal politics constraining science (not the other way around) from the beginning. part of the problem is the nature of this cross discipline woolly beast with no internal checking system as would be the case where an individual discipline were considered. I recall a comment made by Jordan Peterson when asked about the climate issue he replied his problem was that he could not work out where the science stopped and the politics started.
      The important mantra is the furtherance of “the cause” and that cause is for most just money, status and power. If someone’s career relies on them looking in only a certain direction how many people will have the integrity to keep doing their “job”? If you are familiar with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and the wonderfully absurd characters Vroomfondel and Majikthise you will see the parallel. Oh if only Douglas Adams were still alive!
      Think how a man so fundamentally steeped in science as Hansen could be associated with the of promotion of the hockey stick. He has clearly suffered none of the usual consequences which would be expected to come from the deliberate promotion of a fraud.
      Careers are only on the line for those who do not embrace the religion as is so clearly shown by the fates of Drs Ridd and Crockford, two good examples of the corruption which is at the very heart of and indeed underpins the existence and perpetuation of the climate fiction factory. Support the cause brother by any means!

  6. October 1, 2020 7:59 am

    You are too kind.

    The good professor is touted and touts himself as an expert. “Just doing his best” is not acceptable when he is taking money in return for his “expertise” upon which his pronouncements are accepted as truths. That it is clear that he displays a fundamental lack of understanding demonstrates much of what is so wrong in the climate fiction factory where job descriptions are just made up as we go along, group think and all.

    The reality and as daft as it sounds the climate science factory is significantly lacking in science and certainly in any of the tenets of scientific rigor which are normal when individual disciplines for example such as physics or chemistry are considered. Climate “science” is a woolly conglomeration of self interested parties. It is a self generated industry and the catalyst has been the lure of easy money and position ( power). People feel emboldened and indeed are encouraged to step outside of their areas of expertise and “pronounce” with little or no risk to career or reputation and that shows clearly in this specific example. Michael Mann is another good example of a person stepping outside of his supposed area of knowledge and on whose every word the media hang ( there are some amongst us who would question his grasp of his own subject).

    Take the obscene amounts of public money swilling around this factory out of the system and see just how many of these people stand on their own merit.

    • October 1, 2020 8:30 am

      Thank you sir. I appreciate your comments and learn a few things along the way.

    • George Lawson permalink
      October 2, 2020 8:57 pm

      An excellent analysis of the grotesque problem we have to suffer at the moment. The money paid at to phoney researchers over the civilised world must run into multi billions, with little chance that their results will be found wanting with spineless peer reviewers afraid of going the way of Drs Ridd and Crockford

  7. Douglas Brodie permalink
    October 1, 2020 8:00 am

    Richard Betts wrote an op-ed in 2010 in which he wondered if scientists like him shouldn’t be doing more to counter unscientific climate alarmism, see

    Ten years on and despite the continuing lack of empirical evidence for man-made global warming, he appears to have dropped all such thoughts (dissembling by omission) and has now sunk to promoting the desperate new alarmist phrase “global heating” instead of “global warming”, see

    Richard Betts is the Met Office’s chief propagandist, for which he has been awarded an MBE “for his services to understanding climate change”:

    • dave permalink
      October 1, 2020 8:20 am

      It has been ~WELL KNOWN for over a hundred years that HUMIDITY snuffs out forest fire in North America.
      A little counter intuitively, It is actually more effective than RAIN. The reason being that falling rain is turned into water vapor by the fire which lowers the density of the air and causes an updraft.

      Vide some of the articles written in the 1920s and 1930s by the ‘Why The Weather?’ meteorologists, stored online in the archives of the NOAA.

      Modern so-called scientists have an almost childish approach to complex systems.
      Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread, and all that.

      OT but the Sun is again spotless.

  8. ThinkingScientist permalink
    October 1, 2020 8:15 am

    Betts is not a Geography graduate, he does have a Physics degree from Bristol, a top tier UK university

    • October 1, 2020 8:28 am

      Apologies for my error.

    • October 1, 2020 9:07 am

      Is it possible yo delete my erroneous comment about richard?

    • bobn permalink
      October 1, 2020 11:12 am

      He ‘studied’ physics at university, did he actually complete a degree in physics? Or was it in Meteorology?

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        October 1, 2020 11:34 am

        Good point, I hadn’t spotted that weasel description. Do he does not have a physics degree – I stand corrected.

        He did graduate and then do a doctorate in meteorology. It would be reasonable to assume he covered the relevant physics pretty thoroughly. Do no excuses there for his faux pad.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      October 1, 2020 11:37 am

      Bobm points out that Betts studied physics but DOES NOT have a physics degree. For all we know he dropped out of physics at Bristol in year 1 then went Birmingham to study Meteorology.

      Starting to sound like Bob Ward’s “unsubmitted” PhD. I’ve got quite a few of those myself.

      • bobn permalink
        October 1, 2020 3:31 pm

        I did not say that he does Not have a Physics degree, just that it needs checking properly. A surprising number of eminent people (like Joe Biden) claim a CV that includes falsehoods. My son bought a qualification online (california) that licenses him to conduct weddings. Doesnt make him a doctor of divinity (he’s an atheist). Studying physics isnt the same as a degree in physics.

  9. Eddie P permalink
    October 1, 2020 8:47 am

    Richard Betts would not seem to be te only one to ignore the basics. I recently received this response from the person employed by my local council when questioned and presented with evidence that there was no ‘climate emergency’ –
    “As I’ve set out in an earlier email, I do not claim to have any expertise in climate science, and my role does not require me to independently scrutinise the claims of climate scientists (given the degree of scientific consensus on this issue, and the level of international agreement, I do not think it would be worthwhile for me to do so). I’ve also previously shared links with you to some websites that put forward the evidence on the climate emergency, which you’re evidently aware of.
    I note your concerns regarding the IPCC’s findings, but I do not share them.”

    [Paul – I apologise if this is not the right thread to post this – I can find no email address for you otherwise I would have mailed you.]

  10. Phoenix44 permalink
    October 1, 2020 9:04 am

    And not only that but once a fuel is dry, it’s dry and once it’s dry enough to burn in a wildfire it’s dry enough to burn in a wildfire. It’s a threshold issue, not a “it will keep getting worse if it keeps getting hotter” issue.

  11. October 1, 2020 9:09 am

    This comment contains a falsehood. Moderator pls delete if possible. Apologies to Professor Betts

  12. tom0mason permalink
    October 1, 2020 11:41 am

    Prof. Betts like the groupthink factory of the Hadley Centre and the Met Office are waste tax-payer money for counterfeit ““settled science” of very little worth.

    The employees of UK Met Office and the Hadley Centre are an utter disgrace, wastrels of £millions by pompous fools who believe that everyone should bow to their superior fake theory of how climate operates.
    Their pretentious theory is balderdash, has NO relationship to reality, a surreal theory of how the climate does NOT operate.

    They all should, IMHO, be sacked and the Hadley Centre more usefully be repurposed to house the homeless instead of being a chasm of deliberate misunderstanding and miseducation.

  13. MrGrimNasty permalink
    October 1, 2020 12:20 pm

    The Met Office says September 2020’s mean CET was about +0.4C warmer than the 1961-1990 ‘normal’, ranked joint 251st (with 10 other years) warmest out of 362 years.

    That makes it the second coolest month relative to ‘normal’ all year so far, so the yearly mean CET (to date) has decreased and is now standing within just a few hundredths of a degree of the all time record.

    With the October two week outlook currently looking very cool and the rest of the year having to be >~+1.3C, the odds of a record have decreased, but it’s still very possible.

    The last thing we need is the BBC/MO et al having a record hottest English year to crow about with COP26 in the UK (of course if it’s close enough they will ignore the CET and conjure up an average from all the other weather stations that WILL miraculously be the hottest ever).

    • mikewaite permalink
      October 1, 2020 1:44 pm

      If Nicola and Boris have their way, and they will of course because there is no one with courage to stand up to them, then national lockdowns will still be in place this time next year, especially if there is a typical flu season this winter which the witless “scientists” at Boris’s shoulder will insist is actually Covid.
      That means that the 40000 delegates and 1000 BBC “journalists” will have to be separated from each other by 2m . This means an auditorium of 0.5 sq km . Perhaps they should hire a race course if there is one in Glasgow. Probably not because the Scots are surely too intelligent to waste their money on horse betting.

    • Douglas Brodie permalink
      October 1, 2020 1:53 pm

      Very true. It never got any publicity at the time but the 2020 HadCET annual mean was literally off the scale during the early months of the year. I’ve got a screenshot of 3rd March when it was about 2.5°C above the baseline, down to 1.5 above today. Did anyone feel it?! Obviously this was not due to man-made CO2 but the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), as meticulously analysed by Paul:

  14. October 1, 2020 1:53 pm

    Paul, in response to my post at WUWT
    “Betts did not post anything on Paul’s actual post, only here at WUWT.”
    I got this reponse, accusing you of preventing responses from detractors.

    ” TheFinalNail
    September 27, 2020 at 2:58 am

    From personal experience, Paul has a habit of blocking anyone who criticies his methods in any way from commenting on his blog (unlike here). Have a look through the threads and see how many dissenting voices are long term commenters there. They tend to vanish very quickly.”

    It would appear that there is a bit of a smear campaign going on.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      October 1, 2020 2:28 pm

      Given that it is impossible to post anything even vaguely dissenting or have a rational discussion on just about any ‘alarmist’ blog/site including the Met Office it seems, that is a ridiculously hypocritical!

      It’s also impossible to run a remotely skeptic site without attracting a legion of organised disruptive activists who have no interest in a rational discussion. So again, it is the tactics of the alarmists themselves that is to blame.

    • October 1, 2020 2:52 pm

      He’s never commented here.

    • October 1, 2020 4:04 pm

      Tell a lie!!

      I’ve searched the full comment database, and Richard Betts has commented on these two posts:

      As you can see, I have replied constructively to both.

      No comments have come since

      • martinbrumby permalink
        October 2, 2020 10:50 am

        It is interesting to re-read a piece in Bishop Hill and the subsequent discussion which included a number of comments by Dr./Prof./Chief-Shroudwaver Betts back in 2015.

        Or my comment in a subsequent thread:-

        “No-one in their right mind would send the grand-kids to a party organised by the proven kiddie fiddlers such as Savile, Glitter and Harris.

        But apparently we should be happy to allow the future of our great-great grand-kids to be constrained by the proven fact fiddlers like Schmidt, Michael Mann, …and Then There’s Precautionary Principle, and the rest.

        We even have (in the context of the tragic impact of Cyclone Pam on the poor citizens of Vanuatu) our old chum, quoted by the Grauniad:-

        Professor Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said the human contribution to sea level rise over the past 100 years was well documented and makes island nations more vulnerable to storms and particularly storm surge.

        “When cyclones and other storms occur, there is already a greater risk of coastal flooding because the background sea level has risen, largely due to human-induced global warming. How much more flooding has occurred due to human action is unclear, but ongoing sea level rise can be expected to further increase this risk unless coastal protection can be improved.”

        Human contribution to sea level rise “well documented”? My @rse!

        Mar 17, 2015 at 5:49 AM | Martin Brumby”

  15. October 2, 2020 2:08 am

    The role of superstition in climate impacts attribution

  16. Athelstan. permalink
    October 2, 2020 9:54 am

    betts is the larfing gnome and advertizer of the circus of climastrology, “roll up, roll up, roll up, moonbeam technology, unsustainability and Murphy’s law added to unintended consequences galore, and green kool aid for all, like it or not, ye’ll all be made to swallow it!”

    keep the money flowing in, and bu66er the conscience – eh ricky?

  17. October 3, 2020 12:41 pm

    Reblogged this on WeatherAction News and commented:

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