Wallace Broecker has died at the age of 87, on February 18th, 2019, in New York. He leaves behind a large body of pioneering scientific research into the climate and the oceans. Perhaps his most significant contribution was to introduce the idea of the global ocean thermohaline conveyor belt and the concept of abrupt climate change caused by its sudden weakening via the input of fresh water into the ocean – so called “fresh water hosing”.

His Obits are all over the popular press, rightly so, but most of them incorrectly identify him as ‘correctly’ predicting the post 1975 rise in global temperature due to the build up of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere. Columbia University labels him a ‘Prophet of Climate Change’, saying:

In August 1975, Broecker synthesized his and others’ related research in the journal Science in a piece called “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” It was later said to be the first time the phrase was used in a scientific paper. In it, he argued that humans were changing the climate by emitting CO2; it just wasn’t evident yet, because the world was experiencing what he believed was a natural 40-year cooling cycle that was masking the effects. He predicted that the cycle would soon reverse, and then the manmade warming on top of that would become dramatically visible. It later turned out that he had misinterpreted some of the ice-core data, but had the overall picture right. Right on cue in 1976, temperatures started ascending, and have continued since then pretty much along the trajectory Broecker laid out.

The Guardian says:

Broecker brought “global warming” into common use with a 1975 article that correctly predicted rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced warming.

He was also an advocate for political action to deal with the problem. In 1984, he told a House of Representatives subcommittee that urgent action was required to halt the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere because the climate system could “jump abruptly from one state to another” with devastating effects. His theories have subsequently become proven by events and are almost universally accepted by climate scientists.

The plain truth which warmists are not telling you in their unseemly haste to re-paint Broecker as The Father of Global Warming after his death is that, in 2017, he wrote an enigmatic essay, basically pointing out that his prediction was correct, but for the wrong reasons, whilst firmly pointing out his dislike for the epithet ‘Father of Global Warming’. In this respect, the current crop of obituaries in the warmist media is misguided, even disrespectful and the new epithet ‘Prophet of Climate Change’, coined by a Columbia University blogger, might be deemed to be darn right insulting. But that’s warmists for you; ever open to opportunities to push their pet theory, regardless of ethics.

I wrote an article about Wally Broeker’s Dumb Luck (his terminology) here. It’s even more relevant now he has passed away.



  1. “‘Grandfather of Climate Science’ and populariser of ‘global warming’ Wallace Smith Broecker dies aged 87” proclaims Sky News.

    In 2017, Wally said: “It is my hope that the title “Father of Global Warming” does not appear on my tombstone. Were it to, I would be faced with a restless afterlife.”

    I’m thinking that Wally may be starting to get slightly restless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Inevitably, perhaps, the BBC story is:

    “Climate change: Death of the ‘grandfather of climate science'”


    But at the very end, they do at least say:

    “Prof Broecker was known for his friendly, humble demeanour. He suffered from dyslexia, and never learned how to type or use a personal computer. He was somewhat embarrassed at the fuss over coining the term “global warming”, which he put down to “dumb luck”.

    In an obituary on the Columbia University website, Prof Broecker is quoted as warning that he would turn over in his grave if someone put the phrase on his tombstone.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. But why remember the originator of a now defunct phrase? Global warming is so so old hat (and no longer true). We have gone through so many iterations. Is it “climate weirding” or “climate cancer” we’re up to now. But put it on his gravestone anyway.


  4. The BBC can’t even get that right Mark. His dumb luck was predicting a rise in global temperature correctly, but for the wrong reasons. He was also very unhappy with being called the father of global warming and with being identified as the originator of the term global warming. As Alan points out, it’s called climate change now, or the climate crisis, global weirding, climate breakdown, or whatever currently appeals most to alarmists. But now suddenly, after his death, global warming – the term he most wished not to be associated with – is all the rage again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “The Guardian says:

    Broecker brought “global warming” into common use with a 1975 article that correctly predicted rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would lead to pronounced warming.”

    I don’t think the phrase “global warming” was in common use in the 1970s. Back in those days global cooling was the much more prevalent idea, though the term “global cooling” wasn’t actually used, the anticipated cooling event was referred to as a coming “Ice Age”.

    In the 1980s I don’t think the term “global warming” was in common use either, it was more likely to be described as the “greenhouse effect” as I remember it. An example of the use of the term “greenhouse effect”, which I think may be the first time this concept appeared in British politics, was in the Conservative party’s 1987 General Election manifesto (in the section on Energy):



    Britain is the only major Western industrial country that is a net exporter of energy. This owes much to North Sea oil so successfully developed by free enterprise. But it is an advantage that will not last indefinitely.

    Coal will continue to meet much of the steadily rising demand for electricity. Renewable sources of energy can make some contribution to the nation’s energy needs, which is why government-sponsored research has been increased. Nevertheless, to reject, as our opponents do, the contribution of nuclear energy to supplying reliable, low-cost electricity, and to depend on coal alone, would be short-sighted and irresponsible.

    The world’s resources of fossil fuels will come under increasing strain during the 21st century; so may the global environment if the build-up of carbon dioxide the so-called “greenhouse effect” significantly raises temperatures and changes climates.

    After the most careful and painstaking independent assessment of the safety case for a new pressurised water reactor at Sizewell, therefore, the Government has decided to proceed with the next phase of our nuclear programme. It is vital that we continue to give the highest priority to safety. Our nuclear industry has a record of safety and technical excellence second to none.

    We intend to go on playing a leading role in the task of developing abundant, low-cost supplies of nuclear electricity, and managing the associated waste products.”

    From the above extract, it is clear that the proposed main method for dealing with the greenhouse effect in the Thatcher era was the building of a fleet of several nuclear power stations of the Sizewell B design. Thatcher was deposed as party leader in 1990, and succeeded by John Major, who had a much less enthusiastic attitude towards nuclear power. Possibly under the influence of the Green advisers that came in during the Major era, and also his dodgy environment minister John Gummer, the fleet of nuclear power stations was never built apart from Sizewell B.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for that history Dave. Nuclear energy was, and still is, the only rational, economically, environmentally and socially feasible way to achieve the proposed huge reductions in CO2 which climate alarmists say are absolutely vital. Yet they have failed to embrace the technology, indeed have rejected nuclear energy on the grounds that it is ‘unsafe’. They are technically insane.


  7. At WUWT the Mann Hockeystick University of Arizona emails are available
    First couple of pages of 00249611.pdf Edward Cook in email to Mann mentions Wally Broecker in terms that are not that complimentary.

    Further down the email we find out that Broecker believed the MWP was warmer than today. On Page 5 in earlier email of Tom Crowley find out it was Broecker’s article “Was the Medieval Warm
    Period Global? in Science Perspectives that got the team – especially Mike Mann – a bit annoyed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Was the Medieval Warm Period Global? Wallace S. Broecker Science 23 Feb 2001: Vol. 291, Issue 5508, pp. 1497-1499 DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5508.1497
    A couple of extracts from this article gives an indication whilst Broecker was non too popular with the hockey stick team.

    The reconstruction of global temperatures during the last millennium can provide important clues for how climate may change in the future. A recent, widely cited reconstruction (1) leaves the impression that the 20th century warming was unique during the last millennium. It shows no hint of the Medieval Warm Period (from around 800 to 1200 A.D.) during which the Vikings colonized Greenland (2), suggesting that this warm event was regional rather than global. It also remains unclear why just at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and before the emission of substantial amounts of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, Earth’s temperature began to rise steeply.
    1. M. E. Mann, R. 5. Bradley, M. K. Hughes, Geophys. Res. Lett. 26,759 (1999).


    One difficulty encountered when trying to reconstruct Holocene temperature fluctuations is that they were probably less than 1°C. In my estimation, at least for time scales greater than a century or two, only two proxies can yield temperatures that are accurate to 0.5°C: the reconstruction of temperatures from the elevation of mountain snowlines and borehole thermometry. Tree ring records are useful for measuring temperature fluctuations over short time periods but cannot pick up long-term trends because there is no way to establish the long-term evolution in ring thickness were temperatures to have remained constant. Corals also are not accurate enough, especially because few records extend back a thousand years. The accuracy of the temperature estimates based on floral or faunal remains from lake and bog sediments is likely no better than ±1.3°C and hence not sufficiently sensitive for Holocene thermometry.


    Liked by 1 person

  9. Manic, thanks so much for digging up those fascinating tidbits. It illustrates that Broecker was not as popular with the global warming ‘community’ as might be supposed, simply because he was an independent thinker who put scientific evidence before adherence to consensus. Also confirms what a little shit Mann is. Broecker’s gone up in my opinion even more after reading that.


  10. MANICBEANCOUNTER (5 Mar 11.41am)
    I’ve been browsing the same batch of emails.

    Click to access 00249611.pdf

    Ed Cook’s mail to Mann seems to be a reply to something in which Mann objects to an unpublished paper by Cook and Esper being used in Wally Broecker’s seminars. Mann complains:

    I’m just a bit concerned that the result is getting used publically, [sic] by some, before it has gone through the gauntlet of peer review. Especially because it is, whether you condone it or not, being used as we speak to discredit the work of us, and Phil et al, this is dangerous.

    “We are being discredited, and this is dangerous.”

    As always, Mann’s attitude to scientific research is: “Does it support our position? And if not, what can we do to stifle/discredit it?”

    Anthony Watts valiantly asked his readers to analyse the mails in a group effort. As always, 90% of the 240+ comments in the past two days prefer to sound off, attack Steve Mosher, talk among themselves etc. I’m wondering if we here could do better?


  11. Geoff
    The email thread is very long, extending over a number of pages.
    The first email is from Edward Cook starting “Dear Tom”. The address list has been lost. The proposed Esper & Cook paper is in response to Broecker’s paper with Esper doing the data analysis. This shows a strong, even canonical, MWP – LIA – C20th warming pattern. MWP has not as greater magnitude as C20th warming, but much greater than than previous hockey sticks. But it consistent with previous work by Jones and Briffa.
    Cook then goes on to talk about the “Special Wally Seminar ” he arranged to convince Broecker of the error of his ways in claiming that trr-rings could not preserve long term temperature information. Wally was converted. But Jan Esper also presented on his findings at the same event, which strongly reinforced Wally’s opinion of the hockey stick.
    Edward Cook strongly believed in reconciling the hockey stick with the non-hockey stick reconstructions and hoped everyone could join in that task.
    This mesage is significant occurring a couple of years before Steve McIntyre came on the scene. It was only then that the multiple reasons for the hockey stick divergence from other studies was understood.


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