The editor-in-chief of a climate science journal has resigned in response to an academic controversy triggered by his publication of a paper co-authored by a leading climate sceptic.

Prof Wolfgang Wagner wrote in an editorial published on Friday in Remote Sensing that he felt obliged to resign because it was now apparent to him that a paper entitled “On the misdiagnosis of surface temperature feedbacks from variations in Earth's radiant energy balance” by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, was fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal. Spencer has frequently appeared in the right-wing media in the U.S. criticising climate alarmism and is the author of a book called The Great Global Warming Blunder.

Wagner is the head of the Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing at the Vienna University of Technology. He added that he would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper's conclusions in public statements.

The paper in question – which, Wagner says, was downloaded 56,000 times within one month after its publication in July, as a result of the attention it attracted - purported to show how the Earth's atmosphere is more efficient at releasing energy into space than is programmed into the computer models used to forecast climate change.

The paper became a cause of intense debate in sceptical circles through its claim that mainstream climate models inflated temperature projections through misunderstanding the role of clouds in the climate system and the rate at which the Earth radiated heat into space.

The paper, published in July, was swiftly attacked by scientists in the mainstream of climate research.

Wagner says he now accepts the subsequent criticism from other climate scientists that the peer-review process used to test the paper's findings was flawed.

Dr. Spencer is a member of a team at the University of Alabama in Huntsville that keeps a record of the Earth's temperature as determined from satellite readings. He is also on the board of directors of the George C Marshall Institute, a right-wing think-tank critical of mainstream climate science.

Dr. Spencer is no stranger to academic controversies. He has long maintained that satellite observations showed that atmospheric temperatures were cooling rather than warming until it was shown that the satellites in question suffered from orbital drift.