Over at “A Few Things Ill Considered” Coby posts about Trenberth’s recent article in The Daily Camera on the travesty that is the way his email commenting on the “travesty” of being unable to account for the lack of warming is being misrepresented around the net.
It is a constantly, and often intentionally, misunderstood fact that the large variability of weather will often overshadow the slow and constant march of CO2 driven warming. The weather can change tens of degrees from day to day in one location. In fact, the record change is 57oC, 105oF for our American readers, in a single 24hr period! (I leave it as an excercise for the reader to extrapolate that to a 100 year trend.) Globally averaged annual temperatures are about 2 orders of magnituded more stable but that still leaves room for one or two tenths of a degree each year.
It drives me nuts, and I sure others can attest to the same, when I see people on skeptic and contrarian blogs point to how cold it is as if that invalidates AGW. Come on people! At least learn the difference between climate and weather, signal and noise — that is, if you care about credibility… The yukking it up I see when people do this is nothing but a show of how stupid or ignorant they are, and says nothing about AGW itself.
Back to the Trenberth “travesty” travesty…
Much has been made about the email with Trenberth’s quote, which is as follows:
“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
For a good summary, go to Skeptical Science, which points out:
This has been most commonly interpreted (among skeptics) as climate scientists secretly admitting amongst themselves that global warming really has stopped. Is this what Trenberth is saying? If one takes a little time to understand the science that Trenberth is discussing, his meaning becomes clear.
If you read the full email, you learn that Trenberth is actually informing fellow climate scientists about a paper he’d recently published, An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s global energy (Trenberth 2009). The paper discusses the planet’s energy budget – how much net energy is flowing into our climate and where it’s going. It also discusses the systems we have in place to track energy flow in and out of our climate system.
In the skeptic and contrarian and denialosphere, this is taken as evidence that global warming has stopped and the scientists are at a loss to explain why. It is taken as proof that the scientists know that global warming has stopped and are hiding this from the public.
Trenberth responds in The Daily Camera:
The quote has been taken out of context. It relates to our ability to track energy flow through the climate system. We can do this very well from 1992 to 2003, when large warming occurred, but not from 2004 to 2008. The quote refers to our observation system which is inadequate to observe Earth’s energy flows at the accuracy needed to understand small fluctuations in climate; it does not mean there is no global warming, as is often interpreted by the likes of Danaher. What is does mean is that our observing system is not adequate to fully track the energy in ways that allow us to understand and make best statements about the effects of natural climate variability: the La Niña of 2007-2008, and the current El Niño, for instance.
It is absolutely certain that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and produces warming, despite Danaher’s wishes. Without carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, Earth’s surface would be some 32 degrees Fahrenheit colder than it is now. Increased carbon dioxide will increase this warming effect, and both theory and observations are consistent with this fact. The evidence of this happening is widespread and abundant, so that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 was able to state with unanimous agreement from all of over 100 countries that global warming is unequivocal. But global warming does not stop weather from happening, and cold outbreaks continue and are fully expected. It does not stop winter. And it does not stop La Niña from happening and setting up unusually cold regional patterns of weather across the United States and other parts of the world that last a year or two.
Many contrarian, skeptic and denialist blogs or comments around the net repeat the Trenberth quote and cite it as evidence of a massive hoax or coverup. Apparently, they don’t really care to learn what Trenberth meant when he wrote that. They just want the quote out of context because it serves their purposes — discrediting AGW.
Here’s a sample:
From Lucia’s The Blackboard post on The CRU Hack — What’s next?:
Kevin Trenberth: “..The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can’t…”
Mr Kevin Trenberth who was the lead author of the 1995, 2001 and 2007 Scientific Assessment of Climate Change reports for the IPCC is totally flummoxed by the lack of warming, yet the politicians claim that the science is settled and we must commit to a suicidal battle against this uncertain and possibly imaginary AGW foe.
From a tribe blog:
Trenberth, a prominent Climate Alarmist, is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He says one thing in public, and he says the exact opposite in emails to his cronies. Even the Warmies are having doubts that they dare not express in public. If they they were more candid, they’d lose their funding faster than you can say “Fraud!”
Michael Fumento, who interestingly calls himsef “factual, powerful, original, iconoclastic”, on Show Me The Warming, comments:
“…in one e-mail, a top “warmist” researcheradmits it’s a “travesty” that “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment.” (Emphasis added.) Further, “any consideration of geoengineering [is] quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not!”
Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun writes:
IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth privately tells Mann, Santer, Wigley, Jones and leading alarmists such as Stephen H. Schneider and James Hansen that the data doesn’t show what their climate models predicted:
… where the heck is global warming? We are asking that here in Boulder where we have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record. … The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.
That’s just a few of the thousands of comments on Trenberth’s excerpt from the emails. Do you suppose these folks will issue clarifications now that Trenberth has spoken to explain his comments and his position?
I didn’t think so.