Kevin Trenberth’s REAL travesty

November 24, 2009

There has been a lot of talk about Kevin Trenberth’s “travesty” email. 

Here is the REAL travesty:  Trenberth has selected and presented data in a way that makes the epithet “alarmist” an objective evaluation of his behavior.

The “Travesty” email

Kevin Trenberth was a lead author of the 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC Scientific Assessment of Climate Change.  So, he shares that Nobel Prize with Al Gore.  On his day job he is head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

One of the hacked Climate Research Unit (CRU) emails that is raising a few eyebrows is from October 12th of this year, from Kevin Trenberth to Micheal Mann (the original shamed author of the Hockey Stick).  Trenberth is talking about the cold weather the world has seen lately, and in particular, the cold weather being experienced where he and NCAR reside, in Boulder, Colorado.  He says it is a “travesty” that this “lack of warming at the moment” can’t be accounted for.

I live just down the road from Boulder, so I know what he is talking about.  It has been a cold, snowy, rough fall so far.

Here is Trenberth’s email to Mann…

From: Kevin Trenberth
To: Michael Mann <mann@xxxxxxxxx.xxx>
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 08:57:37 -0600
Cc: Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , “Philip D. Jones” , Benjamin Santer , Tom Wigley , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer

Hi all

Well I have my own article on 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. We had 4 inches of snow. The high the last 2 days was below 30F and the normal is 69F, and it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F. The low was about 18F and also a record low, well below the previous record low. This is January weather (see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last night in below freezing weather).

Trenberth, K. E., 2009: An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth’s global energy. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 1, 19-27, doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001. [1][PDF] (A PDF of the published version can be obtained from the author.)

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. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate.

That said there is a LOT of nonsense about the PDO. People like CPC are tracking PDO on a monthly basis but it is highly correlated with ENSO. Most of what they are seeing is the change in ENSO not real PDO. It surely isn’t decadal. The PDO is already reversing with the switch to El Nino. The PDO index became positive in September for first time since Sept 2007.see[2]http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/GODAS/ocean_briefing_gif/global_ocean_monitoring_c urrent.ppt


Climate vs. Weather

Most folks are missing the real point when it comes to Trenberth’s “travesty” email.  For a typical example, see this very short Glenn Beck video…

If you are an anthropogenic global warming skeptic, like I am, then it is dangerous to gloat over cold WEATHER, because it may be warm tomorrow.  I do not think unusually cold weather for a season, or even a year, provides a very good counter-argument to global warming alarmism.  It goes back to the old weather vs. climate thing.  I accept that the recent (say, the last year) cold weather could (almost) be chalked up to weather, not climate.

The REAL travesty

Trenberth's gigantic "future hurricane" next to the real Katrina. Both are on the same size scale.

The real travesty with Trenberth has been his long-term take on climate, not weather.  Trenberth has loudly trumpeted climate alarmism by preaching hurricane panic.  See his Scientific American article from 2007.  He predicted a trend toward gigantic hurricanes which was depicted by an illustration of a “future hurricane,” which is shown at the left (click to enlarge).

Prior to that, in 2005 he wrote about the importance the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index.  This is a measure of the amount of energy dissipated by cyclones over the entire planet, or some part of the planet.  In the June 17th, 2005 issue of Science he said…

An important measure of regional storm activity is the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index…The ACE index reflects the collective intensity and duration of tropical storms and hurricanes during a given hurricane season.

At that time he used the ACE to bolster his argument that “Trends in human-influenced environmental changes are now evident in hurricane regions.”  This is what the satellite derived ACE looked like in 2005, about the time of Katrina…

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index to 2005.

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index to 2005.

For some reason, he left the ACE data out of his 2007 Scientific American article.  Maybe because when he wrote his article in 2007 it looked something like this…

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index to 2007.

I wonder if he includes the ACE index in his presentations today when he talks about the dangers of future hurricanes.  The Accumulated Cyclone Energy index as derived from satellite data, for both the planet and the Northern Hemisphere are at historic lows.  And that’s climate, not weather…

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index to 2009.

The bottom line

Trenberth and the rest of the gang  are willing to sacrifice the tenets of scientific discourse and even common decency , and they are eager to evade the need for transparency, just to maintain their status as the scientific elite.  They have selected and presented data in a way that makes the epithet “alarmist” an objective evaluation of their behavior.



  1. he didn’t just massage the data, he practically water-boarded it

  2. Trenberth and his cohorts have committed a travesty upon the American people and the world at large. They have cherry-picked the data they have wished to present to the detriment of those scientists who could counter their arguments.

    Even more obscene is the stance that they have promulgated in order to have our government adopt their theories, which have helped to place industry, jobs and the American economic circumstance in an even more dire downslide.

    Someone needs to Kevin Trenberth’s ego and nail it to a wall! How does he and his cronies sleep at night?

  3. […] Colorado. Trenberth, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the U.N.’s work on climate change, states the following: The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that […]

  4. These guys are selling AGW-based policies, and climate science is just a road bump.

  5. The results of this fraud have already been felt by our nation. I point to the troubles of GM as an example. The previous CEO decided that the VOLT was where most research and development would be directed. This decision preceded the development of the technology necessary to make this endeavor economically viable. I will look into buying a VOLT when it comes out; however, that decision will be based on the battery life and replacement costs

  6. Trenberth email has been taken out of context of his published work in which he argues clearly that there are important aspects of short term weather fluctuations that we do not understand. He labels it a travesty that we don’t understand in essence as a argument to stimulate more research on the subject. Anyone who finds that email anything that invalidates all the indicators that climate is warming and that humans have a big role in causing that to happen is living a pipe dream.

    • Dear Alan Keller,

      I am wondering if you actually read this post. My guess is you did not.

      The point here is that Trenberth has been, in fact, an alarmist. Not in this email, but in his past history. That is “Trenberth’s REAL travesty.”

      If you did not look at the post concerning Trenberth’s so-called “future hurricanes,” then I recommend you have a look now. You can see it here.

      Best regard,
      Tom Moriarty

  7. This isn’t the first time Trenberth objectivity and political motivation has been called into question. Dr. Chris Landsea’s resignation letter to the IPCC is illustrative http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/science_policy_general/000318chris_landsea_leaves.html
    It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current scientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.
    My concerns go beyond the actions of Dr. Trenberth and his colleagues to how he and other IPCC officials responded to my concerns. I did caution Dr. Trenberth before the media event and provided him a summary of the current understanding within the hurricane research community. I was disappointed when the IPCC leadership dismissed my concerns when I brought up the misrepresentation of climate science while invoking the authority of the IPCC. Specifically, the IPCC leadership said that Dr. Trenberth was speaking as an individual even though he was introduced in the press conference as an IPCC lead author;

    • Dear Jim Steele,

      Thank you for your excellent comment.

      Best Regards,
      Tom Moriarty

  8. […] to be “affected by global warming.” Trenberth is the very pseudo-scientist who admitted that he and his fellow alarmists have no idea what actually causes the weather, which usually fails to conform to the alarmists’ […]

  9. […] Then, there is is cherry picking of facts, which critics say is the real ‘travesty’ about about Trenberth. […]

  10. Global warming is in effect. All atmospheric extremes are a result of global warming. Of course man has an effect on global warming. To think otherwise is unrealistic. Global warming may have always been a risk in a changing universe. We are seeing the effects of OUR global warming. Expect to be wrong, it’s all new to us. But some hypothesis are undeniable, and all facts are undeniable. Like the melting glaciers, and heat dome over the U.S.

  11. […] account for the lack of warming at the moment," in addition to his other failed predictions such as future hurricane horrors while administering discipline as one of the scientific journal brown shirts. In writing to […]

  12. […] also recall that this is the same Kevin Trenberth who, in October of 2009, expressed his frustration in a leaked email to Michael Mann that the darned planet just would not cooperate with his […]

  13. […] also recall that this is the same Kevin Trenberth who, in October of 2009, expressed his frustration in a leaked email to Michael Mann that the darned planet just would not cooperate with his […]

  14. […] Kevin Trenberth’s REAL travesty | Climate Sanity […]

  15. […] Again, it is important to remember here: not a single alarmist prediction made since the late 1970s has come true – not one. However, alarmism sells: it sells newspapers, it is loved by the political class, as it justifies ever greater government interference in the economy, and it is therefore the source of a huge gravy train of scientific grants. Many scientists try to be as alarmist as possible for this very reason: it keeps the grant money flowing. When they think no-one’s looking, they admit to each other what a “travesty” it all is (their words, from the “Climategate” e-mails). […]

  16. […] or regional predictions of climate. Det är samme Trenberth som i de läckta Climategate mailen skrev: The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty […]

  17. […] significant quotes. But I believe he misses the most important. Kevin Trenberth to Micheal Mann on Mon, 12 Oct 2009 and copied to most of the leading […]

  18. […] But you don’t need to assert “political partisans like Senator Cruz” kowtowing to “the special interests who fund their campaigns”, do you? If Mann wants to hoot and jeer at rubes who keep yakking about this “faux pause”, why not cite, say, his close buddy and fellow climate scientist Kevin Trenberth? Six years ago Trenberth emailed Mann: […]

  19. […] that “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,” and whose thus-far unfulfilled prophecies of more and stronger hurricanes has been […]

  20. Look at the trend line (line of best fit). It starts out at 1985 in the previous graph. Even AFTER the 2007 one is included, the trendline is still increasing. The other graphs are worse that the first one, because they also obscure the data. Look at where the line starts in those two: 1990! A whole 5 years after the other one. That obscures the line and data. If it started in 1985, like the other one. That line would increase. Obscuring the data… exactly the same thing.

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