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Preview: DeSmogBlog - Kevin Trenberth

Kevin Trenberth





 



The Real “Climategate” Story – Current Climate Satellites are Woefully Inadequate

Thu, 14 Jan 2010 18:03:03 +0000

The media missed the real story about the so-called “climate-gate” scandal. After thousands of emails were mysteriously stolen from the University of East Anglia and distributed just before the climate conference in Copenhagen, many news outlets seemed content to report the story as it was presented to them rather than bothering to read the emails in the context they were written. A closer look at these candid messages reveals a very different problem than the supposed scientific conspiracy theory that’s been in high rotation in the media. This previously unreported story also shows why launching the long-mothballed Deep Space Climate Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is more urgent now than ever. Lets start with perhaps the most widely distributed and misunderstood of the stolen emails, of October 12, 2009 from Dr. Keith Trenberth to Michael Mann, which reads: 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. Out of more than a thousand emails dating back 13 years, this single sentence was seized on by some commentators as evidence that decades of climate research by hundreds of scientists is instead a global conspiracy. If you are going to put that much weight on a single email, you may as well finish reading it. Here’s what Trenberth says in the following sentence: 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. Allow me to translate this dense jargon into English. CERES stands for Clouds and the Earth s Radiant Energy System – a five-satellite network launched by NASA dating back to 1997 to monitor heat flow in the upper atmosphere. The story you haven’t heard is that scientists can’t get the numbers to add up using existing climate satellites. After billions of research dollars spent and over a decade of trying, the energy budget of planet as measured by CERES and other low- Earth orbit satellite systems is out of whack by about 6 watts per square meter. That stubborn error in the satellite data is about six times larger than what is scientifically possible, and several times larger than the effect scientists are trying to see, namely planetary warming caused by continued massive emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While this is a very big deal, it does NOT remotely suggest that climate change is a hoax. For evidence of that, you don’t need a satellite, you can look out your kitchen window. Sea ice is disappearing from the arctic so fast it could be gone forever in as little as 30 years. The Met Office predicts 2010 may be the hottest year on record and that this decade was the hottest ever “by far”. Australia is currently enduring the hottest six months since record keeping began in the 1800’s. What Trenberth is saying in this now infamous email is that it is a “travesty” that scientists cannot accurately measure from space what is plainly obvious here on Earth. More than that, he is lamenting that our “observing system” is inadequate to be able to accurately balance the planet’s energy budget. Dr. Trenberth is one of the world’s most respected climate researchers. To hear him directly explain this problem himself, have a look at this video. If you happen to have a PhD in atmospheric physics (or just have trouble sleeping) you may also want to read his thorough research paper on the topic. It’s not that the CERES experiment is a bad project or staffed by incompetent people. But the fact of the matter is that our satellite systems have failed to provide coherent data to explain the defining issue of the 21st century. This important but esoteric problem is largely unknown to the public, but widely acknowledged within the scientific community. So what’s the problem with the data? In science, such unexplained phenomena are not a “problem” – they are the most interesting things to look at. They reveal clues about things we don’t yet fully understand, or hint that [...]



New Canadian Climate Policy: Good News If It's For Real

Mon, 10 Mar 2008 18:15:35 +0000

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In a suspicious “leak ” to the Globe and Mail, the Canadian government has announced a “tough new green plan” that will force oil sands projects and coal-fired power plants to capture and store CO2.

This would be good if it were true, but the Globe article says the federal Conservative government is still using intensity targets and has given a free pass to all projects that are already “hit the drawing board.” At last report, oil sands developers had existing plans to triple their operations by 2012, so the Tory plan may be similar to the Alberta government plan: which is, effectively, to let the oil patch do whatever it wants.

Now that the government has engineered this very favourable headline, it will be interesting to see what the fine print says when the actual policy is released later this week.

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Man-Made Aerosol Cooling Would Trigger a Global Drought

Sun, 19 Aug 2007 19:16:17 +0000

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A controversial theory proposes mimicking volcanoes to fight global warming. But throwing sulfur particles into the sky may do more harm than good, a new study says.

The temporary solution would pump particles of sulfur high into the atmosphere—simulating the effect of a massive volcano by blocking out some of the sun's rays.

This intervention, advocates argue, would buy a little time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But as well as cooling the planet, the sulfur particles would reduce rainfall and cause serious global drought, a new study says.




Scientists Fear New IPCC Report Sugarcoats Grim Reality

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 16:40:35 +0000

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The melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are a fairly recent development that has taken scientists by surprise. They don't know how to predict its effects in their computer models. But many fear it will mean the world's coastlines are swamped much earlier than most predict.



Scientific Debate Gets Personal

Sat, 28 Oct 2006 15:36:40 +0000

At a climate conference, climate skeptic William Gray accused IPCC scientist Kevin Trenberth of “selling his soul to the devil.”  Trenberth, in turn, blasted Gray for aligning himself with industry-funded skeptics.  



Skeptic Bill Gray Embarrasses Himself Again

Mon, 02 Oct 2006 15:04:30 +0000

The words “global warming” provoke a sharp retort from Colorado State University meteorology professor emeritus William Gray: “It's a big scam.” And the name of climate researcher Kevin Trenberth elicits a sputtered “opportunist.”

(Grey repeated his assertion despite the publication of a meticulous refutation of his claims by a group of leading climate scientists.) 

At the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where Trenberth works, Gray's name prompts dismay. “Bill Gray is completely unreasonable,” Trenberth says. “He has a mind block on this.”



 




Right Wing Targets ABC's Bill Blakemore for His Mainstream Media Breakthrough

Mon, 26 Jun 2006 11:43:16 +0000

The right-wing outfit “Newsbusters” has targeted ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore for his coverage of climage change.

(image) Blakemore was the first major network correspondent to make the connection between weather extremes and global warming (in his recent segment on the 10-inch flood in Houston and the spreading wildfires several hundred miles away in Arizona. For breaking the long-standing reluctance of the media to make that connection, he deserves GREAT congratulations!

The Newsbuster site emphasizes that Blakemore does not have a climate science background. It conveniently ignores the fact that Blakemore interviews Kevin Trenberth, one of the world's leading climate scientists, for the segment.

The site also conveniently ignored the fact that more intense downpours and more severe droughts have been an established indicator of man-made global warming since 1995, when Tom Karl of the National Climatic Data Center (and a longtime skeptic about greenhouse warming) declared such extremes are exactly what we expect to see in an enhanced greenhouse. Newsbusters, by the way, whose mission is to “Expose and Combat Liberal Media Bias,” was set up by right-wing activist Brent Bozell. A sister organization, The Media Research Center, is launching a campaign to prosecute the New York Times for compromising national security by revealing a Treasury Department program, unauthorized by Congress, to screen financial transactions by citizens.



New Findings on 'Cane Strength Trash Assertions of "Skeptic" William Gray

Fri, 23 Jun 2006 17:14:59 +0000

Global warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Global Warming Beyond Natural Cycles Fueled 2005 HurricaneAmerican Geophysical Union, National Center for Atmospheric Research,National Science Foundation, June 22, 2006 WASHINGTON - Global warming accounted for around half of the extra hurricane-fueling warmth in the waters of the tropical North Atlantic in 2005, while natural cycles were only a minor factor, according to a new analysis by Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). “The global warming influence provides a new background level that increases the risk of future enhancements in hurricane activity,” Trenberth says. The study appears 27 June in Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union. The study contradicts recent claims that natural cycles are responsible for the upturn in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995. It also adds support to the premise that hurricane seasons will become more active as global temperatures rise. Last year produced a record 28 tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma all reached Category 5 strength. Trenberth and Shea's research focuses on an increase in ocean temperatures. During much of last year's hurricane season, sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic between 10 degrees north and 20 degrees north, which is where many Atlantic hurricanes originate, were a record 0.9 degrees Celsius [1.6 degrees Fahrenheit] above the 1901-1970 average. While researchers agree that the warming waters fueled hurricane intensity, they have been uncertain whether Atlantic waters have heated up because of a natural, decades-long cycle, or because of global warming. By analyzing worldwide data on sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) since the early 20th century, Trenberth and Shea were able to calculate the causes of the increased temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic. Their calculations show that global warming explained about 0.45 degrees Celsius [0.81 degrees Fahrenheit] of this rise. Aftereffects from the 2004-2005 El Nino accounted for about 0.2 degrees Celsius [0.4 degrees Fahrenheit]. The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), a 60-to-80-year natural cycle in sea surface temperature, explained less than 0.1 degrees Celsius [0.2 degrees Fahrenheit] of the rise, according to Trenberth. The remainder is due to year-to-year variability in temperatures. Previous studies have attributed the warming and cooling patterns of North Atlantic ocean temperatures in the 20th century–and associated hurricane activity–to the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. But Trenberth, suspecting that global warming was also playing a role, looked beyond the Atlantic to temperature patterns throughout Earth's tropical and midlatitude waters. He subtracted the global trend from the irregular Atlantic temperatures–in effect, separating global warming from the Atlantic natural cycle. The results show that the AMO is actually much weaker now than it was in the 1950s, when Atlantic hurricanes were also quite active. However, the AMO did contribute to the lull in hurricane activity from about 1970 to 1990 in the Atlantic. Global warming does not guarantee that each year will set new records for hurricanes, according to Trenberth. He notes that last year's activity was related to very favorable upper-level winds as well as the extremely warm sea surface temperatures. Each year will bring ups and downs in tropical Atlantic SSTs, due to natural variations, such as the presence or absence of El Nino, he says. However, he adds, the long-term ocean warming should raise the baseline of hurricane activity. The study[...]