Trenberth on “fixing the IPCC” and “missing heat”

From IEEE Spectrum – How to Fix the Climate-Change Panel

Questions for climate modeler and IPCC insider Kevin E. Trenberth

Keven E. Trenberth 

Photo: Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI/Landov

New Zealander Kevin E. Trenberth has been a lead author in the last three climate assessments produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he shared in the 2007 Nobel Prize awarded to the IPCC. He is head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. IEEE Spectrum Contributing Editor William Sweet interviewed Trenberth about the impact of the theft last year of climate scientists’ e-mails from the University of East Anglia and proposals for reforming the IPCC.

IEEE Spectrum: You were a lead coauthor with Phil Jones of East Anglia of a key chapter in the latest IPCC assessment, and messages of yours were among the hacked e-mails that aroused such consternation.

Kevin E. Trenberth: One cherry-picked message saying we can’t account for current global warming and that this is a travesty went viral and got more than 100 000 hits online. But it was quite clear from the context that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in terms of short-term variability.

Spectrum: It seems to me the most damaging thing about the disclosed e-mails was not the issue of fraud or scientific misconduct but the perception of a bunker mentality among climate scientists. If they really know what they’re doing, why do they seem so defensive?

The full interview at IEEE Spectrum

h/t to WUWT reader Mark Hirst

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Trenberth: …Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded.
😮

kim

It’s a travesty that we didn’t notice the missing heat escaping to space.
==============

JohnH

The Interview is the normal rubbish, but the comments show the way the wind is blowing, IEEE members are not happy. A Royal Society type climbdown coming soon (I know it was not much of one but one small step on the right path).

JonD

Wow. “Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded”.
Has the scientific method just been redefined?

It’s over buddies!….we know already bosses now forgot about all of you “climaterians”, now they are hiring biologists for the new tale of “Bio-diversity” for the ASAP procurement of a Brave New World Progressive Governance Agenda.

ZZZ

Good data just has to be prepared for presentation (for example, choosing scales so it’s easy to see the effects being described, and eliminating parts of the curve where the instruments are being calibrated, etc.) You can disregard all data that does not contain error bars. “Massaging data” is slang for taking ambiguous results and making them look better than they really are. The “hide the decline” maneuver with the first versions of the hockey-stick graph is an excellent example of this, as is carefully selecting the proxies used to construct that hockey-stick graph. Another good example of massaging data would be the attempts to find the high-altitude atmospheric hot spots predicted by AGW climate models by looking at the change wind speed with height while ignoring (because they do not show the expected hot spots) the actual high-altitude temperature records collected by weather balloons.

Ray

People are skeptic about their septic science… it stinks!

MikeEE

Juaraj V.
Yes, that statement jumped out at me right away. I suspect it might generate another 100000 hits… lol
MikeEE

Phillip Bratby

Trenberth answers like a politician, not a scientist.

ShrNfr

Ah yes, I dropped my IEEE membership a couple of years ago too. I do not suffer fools gladly.

Beth Cooper

It’s a travesty that they have to massage their data.

Sean

I hope by fixing the IPCC he means neutering.

Craig Goodrich

In answer to the question at the end of the quotation above:

Trenberth: What looks like defensiveness to the uninitiated can just be part of the normal process of doing science and scientific interaction. Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded. When they talk about error bars, referring to uncertainty limits, it sounds to the general public like they’re just talking about errors.

This is rubbish. Any fair reading of the emails betrays the kind of desperation characteristic of a group that knows its position is indefensible and so is willing to take any kind of action whatever, regardless of law or ethics, to suppress dissent. The brittleness and incoherence of the IPCC’s CO2-driven AGW theory is well-known to Mann, Briffa, Jones, Trenberth, Santer and the rest, as it is to any intelligent person who looks into the matter carefully — witness, most recently, Dr. Curry.
“Error bars” forsooth! He’s clearly been spending far too much time with Santer.

Mark Twang

What would be the reaction if a big pharma company admitted to massaging data in a clinical trial to hide or minimize unacceptable side effects in a new drug?

Duster

Trenberth slips around the really interesting phrase in that email of his where he stated that the data must be wrong. If data are wrong, no amount of “massage” would correct them. In effect if the data are wrong, then “massaging” the data to “correct” it would mean that the “new” data is fictitious. It isn’t data properly at all. The absolute and only recourse would be to collect new data, if that were possible. With a historic time series like temperature measurements which cannot be recollected, the “Team”‘s emphasis on proxies becomes more meaningful. Proxies are a desperate effort to replace “bad” data with numbers that behave as they “should.”

L Nettles

Wow just wow!
From the comments to the IEEE interview
“A lot of measurements are actually driven by facts. One of the key facts is Earth was not fit for human dwelling until a lot of carbon has been captured in the fossils. Hence we need to understand what would happen if all this carbon captured in fossil fuels is released back to the atmosphere. I hope everybody is curious to find out….. of course the fossil fuel industry wont care.”
That’s a justification for carbon control I had not seen before.!

Tenuc

Trenberth: “What looks like defensiveness to the uninitiated can just be part of the normal process of doing science and scientific interaction. Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded. When they talk about error bars, referring to uncertainty limits, it sounds to the general public like they’re just talking about errors.”
Wow! Trenberth certainly has a knack of shooting himself in the foot. No wonder people doubt the IPCC cargo cult school of climate science.

S. Keptic

It’s like playing a prize fish – the fight continues. If the IPCC / AGW fish are landed it’s a hard blow to the head(s) for me – no catch and release here.
Followed by their emergent re-incarnation, the biodiversivists (is there such a word?), and then the politicians. Here in the bankrupt UK we are committed to spending obscene billions on climate change measures over the next 4+ years. That’s to mitigate a 0.8 degree C rise by 40 years time.

kevin

“Mark Twang says:
October 29, 2010 at 10:01 am
What would be the reaction if a big pharma company admitted to massaging data in a clinical trial to hide or minimize unacceptable side effects in a new drug?”
Little to nothing as they do it all the time. In some cases they don’t even do studies.

grayman

I think the good DR. should get his head out of his A$$ and look around planet EARTH. He might see that life has been moving along just fine, Like it has been for Eons!

RockyRoad

“Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded”.
Really… Well, let me run this one by you and see how it sits:
“Bridge engineers almost always have to massage their designs, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded”.
Would you drive across that bridge?
How about: “My banker almost always has to massage my checking account numbers, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded”.
Wish I was such a banker and could get away with that!

Doug in Seattle

Data collected in natural sciences is messy. Anthony’s Surface Stations revelations are not an isolated problem. What is at the core of the IPCC/AGW problem isn’t just that the data is messy though. Its how they have tried to cover up the issue, to attribute far too much certainty in the models and other derivative products of these data, and to try to foist a radical realignment of human civilization around their products.
Trenberth’s “The whole IPCC process is intrinsically conservative” comment is a very good illustration of the problem. The IPCC is very far from conservative, but does perhaps show just how radical folks like Trenberth really are.

RockyRoad

Trenberth describes Climategate as “one cherry-picked message”, but I say–by all means, let’s SEE THE REST!
Open up that email server and let’s inspect ALL of the communications. That would be a fitting thing to do a year after the initial revelations.

paulsnz

Very economical with the truth “100,000 hits online” just like his work out by factors of 1000.

Roy Clark

It is simply impossible for a 100 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration to cause any kind of climate change.
The climate models have been hard wired using ‘radiative forcing constants’ to ‘predict’ global warming where none exists.
Bernie Madoff got a 150 year jail sentence, Trenberth & Co. should not get any less.

rob m.

hmm..
“Scientists determine what is said, but governments determine how it is said.”
Don’t let scientific facts get in the way of a political argument.

I wonder if they know, or rather, if they could eventually reconstruct the original raw data, it’s must be like trying to know the original face of an actress after 25 cosmetic surgeries!…or like recovering files wrongly deleted several times…..BTW….Do you know what model did the bosses tell us to use for having a proof of climate change of more than 3 degrees Celsius for the year 2050, before they go to Cancun?...

kim

Fool. Most of the carbon is in carbonates, not hydrocarbons.
================

LarryT

I was an applied mathematcian who worked extensively with data with noise for various government agency.including NASA. I believe that the current climate scientists throw out the good data and keep the bad. The station data combination introduces bias and filling of missing data that uses other stations that may have no relationship adds junk. The temperature calculations are an average of an average of an average of an average and then is further smoothed to be completely meaningless.

wayne

Stunning hubris from Trenberth and therefore IEEE as usual! This seems but an attempt to defuse the well deserved fraud charges. IPCC and the UN’s meddling in climate must all go.

George E. Smith

Well color me red faced.
A former New Zealand Prime Minister once observed, that when New Zealanders emigrate to Australia, it raises the IQs of both countries. Eh! fair go Mate; we still are both the same species !
Evidently emigration to the USA, Conveys the same mutual benefits. Ernest Rutherford emigrated to great Britain; and the Royal Navy no longer rules the seven seas !
Well America, I can’t promise to fill in all the pot holes that Dr Trenberth makes; (he’s a damn side more handsome than I am though).
First off, I get off on the wrong foot with that “theft last year…..”
I hadn’t heard that they actually had caught the varmint(s) who put together that FOIA2009 file of extranea and accidently left it in the loo.; so the Russian Red Cross could find it.
I’m rather convinced that models of earth climate like Dr Trenberth’s famous “Energy Budget Cartoon” will never give credible results; Dr Lacis Radiative Transfer theories, notwithstanding; so long as planet earth is regarded as an isothermal sphere at a constant 288 K surface Temperature; receiving a static 342 W/m^2 of 6000K BB spectrum EM radiation over 4pi steradians 24/7 even at the south pole in midwinter midnight, and emitting 390 W/m^2 of 288 K thermal spectrum LWIR EM radiation from every point on the globe.
Also the idea that 324 W/m^2 of LWIR thermal radiation at ??? Temperature spectrum downward radiation can simply be added to that 342 W/m^2 of solar spectrum as if lobsters, and coconut trees were the same thing and affected life on earth exactly the same.
I’m rather used to a planet that rotates once in about 24 hours, and has a big 1366 W/m^2 blow torch shining down on just a tad more than half of it for only part of the time in most places.
Earth is NEVER in thermal equilibrium; no matter what; and making up models that presume it is; just flies in the face of common sense.
I might have to apply for a new birth certificate; and say I was born in Hawaii; which is the 56th State of the USA.
The morning started off with such good news; and here I find out that I might have hoof and mouth disease.
Well Rutherford turned out OK anyway; and our chaps do play good Rugby; and as for our Sheilas; well you just don’t want to get out on a Rugby field with them; World Champs they are. And for the gentlemen from our shores; we know how to sail sailboats too. Climatism evidently is not our strong suit; so my apologies for all the trouble we’ve caused.

m white

“Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded”.
I wonder if the FDA would be happy with that, when bringing new drugs onto the market????

R. Shearer

In truth, we are pretty sure it’s warmed in the past hundred years, perhaps as much as 0.8C. Trenberth and like are pretty sure that 0.5C or so of this is due to AGW. Of course, if they were honest, they would have to admit that that 0.5C could be 0.1C.

Google Translated from the Italian blog:
http://daltonsminima.altervista.org/
“The country which was ruled ruled for years by ecologists”.
This is real history and not my imagination and I do not give reviews of history, except to say that the past is the teacher for the present and the future, at the end of the article you have all the explanations and understand.
A few years ago a nation was ruled by ecologists pure and hard.
Let’s see what they did for the salvation of the planet in this great country and how they ended their history of power.
When they came to power they planted a whole system of laws which had as its objective the protection of nature and its animals and especially plants and animals threatened with extinction. So those were the first laws to prohibit absolutely the medical scientific research with animals. The friendly H.G. (1) threatened to turn into a field of “reprocessing” anyone who threatened to disobey the law. A fisherman was jailed for six months for having cut off the head of a frog (or toad, the story here is not very clear) that was used as bait, the sentence was upheld because it was shown that the animal was still alive when suffered decapitation.
As believers of the “organic medicine” political leaders of this nation declared that the people had to eat only fresh fruits and raw vegetables, for their preservation, sterilization and pasteurization meant an alienation of Nature. ”
They also hated the white bread and 19 .. (2) Health Minister GW (3) waged a fierce fight against the change of the ancient customs that they wanted the bread must be integral rather than highly refined white bread. Minister denounces the use of white bread was a saying that ‘chemical’ and return to use the relation of whole grain bread to return to a diet with less meat and fat, more fruits and vegetables and less white bread.
In the 19 .. (2) The Minister G.W (3). creó then the Committee of the Whole of Government Bread, whose goal was to pressure the bakeries not to produce more white bread, the campaign was fully supported by G. (4) who created propaganda posters which emphasize the `(5) with wholemeal bread. The propaganda and the pressures threatening imprisonment and had their effect “positive” so that if in 19 .. (2) the bakeries producing bread in the country were only 1% during 19 .. (6), this percentage had already grown to 23%.
The Government was also strictly anti-pesticide being the personal physician of the Head of Government TM (7) states that DDT was dangerous and unnecessary and prohibits their use and its commercializzzione.
The government funds research on various environmental hazards to human health of the “background radiation” (a weak radiation that exists in all parts of the world) of lead, asbestos and mercury.
They made campaigns against food colors and preservatives, and require more use of organic medicines, cosmetics, organic food and organic. The government accused the newspapers of red meat and chemical preservatives such as those affected by the increasing incidence of cancer.
Alcoholic beverages were diligently destimolate streets and Rano heavy penalties for those who had been caught driving drunk having any alcoholic beverage. Police first gain the ability to force anyone to do blood tests to check the level of alcohol in the blood of people.
The Head of Government (8) was a vegetarian and enthusiastic fan of natural and organic foods and of course it was a teetotaler. HH (9) shared hatred of (8) for alcohol and order that (10) promote the production of fruit juices and mineral water as substitutes.
But I hate the principal of (8) was directed against cigarettes and smoking, and he could not tolerate anyone smoking in his presence. When the University of (11) created the Institute for Tobacco Control elements gave a lot of money (12) of his own money. Naturally it was banned smoking on trains and on autubus of the city.
I just rulers believed in natural childbirth and breast milk. Women lactating their children as a mother Nature teaches, received a grant from the state. Already in the middle of the year (13) rulers had prohibited the births attended by doctors as it is sufficient for the strong women in the country give birth only with the help of a midwife.
The leaders had also fervent promoters of herbal medicine and farms of (10) to (14) were wrapped proudly entitled “greater Research Institute of Medicinal Plants”.
The ecological sacred fury emanating from their eyes hallucinating was not much different than that of some die-hard supporters of `environmentalism at all costs.
Sounds like a fantastic story and incredible?
You are wrong it’s all true! That’s what the match numeretti with whom I “censored” and hidden the dates and names in this article.
1) Hermann Goring
2) 1935
3) Gerhard Wagner
4) Goebbels
5) Arianism
6) 1943
7) Theodore Morell
8) Hitler
9) Heinrich Himmler
10) S.S.
11) Jena in Saxony
12) 100.00 R.M. Reichsmark
13) thirty
14) Dachau.
Naturalemnte the Government was Nazi.
The studies were conducted by Robert N. Proctor, who has summarized them in the book “Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis” Racial Hygiene: Medicine of the Nazis).
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2589276/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2625954/
http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenetica_nazista

Steve Fitzpatrick

Dr. Trenberth would do well to read Feynman’s “cargo cult science” address at Cal Tech, and to think about why Feynman spoke of the need for “leaning over backwards” honesty in science. Dr. Trenberth’s talk of the need for scientists to “massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded” simply shows he has no idea of why climate science and climate scientists are viewed with suspicion by so many. His statement is a perfect example of the problem. He just doesn’t seem to get it.

AllenC

19.kevin says:
October 29, 2010 at 10:27 am
“Little to nothing as they do it all the time. In some cases they don’t even do studies.”
References please!

Viv Evans

“Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded.” – says Trenberth in the interview.
Is that so?
Perhaps in climate ‘science’ …

Ian W

Mark Twang says:
October 29, 2010 at 10:01 am
What would be the reaction if a big pharma company admitted to massaging data in a clinical trial to hide or minimize unacceptable side effects in a new drug?

A more effective interviewer would have asked a similar question:
Perhaps…
“Would you find it acceptable for a pharmaceutical company or an oil company scientist massaging data and deciding what results to withhold?”
That then puts the interviewee in difficult position – if he won’t accept it from them – why would he feel its OK for climate ‘science’?

Jeff L

Best quote from article :
” Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded.”
But good science fully discloses what the raw data looked like, what choices were made as what to disregard & the logic for doing such. Also, a full discussion on the implications that these assumptions have on the results, as well as uncertainty this introduces into the analysis. Yet NONE of this is done by the IPCC & climate modelers in general.
If they actually followed this, everyone would see that the science is not settled & there are huge uncertainties in the AGW hypothesis, including that it may not be valid at all. If the followed this, we would be here on this blog discussing this issue.
The lack of following proper procedure only further emphasizes that this is a political issue, not a scientific issue (politics are always black & white, no room for uncertainty because you can’t push your agenda with uncertainty.

sharper00

So I guess all the people indignant over the idea of judgments being made on data and having it “massaged” don’t think there should be any correction for UHI or that a scientist shouldn’t decide to eliminate urban data in preference to rural.

Jimbo

Trenberth –
“Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded.”
Spectrum: –
“I see that besides being a modeler, you…”

Now see this:

Modellers have an inbuilt bias towards forced climate change because the causes and effect are clear.”
General circulation modelling of Holocene climate variability
Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann et al.
Quaternary Science Review in 2004

I hope Trenberth can reassure us that bias never creeps into his climate moelling work. The same goes for the astronomer and physicist James Hansen.
http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/how-to-fix-the-climatechange-panel
http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/shared/articles/Schmidtetal-QSR04.pdf
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/staff/jhansen.html

kwik

The hole keeps getting bigger! Keep digging, Trenberth!

Jimbo

Typo:
his climate modeling work.

Alan Clark of Dirty Oil-berta

Trenberth said “Hence we need to understand what would happen if all this carbon captured in fossil fuels is released back to the atmosphere. I hope everybody is curious to find out….. of course the fossil fuel industry wont care.”
Obviously, is it not the goal of every self-respecting oil company to kill all of their customers?

peakbear

kim says: October 29, 2010 at 11:19 am
“Fool. Most of the carbon is in carbonates, not hydrocarbons.”
At what speed does calcium carbonate and its ilk come out of the ocean?? The deep silicate/shallow carbonate divide in the oceans is a very interesting dynamic, in particular the historic record it leaves behind in the sediments.

PJP

Pharma companies and their data: One time I worked for a pharmaceutical research company. One day, one of the researchers came to my office with a question: Could I write him an editor that he could use on his raw data?
I asked why. He said there were a few out-lier results he wanted to remove because they disrupted the graph he was preparing.
I asked if it was not more appropriate to just do more runs. If the out-liers were really an aberration they would average away, if they became more pronounced, then there was probably something there he should be looking at, either in his experiment, or in the behavior of the drug.
He didn’t want to do that. It would take too long.
I told him that the best I could offer was that he described the shape of the graph he wanted, and I would write him a program to generate data to produce that curve.
I never heard from him again.

1DandyTroll

Funny, Mr Trenberth ought to conduct himself more according to custom, and from what it looks like he is the product of his ancestry from northern France and Southern Belgium. And he should really adhere to the same standards as everyone else from that region, which means keeping to the truth no matter what stupidity descended upon one self, uhm so to speak like, right.

Gordon Ford

Trenberth –
“Scientists almost always have to massage their data, exercising judgment about what might be defective and best disregarded.”
Had a case when working with suspended solids in streams in and around coal mines in British Columbia where one value was “off scale”. Coworkers , all good environmentalists, strongly recommended that I delete the sample as an outlier. I constructed a log/log plot of suspended solids vs stream discharge rate which resulted in all values, including the disputed value, plotting on a straight line and thus were valid. If my memory is correct the disputed sample was from a pristine stream not impacted by coal mining operations.
I suspect that my report was deeply buried when I left government.

Well, in partial defense of Trenberth re scientists selecting some data and rejecting others.
This is common in engineering (my late field) also. I see it all the time in the legal arena where engineering data and engineering judgment are at issue. The attorney questions not only his client, but also the expert witness on how the data were obtained, and why some were rejected. The appropriate time to reject data is when that data point clearly is not representative of the other data. Several techniques are used to classify data into “keepers” and “rejects.” Legitimate criteria include failed instrumentation or badly calibrated instruments, errors in data transcription (the famous “M” in Anthony’s recent posts on minus-degrees Celsius comes to mind), sometimes a badly written algorithm that was suitable for some data but failed with others, inattentive laboratory technicians or one who used the wrong laboratory procedure, and there are others that are used depending on the type of data.
The entire field of data selection, rejection, and interpretation is ripe for pursuing an agenda.

ClimateWatcher

So, the biggest problem is the one of uncertainty that comes from Trenberth’s work.
Carefully compare the 1997 energy budget: Trenberth 1997
with the 2009 energy budget: Trenberth 2009
Notice the differences in almost every process are significant if not much greater than the 3 or so Watts per meter squared of a still unrealized CO2 doubling.
This is the science that’s supposed to be settled!
We don’t have a clue!
Solar input: 342 (1997) versus 341.3(2009)
Solar constant: 1368 (1997) versus 1365.2(2009)
Albedo: 31.3%(1997) versus 29.9%(2009)
Absorbed Surface 168(1997) versus 161 (2009)
LW Emitted: 235(1997) versus 238.5(2009)
As far as I know, Trenberth is making a good faith effort to understand and catalog the various components, but I cannot look at the uncertainty from study to study and still believe that we know that 0.9 W/m^2 is going into the oceans.