Comment on Kevin Trenberth’s interview on February 17 2014 – An Example of Misrepresenting Climate Science

Guest essay By Roger A. Pielke Sr.

My son and Kevin Trenberth did an interview for Colorado Public Radio on February 17th. The entire interview is worth listening to, but here I want to comment on a specific statement that Kevin made that is scientifically inaccurate.

The entire interview (well worth listening too) is titled

Is climate change causing extreme weather? Experts disagree – click the listen button at for the interview

In the discussion on added heat during droughts that is due to the increase of atmospheric CO2, Kevin Trenberth said

“You can add up how much of that heat there is and over a six month period it’s equivalent to running a very small microwave over every square foot at full power for about ½ hour”.

The interviewer [Ryan Warner] seemed to be impressed by this analog. The analog of a microwave is an effective image, but it is scientifically wrong for several reasons. Public Radio listeners and Mr. Warner were misled by this analog.

· First, the reduction of long wave radiation emitted to Space due to the added CO2 occurs over the six month time period, not in a short duration burst. Clearly, a short ½ burst of such heat would have a very different effect than when this heat is distributed across a six month time period.

· Second, the effect of long wave radiative flux divergence on surface temperatures from added CO2 (or other greenhouse gas including water vapor) is much larger at night. This is because during daylight, most of the time, vertical turbulent mixing dominates. The atmospheric boundary layer is typically much deeper during the daytime, so that added heat from the increase of CO2 is distributed through a much deeper depth. While the effect on nighttime minimum temperatures can be significant as we showed in our paper

McNider, R.T., G.J. Steeneveld, B. Holtslag, R. Pielke Sr, S. Mackaro, A. Pour Biazar, J.T. Walters, U.S. Nair, and J.R. Christy, 2012: Response and sensitivity of the nocturnal boundary layer over land to added longwave radiative forcing. J. Geophys. Res., 117, D14106, doi:10.1029/2012JD017578. Copyright (2012) American Geophysical Union.

the effect on daytime maximum temperatures (and thus on increasing the heat stress in a drought) will be much less. Kevin did not properly inform the audience how the added heat would be processed differently during the day and night.

· Third, we examined this issue for a seasonal time scale in our paper

Eastman, J.L., M.B. Coughenour, and R.A. Pielke, 2001: The effects of CO2 and landscape change using a coupled plant and meteorological model. Global Change Biology, 7, 797-815

We concluded based on our model sensitivity runs that the radiative forcing effect of doubled atmospheric concentrations of CO2 on regional temperatures over a growing season are minimal (e.g. see Tables 8 and 9). This is especially true for daytime temperatures. Indeed, the biogeochemical effect on the regional weather from added CO2[which Kevin did not mention] was a much larger effect, as was land use change.

The ½ hour of added heat from the microwave forcing that Kevin presented, when properly input over the entire growing season would only result in a trivial effect on maximum temperature (ie. The hottest part of the day)!

Thus, while added CO2 and other human and natural climate forcings certainly can have an effect on large scale circulation features which could exacerbate droughts and fires, the analogy to a microwave that Kevin presented to convince the audience regarding the importance of added surface heating from the radiative effect of the increase of atmospheric CO2 is scientifically incorrect.

Indeed, when we perform model sensitivity experiments, we find that biogeochemical effect of added CO2 on plants (and the feedback to weather) and of land use change are much larger effects on this time and spatial scale.

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Pamela Gray
February 19, 2014 7:46 pm

So basically, in spite of a poor analogy, all this is supposed to show up at night, and a bit during the day, and in large scale weather patterns. Sorry. I just don’t see it. And I don’t buy it. It seems to me that the two of them are arguing over the size of the cooties on a gnat’s head.

Mike Tremblay
February 19, 2014 7:55 pm

When you start involving radiative forcing in this particular situation you have to include all of the GHGs in the atmosphere not just CO2. This is one of the major failings in this example because Water Vapour, which is the dominant GHG, will be much reduced in drought conditions so the radiative forcing from H2O(g) will be significantly reduced compared to any increase that CO2 would cause, effectively allowing more IR to escape to space through the atmosphere.
Not only that, but water in the soil will contribute to a change in albedo and the heat capacity of the soil, leading to a faster change in temperatures at the surface – this, and the contribution of water vapour in the atmosphere, are the main contributing factors to why deserts have such a variation between night and day temperatures.

February 19, 2014 7:57 pm

This microwave analogy reminds me of the “global warming equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs every day on the planet” meme…

February 19, 2014 8:04 pm

Oh, I thought it was hiding in the deep ocean.

HGW xx/7
February 19, 2014 8:08 pm

I read this article and hear, for the fifteen-millionth time in as many days, about how I am killing the Earth simply by living. Our children are having this drilled into their heads. Every billboard I see, every [self-snip] bumper sticker in Seattle, every exterminating company I come across screams GREEEEEEN!!! I don’t even want to watch the news because I know the establishment will weave it into a story about fast food nutrition if they have to!
…and then I come across this quote in an article on Yahoo: “Don’t blame nature and drought. Human beings, not climate change, are responsible for this situation.”
Do you know which notable authority said that? A wise university professor? Perhaps a hungry, innovative politician? Or maybe one of our prophetic climate scientists, just ready to share that maybe the world isn’t coming to an end?
Nope. The new President of Iran said this about a dying lake in his country. The new leader — of a nation (for lack of a more realistic term) that is a sworn enemy to everything we hold dear — says something that many of our neighbors would label as plasphemy. They are words worth losing your job over and being labeled as a pariah for, according to the UK Green Party.
The President of Iran. Let that sink in.
I am going to go weep in my room. Good night.

February 19, 2014 8:10 pm

Stick with the stuff that matters – land use and weather event mitigation choices. Talking about the disputed effect of trace gases in a free flowing atmosphere is arguing about the insignificant with regard to the pointless.

February 19, 2014 8:17 pm

There is little point to an analogy such as this one. Suppose one DID run a microwave oven for half an hour on every square foot of the planet. Is there anyone who thinks that any of that additional heat would still be around in, say, six months? Exponential decay back to the running not-exactly equilibrium is the only thing that would be observed, with a time constant of at most hours.
The only point of the analogy is to convince scientifically illiterate people of something political, not scientific, quite aside from any errors in the science.
Then there is the far more cogent point that the claimed effect is not, in fact, at all like a microwave running for half an hour. My microwave is 1250 watts. A half hour is 1800 seconds. 1250 times 1800 = 2.25 x 10^6 joules. The number of seconds in a half a year is 15 x 10^6. This is the equivalent of 0.15 Watts per square foot.
So let’s make an analogy that is both more accurate and less threatening. An ordinary flashlight typically draws somewhere in the range of 1-2 Watts. Since one square meter is roughly 11 square feet, the “microwave burst” above is around 1.5 Watts/meter squared. The additional steady state heating can thus be equated to what one might expect if one illuminated a one meter square patch of ground with a flashlight.
Most of us would not expect to die of heat exhaustion even on a hot and sunny day because somebody turned a flashlight on and held it on us. Most of us would not expect to be able to feel the difference in temperature produced by a flashlight held a meter or more away, no matter how long it was left on, because any increase in temperature due to the flashlight bulb would quickly be swept away and degraded, literally lost in the noise of the usual round of much, much larger variations in light/heat in the diurnal cycle that are, nevertheless, stabilized by negative feedback.
An alternative picture might be covering the earth with Christmas tree lights spaced out a meters or so apart in a grid. Not exactly a picture of life threatening heat compared to microwaves, and even this makes assumptions that have not been directly measured — such as the actual variation of the total atmospheric radiative effect due to a hypothetical doubling of CO_2 concentration. The atmosphere is already saturated with CO_2 and the total CO_2-linked forcing is, as pointed out above, not a single variable linear function of CO_2 concentration.

February 19, 2014 8:23 pm

The microwave grill is in one disgusting league with the Hiroshima bomb analogy.
The real context is given by Rosenthal et al 2013.
If you look at Figure 1 (Rosenthal figure 3B), it takes about 300-400 more years of recent (1955-2010) warming, just to get back to ocean temperatures of a 1000 years ago.
If you look at Figure 2 (Rosenthal figure 2C), it takes about 1000 more years of recent (1955-2010) warming, to get back to the maximum temperatures of the Holocene.

Rud Istvan
February 19, 2014 8:27 pm

The stupid burns. See rgbatduke lest you cannot grok for yourselves.
RP sr, how did you not counsel JR into not getting into such a situation.
Debating with morons cannot end well. Never did, never will.

February 19, 2014 8:33 pm

Do all climate scientist understand that earth rotates inside a magnetic field and that the sun is always plugged in to the same spot. There is no night and day side regarding the atmosphere it’s the earth that rotates .

M Seward
February 19, 2014 8:33 pm

Trenberth really is a goose, isn’t he.
Comparing a half hour burst from a microwave oven to six mongths of CO2 induced GHG effect only establishes how tiny the GHG effect actually is if it takes a factor of time exposure of 15.77 million to deliver the same amount of energy!
Put another way, the 0.5 watts/sq metre-second or so of CO2 GHG effect is equivalent to 0.79 grams of water evaporated per square metre per hour ( 0.22 x 10^-3 grams per sq m per second). What he is really demonstrating is just how feeble the CO2 GHG effect is and much more significantly how easily it might be offset or drowned out by other phenomena that affect the climate system.

February 19, 2014 8:37 pm

If it starts cooling the politicians can promise a chicken in every pot and a microwave over every square foot.

February 19, 2014 8:42 pm

Is it possible that you have just discovered what people say about analogies? – ‘They rarely work.’
Not sure this late find is worthy of a news item, though 😉

February 19, 2014 8:54 pm

Greetings from Oz.
Guys, the “microwave” analogy is just another classic example of Dis-Information being peddled by the Warmistas. It was not meant to be scientific, or even sensible – it was purely meant to create an impression, in the impressionable minds of the masses, of the correctness or importance of the author’s story versus his opponents. That is what the technique of Dis-Information is about! Please, look up the definition of dis-information on Wikipedia and check for yourself. This is NOT about the science, its mass mental manipulation by media!

February 19, 2014 9:00 pm

How many terrawatts of microwave energy is forced through the atmosphere 24/7 by our communication networks and remote sensing ???

February 19, 2014 9:16 pm

but it’s the power of 10,000 tasers!
meanwhile, still waiting for something meaningful to happen.
meaningful, as in prosecution, of course.

February 19, 2014 9:22 pm

The world consumed ~552849.27*10^15 Joules of energy in 2010. That’s a rate of ~175190.96*10^8 Watts. The Earth has a surface area of ~5101*10^11 square meters. That means that we consume, all ~7 billion of us, consume energy at a rate equivalent to just ~0.03 W/m^2.
Seems to me like mankind’s real enemy is entropy. If we could harness the putative climate forcing as an energy source, a doubling of CO2 allegedly supplies energy at a rate almost 108 times as fast as we presently consume it.

February 19, 2014 9:25 pm

@jmorpuss – 8:33 – waaaa?
Are you saying the atmosphere is static and the sun shines on the same place all the time?
Never heard it put that before. Wouldn’t that make for some REALLY fast wind speeds somewhere 🙂

February 19, 2014 9:30 pm

Thanks Roger, and thanks rgb. I read a lot of product announcements from new vendors in the technology industry, often 10 a week. Always on the lookout for new technologies that can solve problems for my customers, the “next big thing” if you will. The problem is that the next big thing doesn’t come around nearly as often as it used to these days, but the number of new products appearing in the market has increased markedly. In other words, there is a lot of total cr*p out there.
The telltale sign of a product that is not worth digging into in any detail is the use of analogies that only indirectly quantify the features and benefits of the product. Good products explain their features and the value of them. Bad products hide their poor value through vague assertions that cannot easily be quantified, but sure sound good on the surface. That’s what Trenberth has done here in my opinion.
Had he simply said the earth surface gets about 241 w/m2 and this effect would raise it to 241.15 w/m2, the audience would have gone…huh? That’s almost nothing! Hence the analogy that only indirectly quantifies the issue, but leaves the uniformed reader with an impression of an effect out of proportion to reality.
This isn’t climate science.
It is climate marketing.

February 19, 2014 10:07 pm

@ Hysteria
The pause lines are were the atmosphere stops working up and down (convection) and air moves north south (conduction) these pause lines are electromagnetic field lines and create a closed system NO greenhouse effect without this process. As man digs away the crust we speed up the natural radiative decay process created by the 6000k core. Winds at the surface are created by the interaction of aerosols positive ions (high pressure system) working in the down direction and electrons negative ions (low pressure system) working in the up direction . There is a scattering from mountain ranges and land mass both in the atmosphere and oceans because of rotation.

February 19, 2014 10:53 pm

The concept of ‘Forciing’, predicated on the existence of the ‘Enhanced Greenhouse Effect’, is unscientific. If true, it would be a Perpetual Motion Machine of the 2nd Kind.
In reality, each self-absorbed GHG emission band in the direction of the Earth’s surface annihilates on average the same wavelength range from the surface. This means there is zero net surface IR emission in those bands, most of the IR spectrum.
The Trenberth Energy budget is otherwise correct. The microwave or any other such analogy is fake fizzicks. It’s time we put it to the sword.

John F. Hultquist
February 19, 2014 11:10 pm

In the kitchen, many folks use “to nuke” interchangeably with “to microwave.”
Keven T. switched the pea under the shell. The average person has no idea what heat in the context of a microwave oven means but does know what a “nuke” can do – big mushroom cloud, buildings blown down, steel melted. All bad. Kevin inserted “the monster” under a shell and no one noticed the subliminal message. Weepy Bill Mc., Nye the nut, and fellow travelers must be cheering.

Phillip Bratby
February 19, 2014 11:18 pm

Travest Trenberth is a master of deception (done in aid of a good cause of course).

February 19, 2014 11:23 pm

Forget the half-hour microwave analogy.
It’s equivalent to the constant energy consumption of 2 alarmist climate scientists.
I just made that up, but does it matter? 🙂

February 19, 2014 11:24 pm

February 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm | rgbatduke says:
Ahh! rgb, you’ve done it again (think McCain tinned foods ad if you’re an Aussie)

February 19, 2014 11:39 pm

My problem is that, for example, the Sahara desert can vary by 35C over a day. It will have just as much CO2 as elsewhere, and other GHGs. To say CO2 may affect this by a fraction of a degree seems meaningless. What is lacking is water, which is not a GHG.
I would say that the Sun and water on Earth [in all its’ forms] determines 99% of the climate, For example there is the 60 year cycle of warming and cooling caused by the Sun and the oceans, on top of a warming trend from 1800. So 1910-1940 [warming] 1940-1970 [flat/slight cooling] 1970-2000 [warming 2000-2030 [flat/ slight cooling].
This well established cycle is responsible for ‘the pause’ and it seems totally incredible that climate ‘scientists’ refuse to acknowledge it exists! Okay, I appreciate that 97% of climate ‘scientists’ realise they couldn’t get a job elsewhere if the money stopped flowing so they may be desperate to keep the meme going [although I suspect quite a few don’t have a clue about the real climate anyway!]

Ivor Ward
February 20, 2014 1:08 am

Could someone translate this into the number of atomic bombs per Manhattan so that we ordinary people can understand. While you are at it, how many cuddly polar bears will it kill?

george e. smith
February 20, 2014 1:13 am

Well I think Dr Kevin Trenberth’s 1/2 hour microwave goosing, is right on the mark; for him.
He after all is the one who thinks that the sun shines on the earth at 342 Watts per square meter, which doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of heating the surface, even to the alleged mean global Temperature of 288 K, for which the black body total emittance is about 390 W/m^2.
Try 1366 W/m^2 Kevin, and a light will go on in your head, as to why tropical deserts can easily warm up to 60 deg. C in a few hours.
I add as a footnote, that WATTS is a unit of power, such as a RATE at which energy is supplied or processed, or in any other way accounted for. It is not the average of anything, it is instantaneous.
Tropical storm / hurricane Sandy really didn’t do much; on average, during its visit from Africa across the Atlantic ocean. It’s only if you cherry pick some data, while it was in the vicinity of some frail structures too near the US coast, that much of anything happened. And, if such things, can take down the coast itself, then why would one expect flimsy structures to survive.
If Kevin believed; as I do, that “climate” is the integral of weather, instead of the average of weather, then it would all be clear to him.

February 20, 2014 1:14 am

According to Kevin Trenberth’s CV he is a
“Nobel Laureate (shared) for Nobel Peace Prize 2007 (as part of IPCC)”
It doesn’t say much for a person who has to pretend to be a Nobel Laureate! Such a travesty! Someone should be fired!

February 20, 2014 1:18 am

i) The effect of our emissions would be too small to notice compared to natural changes in energy flows.
ii) Any effect would be mostly or if not entirely cancelled by negative system responses.
iii) If there were any net effect it would result in air circulation changes which would be too small to measure compared to naturally induced variations from sun and oceans.
iv) The hydrological cycle is far more powerful than CO2 and helps to effect the negative system response (not the positive system response assumed by AGW theory).
The implication of all that is that the negative system responses, being able to work against the effects of non condensing GHGs such as CO2, must be working back towards a basic system energy content that is NOT significantly changed by those GHGs.
What sets that basic system energy content towards which the negative system responses always work back towards ?
If one excludes GHGs what is left ?

Joel O'Bryan
February 20, 2014 1:21 am

Ignoring an inconvenient truth never has stopped a true CAGW believer. In fact, as M. Mann demonstrated, covering up the truth is the preferred method.

February 20, 2014 1:45 am

The other misleading part of the microwave analogy is the we all know microwave radiation is dangerous to like. It cooks meat and vegetables. (See: woman puts poodle in microwave to dry it off)
LWIR is a lot less dangerous at an equivalent power density.
Why refer to “a microwave [oven]” instead of a simple electric oven. Because it’s intended that the listener will see it as dangerous.
Kevin Trenberth is well aware of basic physics, so that is further indication of his knowing intent to mislead the listener.

February 20, 2014 1:45 am

dangerous to _life_

February 20, 2014 1:55 am

Who comes up with these bizarre analogies like a microwave, or the ridiculous Hiroshima metric. I work in science everyday and analogies like these imply nothing to me. Do the general public really understand these meaningless comments, seriously?

February 20, 2014 2:02 am

It looks like they have changed there heading.

“Is climate change causing extreme weather? Experts disagree”

has changed to

“Experts explore whether climate change is causing extreme weather”

See the old headline in Google cache

February 20, 2014 2:03 am

I meant
“It looks like they have changed their heading.”

February 20, 2014 2:17 am

Trenberth does argue for more droughts: “The droughts set in a little quicker, they can be more intense, they can become more widespread.”
“We saw this in spades in 2012,” Trenberth said.

We also saw this in spades during the last ~11,000 years of the Holocene. There was “persistent drought” in California lasting for over 200 years before AD 1300! I have many, many other examples of extreme climate change and mine are actually CLIMATE and not the weather. They made it very clear some years back that the weather is NOT THE SAME AS THE CLIMATE!
Like I said before they are getting so desperate they now point to weather events to back there climate getting worse because of man claims. Why is it that the great authority, the IPCC, does not come to such conclusions? How Trenberth ever made it to be an IPCC author is beyond me. This is sad to watch, the desperation.

February 20, 2014 2:20 am

hitting yourself on the head constantly with a mallet can be bad for you. To put it in context, it’s as bad as listening to Trenberth for half an hour every six months

old construction worker
February 20, 2014 2:24 am

Mike Tremblay says:
February 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm “When you start involving radiative forcing in …….are the main contributing factors to why deserts have such a variation between night and day temperatures.”
Thank you. I’ve been saying that for years. It’s the reason why Swamp Coolers worked well in Arizona but not to well in Florida.

February 20, 2014 2:26 am

For those, like Trenberth, who insist on seeing climate change in the weather here are many examples of floods, droughts, storms etc. from 1709 to 1989. As you may know there are plenty more between, and before those dates.
Show me the trends then show me it’s not caused by natural climate changes, then show me it’s not caused by land use changes, soot and other non-greenhouse gases then I might listen to the likes of Trenberth. This is the sceptical position I believe and very reasonable indeed.

February 20, 2014 2:35 am

Imagine a promoter of AGW misrepresenting the facts of the case in order to sell more fear. /sarc off
The consistent pattern of AGW opinion leaders misleading the public is a compelling insight into their quality of work.

Crispin in Waterloo
February 20, 2014 2:39 am

Water is not a GHG but water vapour is. I think your post needs a couple of edits. A desert floor heats rapidly because there is little to block the incoming sunlight. At night it cools rapidly because if the low water vapour concentration overhead.
In a real desert like the Sahara, there are months when the sun cannot be clearly discerned because of the large amount of dust in the air, yet it gets quite hot anyway and still cools a lot. Water vapour is the most important insulator we have.
“Seems to me like mankind’s real enemy is entropy.”
A friend of a friend used to consistently throw rocks uphill. When my friend asked why he did that, he replied, “I am staving off the heat death of the universe.”
True, that, in a philosophical way.

February 20, 2014 2:43 am

“Where it is raining, it rains harder,” Trenberth said. “So at both ends of the water cycle we have an increased risk of drought and an increased risk of flooding in association with climate change.”

Where is the peer reviewed evidence showing a) it is happening, b) it’s caused or made ‘worse’ by man’s greenhouse gases? Is Trenberth now asking his fellow Warmists to break with IPCC findings / or lack thereof and believe his claims? Does he realise what he is actually saying here?

Pielke disagreed, arguing current data from the IPCC shows no increase in flooding and there is also no certainty that flooding will increase in the future….
The data doesn’t support that argument, Pielke said. The 1930s and 1950s saw worse floods, droughts and hurricanes than we see now….

February 20, 2014 2:53 am

So the challenge from Trenberth is “ … can you prove there is not an effect?” Spoken like a true climate scientist, one who really understands the very essence of science.

Olaf Koenders
February 20, 2014 3:04 am

From Hiroshima bombs to microwave ovens.. Next they’ll be using Google searches as an analogy – all fake and distracting anyway. All it has to do is make headlines as their religion rots around them.

February 20, 2014 3:39 am

Dr. Trenberth misuses the null hypothesis. He relies on magical explanations to find missing heat. He offers a filibuster to explain the pause. And now he needs to deceive us by way of microwaving the Earth for an analogy. A pattern seems to emerge…..

Bill Illis
February 20, 2014 3:45 am

If the Earth’s surface was receiving EM radiation in the microwave spectrum or the gamma-ray/x-ray/infrared spectrum of nuclear explosions, then Trenberth’s analogy would be a good one.
Since the Earth’s surface sees extremely, extremely small amounts of this type of radiation emitted from deep space and absolutely none from CO2 in the atmosphere, then it is a very poor analogy.
If the Earth’s surface was receiving microwave radiation at 2,450 megahertz, the oceans wouldn’t be around very long. They would boil away in a short time and get even hotter in the atmosphere. Its how your microwave oven works.

Vince Causey
February 20, 2014 4:25 am

Its like those shady salesmen who tell you that you’ll only be paying the equivalent of a cup of coffee a day or some analogy to create the illusion of not paying a lot. The reality when confronted by such spin is that you are being conned.

February 20, 2014 4:28 am

Can we call Trenberth a troll now?

February 20, 2014 4:28 am

At the end of the day, it matters not what Trenberth says because he’s a ‘CO2 man’ rather than a ‘solar man’. I think Trenberth needs to read “The Neglected Sun” (by Fritz Vahrenholt & Sebastian Luning) and learn about the solar cycles and effects that correlate nicely with weather and climate events. Truth is, people like Trenberth have always overly exaggerated the role of CO2 on weather and climate.

Bruce Cobb
February 20, 2014 4:31 am

Something very wrong with a microwave oven that doesn’t produce any extra heat for some 17 years or more, and is in fact appearing to allow temperatures to cool.
Are they really trying to tell us that CO2, which was supposedly driving temperatures up has now switched to causing “extreme weather” instead? One weeps for science.

Doug Huffman
February 20, 2014 4:34 am

timetochooseagain says: February 19, 2014 at 9:22 pm “Seems to me like mankind’s real enemy is entropy.”
Too true! See the epistemologic Principle of Maximum Entropy (Jaynes, 1957) that damns ignorant pundits as they squeeze their ignorance out of the decision space.

February 20, 2014 4:34 am

At February 20, 2014 at 4:28 am you ask

Can we call Trenberth a troll now?

Trolls attempt to prevent discussion of a subject by deflecting a thread onto something else.
Trenberth, his statements, and his ‘science’ are the subject of this thread. And he has done nothing to deflect consideration of the subject of the thread.

February 20, 2014 5:01 am

Who needs microwave analogies to tell if extreme weather is increasing? Can’t we just look at the actual data… I guess that would be too obvious, gotta use a “model” somewhere to truly understand it…

February 20, 2014 5:01 am

You can add up the total heat of all the cups of coffee I’ve drunk and it will be the equivalent to detonating 1,000 microwave ovens every fortnight for a for several donkey’s years.

February 20, 2014 5:06 am

Using the power and heat from microwave ovens for comparison doesn’t clarify anything. I mean, how many would that be in birthday candles? The real message that needs to be conveyed is that simplification doesn’t help when you’re dealing with mathematical models of earth’s climate. Climate science would be simple if the weather didn’t keep messing it up.

February 20, 2014 5:15 am

it is ludicrous , the combined heat from all the cups of tea i drink in a day would equal =
and here i am stlll at 98.6F- even with no end of GHG’s sorry clothes surrounding me.

February 20, 2014 5:26 am

Looks like NH ice has also been fiddled with

February 20, 2014 5:49 am

@Crispin in Waterloo
I agree with what you say, but this proves water vapour is NOT a GHG. GHGs cause warming, but water vapour causes warming and cooling. More accurately it prevents or slows down warming and cooling – as you say – it acts like an insulator.
For comparison take the Amazon rain forest where the temperature varies by 2C to 5C during the day, and only 2C over the year. The water vapour acts like an insulator.
My argument is that water in all its forms so dominates the climate that the effect of GHGs can only be studied in areas where it is mostly absent, such as the Sahara. Otherwise factors due to the effect of water can be ascribed to GHGs. For example the discovery that low level clouds absorb more sunlight than thought and causes warming. All models have this warming down as due to CO2.
Also, of course, the Sun, which is heating the planet by around 300 degrees centigrade!! [Absolute zero is -273C, add 3C for the heat of the universe, so 270C plus the temperature outside!] Variations would hardly be a surprise, except to climate ‘scientists’ of course.

February 20, 2014 5:50 am

It’s s dumb and inflammatory analogy, yes. But I think it’s accurate in simple terms – energy input. It’s not nearly as inflammatory an analogy as the Hiroshima atom bomb one though. Be grateful for small favors.

February 20, 2014 6:13 am

Big increase in radiation as a result of solar plasma. The dark area shows the current position of the polar vortex 100 hPa.

February 20, 2014 6:16 am

I think the analogy is stupid. You could put me in a huge microwave and run it at full power for half an hour and I would die an agonizing death, but if you spread that same energy out over a 6 month period – I wouldn’t even notice. Does anybody really believe you can heat a cup of coffee in this manner? It’s ludicrous, not giving a damn about the rest of the interview or the other “science” discussed, this one analogy makes a man look beyond foolish. Am I wrong?

Tom J
February 20, 2014 6:18 am

Me. Trenberth, do you know what a horsepower is? It represents the ability to lift 32,000 pounds 1 foot in 1 minute. I know it probably pains you to use one but you probably have a car, don’t you? At least I’m certain you’ve ridden in them. Now, those big semi tractor trailers that ply the highways are limited in many states to 60,000 pounds, less than twice of what one solitary horsepower can lift. And, we can safely assume that car you ride in weighs a wee fraction of that. So, I think a total of 1 horsepower for any car you’re in should clearly be more than adequate, especially since it’s generally not lifting the car but moving it on the level. So, when you travel somewhere to make your “small microwave” analogies might I humbly suggest you do it in a 1 horsepower car: it’ll be a fitting analogy to an analogy.

Dave Dardinger
February 20, 2014 6:33 am

“Its like those shady salesmen who tell you that you’ll only be paying the equivalent of a cup of coffee a day or some analogy to create the illusion of not paying a lot.”
My wife says it takes about 3 minutes in our microwave to boil a cup of water. Thus using this silly analogy, you could boil 10 cups of water every 6 months. Is this really something to worry about?

February 20, 2014 6:34 am

@ConfusedPhoton says: February 20, 2014 at 1:14 am
These guys are *still* claiming to be Nobel Laureates? Peter Higgs of Boson fame was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 the other day. It was a fascinating interview. (Still available on the iPlayer at – you may need VPN or a UK proxy to access from outside the UK).
Higgs noted at one point that the Nobel Prize is awarded to at most three people at the same time. So the idea that tens of them all got the Nobel Prize is a preposterous display of preening and stupidity.
“A maximum of three laureates and two different works may be selected per award.”

February 20, 2014 6:37 am

He did suceed in changing the subject.
It has never been about any thing other than taxes and the power to tax and spend.
Redistribution and social justice.
Facts not so much.
Now it is a mindless cult.

February 20, 2014 6:39 am

@joshuah says: February 20, 2014 at 5:01 am
Who needs microwave analogies to tell if extreme weather is increasing? Can’t we just look at the actual data
Yes – but the data is none-compliant, and therefore must be disregarded. Who needs data when you can have model-based evidence? Or just plain dogma?

February 20, 2014 6:45 am

Untraceable analogy is another good hide and seek strategy to go with deep ocean and beneath the ice sheet concealment. The common characteristic here is to keep moving and keep the rational thinking and science response off base. Call it……, well I won’t get into analogies.

February 20, 2014 6:48 am

I think having a person breathing on a square foot for about one day every 6 months
would be a far more accurate illustration.

February 20, 2014 7:04 am

Dr. Trenberth is offering time and time again a demonstration of that law of physics known as conservation of stupidity.

Theo Goodwin
February 20, 2014 7:11 am

John F. Hultquist says:
February 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm
You nailed it. For most people, the microwave in the kitchen is a monster that defies understanding. Recall all those “urban legends” about the child who put the kittie into the microwave for drying.
I have been disappointed by Trenberth and have distrusted him for some time. Now, he has placed himself off the charts. The use of this analogy is just sick.

February 20, 2014 7:13 am

Firey wrote: “Oh, I thought it was hiding in the deep ocean.”
No. That’s the heat in the deep ocean. From there, it causes all extreme weather, which appears to follow reporters around, regardless whether they are in the deep ocean.

February 20, 2014 7:13 am

Thanks to Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. for this posting. Climate alarmism by persons such as Kevin Trenberth needs to be shown for what it is.

February 20, 2014 8:17 am

Alarmists dug a septic tank they’ve been hoping all would fall into. Prancing around the tank, they smirk.
Now, they find themselves frantically having to bail out the tank, since it’s they who’ve ended up in it.
How’s that for an analogy? 😉

February 20, 2014 8:17 am

My pride at being a “denier” is growing by leaps and bounds as we are castigated by some of the most prominent people on the planet. The old saw about being judged by the strength of your enemies (political sense) has rarely been more true than in our case. From the late Osama Bin Laden to the US Sec State and his boss we have them happily heaping scorn on our heads to silence our voices. Their purpose is to close the ears of the public against us thereby avoiding civil debate on matters of great consequence. No blow to low no slander to great.
To quote Mya Angelou “And still we rise”
Keep up the good work

February 20, 2014 8:18 am

By looking out past the end of my nose, I see the Earth has not warmed in spite of ever increasing CO2. No correlation, none. The Earth’s atmosphere is quite stable. Given it’s recovery from anything that disturbs it, volcanos, ENSO.Solar ejecta etc.
Empirical observation and measurement is all that is believable anymore.

Bruce Cobb
February 20, 2014 8:21 am

Anyway, since climate is always changing, the question “is climate change responsible” is a bogus one. To some extent, climate change is always going to be responsible, since it always has been. What they really mean of course, is “to what extent are humans responsible”? They’re still searching for that ever-elusive “human fingerprint”.

Dave in Canmore
February 20, 2014 8:53 am

“Is climate change causing extreme weather? Experts disagree”
Use of plural “experts” is incorrect.
I found only one expert quoting observation and one desparate activist making up conjectural nonsense.

Norm Woods
February 20, 2014 9:23 am

Professor Lindzen is old now but there used to be a series of videos where he explained what Kevin Trenberth’s actual graph interpretation talents are.
It’s long but if you go toward the end few minutes of one of those, when he shows the CERES graphs, year after year, and the changes are miniscule, and you realize Kevin Trenberth is the person who said that to him, the graphs looked like catastrophic unstoppable global warming
you’ll understand all you need to, about Kevin Trenberth’s pseudo science talents.
Another thing: google ”early keil-trenberth energy budget.” Hit ”search images” an hit enter.
Look all through the hundreds and hundreds of sites showing it,
and then look at the mathematics of how much energy is coming back from the atmosphere, to the earth. It is more, than the earth is giving to the atmosphere in the first place.
That is Kevin Trenberth.

February 20, 2014 9:30 am

Once again the effect from natural cycles vastly outweighs the virtually indiscernible effect from CO2. There is zero point trying to reduce CO2 emissions when the temperatures produced by a natural cyclic shift are many, many times greater than CO2 forcings.

Bill Parsons
February 20, 2014 9:45 am

So let’s make an analogy that is both more accurate and less threatening. An ordinary flashlight typically draws somewhere in the range of 1-2 Watts. Since one square meter is roughly 11 square feet, the “microwave burst” above is around 1.5 Watts/meter squared. The additional steady state heating can thus be equated to what one might expect if one illuminated a one meter square patch of ground with a flashlight.
Most of us would not expect to die of heat exhaustion even on a hot and sunny day because somebody turned a flashlight on and held it on us. Most of us would not expect to be able to feel the difference in temperature produced by a flashlight held a meter or more away, no matter how long it was left on, because any increase in temperature due to the flashlight bulb would quickly be swept away and degraded, literally lost in the noise of the usual round of much, much larger variations in light/heat in the diurnal cycle that are, nevertheless, stabilized by negative feedback.

It might be good if Pielke Jr. would read Robert Brown’s rebuttal (abve) for tips on how to reply to Trenberth’s alarmism in a real “debate”. Far from a debate, this is merely a cordial interview of two AGW subscribers, with Ryan Warner in his usual role as impressionable interlocutor (Huh! Wow!), in which both Pielke or Trenberth riff independently on the weather without actually addresses his opponent. Those familiar with Pielke Jr.’s message will wait patiently through his careful, articulate demurrals of global warming alarmism to hear his special, patented capitulation to the CAGW message: CO2 is, in fact, linked to drought, fire and flood, poses a “long-term” menace to humanity which necessitates that we “alter our entire energy economy” over decades… what he calls the “generational challenge” of CO2.. Missing are clear-cut statements classifying MOST of Trenberth’s arguments as what they are CAGW hype. With all due respect for the Pielke name, I have long ago come to view Jr’s views as a poor substitute for what is actually needed in a real debate with CAGW: complete refutation of the CO2 danger meme, and more of a Bjorn Lomborg – style redefinition of the terms of the argument, creating a shift from “feel good” policies (of Kyoto) to “do good” actions.
Yes, Lomborg half-heartedly sips from the CO2 punch bowl as well. I nevertheless credit him for constructing an entire, self-sustaining and humane alternative paradigm for government spending to deal with extremes in weather, rather than CO2 “mitigation”. That his work stirs such antipathy from Pielke I find bizarre and disingenuous.
It cannot be repeated often enough that the precautionary principle has more to do with smart building and positive assessment of ways to spend our money than revamping our energy economy.
Thanks for the post, Dr. Pilkey, and for the rebuttal from rgbatDuke.

February 20, 2014 10:40 am

Had he simply said the earth surface gets about 241 w/m2 and this effect would raise it to 241.15 w/m2, the audience would have gone…huh? That’s almost nothing! Hence the analogy that only indirectly quantifies the issue, but leaves the uniformed reader with an impression of an effect out of proportion to reality.
Not quite. The 0.15 is watts/square foot. It’s more like 1.5 W/m^2. So the change is from 241 W/m^2 to 242.5 W/m^2.
IF equilibrium planetary temperature varied linearly with insolation, we could form a ratio:
\frac{242.5}{241} = \frac{T_s}{288}
Solving for T_s = 289.8, an increase of 1.8 degrees Kelvin. However, one does not expect the temperature to vary linearly, one naively/crudely expects it to vary according to the fourth power:
\frac{242.5}{241} = \frac{T_s^4}{288^4}
If one takes the fourth root of both sides:
T_s = \left(\frac{242.5}{241}\right)^{1/4} 288
or T_s = 288.4, an increase of a whopping 0.4 degrees Kelvin. The point being, even a small increase in temperature produces a large increase in radiant luminosity according to Stefan-Boltzmann. This is, happily enough roughly 1 F.
Humans are barely sensitive to 1 F temperature changes with their skin, at least in certain ranges. My wife (a physician) can pick up a 1 F fever by touch. Less experienced people usually cannot.
Now, is this naive fourth root scaling likely to be a good estimate? Probably not — this isn’t only about ideal Stefan-Boltzmann — portions of the BB spectrum are blocked, there is heat transport laterally and vertically, the albedo and strongly coupled moisture content have a complex regional covariance with temperature — but at that point we are stuck doing a proper full-spectrum full transport coupled nonlinear fluid dynamics computation at a sufficiently fine spatiotemporal granularity, integrating over the entire planetary state for decades into the future because once one gets past the zeroth-order naive arguments, all arguments are “naive” until you can actually demonstrably solve the nonlinear coupled variably driven Navier-Stokes problem. At the moment, we cannot, and when we try we find that the future “climate” the models predict is enormously sensitive to initial conditions and not at all “deterministic” or “inevitable”. Then, we cannot even be certain we have the coarse grained physics content of the current attempts right. If anything, performing a hypothesis test on the best efforts of the GCMs in CMIP5 suggests that it is very probable that we do not have them right.
But I personally sort of like the 0.4 C estimate. One could probably do better with a single slab “flat” model (still analytically solvable, I think, so still “an estimate”) but then, what does one use for all of the assumptions — emissivity and albedo are hardly constant, and since we’re talking about the space-time integral of radiative flux that scales like T^4 with a highly variable solar driver, the precise way they fluctuate and where they fluctuate makes a significant difference on the non-flat Earth. So, maybe one picks an emissivity, albedo, SW absorptivity and LW absorptivity out of a hat, tweak the latter to produce an all other things equal increase of 1.5 W/m^2 in one term of the model, and see what the steady state associated with the differential change is. A lot more work, and I’ll bet that the answer is within a factor of 2 (3 at most) of the naive estimate because at the end of the day the important terms (in the absence of transport, clouds, and all the complexity) have that inescapable fourth power.
Now, if there were only direct evidentiary support for the 1.5 Watts/m^2 asserted as the extra forcing (with or without the asserted extra factor of 2-3 from water vapor feedback, ignoring aerosols, clouds and so on). The Beers-Lambert arguments are plausible, but also so chock full of assumptions that they might as well be swiss cheese, and to the best of my knowledge there is no direct e.g. Satellite measurement of CO_2 linked changes in mean emissivity renormalized for “everything”. Unsurprising, given that one is trying to measure a global average to within a small fraction of a percent with virtually zero “global” baseline before the 70’s.

February 20, 2014 10:55 am

This story about Kevin Trenberth “misrepresenting climate science” seems to be a recurring theme with him. This reminds me of the debacle with Trenberth and Chris Landsea that occurred almost a decade ago regarding the link between global warming and hurricanes. It’s old news, but it never hurts to refresh our memory as to the credibility, or lack thereof, of “the team”. [I will be referring to some Climategate email texts (###.txt). You can use the following “Climategate FOIA Grepper” to read the texts. Just click on the numbered text on the left side to read the complete email:
On October 21, 2004, Trenberth participated in a news conference at the Center for Health and Global Environment, Harvard Medical School entitled, “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity”. Chris Landsea, then at NOAA, was one of the worlds leading expert on hurricanes and had helped write the section on observations of hurricane activity for both the Second and Third IPCC Assessment Reports. He was slated to perform the same function for the then upcoming AR4 report. Landsea warned Trenberth prior to and also the day of the news conference that the current scientific understanding was that there was little to no link between global warming and hurricanes. [See 0890.txt]
This is a verbatim transcript of the news conference (October 21) with Trenberth caught “bending the truth”, to put it mildly:
Abhi Raghunathan, Naples Daily News: Hi, this is Abhi Raghunathan at the Naples Daily News in Florida. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, has publicly stated that global warming and climate change have had insignificant to no impact on this year’s hurricane season. Were they one of the groups you were referring to earlier when you said that some of the quotes you read in papers came from those with limited perspective?
McCarthy: This is Jim McCarthy. I presume you’re directing that to me. No, I’m not aware of the NOAA statement. Kevin referred earlier to a publication that has been influential in the kind of discussion we’re having right now which came from NOAA scientists, but I was referring to pieces that had come my way, largely op-ed pieces in newspapers throughout the East Coast, where either from the direct effect or the aftermath of these recent storms these opinions have been voiced. Kevin, you might want to comment on the NOAA piece if you’re familiar with it. I’m not.
Trenberth: I have not been aware of any official NOAA statement on this position one way or another.
Even the dumb*** reporter knew what the NOAA position was concerning global warming and hurricanes.
October 28th finds Trenberth trying to shop around for a Japaneses scientist to provide the hurricane/global warming link he so desperately wants. [1219.txt]
On November 5th, 2004, Landsea sends a scathing email [0890.txt] to a host of people, including R. Pachauri himself, with a CC to Trenberth. He concludes the email as follows:
” I did try to caution both Dr. Trenberth and Dr. Linda Mearns before the media event (email included below) and provided a summary of the consensus within the hurricane research community. Dr. Mearns decided not to participate in the panel perhaps as a result of my email correspondence. I sincerely wish Dr. Trenberth had made the same decision. Dr. Trenberth wrote back to me that he hoped that this press conference would not “go out of control”. I would suggest that it was out of control the minute that he and his fellow panel members decided to forego the peer review scientific process and abuse science in pursuit of a political agenda.”
And finally on December 8, 2004 Landsea responds (slaps him silly, really) [1150.txt] to Pachauri’s email, and tenders his resignation from the “scientifically unsound” IPCC process.
Nuff said.

Stephen Richards
February 20, 2014 11:33 am

richardscourtney says:
February 20, 2014 at 4:34 am
At February 20, 2014 at 4:28 am you ask
Can we call Trenberth a troll now?
Trolls attempt to prevent discussion of a subject by deflecting a thread onto something else.
Trenberth, his statements, and his ‘science’ are the subject of this thread. And he has done nothing to deflect consideration of the subject of the thread.
That looks like a deliberate strawman of a deflection from what DirkH said.

February 20, 2014 1:29 pm

Trenberth like Mann is all in on ‘the cause ‘ and with good reason for its made a second rate ‘scientists’ into ‘big man’ with more research funding then they can spend, while like Mann he knows when ‘the cause ‘ falls he will find it hard to get a job teaching at a 3rd rate high school .
So while reversing the the very idea of the null hypothesises becasue your argument is so weak , may seem a bit extreme and anti-science to most people , to those like Trenberth who have so very much to lose , it may be a desperate but still logically approach to take.

February 20, 2014 1:43 pm

Stephen Richards:
Your post at February 20, 2014 at 11:33 am makes no sense.
It seems to be a deliberate flaming and says in total

richardscourtney says:
February 20, 2014 at 4:34 am

At February 20, 2014 at 4:28 am you ask

Can we call Trenberth a troll now?

Trolls attempt to prevent discussion of a subject by deflecting a thread onto something else.
Trenberth, his statements, and his ‘science’ are the subject of this thread. And he has done nothing to deflect consideration of the subject of the thread.

That looks like a deliberate strawman of a deflection from what DirkH said.

Bollocks! There is no strawman and I provides a direct answer (i.e. “No”) with explanation of that answer.
If you want to troll by flaming you must do much, much better than that.

February 20, 2014 3:07 pm

Thank you Dr. Roger Pielke Sr.
This article is clear and precise.

February 20, 2014 4:02 pm

I love the credentialing.
Trenberth isn’t just a normal scientist, he’s a distinguished one who has won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Pielke recently proclaimed himself a denier in front of Congress.

February 21, 2014 3:38 am

Peej says:
February 20, 2014 at 5:50 am
I will admit my understanding of physics is a little sketchy but I don’t believe the analogy is good at all. I think the intent is for people to think “oooh, microwave ovens make things hot….” However, what happens when you put a stone in a microwave oven? Does it get hot? Nope; at least not as much as the equivalent mass of water does.
For some, perhaps completely misguided reason, I’d always conceived of microwaves as an oscillating electric potential (with its corresponding magnetic component). There is no energy transferred unless that potential does some work. The reason a microwave oven heats up water is because that potential can do some work on those (bipolar) water molecules, increasing their kinetic energy.
So, if that is indeed the case (and perhaps there’s someone here who is better educated than I who might gently correct me if it is not), the assumption in the analogy is that the potential is converted completely to heat at the rated power of the combined ovens, which it clearly would not be. It might come close* if Dr. Trenberth were speaking of microwaving water or some other molecule that would react to the electric/magnetic potential, but he did not specify, so the analogy is non-physical.
* How close, I have not tried to estimate, but I doubt if a microwave oven can heat water at a rate equivalent to its full rated power — I would think that the oven is rated at the power it draws from the external electricity supply, and there might be some loss in converting that to microwaves, but don’t really know.

Leo Morgan
February 21, 2014 6:33 am

I’m constantly mindful of the impression the comments section gives to non-partisan or new visitors to the blog.
Sadly, I fear we haven’t done well today.
A lot of comments have been confused and unscientific. In itself that’s okay; Anthony’s openess to allowing the expression of all points of view is one of the strengths of WUWT. But the freedom to express all ideas, including those that are actually nonsense, obliges us to speak out against nonsense. The marketplace of ideas in which truth will win out because its true, only works if people speak out against wrong ideas.
Otherwise, silence gives the appearance of assent.
Which appearance will give a casual visitor the reasonable impression that we’re almost all of us a bunch of crackpots. So let’s not do that.
Of course there’s always the possibility that we’re the one in the wrong, so it pays us to keep our words sweet- we may have to eat them.
Part of civility in debate is to never assail our opponent’s motives. The obvious fact is that we can only infer them. Ascribing malice to others says much more about our character than theirs. We can of course critique their behaviour, as in Trenberth’s misrepresenting the IPCC hurricane data to the point where Landsea had to resign.
But to suit action to words, I must dispute the claims about water not being a greenhouse gas, or the atmosphere not having a day side and night side.

February 21, 2014 8:02 am

I was wrong to suggest the Sun heats the Earth by about 300C, it is actually 390 degrees centigrade! Take the temperature of the universe [-270C] and the maximum temperature on the Moon’s surface [123C] and the difference is about 390C.
The 90+ degrees of cooling is mostly caused by clouds, oceans and ice/snow. Another example of how water dominates Earth’s climate.
You would think that slight variations in this system could cause temperature changes on the Earth but as we all ‘know’ it can only be due to small variations in a trace gas!

John B., M.D.
February 21, 2014 10:29 am

Actually, trying to microvave something that is dry results in very little warming due to lack of water molecules. Try it at home in your microvave oven.

February 21, 2014 2:25 pm

@ Leo Morgan @6.33
Looking back at my comment regarding there being no day and night side it does sound a bit weird so let me clear things up What I was trying to say is it is either one or the other, day where the sun is always plugged in to the atmosphere or night on the opposite side. There is a simple experiment you can do , you will need a torch and a ball ,turn off the lights shine the torch at the ball, the side facing the torch is lit up while the opposite side is in darkness. The torch represents the sun and the ball the earth .So regarding the atmosphere there’s only a day side or a night side and the earth rotates inside . I’m shaw you could clear this up much better then me instead of cherry picking

February 21, 2014 2:38 pm

@ John B MD
Go to YouTube and type in plasmoid in a microwave oven. What is the physics behind this process is it water vapor or the carbon released by the burning match?

February 22, 2014 3:45 am

“You can add up how much of that heat there is and over a six month period it’s equivalent to running a very small microwave over every square foot at full power for about ½ hour”.
Okay – do that and come back in six months and describe the effect! Zero.
So, 6 months is about 180 days and 1/2 hour is 1800 seconds, so 10 seconds of microwaving a day. What will be the effect? Pretty much zero. Slight warming for a short time, then it as if it never happened. Try it on a slice of bread in a BIG microwave oven [what is ‘very small’?!]
The above statement also implies that the heating is somehow additive but in reality any warming by CO2 will be gone within hours. The warming will have to start from zero each and every day. [Have you noticed that it is always just after mid-day in climate ‘science’!] If you microwave bread for 30 minutes it will burst in to flames [It was an accident – and it was a garlic loaf – the memory lingers!] but not at 10 seconds a day.
One can understand why so many realise much of climate ‘science’ is antiscientific.

Lady Life Grows
February 24, 2014 9:02 am

Bruce Cobb says:
February 20, 2014 at 8:21 am
Anyway, since climate is always changing, the question “is climate change responsible” is a bogus one. To some extent, climate change is always going to be responsible, since it always has been. What they really mean of course, is “to what extent are humans responsible”? They’re still searching for that ever-elusive “human fingerprint”.
The human fingerprint has been found. I found it. And I posted it right here at WUWT because it is the most scientific site I know of. Well, okay, I mostly posted it here because I have easy access to this site.
What is really going on is the destruction of the world’s soils by chemical-based agriculture. As the bugs and earthworms die, their carbon enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This has a mitigating effect on plant growth, The carbon dioxide itself is good, as many here have pointed out.
A day or two ago, the Organic Consumers Association posted an article that says many farmers have recently started switching back to organic growing methods, and away from GMO seeds in particular, because their yields are now higher with these methods. Turns out the fancy seeds did increase yields substantially, but only for a few years and then the insects came back with a vengeance and soils were depleted and so on. As many have pointed out, nature tends to return things to normal.
I found another human footprint in Iain Murray’s 2008 book “The Really Inconvenient Truths: Seven Environmental Catastrophes Liberals Don’t Want You To Know About–Because They Helped Cause Them,” Chapter Seven, Communism’s Environmental Record: The Aral Sea. This sea used to be one of the world’s largest freshwater bodies, but cotton farming with irrigation has caused the sea to shrink to less than half, and summer temperatures can now be as high as 140F. They used to be moderated by trees.
I found more about water that I haven’t told you about before in one of Sepp Holzer’s books about Permaculture. Permaculture is an organic farming philosphy based on perennials and water management. Holzer’s book “Desert or Paradise” describes improper water management leading to desertification, and how he heals it.
This stuff is Earth-shaking. It matters just as much as Trenberth and James Hansen think, but the actual problem is very different than they imagine and the solutions are utterly different, also. You can begin by burning as much fossil fuel as you can.

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