The Kevin Trenberth Effect: Pulling Science Back to the Dark Ages – Part 1 Droughts and Heat waves

Guest essay by Jim Steele

Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

In my essay on the natural causes of Pacifica’s Coastal Erosion, I reported on how California’s coast has still not reached an equilibrium with sea levels that rose at the end of the last ice age. I also suggested the media and a few scientists give the public a false impression that all natural weather phenomenon and coastal erosion have been worsened by CO2-driven climate change. Pointing to a few leading perpetrators I wrote, “After centuries of scientific progress, Trenberth and his ilk have devolved climate science to the pre-Copernican days so that humans are once again at the center of the universe, and our carbon sins are responsible for every problem caused by an ever-changing natural world.” Such a strong statement deserves further elaboration. Although a highly intelligent scientist, to support his obsessive claims that CO2-caused climate change has worsened every extreme event, Trenberth has been tragically undermining the very foundations of scientific inquiry by 1) reversing the proper null hypothesis, 2) promoting methods that can not be falsified, 3) promoting fallacious arguments only by authority, and 4) stifling any debate that promotes alternative explanations.

Dr. Trenberth, via his well-groomed media conduits, preaches to the public that every extreme event – flood or drought, heat wave or snowstorm – is worsened by rising CO2. To fully appreciate the pitfalls of his “warmer and wetter” meme, you need to look no further than Trenberth’s pronouncements regards the devastating Moore, Oklahoma tornado. Although Trenberth admits, “climate change from human influences is difficult to perceive and detect because natural weather-related variability is large”, in a Scientific American interview, arguing only from authority he cavalierly attributed CO2 climate change to a “5 to 10 percent effect in terms of the instability and subsequent rainfall, but it translates into up to a 33 percent effect in terms of damage.” But in contrast to Trenberth’s “warmer and wetter world” assertions, there was no warming contribution. Maximum temperatures in Oklahoma had been cooler since the 1940s.


Clearly Trenberth’s simplistic “warmer and wetter” world assertion cannot be applied willy-nilly to every region. Climate change is not globally homogenous. It is regionally variable and the global average temperature is a chimera of that regional variability. Furthermore his claim of a “wetter world” is a hypothetical argument not supported by evidence. As seen in the graph below from the peer-reviewed paper Weather And Climate Analyses Using Improved Global Water Vapor Observations, there is little evidence of a steady increase in water vapor paralleling rising CO2. Even Trenberth’s own studies have concluded, “Total Precipitable Water vapor [TPW] variability for 1988–2001 was dominated by the evolution of ENSO [El Ninos].” The El Nino effect is evidenced by peak water vapor coinciding with the 1998 El Nino. Since 1998, the atmosphere has been arguably drier, contradicting his CO2 driven wetter world hypothesis. Despite a multitude of contradictions, to garner support for his theories Trenberth insists on reframing the scientific method by reversing the null hypothesis. Instead of determining if CO2 had an effect on extreme weather beyond what natural variability predicts, Trenberth wants scientists and the public to blindly assume, “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”


In contrast to simply making the “Trenberth assumptions”, climate scientists use two main strategies to extract any possible CO2 effect. First based on physics, the consensus believes early changes in CO2 concentration exerted no significant climate impact, and extreme events happening before 1950 were due to natural variability. Thus historical analyses compare extreme events before and after 1950 to determine how they differ. But Trenberth has been maneuvering to make such CO2 attribution studies non-falsifiable by stripping recent extreme weather events from that historical framework. In the Washington Post, Chris Mooney pushes Trenberth’s “new normal” quoting,

All storms, without exception, are different. Even if most of them look just like the ones we used to have, they are not the same.”


Trenberth’s “new normal” side steps historical scientific analyses. One would think a good investigative reporter would question Trenberth’s undermining of that scientific methodology, but Mooney is not a scientist. Ironically Mooney’s claim to fame was a book “The Republican War On Science”, about which Washington Post’s Keay Davidson wrote, “Mooney is like a judge who interprets a law one way to convict his enemies and another way to acquit his friends.” Evidently that is just the kind of journalist Trenberth and the Washington Post wanted. Mooney left Mother Jones and was hired by Washington Post to write columns on climate change and serves as one of Trenberth’s media conduits. (Btw: the Real Science website is a great place to view headlines from the past illustrating great similarities between past and present extreme weather events.)

The second strategy relies on models that compare “the probability of an observed weather event in the real world with that of the ‘same’ event in a hypothetical world without global warming.” But this approach incorrectly assumes the natural variability is well modeled. Often the model’s “world without global warming” is assumed to be stationary but with a lot of “noise”. But that tactic generates false probabilities because our natural climate is not stationary but oscillating. In 2012 climate experts met at Oxford University to discuss such attribution studies and the highlights were reported in Nature. Many experts suggested that due to “the current state of modeling any attribution would be unreliable, and perhaps impossible…One critic argued that, given the insufficient observational data and the coarse and mathematically far-from-perfect climate models used to generate attribution claims, they [attribution claims] are unjustifiably speculative, basically unverifiable and better not made at all. And even if event attribution were reliable, another speaker added, the notion that it is useful for any section of society is unproven.”

(Such concerns raise another question: if attributing a CO2 effect on any event like a heat wave or drought is nearly impossible, how reliable is any attribution of a global average temperature if those same extreme heat waves and droughts skew the global average?)

Color me an old-fashioned scientist, but our best practices demand we correctly establish the boundaries of natural climate change before we can ever assume rising CO2 has worsened weather events. But Trenberth and his ilk insist on reversing the null hypothesis. Instead of asking if a weather event exceeded natural variability, Trenberth insists we rashly assume CO2 has already worsened the weather. However most scientists share my concern about his maneuverings. As Professor Myles Allen from Oxford University said, “I doubt Trenberth’s suggestion [reversing the null hypothesis] will find much support in the scientific community.” Trenberth’s attempt to reverse the null hypothesis has been discussed previously by Dr. Judith Curry and by top rated skeptic blogs, and in a published paper by Dr. Allen “In Defense of the Traditional Null Hypothesis.

Nonetheless many papers are now being published that simply make Trenberth’s assumptions and there is a growing rift between researchers who adopt Trenberth’s “new normal” tactics versus “old school” scientists. The different resulting scientific interpretations are well illustrated in peer-reviewed publications on droughts and heat waves.

A bank account serves as a good analogy to illustrate drought stress. Financial (hydrologic) stress results from changes in income (rain and snow) versus withdrawals (evaporation and runoff) and the buffering capacity of your reserves (lakes, wetlands and subsurface water). Old school science would demand researchers eliminate all confounding factors affecting hydrological stress before claiming any effect by a single variable like CO2. Here are a few confounding factors that are seldom addressed in papers that blame a greenhouse effect for higher temperatures and stronger heat waves and droughts.

i.) Clear dry skies increase shortwave (solar) insolation, while simultaneously decreasing downward long wave radiation (i.e. decreasing the greenhouse effect). Reasons for this were discussed in an essay Natural Heat Waves and have been verified by satellite data (Yin 2014). Higher temperatures happen despite a reduced greenhouse effect.

ii.) In arid and semi-arid regions like the American Southwest, precipitation shortfalls not only decrease the hydrologic “income” but also decrease evaporation. If there is no rain, there is nothing to evaporate. The decrease in evaporative cooling raises temperatures (Roderick 2009, Yin 2014). Drier surfaces have a lower heat capacity so that incoming energy that was once converted to latent heat of evaporation is now felt as sensible heat that rapidly raises temperatures. Trenberth’s global warming claims often have the tail wagging the dog by assuming higher temperatures cause drier soils. Drier soils cause higher temperatures.

iii.) Natural cycles cause decadal oscillations between dry and wet years. Recent research (Johnstone 2014) report the past 110 years of climate change in northwestern North America can be fully accounted for by the multi-decadal Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO alters the pattern of sea surface temperatures, which alters atmospheric circulation affecting transportation of warmth from the south, and moisture from the ocean. The PDO produces dry cycles that not only reduce rainfall but can increase temperatures via mechanisms i and ii. The negative PDO experienced over the last 15 years promoted more La Ninas that make California drier.

iv.) The buffering effect of hydrologic reserves has increasingly dwindled. Wetlands have been drained and degraded watersheds have drained subsurface waters resulting in reduced evapotranspiration. The loss of California wetlands since 1820 has been dramatic (Figure 9) generating a decreasing trend in evaporative cooling. Furthermore spreading urbanization has relegated natural streams to underground pipelines. Urbanization has increased runoff (hydrologic withdrawals) as rainfall is increasingly shunted into sewer systems and no longer recharges whatever remaining landscapes are not paved over with heat retaining materials. This increasing reduction in our moisture “reserves” increases regional dryness and has not been balanced by irrigation.


The difference between “old school” science and Trenberth’s “new normal” is illustrated in contrasting interpretations of recent extreme droughts and heat waves. For example NOAA’s Randall Dole attributed the 2010 Russian heat wave to a lack of precipitation and a high-pressure blocking pattern that enhanced surface feedbacks. Dole had been studying the effects of blocking patterns for over 30 years since his research days at Harvard. Blocking high-pressure systems pump warm air northward on the systems western flank and trap that heat while clear skies increase insolation. In 1982 Dole had mapped out 3 regions most prone to blocking highs due to undulations of the jet stream. Those same blocking highs are also implicated in our more recent heat waves that “Trenberth’s school of climate change” trumpet as worsened by CO2. The 3 regions are 1.) Northeast Pacific where the “Ridiculous Resilient Ridge” typically produces California’s drought, 2) North Atlantic that affects Western Europe’s droughts and 3) over northern Russia generating heat waves every 20 years such as the 2010 heat wave.

Dole concluded in 2011 “the intense 2010 Russian heat wave was mainly due to natural internal atmospheric variability.” Dole’s historical analysis noted, “The July surface temperatures for the region impacted by the 2010 Russian heat wave show no significant warming trend over the prior 130-year period from 1880 to 2009” and he noted similar but slightly less extreme heat waves had occurred periodically over the past 130-year period. The more extreme temperatures could be attributed to “surface feedbacks” from the early season drought and landscape changes. Based on a proper null hypothesis Dole concluded, “For this region an anthropogenic climate change signal has yet to emerge above the natural background variability.”

Whether or not Dole is correct, Dole is a climate scientist we can trust. A trustworthy scientist, who cannot detect a difference between a recent extreme event and natural extreme events from the past, will simply report that they cannot detect an anthropogenic signal. Whether or not there was a CO2 global warming effect remains to be tested. In contrast less trustworthy scientists will push a non-falsifiable CO2 effect and argue natural variability “masked CO2 warming,” a warming Trenberth insists we must assumes to be present.

Trenberth also appears to hate any scientific claim that weather was just weather. Accordingly he attacked Dole’s “heresy” via his internet attack dogs. Joe Romm blogged, “Monster Crop-Destroying Russian Heat Wave To Be Once-In-A-Decade Event By 2060s (Or Sooner)”, which provided Trenberth an opportunity to denigrate Dole’s analysis in a way not allowed in more staid scientific journals. Trenberth maligned Dole’s analysis as “superficial and does not come close to answering the question in an appropriate manner. Many statements are not justified and are actually irresponsible. The question itself is ill posed because we never expect to predict such a specific event under any circumstances, but with climate change, the odds of certain kinds of events do change.”

Seriously? Dole’s research was irresponsible because it found no CO2 effect?!? The great value of science to society is that it provides us with some measure of predictability that guides how we best adapt to future events. Dole simply asked, “Was There a Basis for Anticipating the 2010 Russian Heat Wave?” and concluded neither past weather patterns, current temperatures trends, historical precipitation trends or increasing CO2 could have prepared Russia for that event. The only predictability was that similar events had happened every 2 or 3 decades. Trenberth has persistently argued the only “right question” to ask is “how much has CO2 worsened an extreme event, but Dole asked a more useful question. What triggers extreme Russian droughts and heat waves every 20 to 30 years?

Dole’s models, forced with sea ice or ocean temperatures, did not simulate the observed blocking patterns over Russia. Based on several modeling experiments Dole concluded results were “consistent with the interpretation that the Russian heat wave was primarily caused by internal atmospheric dynamical processes rather than observed ocean or sea ice states or greenhouse gas concentrations.” Yet despite Dole’s examination of a great breadth of contributing factors, Trenberth attacked Dole for being “too narrowly focused” because, of all things, Dole did not include July flooding in China and India, or record breaking floods in Pakistan in August. Trenberth was suggesting that that those floods were due to warmer oceans and thus global warming should have been blamed for worsening the Russian heat wave even though Dole’s modeling studies found no such connection.

But Trenberth had the tail wagging the dog – again! Due to the clockwise motion of a blocking High, warm air was pulled poleward and accumulated on the western side of the system driving the heat wave. In contrast the same system pushed colder air equatorward along the system’s leading eastern edge. As discussed in Hong 2011, when that cold air was pumped southward, it collided with warm moist air of the monsoons, and it was that cold air that increased the condensation that promoted extreme precipitation in some locales. Nonetheless, determined to connect CO2 warming to the Russian heat wave, it was Trenberth who was not asking the right questions. He should have been asking how much did a naturally occurring blocking pattern contribute to the southern Asian floods.

As was the case for the Russian heat wave, analyses of the historic heat wave for Texas and the Great Plains revealed no warming trend over the latter 20th and the 21st century. In Hoerling 2013, a team comprised of ten climate experts, mostly from NOAA, examined the Texas drought and heat wave. They reported “no systematic changes in the annual and warm season mean daily temperature have been detected over the Great Plains and Texas over the 62-yr period from 1948 to 2009 consistent with the notion of a regional ‘‘warming hole’’. Indeed, May–October maximum temperatures over the region have decreased by 0.9°C.” Thus those experts concluded the absence of observed warming since 1948 cautioned against attributing the heat wave and drought to any warming, natural or CO2 related (However CMIP5 modeled results suggested a 0.6°C warming effect since 1900). Likewise satellite data revealed a radiative signature of a reduced greenhouse effect and increased solar heating (Yin 2014).

In contrast Trenberth claimed on Romm’s blog, “Human climate change adds about a 1 percent to 2 percent effect every day in terms of more energy. So after a month or two this mounts up and helps dry things out. At that point all the heat goes into raising temperatures. So it mounts up to a point that once again records get broken. The extent of the extremes would not have occurred without human climate change.” But Trenberth’s 1% per day CO2 attribution seems absurd in a regions where maximum temperatures had decreased. His warmer and wetter world meme only obfuscated the issues and Trenberth was again asking the wrong question. The correct question was how much had the drought lowered surface moisture and reduced evaporative cooling that caused higher temperatures? In a region where there had been no increase in maximum temperatures, the amplified temperatures for this extreme weather event were likely the result of natural surface feedbacks caused by a lack of rain.

NOAA’s drought task force also reported on the following Great Plains drought and heat waves. They concluded this drought was likewise due to natural variability stating, “Climate simulations and empirical analysis suggest that neither the effects of ocean surface temperatures nor changes in greenhouse gas concentrations produced a substantial summertime dry signal.” But no matter the level of expertise, Trenberth via his internet attack dog Joe Romm and his blog assailed the Drought Task Force with a less than an honest account. Trenberth assaulted their conclusions, “It fails completely to say anything about the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the winter prior to the event in spite of the fact that snow pack was at record low levels in the winter and spring.” (But Trenberth’s denigration contrasted with a document-search for the term “soil moisture”, which found it was mentioned about 15 times including the sub-section title in big bold letters “Simulations of Precipitation and Soil Moisture”.) Trenberth’s mugging continued, “There is no discussion of evaporation, or potential evapotranspiration, which is greatly enhanced by increased heat-trapping greenhouse gases. In fact, given prevailing anticyclonic conditions, the expectation is for drought that is exacerbated by global warming, greatly increasing the heat waves and wild fire risk. The omission of any such considerations is a MAJOR failure of this publication.”

But that was a very odd comment for a top climate scientist! Anticyclonic conditions predict droughts will be exacerbated by natural feedbacks, not by global warming.

And again Trenberth failed to ask the right questions. If he believed a greenhouse effect exacerbated the drought by increasing evaporation, then he needed to ask why satellite data has been showing reduced downward long wave radiation and increased solar insolation that typically occur in dry clear skies? In contrast to Trenberth’s obfuscations, the Task Force had extensively discussed the meteorological conditions that inhibited the transport of moisture from the Gulf Stream, resulting in reduced soil moisture. Despite low snowpack, soil moisture had not been deficient in the spring. It was the lack of moisture transported from the Gulf that reduced summer soil moisture that raised temperatures and exacerbated the drought. Furthermore modeling experiments performed by the Task Force found precipitation was not affected by changes in sea surface temperatures or greenhouses gases. And historical analyses (as seen in Figure 7) revealed that despite global warming Central USA temperatures were lower than expected given the extreme dryness and expected surface feedbacks. So again Trenberth failed to ask the right questions. Why were temperatures higher during the droughts of the 30s when there was no increased greenhouse effect?


The 2011-2015 drought in California is the most flagrant example of the Trenberth Effect. California’s droughts are most often associated with natural La Nina conditions and a blocking ridge of high pressure that inhibits the flow of moisture from the Pacific to California. Another thorough analysis by NOAA’s Drought Task force again concluded, “the recent drought was dominated by natural variability.” In an interview with the NY Times co-author Dr. Hoerling stated, “It is quite clear that the scientific evidence does not support an argument that this current California drought is appreciably, if at all, linked to human-induced climate change.”

In support of the Drought Task Force’s conclusions, every study of the California drought has reported the major factor driving recent drought has been episodic rainfall deficits. Nonetheless despite the extreme rainfall shortfall there was no evidence of any trend in precipitation amounts or variability that could explain the recent lack of precipitation. Ridging patterns have always reduced rainfall, and the lack of a trend in precipitation contradicts recent claims that greenhouse gases are increasing the likelihood of a ridging pattern that was blocking precipitation (Swain 2014). Nonetheless media conduits for alarmism like Slandering Sou promoted Swain’s arguments. But Slandering Sou is not a scientist nor has she ever published any meaningful science. In contrast climate scientists like Dr. Cliff Mass readily pointed out Swain’s faulty analyses.

Furthermore there is no long-term precipitation trend as seen in the 700-year California Blue Oak study by Griffin 2015. The dashed blue line represents the extreme precipitation anomaly of 2014. For the past 700 years similar extreme precipitation shortfalls have equaled or exceeded 2014 several times every century. From a historical perspective, we can infer there is no evidence that rising CO2 has increased that ridging pattern that reduces rainfall and causes drought. More severe and enduring droughts happened during the Little Ice Age when temperatures were cooler. Clearly land managers and government agencies should prepare for severe periodic droughts whether or not CO2 has any effect or not, testifying to why the Oxford attendees saw little usefulness in CO2 attribution studies.


As expected Trenberth’s attack dogs assailed NOAA’s California report because it attributed drought to natural variability. Romm blogged that the drought would Soon Be More Dire. Over at the Washington Post, Mooney’s fellow yellow journalist Darryl Fears wrote “California’s terrifying climate forecast: It could face droughts nearly every year.” But Fears’ projection has already failed. Despite no precipitation trends, several authors blamed the California drought on extremely high temperatures. Michael Mann argued “Don’t Blame It on the Rain”. Blame it on global warming. To support warming assertions Trenberth blogged a fanciful analogy, “The extra heat from the increase in heat trapping gases in the atmosphere over six months is equivalent to running a small microwave oven at full power for about half an hour over every square foot of the land under the drought.” If that wasn’t fearful enough Trenberth added, “No wonder wild fires have increased!”

But historical analyses suggest the universe had unplugged Trenberth’s “microwaves” over most of California since 1940s, and wildfires were much worse during the Little Ice Age. As shown in the illustration below from Rapacciuolo 2014, observations show most of California, like Texas, had experienced a decline in the maximum temperatures since 1940. If maximum temperatures have not risen there has been no accumulation of heat and California appears to be insensitive to rising CO2. The question that Trenberth failed to ask is why did maximum temperatures decline in his “warmer and wetter” world?


Mao 2012 analyzed the drought in California’s Sierra Nevada and likewise found no trend in maximum temperatures. However assuming the minimum temperature trend was an expression of anthropogenic warming, he used the minimum trend to model CO2-warming effects on drought. But minimum temperatures have little effect on drought. Relative humidity is highest and approaches the dew point during the minimum. Due to daytime surface-heating, turbulent convection peaks around the maximum temperatures and increases evaporation and dries the soil dramatically. But turbulent convection is virtually non-existent when minimum temperatures are measured. Accordingly based on the minimum temperature trend, Mao 2012 found “warming may have slightly exacerbated some extreme events (including the 2013–2014 drought and the 1976–1977 drought of record), but the effect is modest; instead, these drought events are mainly the result of variability in precipitation.”

That brings us to the most recent example of how Trenberth’s “new normal” has undermined science. Williams 2015 claimed CO2 warming had worsened the California drought by 8 to 27%, a claim that was trumpeted by press releases and blogs. To his credit Williams did use a much better version of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) that takes into account the physical processes causing a drought. He also pointed out that simpler versions of the PDSI, used by Diffenbaugh 2015, Griffin 2014 and others, had artificially amplified and overestimated the contribution of temperatures to drought (Sheffield 2012, Roderick 2009).

However Williams claimed to have separated anthropogenic warming from natural warming, and used the reversed null hypothesis to do so. Williams warned that he had assumed any warming trend was all anthropogenic. To determine natural temperature variability he simply subtracted his hypothetical anthropogenic-warming trend from California’s observed temperatures. Whatever remained was deemed natural variability. By assuming CO2 is responsible for any warming trend, alleviates climate scientists from the more arduous task of determining natural temperature variability. Furthermore instead of separating out the confounding factors that are known to contribute to higher temperatures, such as the PDO (Johnstone 2014) or landscape feedbacks (as discussed above), Williams simply acknowledged he did not account for those factors as a caveat, then went on to promote his human influence estimated in press releases suggesting he had scientifically linked CO2 warming to drought severity. Without accounting for all factors, Williams’s study was not a scientific evaluation, but simply an opinion piece. Still, as might be expected, Trenberth weighed in calling Williams analyses reasonable but conservative, and recommended that he drop the lower end (8%) of estimated human contribution.

But Williams and Trenberth never asked the right questions. How can scientists assume an anthropogenic warming trend if it hijacks the earlier warming trend before 1950, a trend that the consensus believes was all natural? How can scientists assume an anthropogenic warming trend when there no warming trend for maximum temperatures since 1950? How can scientists blame global warming for worsening droughts when other factors like the PDO, the drying of the California landscape and surface feed backs were never accounted for?

And more importantly, why should people ever trust Trenberth’s “new normal” science that undermines the very foundation of scientific inquiry. It is more than irksome that my taxes help pay Trenberth’s high salary and allow him to undermine the foundations of scientific inquiry.

In part two: Trenberth’s snowjob, I examine Trenberth’s fallacious argument that global warming causes more snow.


Jim Steele is author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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Phillip Bratby
February 20, 2016 8:37 am

He is not known as Travesty Trenberth for nothing.

Reply to  Phillip Bratby
February 20, 2016 9:34 am

How much does he charge ??

February 20, 2016 8:38 am

I’ll bet if you waterboarded him….even he would admit he doesn’t believe the carp he spews

Reply to  Latitude
February 20, 2016 1:05 pm

Doubt it, he would think it was kool aid.

Reply to  Latitude
February 20, 2016 4:56 pm

Last I heard, after a bit of waterboarding, you’ll pretty much say anything that needs to be said.
So choke on that.

February 20, 2016 8:52 am

Great post, Jim. Good that you made it personal. It was Trenberth in the Climategate emails who acknowledged the pause privately while denying it publicly, until his ridiculous paper with Balsama claiming the missing heat was hiding in the deep oceans. Unfortunately for him, ARGO some how missed his missing heat on the way down. Essay Missing Heat dissects his warmunist drivel pause explanation.

Eugene WR Gallun
Reply to  ristvan
February 20, 2016 9:46 am

(See the courtroom scene in the Caine Mutiny movie)
As green house gases still accrete
This captain of the climate wars
Is searching for the missing heat
That he believes the ocean stores
He’ll prove to all humanity
That danger in the deep resides
The Kraken that he knows to be
That Davy Jones’s Locker hides
The soul’s more heavy than we think
A truth that everyone must face
And to what depths a soul may sink
Oh! To what dark and dismal place
Does Captain Trenberth understand
That data offers no appeal?
He tumbles in his restless hand
Three clacking balls of stainless steel
When silent faces stare at you
Its always best to shut your jaw
But Trenberth is without a clue
As he believes they stare in awe
Eugene WR Gallun

Science or Fiction
Reply to  ristvan
February 21, 2016 2:07 am

Just bought “Blowing Smoke”, great essay on Missing Heat.
By the climate theory, put forward by United Nations climate panel, 93% of the energy trapped by increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is supposed to go into the oceans. Having seen the extensive adjustments to the surface record I wonder what will eventually emerge about adjustments in the models used to arrive at time series for ocean temperatures.

February 20, 2016 8:57 am

Trenberth is largely responsible for the great obfuscation of conflating energy transported by photons with energy transported by matter when it comes to establishing the planets radiant energy balance. When we talk about the radiant balance, all that matters is the LTE balance and for the matter in the atmosphere to be in LTE, it must be absorbing the same amount of energy that it’s emitting. Otherwise, that matter would either warm or cool without bounds. This means that energy transported by matter redistributes energy throughout the atmosphere, but has no influence on the LTE radiant balance of the planet. Latent heat, thermals, convection and atmospheric gas molecules in motion are all examples of energy transported by matter. He conflates this all together and offsets it with ‘back radiation’, none of which is actually radiation. It’s all for the purpose of adding wiggle room to support his otherwise impossible conclusions.

February 20, 2016 9:07 am

Travesty Mann will be a teaching icon of science failures past.
Sadly, as the CRU emails demonstrated, he knows better.
There is no way to excuse his behaviour, hence he loses nothing by his continued abuse of the scientific method.
How could he ,ethically, sink any lower?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  John Robertson
February 21, 2016 4:15 pm

Travesty Trenberth you mean?

John F. Hultquist
February 20, 2016 9:09 am

As always, a very good essay.
I have a minor question from right at the beginning. You wrote:
California’s coast has still not reached an equilibrium with sea levels that rose at the end of the last ice age.
Up here in the Great State of Washington we are watching the plates move and rotate – waiting for the 9.0+ quake. The last one that size was in 1700. California also has crust movement, although unlike up here.
I wonder if the Pacific Coast can reach “equilibrium” with the waves as long as the land doesn’t stay put.
Nick Zentner’s recent lecture The Really Big One: Overdue? Toast? Really? is now available on YouTube.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
February 20, 2016 10:55 am

Cascadia subduction zone. 41 quakes last 10000 years. Average one every 243; it has been 315. Average magnitude 9. Guaranteed tsunami hitting the coast 10-15 minutes later and Japan 10 hours later, like the last time in 1700. Average height maybe 45 feet. No earthquake early warning system like Japan has to buy 4 minutes before the shaking starts. Most structures not eathquate hardened like in Japan. FEMA planning is minimum 23,000 dead if it hits during a Feb workday. If a summer weekend, multiply that by 10. FEMA planning is a Million structures damaged beyond repair. Basically everything west of Interstate 5 is toast including Portland and Seattle.
US blows $2.5 billion a year on climate research. Diverting $2 billion/year of that to coastal Oregon and Washington for earthquake preparedness would for sure at some point save a lot of lives. Talk about misplaced priorities caused by Trenberth abetted belief in CAGW.
JH, I hope you live above the tsunami inundation zone and have done some earthquake preparedness.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  ristvan
February 20, 2016 4:52 pm

Some of what has been written – FEMA & Kathryn Schulz** in The New Yorker — is exaggerated. Yes, coastal towns with tourists in the summer will likely disappear. All are relatively small places but if you are on one – say your prayers.
Puget Sound cities, such as Seattle, are not on the coast (about 100 miles and mountains in between) and somewhat less to deal with. The Big Wave will be a little wave at Seattle.
**She wrote an update in the July 28 issue of The New Yorker.
The You Tube linked to earlier by Nick Zentner is up to date. Nick is a geologist at the University where the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array data is received and processed. The PANGA site is a bit dated but is at geodesy dot cwu dot edu. [Memo to self – Tell Nick.]
We are 175 miles east of the Pacific Ocean/Washington shore, at 2,200 feet elevation. We are projected to move 10 inches west with a 9.0.

kevin kilty
Reply to  ristvan
February 20, 2016 9:05 pm

Yes, both Seattle and Portland are inland and safe from tsunami, but the entire Cascadia zone will unzip at one time in a big one. Thus two metropolitan areas will be disasters simultaneously, and could a magnitude 9 quake produce a lahar in the puget sound area from the weathered rock beneath Rainier’s glaciers? There may be some exaggerations in the media, but I will bet a magnitude 9 produces misery in the Pacific Northwest for years afterward.

February 20, 2016 9:12 am

People like Trenberth need some serious jail time to think about all the damage they have caused to the reputation of science !

Reply to  Marcus
February 20, 2016 7:10 pm

Not to mention the destruction of human prosperity. I think this particular doofus, with his affable academic BS style has been more dangerous than the other suspects, other than “Boiling Oceans” Hansen of course.
He was claiming to the media that the Russian heatwave a few years ago was caused by CO2, while that week also claiming the heat was hiding in the ocean.
Government-sponsored scientific fraud. Obama’s real legacy.

February 20, 2016 9:31 am

Science is not about consensus. It’s about disproof, disbelief and skepticism. It’s not about consensus. When you’ve got consensus, you’ve got trouble””As a human being, one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists.”

David Ball
February 20, 2016 9:35 am

Isn’t that a picture of this guy?

February 20, 2016 9:40 am

Trenberth was an author together with Kiehl, when they composed the article published in February 1997 “Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget. As a side product they made a calculation which shows the most common figure for the CO2 portion in the GH effect. This figure is 26 %. The common usage of this this figure is an evidence how little the climate change researcher actually know about the basic facts of the climate and how little they understand about the role of water in the GH phenomenon. K&T applied the climate model of US Standard Atmosphere 76 (USST 76) and they even reduced the water content by 12 %. In this atmosphere is 50 % less water than in the average global atmosphere. Therefore the right effect of CO2 in the GH phenomenon is only 9-11 percent.

Reply to  aveollila
February 20, 2016 11:34 am

If the USST76 has half the actual amount of water vapor, and that is reduced by 12%, then the reduced-USST76 has 43% of the actual amount of water vapor. The correction would be dividing the 74% water vapor contribution (assuming none of the 74% is from other GHGs) by .43, which leads to 172%. That plus the 26% for CO2 is 198%. Dividing all of these by 1.98 would make the water vapor concentration 87% and the CO2 concentration 13%.
That is assuming the effect of water vapor is linear as concentration varies, and it is not. The effect of all greenhouse gases is sublinear. That would make CO2’s effect something more than 13%.

Gary Pearse
February 20, 2016 9:44 am

As always, Jim Steele, eminently readable, logical and uncompromisingly classically scientific. Using the behavioral hypothesis that it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, I think one can predict who will hang on to CAGW until they pack their models for the last great journey and who might change their view. I guess what the old guard is really protecting is their relevance. If you have 40 years of a career behind you, you would have to be a giant (Fred Hoyle? James Lovelock?) to admit that your entire career was a total waste and your papers should be shredded.
Some, like Stephen Schneider, whose legacy is having killed off scientific integrity with his “permission” to lie about manifestations of warming, lived the lie and changed horses from global cooling to global warming without a flinch. Holdren and Ehrlich are also to be named in future historical accounts of this unconscionable behavior. Schneiders advice was followed by most of the adherents we know of, an amazing fact that is so telling about the degree of moral turpitude among scientists. I hope this is the legacy that sticks for these dishonorable ideologues.

Gary Pearse
February 20, 2016 9:47 am

I meant to add to the above that there may be some hope for those who had enough conscience to be stricken by chronic depression by the ‘Pause’. I hope Karlization of the pause doesn’t give them relief before they recognize they were wrong.

February 20, 2016 9:54 am

An extremely powerful post, thank you.
The post highlights the fact that there is a High Priest caste in climate science that deem themselves to have the authority to interpret and forecast climate, in terms of anthropogenic influence, as though their pronouncements do not need scientific validation. These High Priests are supported by a structure of lesser, often lay, Priests operating in the media whose role it is to promulgate these pronouncements and also to interpret published papers in such a manner as to confirm to the lay reader that they really are going to hell in a handcart unless they believe that CO2 is the great Satan and act accordingly.
An appalling situation.

February 20, 2016 10:10 am

Dr. Steele’s essays are always a delight and dread – delight in the display of such cogency and perspicacity, dread in the recognition that his talent, rigor, and integrity are in such short supply among those who drive policy.

February 20, 2016 10:20 am

And more importantly, why should people ever trust Trenberth’s “new normal” science that undermines the very foundation of scientific inquiry. It is more than irksome that my taxes help pay Trenberth’s high salary and allow him to undermine the foundations of scientific inquiry.

I can’t add anything to that Jim, just wanted to highlight it as it needs to be said loud and often.

David A
Reply to  markstoval
February 22, 2016 5:41 am

I would add or emphasize one point to Jim’s excellent article. Take any region, say California drought or the Russian heat wave, and the claim of increasing frequency or intensity tends to fail miserably, let alone the attempt to link such events to CO2. Yet assume for some reasons that instead, in some areas at some time true increasing intensity and frequency is well supported. This still does NOTHING to support CAGW or CO2 as the cause. The requirement of CAGW is to show a global increase in droughts, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, fires, floods, famines etc… They have a very long way to go to make their case, and history will not be kind.
it s curious how in posts dealing with the “C” in CAGW that the CAGW proponents fail to appear in the comments. They simply have no argument, just as in Christopher Monckton’s recent post eviscerating the failure of the climate models, they simply have no rational debate to offer, so remain silent.

Gregg C.
Reply to  David A
March 3, 2016 11:22 am

Agree 100%. In so many arguments with AGW nutcases, they seem to believe if they can prove the ‘world’ has gotten hotter by some fraction of a degree, then everything else must be assumed (the catastrophe) and ending our industrial society is the obvious remedy. I haven’t seen 1) anything that demonstrates the the recent increase in CO2 concentrations has actually caused any warming (I believe it is fully saturated and no measurable increased effect is possible) and even if it did, warming is probably a good thing. It would likely lead to less storminess and better growing seasons, leaving alone the greening effect of increasing CO2.
The C in CAGW is so fully debunked it can’t be measured how much bunk it really is.

February 20, 2016 10:25 am

Great post Jim. Unfortunately I think that the various scalawags will never exhibit shame or repentance nor will scientists in general necessarily publicly refute them as you have done so eloquently. Their work will simply slip into disuse and fall off the list of citations one expects to see on good work and they will slip into obscurity. Too bad the lying Barry Commoners of the world will shuffle off the mortal coil as mere irrelevancies after all the damage they have done to science and society.

February 20, 2016 11:06 am

The Paris Agreement is in place to solve the problems of Global Warming and Climate Change. The barn door is closed, locked and all the horses are inside. The problem has been dealt with in Paris.
Trenberth and Co are yesterday’s news. They continue to say we need to close the barn door, even though it is already closed. Reminds me of a one trick pony, that continues to roll over no matter what command is given.

February 20, 2016 11:11 am

Tenberth obviously is operating from an agenda or has this “scientist” stopped taking his meds.
These idiots are destroying the reputation of science, or trying as hard as possible.
Very thorough post Jim. Hopefully Tenberth read it and chewed the inside of his own face in anger, the idiot

February 20, 2016 11:36 am

Hi Jim. Do you have a date of first publication of :

Reply to  garymount
February 20, 2016 4:37 pm

It was cross posted to WUWT on August 4, 2014

February 20, 2016 11:45 am

The links to Yin 2014 go to a 2011 article by Think Progress that does not mention Yin.

Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
February 20, 2016 4:38 pm
February 20, 2016 11:55 am

The Kevin Trenberth Effect: Pulling Science Back to the Dark Ages
After centuries of scientific progress, Trenberth and his ilk have devolved climate science to the pre-Copernican days so that humans are once again at the center of the universe, and our carbon sins are responsible for every problem caused by an ever-changing natural world.”
That’s a pretty mixed bag of statements about the history of science.
Does Jim Steele think that the so-called Dark Ages only came to an end with the birth of Copernicus (1473 to 1543.)
Has he never heard of Thierry of Chartres (died before 1155), William of Conches (c. 1090 to after 1154), Robert Grosseteste ( c. 1175 to 1253), Jean Bouridan (c. 1295 to 1363), and Nicholas Oresme (c. 1320–1325 to 1382) to name but a few.
The terms ‘Dark Ages’, ‘Renaissance’ and ‘Enlightenment’ were all invented by people with an agenda. History has not been very kind to these people or their agendas. It’s the same with terms ‘like ‘climate denier’. They should all be dumped in the rubbish bin.
I suggest that Jim Steele reads ‘Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion’ edited by Ronald L. Numbers or, better still, something by Stanley Jaki (winner of the Templeton Prize for furthering understanding of science and religion) or Stephen Barr (professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware.) There’s an interesting chapter in Numbers’ book called ‘That Copernicus demoted humans from the centre of the cosmos’.

Reply to  Alba
February 20, 2016 4:59 pm

Alba asks “Does Jim Steele think that the so-called Dark Ages only came to an end with the birth of Copernicus (1473 to 1543.)”
My statement was never meant to be an in-depth history of science. And indeed my allusion to the Dark Ages was a reference to times when science was ruled by authority and hypotheses were not well tested. As I am mentioning in part 2, the oldest scientific society, the Royal Society, has the motto “Nullius en Verba” meaning take no ones word, It became their motto because up to that point the tendency was to argue science from authority without experimentation and critical examination. Up to that point Aristotle was the authority that the Dominicans bowed to and the Dominicans dominated the universities and the scholasticism movement. It has been reported that the Dominican refused to look through his telescope, much like alarmists refuse to look at all the contradictory evidence, dismissing it as cherry picking.
There are many myths about those times such as pitting Science versus “ignorant” religion. But nearly all the Jesuits were supporters of Galileo. They were eager to look through his telescope and see how God had made the heavens. Many good scientists were religious and simply trying to understand how god made things work. It was the Dominicans that took offense, in part because they wedded there scientific authority to Aristotle’s views. Galileo was not as much a threat to religion, but a threat to their status and authority.
Instead of some pompous question like ‘has he never heard of Thierry of Chartres, blah blah blah,”
I suggest you make your point more clearly. What are the salients points you are trying to share with us about Thierry of Chartres (died before 1155), William of Conches (c. 1090 to after 1154), Robert Grosseteste ( c. 1175 to 1253), Jean Bouridan (c. 1295 to 1363), and Nicholas Oresme (c. 1320–1325 to 1382), because indeed I do not know anything about those people.

February 20, 2016 12:38 pm

There are guys even worse than Trenberth. Look what the MSM has dragged up from the sewer. Listen to this guy. Sounds to me like a medieval preacher warning of hell and brimstone.

Reply to  Per Strandberg (@LittleIceAge)
February 20, 2016 2:01 pm

… “He holds a PhD in ecostress subalpine eucalypt physiology.” The people that conveyed this degree gotta be worse than him.

Reply to  Per Strandberg (@LittleIceAge)
February 20, 2016 2:15 pm

I listened to the first several minutes. When he started talking about “Hiroshima A-bomb equivalents” I gave up.

February 20, 2016 1:50 pm

“For this region an anthropogenic climate change signal has yet to emerge above the natural background variability.”
The only empirical evidence that links fossil fuel emissions to warming is a correlation between cumulative emissions and surface temperature (i.e. cumulative warming) as shown here.
This correlation is spurious because cumulative values of even random numbers tend to be correlated.

Gunga Din
February 20, 2016 1:56 pm

My hypothesis is that as the number of buggy whips has decreased since the introduction of fossil fuels, normal weather patterns are no longer normal.
My hypothesis is a fact. You can’t prove me wrong.
We need more horsesh*t to save the planet. /sarc

Reply to  jim Steele
February 20, 2016 3:20 pm

Drats! That link worked when I pasted it into my browses but it does not work from here. Here’s another link to Yn 2014

Reply to  jim Steele
February 21, 2016 9:16 am

May I suggest that you simply use an URL-shortening web service first, for example the one offered by Google. You paste in your long link and get a short one back, which you can test before posting it here. Example:

Reply to  jim Steele
February 21, 2016 11:23 am

Thanks for the tip Michael

Don B
February 20, 2016 3:33 pm

Not quite off topic, but it illustrates how natural variability dominates.
“But December of 1861 saw a 43-day storm in California, one that turned much of Central and Southern California into inland seas.
“Sixty-six inches of rain fell in Los Angeles that year, more than four times the normal annual amount, causing rivers to surge over their banks, spreading muddy water for miles across the arid landscape. Large brown lakes formed on the normally dry plains between Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, even covering vast areas of the Mojave Desert. In and around Anaheim, flooding of the Santa Ana River created an inland sea four feet deep, stretching up to four miles from the river and lasting four weeks.”
“An “enormous pulse of water from the rain flowed down the slopes and across the landscape, overwhelming streams and rivers, creating a huge inland sea in California’s enormous Central Valley—a region at least 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Water covered farmlands and towns, drowning people, horses and cattle, and washing away houses, buildings, barns, fences and bridges. The water reached depths up to 30 feet, completely submerging telegraph poles that had just been installed between San Francisco and New York, causing transportation and communications to completely break down over much of the state for a month.” […]
“This kind of flood has occurred about once every 100 to 200 years over the past 1,800 years. It will happen again. (This time it will be blamed on climate change.) […]
“One final note–this massive flooding occurred after two decades of devastating drought. California is not a user-friendly habitat.”

Reply to  Don B
February 20, 2016 4:32 pm

Thanks Don,
It is exactly those historical weather events that reveal how natural extreme events are and how deceptive it is when alarmists suggest such events are now due to CO2.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  jim Steele
February 20, 2016 6:37 pm

Multi-hazards Demonstration Project: Overview of the ARkStorm Scenario

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  jim Steele
February 20, 2016 6:40 pm

Covered earlier at WUWT.
Search for ‘ Arkstorm ‘

Mickey Reno
February 20, 2016 6:30 pm

This is excellent, Jim. What the world desperately needs is another moment of Ed Cook style candid honesty from these tendentious, alarmist heifers.

February 20, 2016 9:38 pm

Jim, this is an excellent essay and very well presented. Thank you.

Tim Hammond
February 21, 2016 2:28 am

I take the observations and subtract what I believe to be caused by CO2. I add back what I think CO2 would cause. It matches the observations! What more proof do you sceptics need?

February 21, 2016 3:13 am

Excellent post Jim, many thanks.

February 21, 2016 3:34 am

Thanks for writing this. I look forward to part II.
One of the most infuriated lines of support for climastrology is when the media, bloggers, and the POTUS trot out:
“How can you deny climate change when it is supported by the {insert “leading” or “greatest”} scientists of our time?”
“Who are you to argue with the world’s leading scientists?”
Then the clown car pulls up and Hansen, Schmidt, Mann, Trenberth, Hayhoe, Oreskes and the rest of these “renowned” charlatans hop out.
I wouldn’t trust these hacks to poor my NyQuil to the correct mark on the plastic cup, let alone accurately predict the next 100 years of climate.
They are either liars or incompetent. Either way, they have no right to the public trust and have earned no quarter to be given.
Burn ’em down Jim.

February 21, 2016 5:00 am

Wild fires. I need some help here from the experts. I understand that wild fires are a part and parcel of nature in arid regions. Further, species such as redwoods do not exist in areas without wild fires (which are required to ‘pop’ the cones and germinate new seedlings from seeds).
So if wild fires occur with a natural rhythm (as only interrupted by stupid U.S. forestry practices in the 1st half of the 20th century) and convert dead underbrush to soil nutrients for the next generation, how can wild fires be made ‘worse’? Certainly it can’t be argued that wild fires make the burn hotter?
Are we actually seeing wild fires in non-arid regions where plant decay usually takes care of the dead vegetation?

Reply to  Robert
February 21, 2016 11:21 am

Here is a graph from peer reviewed literature showing wild fires were much worse during the LIttle Ice Age
A discussion fire histories can be found here

Evan Jones
February 21, 2016 6:03 am

Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
After the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime
Water flowing underground
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Same as it ever was…
Water dissolving…and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Under the water, carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean
Letting the days go by
Let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by
Water flowing underground
Into the blue again
Into the silent water
Under the rocks and stones
There is water underground

Jeff Alberts
February 21, 2016 8:48 am

Sorry, but “modelling experiments” are simply experiments in modelling, and have very little to do with the real world. You can’t say modelling is suddenly good if the results go “your way”.

James McCown
February 21, 2016 1:15 pm

“i.) Clear dry skies increase shortwave (solar) insolation, while simultaneously decreasing downward long wave radiation (i.e. decreasing the greenhouse effect).”
Jim Steele, should this say “…simultaneously decreasing UPWARD long wave radiation…”? It doesn’t make any sense the way you have it worded.
Or am I just misunderstanding something here?

Reply to  James McCown
February 21, 2016 1:35 pm

Shortwave increases because clear dry skies reflect and scatter fewer incoming insolation. Longwave radiation decreases because the greenhouse decreases. Most of the downward or backscattered long wave radiation is due to water vapor. As water vapor decreases so does the downward long wave radiation.
In addition, as you suggest, outgoing/upward long wave does increase depending on the surfaces. The greater the surface heating the more long wave is emitted.

James McCown
Reply to  jim Steele
February 21, 2016 1:54 pm

I see, thanks. Do you have a graph or data for the emission spectrum of water vapor handy? Or can you link to it? Thanks.

Reply to  jim Steele
February 21, 2016 4:11 pm

The Yin 2014 paper gives a table for incoming and outgoing, short and long wave radiation in terms of w/m2. I copied the wrong link to that paper but the Moderator fixed at least one. This link should work,
http://onlinelibrary.wn it hasn’t worked, if not google the title “The contribution of reduction in evaporative cooling to higher surface air temperatures during drought”

February 21, 2016 4:57 pm

Reblogged this on 4timesayear's Blog and commented:
“…our best practices demand we correctly establish the boundaries of natural climate change before we can ever assume rising CO2 has worsened weather events.” – Jim Steele

Reply to  4TimesAYear
February 21, 2016 6:10 pm


Reply to  jim Steele
February 24, 2016 10:13 pm

My pleasure – thank you!

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