The e-mail 'scandal' travesty in misquoting Trenberth on
Posted on 10 April 2011 by villabolo
"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." -Kevin Trenberth
Trenberth's statement was quoted completely out of context by those who orchestrated the fake 'Climategate' scandal. The statement is distorted to mean that there is no global warming. That is not the case.
Trenberth's job is to track exactly how much energy is reaching us from the sun, and how much of that warming has been absorbed by the air, land, oceans, and melting ice. He also calculates how much is reflected or radiated from each of these places. The more global warming there is, the more energy is absorbed by all these places.
Therefore, Trenberth was talking about where some of the warmth has gone, not that there is a lack of warmth. The illustration below shows what the situation is. Please note the lack of information from the deep oceans.
Figure 1. The global annual mean Earth’s energy budget for the March 2000–May 2004 period in W/m2. The broad arrows indicate the schematic flow of energy in proportion to their importance. From Trenberth et al.a
The situation can be easily explained by the following analogy.
Suppose you are an accountant for a major corporation which grossed 1 billion dollars last year, then increased to 1.1 billion dollars this year. This would be a 100 million dollar increase from the previous year. Your job is to find out where and how all the money was spent. You take into account every detail such as salaries, benefits, purchases, etc.. Ideally, your goal as an accountant is to account for every dollar spent or left over as profit. Realistically you can be off by a small amount without worry.
Imagine, however, that 5% (55 million dollars) is unaccounted for. That would be serious. You know that the company has been making more money but where did it go? Was it due to waste or mismanagement of company resources? Is there someone stealing the money?
Suppose now, that the accountant sends an e-mail saying, "I cannot account for the missing money and it's a shame."
Now imagine a person who wants to defame the company. He hacks into the e-mail and quotes the accountant out of context by claiming that the company is actually not making more money.
When Trenberth said, "...we can't account for the lack of warming..." he meant the same thing as that accountant. Just substitute the word "warmth" for "money".
He could not accurately determine the Earth's complete global energy budget because the instruments we have to measure the ocean's warming only go down to 2 kilometers (little over 1 mile) and oceans can be several thousand meters deeper than that. Because of that, we will not be able to account for all the energy absorbed by the oceans until we place measuring instruments deeper than they are now. However, our measurements of how much energy from global warming is flowing through our atmosphere, land, and melting ice, are well known.
a. Trenberth KE, Fasullo JT, Kiehl J; Earth's global energy budget. Bulletin of American Meteorological Society 2009, 90:311-323.