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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.

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Comments 151 to 165 out of 165:

  1. @Berényi Péter #149 Thank you for being so throughly and pretty transparent on the subject. Regarding the second part, we have the actual on-topic in the link to Trenberth's statement -one click ahead from the last link your provided- and his "It is amazing to see this particular quote lambasted so often.". The rest is only linked by your racconto of the supposed chronology, what takes us back again to the question, are the e-mails real? haven't them being doctored or snipped to suit specific advocacies? It is the kind of situation people says "only God knows". If the hacker stepped out and passed a polygraphy, and forensics experts swore they didn't find evidence of doctoring or any change of content, I would start to believe they are real -not that the planet is in a trend of cooling and there's a conspiracy to hide it-. This takes us to the next point: Regarding the first part, I read your words a few minutes after reading this article (in Spanish) in the newspaper. It can be summarized as an appeal court setting that violation of emails are a federal crime and emails are completely equivalent to a epistolary letter, not only in a general quality of them being "private" but specifically protected by the constitution as being "inviolable" what is much more. That is in my country but the countries where the communication took place are not much different about what is legal. The hacker has the constitutional right to not self-incriminate and Trenberth et al had at least the constitutional right to privacy, if not inviolability of any epistorar communication. This bring us at you cloning in #149 the "climategate mistique" of, in your own words, «I do not think "private email" is a proper characterization of correspondence between government employees (or scholars working on government grants) during office hours using their work email addresses,...». A lot can be commented about: if the person hasn't that right, the company or the agency has the right (the "mistique" followed it with "the agencies refuse to show it because they are part of the conspiracy"); what about the parts of messages quoted in other messages coming from private individuals; what if one employee using his own account plot with another employee to burn Mona Lisa, have the agency to pay a milliard dollars to the Louvre because it was "agency time"? This can be going on for ages, but basically the arguments about why the e-mails are not private are like those of ambulance chasing lawyers, the kind of argument with the arguer being immediately benefited by the new rules his argument creates, that is a 30% of Mona Lisa's compensatory damages.
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  2. I'm terribly sorry for the misinformation. A closer examination reveals that Dr. Schneider has in fact forwarded his student's mail at 10:32 UTC on 12 October 2009 (and not at 22:32 UTC). Otherwise Dr. Trenberth could not reply at 14:57:37 UTC on the same day. BTW someone (conceivably among the recipients) has forwarded the mail to Paul Hudson as well. We do not know which comments were included in that version. Trenberth's message probably not, because Hudson published a few points on his blog at 13:52 UTC, possibly triggered by the incoming mail. However, that mail may have included Michael Mann's comment at 13:00:44 UTC, because both that comment and Hudson's reply refers to Richard Black.
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  3. BP,
    I do not think "private email" is a proper characterization of correspondence...
    Personally, I'm very, very glad that my society values personal privacy more than you do, and I do not think that one checks personal privacy at the door merely by working in a position that receives funding from the government. Being an employee of the government does not turn one into a state-and-people-owned slave-robot. To me, the real travesty here is that some people will quickly abandon rights and freedoms (such as privacy) just to latch onto some pitiful and evil effort to fracture the public's trust in climate scientists.
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  4. #153 Sphaerica at 22:50 PM on 21 April, 2011 Being an employee of the government does not turn one into a state-and-people-owned slave-robot It is politics, so it will probably get deleted along with your comment, but anyway. I am a great fan of freedom & privacy. However, I do have two separate email addresses, one for business and one for private matters. I'd be certainly upset if someone published my private emails or used it in any other improper manner (including government interference with no lawful court order). On the other hand I'd happily show my business mails to anyone provided the company I am working for is not worried about trade secrets. I know no private company that would encourage employees to do their own business during office hours using their company email address. Does it make employees company-owned slave-robots? I do not think so. Why should it be otherwise with state employees? Just because in a sense "owners" of this particular business happen to be taxpayers? Mind you, all government money rightfully belongs to taxpayers, not bureaucrats employed by elected officials. They are responsible to the general public for their conduct and get adequate compensation for it, based on a free job contract. In a free society there is no law that would coerce you to become a government employee, so if this burden is too much, you can do something else.
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  5. @Berényi Péter #154 Your words in some way echoed in my mind a recent debate in my city in which some argued that people by the act of becoming police troopers and personnel they had in many ways curbed their rights to life. It is very sad that you find if fits in this venue your attitude of "I don't support any crime but since we are at it I'll take advantage of the fruit of the crime" together with a false argumentation about what rights have any person, because what you'd voluntarily do sets the frame of what people should be forced to do. And I must say that all what you do in this site boils to pretty much the same, and that has nothing to do with your right to be an absolute ... human, but with your constant fail to perceive nobody notices the way you operate and what motivates you.
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  6. @Berényi Péter #152 You can do much better than that. Instead of saying "they won the game after the public roared in their support" or "stock market felt today after a journey of profit-taking" or any other kind of mouthful where a description replaces a causation, why don't you list the exact parts of those resources that according to you are related to Trenberth's mail. Otherwise it looks even less than an induced inference, just a concoction.
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  7. Alec Cowan #156 BP #154 Amongst Alec's semantic games there is an important point emerging in the debate following on from BP's sensible contribution. Notice that the AGW enthusiasts are terribly worried about 'stealing' of emails that cast doubt on the measurements behind the AGW case. Yet if there were a 'hack' or 'leak' of emails between businesspersons engaged in the oil, nuclear or coal industries, which cast doubt on their theories and public positions - I would bet "London to a brick" that such emails would be screaming out of the internet, the environmentalist industry, and the hackers or leakers would be extolled as public whistleblower heroes deserving of the 'Assange prize'. One man's thief is another man's hero. Think of it an an involuntary early 'Freedom of Information' disclosure for the public benefit. The facts are that the 'travesty' emails are revealed and give us an insight into the truth of the overheard conversation. This truth shows that Dr Trenberth is frustrated with the 'inadequacy' of the measurement of warming imbalance to support the AGW theory and models. There are two ways to interpret these revelations. One is that the AGW models and theory are right and the maesurement is 'inadequate' or wrong. The other is that the measurement is right, and the theory and models are 'inadequate' or wrong. Take your pick, but if better and more extensive measurement keeps getting the theory wrong - time to look at the theory.
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  8. Actually, Ken, there are two distinct concerns: 1. Stealing of emails. It is telling that you find BP's contribution "sensible". The emails were stolen. Point blank. It would be something else entirely if they were produced by the university pursuant to some type of stated policy of which the particular employee either explicitly or tacitly accepted as a term of employment. Whether BP (or anyone) maintains a separate personal and business account is quite irrelevant. It's a question of expectation. You don't expect your emails business or otherwise to be stolen and published without any authorization. BP and your efforts to defend such actions is moral relativism at its finest--i.e. it's ok because he agrees with the spin given to such emails. Everyone should be concerned about this type of behavior. It's in the same vein as identity theft. 2. Excerpting and misrepresenting the emails as a means of tarnishing the scientists (primary) and the science (secondary). You are engaging in the latter even at 157. The theory is sound as are the observations supporting the theory. Nonetheless, you cherry pick ARGO measurements (which apparently is the new gold standard despite the fact that the ARGO measurements are being refined and there isn't even close to a statistically significant period of observation) and attach your cherry picked measurements to your skewed interpretation of Trenberth's email. At that point, the KL version is a gross distortion of Trenberth's position and the science. If you think that folks here are concerned only about "stealing", you need to re-evaluate what has been posted.
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  9. mclamb6 @158, Well stated, bravo. Those in denial had better be careful what they claim concerning the ARGO data....that is all I'll say for now ;) And all, really, Dr. Trenberth has a long time ago had the last word on this on his web page.
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  10. KL "AGW enthusiasts are terribly worried about 'stealing' of emails that cast doubt on the measurements behind the AGW case" This characterization is wrong and insulting in several ways. The extent to which deniers are willing to twist data, misrepresent it or put forth outright lies has been extensively demonstrated. Christopher Monckton is a case in point, backing up at nothing to mislead his audience, even tilting a graph to give the impression that there is no trend. I am especially concerned of late with McIntyre and McKitrick fraudulent paper on Mann's statistical methods. I strongly recommend all to read in details the DeepClimate post about this pathetic bag of lies. http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/ I note also that the transparency advocated by deniers falls on deaf ear with Wegman, but the denier blogs have been eerily silent about it. If it's OK for e-mails to be stolen, shouldn't the materials for the Wegman report be released? Where are the skeptics advocating for it? Nowhere, because their double standards prevent it. BP has been challenged on several occasions on his accusations of fraud that were exclusively based on misunderstanding of materials referred on his site, his best answer was "I'll get back to you." Considering what deniers like McIntyre & McKitrick, Monckton, Beck, Wegman, etc, etc are willing to pull off, no piece of information whatsoever is safe in their hands. Even an invitation for lunch will be shown as evidence of conspiracy or other lunatic nonsense. Yes the reality based among us are worried. Deniers, of course, are not. After all, they have savory characters like Monckton, Wegman or Cuccinelli on their side, what could possibly go wrong?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Hotlinked URL.
  11. @Ken Lambert #157 Good for you Ken that you set aside figures; whenever you want to get back to that, go to "It's not warming" or any other more suitable post and let me know. I hope that severe cooling I pointed during that very specific period of 2010 has made you realize you need to learn more about how the planet works. You know I'm not patient with people who reason in a way that reminds me the sound of chalk continually squeaking against a blackboard -unless they are, admittedly, students-. Now you are coming back to what is solid ground for you: Rhetorics.
    Yet if there were a 'hack' or 'leak' of emails between businesspersons engaged in the oil, nuclear or coal industries, which cast doubt on their theories and public positions - I would bet "London to a brick" that such emails would be screaming out of the internet, the environmentalist industry, and the hackers or leakers would be extolled as public whistleblower heroes deserving of the 'Assange prize'.
    What an easy way to get some real states. Wait! You said "I would". I say you was likely thinking along the way of "it takes one to know one", but sadly it was just your mirror. You speak of Assange and forget that there are many people (CIA, SMS, RVS, MI6, etc.) that knew those mails -and milliards more- and that they have much to gain (or lose), not from showing themselves as hackers but from following the "inner web of the conspiracy" and revealing it in the proper moment. Imagine Russia, with a lot to lose if this anti AGW politics go on, *not having* (was it good, the *spell* marks: alakazaam!) access to those emails or other "incriminatory" emails and *not having* good scientists to support an explanatory campaign. The decent thing to do is a reality check. The fact is that all get us back to a Hollywood plot and a screenplay-like partial withdrawal of logic that accompanies it if you like to enjoy the movie. Your diasporic urban tribe have made from the "climategate mistique" its own version of Antitrust(2001) with your kin playing the character of Ryan Phillipee. Or maybe it has touches of The Da Vinci Code. Whatever, but the problem stays when one's epistemology is dictated in front of a TV set and not in an academic hall without the ability to tell the difference.
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  12. Albatross #159 "Those in denial had better be careful what they claim concerning the ARGO data....that is all I'll say for now ;)" No one is claiming Argo is perfect - just there is nothing currently measuring the oceans globally which is any better. We all can only deal with the data which is published and available. ( snip ).
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    Moderator Response: Inflammatory snipped.
  13. Ken, It is not everything that I know, it is information that is freely available out there that I am referring to that those in denial about AGW will not be pleased about. I was, for naught it seems, trying to inject some humour-- I hardly see how that can interpreted/perceived as being inflammatory.
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  14. Moderators are showing their bias and have snipped two of my reasonable and innocuous comments including the one you have answered Albatross. If that means ridding this site of all contrary opinion - then that is a great pity. Take note John Cook. I will email you privately on this matter again.
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    Moderator Response: Comments snipped were due to inflammatory tone - a violation of the Comments Policy. Deleted comments contained accusations of dishonesty and complaints about moderation - each a violation of the Comments Policy.
  15. mclamb6 #158 I did not mean to ignore your contribution. It is just that the Moderators are zealously snipping me. "The theory is sound as are the observations supporting the theory. Nonetheless, you cherry pick ARGO measurements (which apparently is the new gold standard despite the fact that the ARGO measurements are being refined and there isn't even close to a statistically significant period of observation) and attach your cherry picked measurements to your skewed interpretation of Trenberth's email." I have not spent the best part of 2 years reading everything about AGW to make a trite comment about Argo. Anyone who understands the first law can also make the leap to the critical point that any warming imbalance must show up somewhere in the Earth system as heat energy - over 90% stored in the oceans. OHC increase is a direct measure of TOA imbalance. Accurate measurement of OHC will make or break the AGW case.
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