2011-03-20 15:11:33Teaching Climate Science: Trenberth Video
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

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Teaching Climate Science

Posted on 20 March 2011 by Daniel Bailey


The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is a federally funded research and development center devoted to service, research and education in the atmospheric and related sciences. NCAR’s mission is to understand the behavior of the atmosphere and related physical, biological and social systems; to support, enhance and extend the capabilities of the university community and the broader scientific community – nationally and internationally; and to foster transfer of knowledge and technology for the betterment of life on Earth. The National Science Foundation is NCAR's primary sponsor, with significant additional support provided by other U.S. government agencies, other national governments and the private sector.


Dr. Kevin Trenberth, Senior Scientist, CAS Section Head

The Climate Analysis Section (CAS) is a research section within Climate & Global Dynamics Division (CGD) of the NCAR Earth System Laboratory (NESL).

Dr. Kevin Trenberth is Head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO.

Dr. Trenberth is famous for his research into climate science.  As part of his work, he prepares presentations and videos to help educate the public and policymakers. The feature of this post is Dr. Trenberth's Invited Keynote Address, "The Earth's Climate System: Variability and Change," Symposium on Climate Change Effects on Fish and Fisheries, Sendai, Japan, 26-29 April 2009.

Over the course of 23 minutes and 40 seconds, Dr. Trenberth covers a comprehensive range of climate topics including the Greenhouse Effect, Earth's energy flows and budget, the roles of each component (air, ocean, land and ice) of the biospher of the Earth, temperature & Co2 variations and sea level rise, followed by discussions of changes in humidity and how that effects weather around the globe.

Some of Dr. Trenberth's most powerful statements made in the video are:

  • "The recent 2003 European heat wave could only have ocurred through a combination of natural variability and global warming."
  • "Global Warming doesn't mean relentless warming year after year after year."

It's a must-watch video, one of the most educational and accessible I've seen. Watch it and then tell everyone you know to see it.

Here are a few screenshots to whet your appetite and draw your interest:


Figure 1. The warming of the globe is unequivocal

Att              GHE               WV       

Fig 2. Warming Attribution       Fig3. Greenhouse Effect           Fig 4. Water Vapor

Energy Flows

Fig 5. Earth's Energy Flows

One of the things that struck me while researching this article was the observation that Dr. Trenberth had made about his widely misquoted comment (discussed here and here):

"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."

Here's Dr. Trenberth's thoughts on the matter:

"It is quite clear from the paper that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural variability."

Further Reading

Dr. Trenberth's CV and Publication Record

2011-03-20 16:52:58
Rob Painting

Yooper, there's a lot in that post. Is there just a couple of main points we can focus on?.

Glad NZ has someone like Trenberth doing good deeds, helps balance the outright crankery we seem to churn out.

2011-03-20 18:51:30Little typo
John Cook


"The Earth's Climte System: Variability and Change,"

Climate misspelt

2011-03-21 01:45:22
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

@ John:

Fixed (need a more tactile keyboard)  :)


@ Rob:

As an educational tool, Trenberth's video is designed to be a comprehensive summary overview of climate science, IMAO.

Given that, I could shorten the post by omitting some of the examples, but there are two main purposes to this blog post:

  1. Educate those open-minded enough to learn
  2. Pose as a bait-trap for those trolling Skeptical Science.  I serve up enough juicy tidbits in the post that our usual cadre of nay-sayers will be drawn to it like flies to...well, you know.  I have to imagine that all are extremely tired of dealing with the endless re-hashing of the favorite denialist talking points du jour of the same "skeptics", whose points have been discussed and rebutted previously on many threads over and over again.

So as it stands, I'm trying to educate the public about climate science and the logical impoverishment of "skeptics" at the same time.  To draw in the "skeptics" into a logical "Venus flytrap" which will have no intellectual exit for them.  A "skeptic" Waterloo, if you will...

If I'm over-reaching with this aim, let me know & I'll thin it down.

2011-03-21 05:26:56
Rob Painting

Yooper, righto, as you were.

2011-03-21 11:11:30Danka
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

Thanks, Rob!  Anybody else?

2011-03-21 14:18:00Cued for Tuesday afternoon
John Cook


Added to this week's schedule.

2011-03-24 04:26:16
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

So far, none of our usual "skeptics" have taken the bait.  Pity.