“This is a view of the Future. So Watch Out!” – Kevin Trenberth on PBS NewsHour

July 3, 2012

Lack of water, “the great air conditioner”, is causing unusually high temperatures and extreme weather events in the United States, Kevin Trenberth with the National Center for Atmospheric Research tells Judy Woodruff.  Dr. Trenberth knocks it out of the park here.

It’s striking that Judy Woodruff, the interviewer maintains to the end an all-to-characteristic checked-out journalist view from nowhere – “Well, that ought to be something to keep you scientists busy.”  Earth to Judy – Colorado is burning. Trenberth, to his credit does not let is slide.

NewsHour update on the recent rash of storms and heat below.



69 Responses to ““This is a view of the Future. So Watch Out!” – Kevin Trenberth on PBS NewsHour”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    This should make TonyBoy Watts’ hearing aid explode.
    I wonder how many new insults the cooligans at WUWT will have to describe Dr Trenberth.

    • uknowispeaksense Says:

      “cooligans” Did you pen that? If so, can I use it? It’s a great description.

      • MorinMoss Says:

        I believe I’m the 1st to apply it in this context but Urban Dictionary has a couple alternate definitions.

        Feel free to use it, spread it far and wide if you like – I felt that we needed a description for what I perceive as the bulk of the opposition – not true skeptics, but not dyed-in-the-wool deniers, not sharp or dedicated enough to be contrarians but just a bunch of follow-along wannabe dittoheads who don’t miss an opportunity to smear Hansen, Mann, Trenberth, et al and robo-post the same claptrap on every forum.

  2. uknowispeaksense Says:

    The thing that really struck me about the Kevin Trenberth interview wasn’t what he was saying because those of us who follow the latest info know all this, but more how Judy Woodruff conducted the interview. She’d ask a question and allow her guest to answer it. Could you imagine some like that loudmouth, Megan Kelly or whatever her name is on Fox conducting this interview?

    • MorinMoss Says:

      From what I’ve seen of a lot of Fox “interviews” especially from Kelly, Hannity, et al, it strikes me as being rehearsed and a lot of the questions can be construed as “leading the witness”.

      I recall an amusing clip of Fox bimbo Laura Ingle questioning some residents about solar installations in their area.

      She began by asking a group of about 6-8 people who were in favor, got 4 raising their hands and then 2 who clearly opposed.

      Homework for the reader: Of the 6 people who expressed a clear preference either for or against, how many and of what opinion were the folks who were asked to more fully explain themselves?

  3. I like that Trenberth focused on the ratio of hot to cold records. That’s a very clear sign of global warming that anyone can easily grasp, and it also debunks the “it’s cold where I live therefore global warming isn’t happening” myth. Nicely done.

  4. Anybody found any comment from the insurance industry?

  5. omnologos Says:

    Transcript here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/weather/july-dec12/climate_07-02.html

    Seems KT has been repeating the same mantras for a while now…the “trick” is to wait for a disaster to happen, then build up a link to “global warming”. Explicatory power: 100%, predictory power: 0%, usefulness: Nostradamus-level.

    • uknowispeaksense Says:

      It seems you keep repeating the same behaviours. The “trick” is to keep obscurely referring to debunked things like the manufactured “climategate”, insinuate that real experts are suffering from confirmation bias etc.
      Predictability: 100% Usefulness: 0%

    • otter17 Says:

      An anti-science response to a reasoned and even-toned interview. The disaster data points are building. The trends are starting to emerge. The predictions that higher temperatures and more moisture in the atmosphere will drive more extreme phenomena are coming to fruition, even at this early stage in the global warming story.

      It seems you tacitly assume you have the predictory powers to say that everything will remain near normal, despite changing atmospheric parameters. Your assertions matter little compared to scientists and experts who have gathered evidence for their estimates.

      Hate all the solutions, attack the scientists instead.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Maurizio, you keep denying that you have a track record of making laissez-faire/no cause for alarm comments; and then just carry right on doing it.

      Do you think we are all stupid and/or suffering from short term memory loss, or what exactly?

      If you want me to change the record, stop handing the same one to me to play for you.

  6. Peter Mizla Says:

    Watts and other the Deniers now have decided in unison to put plugs in their ears and blinders on their eyes. The climate will have to destabilize much further then this before this group of troglodytes begin to admit they where wrong. And the real sad part is by the time their sites have closed and their mouths have been silenced- the climate will have reached the 450ppm level. These events are becoming scary- and are multiplying.

    Its like living under the gun playing a game of Russian Roulette, you have no idea when your locality or region will be next to be hit by some extreme climatic anomaly. This heat is totally amazing- but we have been warned. What lies ahead in 5- 8 years could makes the heat, storms, fires of now look tame.

  7. neilrieck Says:

    There have been numerous heat waves around the world in the past ten years, and their frequency appears to be increasing.


    During the European heat waves of 2003 + 2006, many elderly people died while people in North America yawned (“I heard” deniers in Canada say: “they were old and would have died soon anyway”). Well that is fine when it happens to someone else; not the same thing when it is “your parents or grandparents”.

    The “majority of denial” in the past 10 years has come from monied interests in three countries: Australia, Canada, and the USA. It is now time for the Europeans to yawn.

  8. omnologos Says:

    your reply is meaningless. I am not Kevin Trenberth, I don’t work in climate change communication, my blog is not widely read, etc etc.

    Please address the original point. Climate change is hot and dry weather with fires, unless you’re in England where climate change is the wettest June on record, unless you’re in England where winter brings a drought, unless you’re on the East Coast where climate change is tornadoes, unless you’re on the East Coast where climate change is ‘derechos’ (a beautiful word). etc etc

    If Trenberth “knew” that climate change meant large fires in Colorado this summer he should have screamed in January, February, March…any time really apart from after the fact. Because everybody can explain after the fact.

    • omnologos Says:

      apologies. my comment above was in reply to uknowispeaksense July 3, 2012 at 6:38am. It seems Opera Mini can’t deal with threaded comments either.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      ” Climate change is hot and dry weather with fires, unless you’re in England where climate change is the wettest June on record, unless you’re in England where winter brings a drought, unless you’re on the East Coast where climate change is tornadoes, unless you’re on the East Coast where climate change is ‘derechos’ (a beautiful word). etc etc”


    • MorinMoss Says:

      Time to switch back to using the term global warming to assist your understanding.

      Warming = additional heat

      Heat is one of the primary drivers of climate events.

      Also, since something appears to have gone horribly wrong with your search skills, please read this Science Daily article from six and three years ago:



      And hasn’t Hansen been “screaming” for some 30 Januaries, Februarys and Marches?
      Oh, wait, I get it: screaming before the fact is alarmism; doing so after is opportunism.

      Okay, we’ll ask the climate science to do their screaming DURING the fact, just to make you happy.

      • rayduray Says:

        Hi MorinMoss,

        Re: “Time to switch back to using the term global warming to assist your understanding.”

        I’m partial to the term “global climate weirding”. I first picked it up last year. Now I see that the BBC Horizon program is going with “Global Weirding”:


        Rhetorical question…. Why do we use a benign term like “warming” when it is hot as hell?

        Just wondering. 🙂

        • MorinMoss Says:

          I feel that term is a bit too long for common usage so perhaps just “climate weirding” or, my current favorite, climate chaos.

    • uknowispeaksense Says:

      For a start, climate scientists, like most scientists are usually very tempered in their language. They don’t go screaming anything. The alarmism in this phony “debate” comes from the denier side as they scream about conspiracies and taxes and socialist plots.
      Your post, was nothing more than an attack on someone infinitely more qualified than you to talk about climate and weather and for what?
      trenberth and others like him have been predicting the things you mentioned with surprising eloquence for a number of years now. It’s all out there in the literature. If anything Trenberth should be saying, “I told you so.”

      Zolina, O., V. Detemmerman, and K. E. Trenberth, 2010: Improving the accuracy of estimation of climate extremes. Workshop on “Metrics and methodologies of estimation of extreme climate events”. Paris, France, 27-29 September 2010. Eos, 91, No. 51, 506.

      Trenberth, K.E., J.T. Fasullo, C. O’Dell, and T. Wong. 2010: Relationships between tropical sea surface temperature and top-of-atmosphere radiation. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, doi:10.1029/2009GL042314.

      Trenberth, K.E., 2010: Fixing the planet? Science, 26, 1178-1179, doi:10.1126/science.1197874.

      Trenberth, K. E. 2011: Changes in precipitation with climate change. Climate Research, 47, 123-138, doi:10.3354/cr00953.

      Trenberth, K. E., K. Miller, L. Mearns, and S. Rhodes, 2000: Effects of Changing Climate on Weather and Human Activities. Understanding Global Change: Earth Science and Human Impacts Series, Global Change Instruction Program, UCAR. University Science Books. 46 pp.

      Rasmusson, R., A. Dai and K. E. Trenberth, 2007: Impact of climate change on precipitation. Chapter 16 of Large-scale Disasters, Prediction. Control and Mitigation. Mohamed Gad-el-Hak (Ed.) Cambridge Univ. Press, London. 453-472.

      Trenberth, K. E., 2008: The Impact of Climate Change and Variability on Heavy Precipitation, Floods, and Droughts, The Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chichester, UK. DOI 10.1002/0470848944.hsa211.

      These are just a few of the many papers Trenberth has authored or coauthored that discuss the impacts of climate change on weather systems and cycles. He has been discussing this for years. If you’re too lazy to check his publication record and read a few of his papers before commenting, that is your problem. If you’re expecting him to predict individual events…well… you’re going to be waiting for a very long time. What he and others do is point out the trends. It is up to us to take them seriously and use a little bit of grey matter. It really isn’t difficult for you to predict that if its getting hotter and drier then the chance of fires is increased. Are you blaming trenberth and others for failing to think for you? Could they have tried harder to point out where the climate is going?

      I hope I have sufficiently addressed the point for you.

      I hope that addresses the point enough for you.

      • omnologos Says:

        I sense only Peter got the meaning of what I wrote. I haven’t attacked anybody or made any prediction.

        My point was and is about the MESSAGE. Post-facto reasoning won’t work today as it didn’t with Katrina, previous fires, droughts, snowstorms, tornadoes, etc etc.

        Eveybody understands that anything could be explained after it has happened. The Pope can demonstrate with clear reasoning why he is infallible, still nobody converts to Roman Catholicism because of that.

        Weather isn’t going to go away because of climate change. There is this desire to explain everything that we see in terms we think we understand. Trenberth should know already at least as much.

        • uknowispeaksense Says:

          I understand exactly what you are saying and I sense your interpretation of Peter’s one word is correct but not in the way you’d hope, but I’ll leave that for him to explain if he so wishes.

          Given that you haven’t read anything that Trenberth has written over the last 20 years, I also understand why you are struggling with his “post-facto reasoning” that YOU allege he is engaging in.

          What I see is an expert explaining what has happened, which is in accordance with his predictions, to an audience he knows is filled with scientific illiterates, a number of whom need to be told the truth.

        • Maurizio, It’s intuitively obvious, without even studying the science, that the steady accumulation of a significant amount of thermal energy will amplify weather extremes and volatility, as well as altering weather patterns.

          Richard Feynman explained scientists’ inability to confidently predict specific events such as the Waldo Canyon fire. – “Turbulence is the most important unsolved problem of classical physics.”

        • mbrysonb Says:

          So you don’t want to read Trenberth’s work, but you’re sure his remarks about present events are pointless exercises in post-facto reasoning on a par with circular arguments for papal infallibility. The message is, an increase in extreme weather events, especially extreme heat and shifts in precipitation pattern is what we should expect from climate change; this is a prediction, and it’s a prediction that is increasingly born out by the record. (And it makes a ton of sense, if you think of climate as the statistics of weather and consider what to expect if the overall distribution of temperatures, for example, shifts higher.) If you’re not interested in models that successfully predicted many patterns and features of current climate changes (including the occurence of vastly more high-temperature records than low), and you’re not interested in ‘post-facto’ explanations of events, then what would you be interested in?

        • Martin Lack Says:

          Maurizio, you may insist for now that we are not actually seeing an increased frequency of extreme events of all kinds but, exactly when will this argument become untenable in your own mind? Will it be when 1-in-100 year events recur every10 years, every 5 years, every 2 years, or every year?

          Just how far removed from previous expectations do things have to get before you will admit that the climate model predictions – of more extreme events becoming more frequent and more extreme (as a result of more energy in the random atmospheric system) – are being validated by ongoing events?

          In short, how long must we wait for you to admit that the laissez-faire, no cause for alarm, mantra that you share with the likes of Richard Lindzen, Pat Michaels, and Roy Spencer is now about as rational as insisting that the Earth is flat?

  9. omnologos Says:

    I have tried twice, I might not try again. The problem is how can the Trenberths of this world go on TV and in other media to talk “climate change” without appearing like vultures, Nostradamuses, told-you-so’s, talking-heads, broken records and the like.

    Compared to this issue, my opinion on the topics arisen by my would-be responders has zero value. Please guys try to abstract from me and concentrate on a problem that, admittedly, might sound non-existent to the Believers, but only because of your belief.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      What reality are you living in? Replace “Trenberth” with “Monckton” or “Inhofe” and your complaint’s meaning doesn’t change.

      The problem, as we (okay, me as I can’t speak for everyone ) see it is that, despite several decades of warnings, we may have missed our opportunity to avert the worst of an impending climactic chaos.

      Are you proposing we find some hallowed middle-ground with the deniers?
      What would that be, considering most of them believe that Earth needs more CO2, not less?

      Or that we’ll let them burn as much coal and oil as possible if they agree to paint our cities white?

      • otter17 Says:

        There is minuscule room for middle ground within his economic paradigm. We have talked about this before. It is either full adaptation or nothing. Well, mitigation is on the table, but it is “nearly impossible to prove that it will be worth the cost”.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          I recall an industry shill, not too long ago, saying the best plan was unrestricted consumption of coal and oil for the next 50 yrs, by which time we would have solved all the issues around alternative energy and sequestration.

          • neilrieck Says:

            “Once upon a time”, animal life on planet Earth was in balance with plant life. Exhaled CO2 was taken up by plants to produce more O2. This balance changed with the industrial age and I suspect we could we have lived this way for a very long time provided we kept our numbers low (perhaps below a billion). But atmospheric CO2 has risen 25% since scientists began measurements in 1958 and O2 has fallen since measurements began in 1990.



            Clearly the balance that once existed is no longer there and there is no evidence of an explosion of plant life to take up the excess CO2 so we only have two options: 1) reduce human population 2) switch to an energy source which does not produce CO2.

    • otter17 Says:

      When it comes down to it, though, your belief that the overall issue does not require a ramp down in emissions is in direct opposition to the National Academy of Sciences in the USA and the equivalent organization in your country. If you as a lay man disregard the analysis of some of the most prestigious scientific bodies in the world, there is likely nothing that will ever change your mind. There is likely no standard of evidence that will be sufficient. It seems that you waste your own time and ours coming here.

      Scientists have had a working understanding for predictions and estimates of how weather extremes would play out. Seeing more of these record-breaking data points at this early stage in the global warming story is cause to take notice. We don’t panic, yet simply understand what the potential trends are and weigh what the experts indicate the ramifications may be. We realize that extreme events analysis are on the forefront of the science at the moment, but we still remain within the context of NAS and Royal Society recommendations.

    • Martin Lack Says:

      Is this really your strongest card, Maurizio: To claim you have proved a null hypothesis? Unfortunately, all you have done is revealed your apparent ignorance (i.e. hot cold, wet and dry – are all consequences of additional energy in the climate system) and, when not doing so, you make it transparently clear that you have not looked at all the evidence and found no causal link between CO2 and temperature rise. On the contrary, you have decided there is no causal link and gone looking for alternative explanations for all the evidence that there is one.

      Does this argument work in reverse? I don’t think so: It is an experimental, observable and repeatable fact that CO2 absorbs long wave radiation and also an uncontestable fact that the Earth’s overall temperature will change if the incoming radiation from the Sun is not balanced by the outgoing radiation to Space. You could say that we stumbled upon the truth and have spent most of the time since trying to ignore it.

      However, on every occasion that the maths is checked; mainstream scientists have concluded that the equilibrium temperature change will be at least 2 Celsius for a doubling of CO2. The only people that dispute this are those that either have a vested interest, ideological prejudice, or religious need for human activity to not be the primary cause. Which one are you?

      My guess is that you are a number two!

  10. Sorry for the lack of intelligent comment from this direction… the fires are keeping many of us distracted.

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