Kevin Trenberth: false memory syndrome?

There’s a thread over at Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-scape in which he invites:

[Anyone who is] one of “a great many people” who believed in AGW who are now skeptics.

to “raise their hands”.

I raised mine, but I think my post may be stuck in Kloor’s spam-filter (there were a few links in my post!) In the meantime, I noticed that in response to another commenter’s observation that:

Hurricane Researcher, Chris Landsea, is another scientist who withdrew from IPCC authorship over science issues:

“I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.”

Michael “we must have zero carbon now” Tobis wrote:

Trenberth: “Landsea … called a press conference and resigned from IPCC but he was not even part of IPCC. He had been asked by me to write something as a contributing author.” (to me in email; reported with his permission at )

So, Landsea, I think not. Correct me if I’m wrong but as I understand it, there’s no sign he ever supported the consensus.

Well, correct me if I’m wrong … but it seems to me that the so-called “consensus” did not emerge until after the report had been written. But I digress …

Had Tobis bothered to do a little bit of homework (or even bothered to read the comment to which he did not indicate he was supposedly responding), he would have discovered several links to Landsea’s “Open letter to the community”. One of which can be found at:

There is no indication that I could find of any evidence that “Landsea … called a press conference”. I’ve invited Tobis to provide some. We’ll see what happens. So while I wait, I decided to follow the link to his article on RealClimate.

UPDATE 01/14/2011 06:50 PM PDT Tobis has not provided any evidence – nor is he likely to: Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. (who, I should note, is also the owner of the “prometheus” blog hosting Landsea’s letter) was kind enough to confirm that:

Landsea did not call a press conference. Those asserting otherwise are simply mistaken.

(We now return you to regularly scheduled programming)

Evidently Tobis and his co-author “Scott Mandia with input from Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, and Kevin Trenberth” were not happy campers regarding a recent article by Larry Bell in Forbes. They take umbrage at (inter alia) Bell’s:

A special press conference called by IPCC spokesman Kevin Trenberth announced “Experts warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense activity.” Christopher Landsea, a top U.S. expert on the subject, repeatedly notified the IPCC that no research had been conducted to support that claim–not in the Atlantic basin, or in any other basin.

Tobis et al:

“This famous controversy occurred in 2004 and is not 2010 news. Nor was it ignored by the press. We doubt that Landsea went so far as to claim that “no research had been conducted to support that claim” but if he did he is certainly incorrect. This topic goes back at least to 1987 with a paper in Nature by Kerry Emanuel. Kevin Trenberth offers some salient points about the controversy from his point of view:

1. I was not an IPCC spokesperson and I was not advertised as such. Landsea claimed otherwise.

2. I did not call the press conference, it was called by Harvard university (Paul Epstein and Jim McCarthy), I participated.

3.There was a ton of research including my own on changes in the hydrological cycle that were pertinent but not specifically Tropical Storm based, as well as Kerry’s work.

4. Landsea did not notify IPCC once, let alone repeatedly. He called a press conference and resigned from IPCC but he was not even part of IPCC. He had been asked by me to write something as a contributing author. It was a horrible distortion of many facts.

Landsea’s letter (which is well worth reading in full, btw) begins as follows:

Dear colleagues,

After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns.

With this open letter to the community, I wish to explain the basis for my decision and bring awareness to what I view as a problem in the IPCC process. The IPCC is a group of climate researchers from around the world that every few years summarize how climate is changing and how it may be altered in the future due to manmade global warming. I had served both as an author for the Observations chapter and a Reviewer for the 2nd Assessment Report in 1995 and the 3rd Assessment Report in 2001, primarily on the topic of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). My work on hurricanes, and tropical cyclones more generally, has been widely cited by the IPCC. For the upcoming AR4, I was asked several weeks ago by the Observations chapter Lead Author – Dr. Kevin Trenberth – to provide the writeup for Atlantic hurricanes. As I had in the past, I agreed to assist the IPCC in what I thought was to be an important, and politically-neutral determination of what is happening with our climate.

Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4’s Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity” along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe.


It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current scientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.

So … certainly no evidence that Landsea “called a press conference” or that he ever claimed to be “part of the IPCC”. That’s 2 strikes, Trenberth. And unfortunately for Trenberth there’s one more: He claims that “Landsea did not notify IPCC once, let alone repeatedly”.

At the bottom of the above Open letter, there’s an attachment. It’s a .pdf file which Landsea described as “correspondence between myself and key members of the IPCC FAR”.

The first item is dated Nov. 5, 2004 and is addressed to Pachauri, Susan Solomon, Phil Jones and a number of others “with a cc to K. Trenberth”.

Because he makes reference to it in the first, Landsea also included the Oct. 21, 2004 E-mail he had sent to Trenberth and another colleague who was also to appear (but subsequently chose not to) at the Harvard hullaballoo.

There’s a reply from Pachauri, but no indication of any reply from Trenberth to either of the emails. This makes it at least strike 3.5 in my books. As noted above, Trenberth concluded the 4th of his “salient points” by stating:

“It was a horrible distortion of many facts.”

Can’t disagree with that. Unfortunately for Trenberth (and perhaps for Tobis et al), the evidence clearly shows that the “distortions” are all Trenberth’s.

4 thoughts on “Kevin Trenberth: false memory syndrome?

    • And here I thought I had a “scoop”! Sorry, Shub … don’t know how I missed that comment of yours! Some days I wish Judith Curry’s blog wasn’t so popular (or that she wasn’t so prolific with her provocative posts!)

      Hey, it wasn’t just Tobis and Trenberth … It was Tobis, Trenberth, Mandia, Mann & Schmidt (TTMMS). But since so many roads seem to lead back to Trenberth this week, I noted more than a few ironies – not to mention further examples of his ‘false memory syndrome’ in overdrive – in his proposed AMS presentation as noted on WUWT and CA. I can’t believe that Trenberth has such pure unadulterated – and unmitigated – chutzpah to proclaim (as he apparently intends to do in his presentation to the AMS):

      [Climate scientists] are unlikely to make false claims that other colleagues can readily show to be incorrect.

      Oh, wait a minute … geeze give your head a shake, Hilary … this is climate-speak for:

      Climate scientists are unlikely to ever utter a peep when they realize that one of their colleagues has been indisputably (if not incontrovertibly and unequivocally) shown to be incorrect by one of those evil, big-oil-funded “deniers”

      Alternatively, perhaps TTMMS figured that if they got caught by one of their more rational own, they could simply invoke the Jones-Briffa defense (of the indefensible): as they told Muir Russell, ‘I wasn’t responsible, it was a “team” effort’ ;-)

      OK, so this is all somewhat OOT … but it’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to ;-)

  1. Gah. I don’t know what Divil KT’s sold his soul to, but I don’t wanna meet up with him. One scarey dude! Ambitious, too, apparently.

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