Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Bluesky Facebook LinkedIn Mastodon MeWe

Twitter YouTube RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


A profile of award-winning climate scientist Kevin Trenberth

Posted on 27 July 2017 by John Abraham

The American Geophysical Union - the pre-eminent organization of Earth scientists - presents annual awards to celebrate the achievements of scientists. The awards, which are often named after famous historical scientists, reflect the contributions to science in the area of the award namesake. With the 2017 award winners just announced, it’s appropriate to showcase one of the winners here. 

The 2017 winner of the Roger Revelle medal is Dr. Kevin E. Trenberth. One of the most well-known scientists in the world, he is certainly the person most knowledgeable about climate change that I know.

The Roger Revelle award is given to an honoree who has made outstanding contributions to the understanding of the atmosphere and its interactions with other parts of the climate system. Named after Roger Revelle, who was critical in bringing the idea of human-caused climate change to the scientific community, it is amongst the highest honors. Revelle wrote regarding increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 1957:

human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment

Certainly the other scientists nominated were of incredible quality. Why was Kevin granted the award? I cannot answer this for certain because I was not on the committee, but it’s possible that he won strictly because of his scientific contributions.

Dr. Trenberth is a leading voice in the concept of Earth Energy Imbalance (which is really the rate of global warming). He also pioneered research related to the interactions of the atmosphere with the oceans, particularly the El Niño/La Niña cycle. He has worked on advancements to climate models and to experimental observations of climate. Another major area of contribution is the changes in precipitation with climate change, and especially the frequency and intensity of extremes. He has also changed the approaches to attribution of human-caused climate change.

But perhaps Dr. Trenberth won the award because of the sheer volume and impact of his scholarship. He is closing in on 70,000 citations to his work. This puts him near the top of the list worldwide for impact.

Or maybe he won because of his tireless efforts in service to the scientific community, with leadership roles in the IPCC, the World Climate Research Programme, NOAA, and other groups. Or lastly, it could be because he is tireless as both a researcher and a communicator. Dr. Trenberth can be heard or read almost weekly in major newspapers, magazine articles, radio and television shows. When reporters need complex climate science explained, he is a go-to person, and has been for years.

His personal life is interesting too. Born in New Zealand, he studied mathematics before embarking on meteorology. His time in New Zealand provided him with a different geographic perspective than his American and European colleagues. New Zealand is more impacted by certain climate oscillations, like fluctuations in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean surface waters. Certainly these experiences affected his climate views.

Growing up, family, school, and sports – he was a top rugby player - were important. He was somehow able to balance these three pillars of life without sacrifice to his academics. Born into a family of very modest means, Kevin had to make his own fortunes. His early academic performance resulted in financial scholarships for school. 

After some time spent in the New Zealand army, he was ready to embark upon his scientific career. After winning a New Zealand government fellowship to do his doctorate at MIT, he met his future wife Gail who was as ever energetic, smart, and involved in life as was Kevin. They had a daughter in New Zealand, and, after moving to the U.S. as a professor at the University of Illinois, began fostering, which led to the adoption of their second child.

Somehow Kevin and his wife kept both career and family center in their lives and Kevin’s reputation as a top-rated scientist increased. He moved to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in 1984. His scientific work and his public communication efforts meant that he became a frequent target of groups that try to deny human-caused climate change or diminish its importance. The problem with Kevin is, he knows so much you can just assume he is smarter than you. 

Well-known contrarians such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer, and John Christy have had their works rebutted by Trenberth for technical errors.

Click here to read the rest

0 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page


Comments 1 to 7:

  1. A huge gulf is growing in America between people like Trenberth and Trump. Science versus gut instincts, ideology, guesswork, summed up as "truthiness" .

    0 0
  2. And congrats to Kevin Trenberth of course. Well deserved.

    0 0
  3. Well done, Kevin! Thoroughly deserved.

    0 0
  4. President Trump seems set on saving the coal and oil and gas industries and although I am a fan of renewables, if fracking, etc, is going to be done anyway I can see a way to offset carbon dioxide formed. Offset CO2 caused by oil and gas burning, flaring, etc, by producing rain with a "rain enhancement gas grid" so that trees can be grown in deserts and other places. The trees will take carbon dioxide out of the air:
    People have been complaining about fracking, but I can see a possible benefit if it is occurring anyway. When the methane gas in natural gas is burned it produces water vapour. Methane is the main constituent of natural gas.
    CH4+2O2 gives CO2+2H20. Now convectional rain can be brought about merely by having a piece of darker ground heating up more than surrounding lighter coloured ground (urban heat island, etc). Why not encourage fracking companies to burn the waste gas in long pipes with lots of holes in to form a sort of huge grid with thousands of flames coming out?
    This will heat and humidify a large volume of air and could cause convectional rain if relative humidity is high (relative humidity usually increases when air gets colder at night). More trees could be grown with more rain (perhaps in deserts) to offset carbon dioxide made from the "rain enhancement gas grid". Fires could be reduced by use of the grid. One could also have a "rain enhancement steam grid, where pipes carry steam that is let out of holes in the pipe grid (steam generated with solar energy or gas, etc).

    Gasification of coal produces hydrogen and methane and both could be used for the grids.

    0 0
  5. Swayseeker @4

    Interesting idea. However most of the fracking In America is not in deserts, apart from a little in southern california and around there. The fracking and potential fracking shales are mainly in green and leafy rural America, around North dakota, down near texas and the states around there, and over on the north east coast up near New York and Washington. 

    However more trees is always a good idea, but waiting for gas flares to lead to more rain encouraging a few more trees sounds a weak process. You would need to also plant the trees wouldnt you? This requires a planned, comprehensive strategy to combat climate change, the very thing Trump and the Red States have desperately been trying to destroy.

    0 0
  6. What Swayseeker@4 sais is simply nonsense.

    He wants to dig out million years old carbon (in form of gas from fracking or other, it dodes not matter) and purposely burn it in hope of helping shift some carbon from atmosphere to biosphere.

    The obvious problem is that this experiment does not and cannot remove any carbon from biosphere/atmosphere circulation but does the exact opposite: adds even more old carbon that will be eventually redistributed evenly into surface reservoirs and increase CO2 in the atmosphere. And all of that for just nothing. While the goal of burning FF are to increase the among of energy available to humans to do useful works, which is something - a short term or immediate gain for which we pay long term price. The only solution to curb that price is to keep FF in the ground. Any solution involving burning FF (especially wasteful burning) only increases the problem.

    BTW there are other methods for seeding rains that do not involve wasteful FF burning.

    0 0
  7. I note the other AGU pize this year:

    Climate Communication Prize
    Stefan Rahmstorf, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

    and want to congratulate Dr Rahmstorf. He's indeed not only the world class oceanographer but also one of the best communicators. His articles on realclimate are not only informative but very clear and easy to follow, with all references available if you want to follow upthe details which often do. A benchmark of science  communication to popular audience. Well done Stefan and please keep it up!

    0 0

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2024 John Cook
Home | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us