My Comment On Robert S. Knox And David H. Douglass – Kevin Trenberth On The Climate Etc Post On “Missing Heat”

In Judy Curry’s   post

Where’s the “missing” heat?

there is an informative set of e-mails that illustrates the current poor state of scientific discourse. The relevant e-mail exchange starts with

“R. Gates | January 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply

This missing heat issue is obviously one of the most important issues right now to get solved or to study in more depth. For if it turns out that the missing heat is not there, then neither is any substantial AGW, but if, as Trenberth and others suspect, it is in the deeper ocean, as some recent research indicates, then that additional heat is yet more conclusive proof that AGW is occurring. I sent a query to Dr. Trenberth about his take on the Knox & Douglass paper, and he graciously took the time to give me this response:

“I have now read the paper and I dismiss it entirely. The authors do not describe what data they use. Argo data have undergone several major revisions. It also is varying in time in amount and coverage, and some floats were “bad” and some had calibration problems (the surface pressure was recorded as negative, indicating depth problems).
They also do not use the Lyman et al results, or our commentary on it:

Trenberth, K. E., 2010: The ocean is warming, isn’t it? Nature, 465, 304. [PDF]

They end up with a statement about their opinion. Well I will say emphatically that their opinion is wrong and we have evidence that it is so. This sort of paper should not have been published, and really it hasn’t been because this “journal” has no credibility. It is clear what the biases are of these authors.

Looking at the figure in the paper also reveals a clear problem: The values at the end are higher than any others yet they have a downward trend. Clearly any “trend” they get depends critically on how they get it and it highly dependent on the time period. By taking a 12 month running mean they discount the last 6 months.”

David Douglas responded to this e-mail in the following.

david douglass | January 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Reply

Our paper “Recent Energy Balance of the Earth”, the subject of this thread, has generated considerable discussion. We address the issues raised by Trenberth.

In a post by “R. Gates | January 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm there is a reply by Dr. Trenberth about his take on the Knox & Douglass paper:
“I have now read the paper and I dismiss it entirely. The authors do not describe what data they use. Argo data have undergone several major revisions. It also is varying in time in amount and coverage, and some floats were bad and some had calibration problems (the surface pressure was recorded as negative, indicating depth problems). They also do not use the Lyman et al results, or our commentary on it: Trenberth, K. E., 2010: The ocean is warming, isn.t it? Nature, 465, 304. [PDF].
They end up with a statement about their opinion. Well I will say emphatically that their opinion is wrong and we have evidence that it is so. This sort of paper should not have been published, and really it hasn’t been because this journal has no credibility. It is clear what the biases are of these authors.

Looking at the figure in the paper also reveals a clear problem: The values at the end are higher than any others yet they have a downward trend. Clearly any trend they get depends critically on how they get it and it highly dependent on the time period. By taking a 12 month running mean they discount the last 6 months.”

Our response:

We take Trenberth at his word that he has read our paper. However, he does not appear to understand it. We take up all of his critical points.

[a] We describe exactly the data we use. It comes from J. Willis.

[b] Willis is the acknowledged expert on Argo data and provides the scientific world with “official” OHC estimates. He attests to the robustness of the data. As recently as September 21, which post-dates the submission of our paper, he states in an email to Roger Pielke, Sr. “… In fact, corrections of the Argo pressure data may result in a small but significant systematic change in the early years of that curve. However, from 2005 on, the answer will not change much. So, yes it is now possible to test the 5-year warming rate from Argo. …” [The Willis statement is abstracted from an email exchange published on Roger Pielke Sr.’s web site with Willis’ permission.]

[c] We were aware of the Lyman et al. paper and Trenberth’s comments. In fact our paper not only mentioned the Lyman paper (our ref 1), our paper was written to show that their estimate of the global warming trend was misleading, as they averaged the data across an event that they described as a “flattening” that occurred in 2001-2002. That event is almost certainly an abrupt
climate phase transition previously reported in other studies [Tsonis et al, GRL 34, L13705 (2007), Douglass and Knox, Phys. Lett. A. 373, 3296 (2009)]. The conclusions of the Lyman paper also relied heavily on theoretical estimates of FTOA by Trenberth et al. See next point.

[d] What we said was “In our opinion, the missing energy problem is caused by a serious overestimate by TF of FTOA, which, they state, is most accurately determined by modeling.” This is based upon the following statement by Trenberth, Fasullo, and Kiehl [“Earth’s global energy budget” Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 90, 311-323 (2009), page 313]

“… The TOA energy imbalance can probably be most accurately determined from climate models and is estimated to be 0.85 ±0.15 W m-2 by Hansen et al. (2005)”.

The later Trenberth papers then use this “probable best” source as the basis of their conclusions about large energy imbalance and “missing energy.” Thus “missing energy” is inferred from models. Had the results been based on the observational CERES data, large error bars would have prevented any such conclusions.

[e] In regard to the last 6 months of data, our method 1 which uses a 12 month symmetric running mean does in fact use the last 12 months.

Robert S. Knox
David H. Douglass

There was then this indirect reply from Trenberth in the following

R. Gates | January 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply

Update from Dr. Trenberth regarding Knox & Douglass paper:

He is leaving for travel to Europe until Jan. 19 (Bern ISSE 9-14; Grenoble ECRA 15-18) and will not be posting on this site but he is going to be responding in full in a future paper, showing what “rubbish” the Knox & Douglass paper is.

I will look forward to that paper…

My comment:

Kevin has apparently learned nothing from the released East Anglia e-mails. To refer to a published paper as “rubbish” without substantiating that claim is arrogant. This behaviour is what has gotten us to the politicization of climate science. A constructive way for Kevin Trenberth to respond would be to post a comment on Judy’s weblog that could then be debated, while he simultaneously prepares a rebuttal paper to the scientifically sound paper by Knox and Douglas. 

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