Kevin E. Trenberth

Kevin Edward Trenberth (born 8 November 1944) is part of the Climate Analysis Section at the US NCAR National Center for Atmospheric Research.[2][3] He was a lead author of the 2001 and 2007 IPCC Scientific Assessment of Climate Change (see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report) and serves on the Scientific Steering Group for the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) program. He chaired the WCRP Observation and Assimilation Panel from 2004 to 2010 and chaired the Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) scientific steering group from 2010 to 2013 (member 2007-14). In addition, he served on the Joint Scientific Committee of the World Climate Research Programme, and has made significant contributions to research into El Niño-Southern Oscillation.[4]

Kevin E. Trenberth
Born (1944-11-08) 8 November 1944
Christchurch, New Zealand
ResidenceNew Zealand
United States
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (Sc.D. 1972)
Known forInterannual variability of climate and El Niño
IPCC Lead Author 1995, 2001, 2007
Earth's energy budget
Water Cycle
Global Climate Change
Attribution of Climate Change
Diagram showing the Earth's energy balance[1]
Scientific career
Atmospheric Scientist
Climate Scientist
InstitutionsNew Zealand Meteorological Service
University of Illinois
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
ThesisDynamic coupling of the stratosphere with the troposphere and sudden stratospheric warmings. (1972)
Doctoral advisorEdward Norton Lorenz

Trenberth's work is highly cited and he has an h-index of 100 (100 papers have over 100 citations).


Trenberth is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the American Association for Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union; and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2000 he received the Jule G. Charney award from the American Meteorological Society; in 2003 he was given the NCAR Distinguished Achievement Award; and in 2013 he was awarded the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, and the Climate Communication Prize from American Geophysical Union.[5]

Short term climate variability

In a 2009 paper, "An imperative for climate change planning: tracking Earth's global energy", Trenberth discussed the distribution of heat and how it was affected by climate forcing, including greenhouse gas changes. This could be tracked from 1993 to 2003, but for the period from 2004 to 2008 it was not then possible to explain the relatively cool temperatures of 2008.

In the Climatic Research Unit email controversy, an unlawfully disclosed email from Trenberth about this paper was widely misrepresented; he wrote, "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." Trenberth has stated: "It is amazing to see this particular quote lambasted so often. It stems from a paper I published this year bemoaning our inability to effectively monitor the energy flows associated with short-term climate variability. 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."[6]

In a 2013 scientific paper in Geophysical Research Letters, Trenberth and co-authors presented an observation-based reanalysis of global ocean temperatures. This proposed that a recent hiatus in upper-ocean warming after 2004 had seen the long-term increase interrupted by sharp cooling events due to volcanic eruptions and El Niño. Despite this, ocean warming had continued below the 700 m depth.[7]

In a second 2013 paper, Trenberth and Fasullo discussed the effect of the 1999 change from a positive to negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. This was associated with a change of surface winds over the Pacific which had caused ocean heat to penetrate below 700m depth and had contributed to the apparent global warming hiatus in surface temperatures during the previous decade.[8]

In an interview, Trenberth said, "The planet is warming", but "the warmth just isn't being manifested at the surface." He said his research showed that there had been a significant increase in deep ocean absorption of heat, particularly after 1998.[9] He told Nature that "The 1997 to '98 El Niño event was a trigger for the changes in the Pacific, and I think that's very probably the beginning of the hiatus". He said that, eventually, "it will switch back in the other direction."[10] Trenberth's explanation attracted wide attention in the press.[10][11][12]

Trenberth received the 2017 Roger Revelle Medal[13] from the American Geophysical Union for his work on climate change issues.

See also


  1. "FAQ 1.1 Fig 1 – Estimate of the Earth's annual and global mean energy balance", IPCC AR4 WG I (PDF), IPCC, 2007, p. 96
  2. Pearce, Fred, The Climate Files: The Battle for the Truth about Global Warming, (2010) Guardian Books, ISBN 978-0-85265-229-9, p. XII–XIII.
  3. "CAS People | Kevin Trenberth". Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  4. The Weather Factory: El Nino and Global Warming
  5. AGU Climate Communication Prize
  6. Kevin Trenberth on Hacking of Climate Files and "Climategate"
  7. Distinctive climate signals in reanalysis of global ocean heat content, by Magdalena Balmaseda, Kevin Trenberth, Erland Kallen. Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 40, Issue 9, pages 1754–1759, 16 May 2013. Full text online
  8. Trenberth, Kevin E. (2013). "An apparent hiatus in global warming?". Earth's Future. 1 (1): 19–32. Bibcode:2013EaFut...1...19T. doi:10.1002/2013EF000165.
  9. Global Warming 'Pause' Isn't What Climate Change Skeptics Say It Is Archived 7 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine by Terrell Johnson, The Weather Channel, 13 January 2014
  10. Climate change: The case of the missing heat, Nature (journal) , 15 January 2014
  11. Oceans continue to warm, especially the deeps, Ars Technica, 1 April 2013
  12. Mystery of the 'Missing' Global Warming , Bloomberg News, 23 October 2013
  13. A profile of award-winning climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, by John Abraham, The Guardian, 27 July 2017

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