Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching at 95 per cent in northern section -- attributed to global warming
What bulldust! For a start, coral bleaching is NOT coral death. It is a stress response that leads to the expulsion of symbiotic algae. There are about half a dozen things that can cause it. And the ONE thing that can be excluded as a cause is anthropogenic global warming. Why? Because there has been none of that for nearly 19 years. Things that don't exist don't cause anything.
The ocean waters MAY have warmed but that will be due to natural factors such as El Nino. The 2015 and early 2016 temperature upticks were DEMONSTRABLY due to El Nino and other natural factors, as CO2 levels were plateaued at the relevant time.
And it is not at all certain that a small temperature rise causes bleaching. An ancient coral reef specimen now on display at the Natural History Museum in London is instructive. It goes back to 160 million years ago. The exhibit is proof that ancestors of modern corals somehow thrived during the Late Jurassic period when temperatures were warmer and atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide higher than they are today.
And if that's ancient history, how come corals survive in the Persian Gulf today at temperatures up to 8 degrees hotter that what we see in the tropical Pacific?
Bleaching may even be a positive thing. In recent years, scientists have discovered that some corals resist bleaching by hosting types of algae that can handle the heat, while others swap out the heat-stressed algae for tougher, heat-resistant strains.
And a recent study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science showed that warming in Australian waters actually INCREASED coral growth over the 20th century.
I could go on but I think I have said enough
All the points I have made above could have been made by any competent marine biologist -- and I can provide references for them all. But I am not a marine biologist. I am a psychologist. What a harrowed world we live in where a psychologist has to give the basic information that marine biologists dare not give.
An aerial survey of the northern Great Barrier Reef has shown that 95 per cent of the reefs are now severely bleached — far worse than previously thought.
Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert based at James Cook University in Townsville who led the survey team, said the situation is now critical.
"This will change the Great Barrier Reef forever," Professor Hughes told 7.30.
"We're seeing huge levels of bleaching in the northern thousand-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef."
Of the 520 reefs he surveyed, only four showed no evidence of bleaching. From Cairns to the Torres Strait, the once colourful ribbons of reef are a ghostly white.
"It's too early to tell precisely how many of the bleached coral will die, but judging from the extreme level even the most robust corals are snow white, I'd expect to see about half of those corals die in the coming month or so," Professor Hughes said.
This is the third global coral bleaching since 1998, and scientists have found no evidence of these disasters before the late 20th century.
"We have coral cores that provide 400 years of annual growth," explains Dr Neal Cantin from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
"We don't see the signatures of bleaching in reduced growth following a bleaching event until the recent 1998/2000 events."
Environment Minister Greg Hunt flew over the reef just eight days ago, before Professor Hughes' aerial survey, and announced some additional resources for monitoring the reef.
"There's good and bad news — the bottom three quarters of the reef is in strong condition," he said at the time.
"[But] as we head north of Lizard Island it becomes increasingly prone to bleaching."
The northern part of the Great Barrier Reef is the most pristine part of the marine park — and that is one possible glimmer of hope.
"On the bright side, it's more likely that these pristine reefs in the northern section will be better able to bounce back afterwards," Professor Hughes said.
"Nonetheless we're looking at 10-year recovery period, so this is a very severe blow."
Professor Justin Marshall, a reef scientist from the University of Queensland, said the reason for these bleaching events was clear.
"What we're seeing now is unequivocally to do with climate change," he told 7.30.
"The world has agreed, this is climate change, we're seeing climate change play out across our reefs."
Professor Hughes said he is frustrated about the whole climate change debate.
"The government has not been listening to us for the past 20 years," he said.
"It has been inevitable that this bleaching event would happen, and now it has.
"We need to join the global community in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Coral Reefs Bounce Back Despite Warming Of Oceans
This study is one of many to find that corals are very resilient
Coral reefs have managed to bounce back, despite being under constant threat of extinction. However, marine scientists caution these fragile ecosystems are still being threatened by global warming, pollution and human activity.
The discovery of a large number of coral reefs in excellent health has been quite a joyous occasion for the researchers who routinely deal with ominous news like mass die-offs, worldwide bleaching events, oil spills, and such other calamities which have been pushing the coral reefs towards extinction, reported The Washington Post.
A decade-long study of remote islands in the Central Pacific has indicated that these coral reefs might survive despite threats posed by global warming brought on by climate change and warming of the oceans due to increasing amounts of carbon dioxide introduced by burning of fossil fuels.
In a large scale study covering 56 islands, researchers studied 450 locations that were once teeming with coral reefs. Researchers looked at regions spanning from Hawaii to American Samoa. They even investigated locations in the remote Line and Phoenix Islands as well as the Mariana Archipelago. To their surprise, they realized there are quite a few locations where coral reefs have defied the odds and bounced back to life. Smith’s report was published recently in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The researchers wanted to investigate the impact of climate change as well as a 1998 El Nino event that led to widespread bleaching. Since 1998, coral reefs had been increasingly banishing the symbiotic algae that gave them their brilliant colors and welcoming seaweed, which encroaches on the real estate once occupied by the corals. Study leader Jennifer Smith, a professor at Scripps’ Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation said the following.
“After a bleaching event, it really matters what happens to all those dead skeletons. Do they get colonized by big seaweeds, or do they get covered by coralline algae, which are providing settlements for baby corals and providing an environment that facilitates recovery.”
Majority of the reefs that have shown signs of regaining their structure are located near far-flung islands. They are significantly healthier as compared to the reefs near islands that are heavily populated and frequented by humans. In other words, human influence, coupled with coral reef bleaching event — fueled in part by El Niño-driven Ocean warming — has had its detrimental effect on the delicate undersea ecosystem. Such was the impact and scientists had painted a very gloomy picture stating up to 70 percent of coral reefs would vanish before 2050.
It now appears the fear that these reefs were on their way to extinction, has been largely alleviated. The coral reefs that have clearly bounced back strongly indicate that such features won’t fade from existence in the coming decades, as previously feared. Speaking about the discovery of such healthy coral reefs, Smith explained its significance for the researchers.
“There are still coral reefs on this planet that are incredibly healthy and probably look the way they did 1,000 years ago. The scientists were practically in tears when we saw some of these reefs. We’ve never experienced anything like it in our lives. It was an almost religious experience.”
Smith seems justifiably euphoric because just like environmental science, coral-reef researchers have been dealing with dying and degraded ecosystems, which can be a traumatic and rather depressing experience. However, the sight that greeted the researchers is certainly a breath of fresh air, continued Smith.
“It’s hard to fathom. I would jump into the water and there would be so much coral, so many different species of fish, so much complexity and color. I would find myself underwater, shaking my head, looking around in disbelief that these places still existed.”
Though coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 percent of the ocean floor, they shelter close to 25 percent of all marine species, reports Los Angeles Times. Besides helping oceanic life, coral reefs also offer food, tourism and flood protection to human settlements along the coastline.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Scientists are ‘exaggerating carbon threat to reefs and marine life’
The article below points out something that I have often reported, that coral reefs are not easily damaged, bounce back well from damage and can be found in a wide range of water temperatures. One lot even bounced back after being hit with a thermonuclear detonation!
I have for some time now been collecting on one site all the stories I see about coral reefs and a browse through that site will show you what I mean. The academic journal article underlying the report below is here
An ‘inherent bias’ in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification.
Claims that coral reefs are doomed because human emissions are making the oceans more acidic have been exaggerated, a review of the science has found.
An "inherent bias" in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification, which is caused by the sea absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It has been dubbed the "evil twin of climate change" and hundreds of studies have claimed to show that it destroys coral reefs and other marine life by making it harder for them to develop shells or skeletons.
The review found that many studies had used flawed methods, subjecting marine creatures to sudden increases in carbon dioxide that would never be experienced in real life.
"In some cases it was levels far beyond what would ever be reached even if we burnt every molecule of carbon on the planet," Howard Browman, the editor of ICES Journal of Marine Science, who oversaw the review, said.
He added that this had distracted attention from more urgent threats to reefs such as agricultural pollution, overfishing and tourism.
Dr Browman, who is also principal research scientist at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, found there had been huge increase in articles on ocean acidification in recent years, rising from five in 2005 to 600 last year.
He said that a handful of influential scientific journals and lobbying by international organisations had turned ocean acidification into a major issue.
"Such journals tend to publish doom and gloom stories ... stated without equivocation," he said. The bias in favour of doom-laden articles was partly the result of pressure on scientists to produce eye-catching work, he added.
"You won’t get a job unless you publish an article that is viewed as of significant importance to society. People often forget that scientists are people and have the same pressures on them and the same kind of human foibles. Some are driven by different things. They want to be prominent."
Dr Browman invited scientists around the world to contribute studies on ocean acidification for a special edition of his journal. More than half of the 44 studies selected for publication found that raised levels of CO2 had little or no impact on marine life, including crabs, limpets, sea urchins and sponges.
Dr Browman said that the edition had demonstrated that there was "a body of work out there that people had difficulty publishing elsewhere" and that "not every study shows that Nemo is going to be doomed", a reference to the reef-dwelling clownfish in the Disney film Finding Nemo.
The term ocean acidification was also a misnomer, he said, because it suggested that the oceans could become acidic instead of alkaline.
"The oceans will never become acid because there is such a huge buffering capacity in the oceans. We simply could never release enough CO2 into the atmosphere to cause the pH to go below 7 [the point in the pH scale at which a solution becomes acidic].
"If they had called it something else, such as ‘lower alkalinity’, it wouldn’t have been as catchy," he said.
Dr Browman, a marine scientist for 35 years, said he was not saying that ocean acidification posed no threat, but that he believed that "a higher level of academic scepticism" should be applied to the topic.
Hoagy strikes back -- rejecting the above claims
Hoagy is the go-to man about coral at the University of Queensland -- and a fervent Warmist. He has come out of his shell in order to hype up alarm about Australia's Great Barrier Reef. He went quiet for a while when his own research showed the reef to be very resilient but he seems to have recovered from that blow, as he has returned to the fray a few times in recent years.
Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
I was born a short distance from the reef in Far North Queensland so I have heard about it off and on for most of my life. And for most of my 72 years, I have heard of imminent doom facing it. But the doom has not happened. All that has happened is that the reef has gone through periods of death and rebirth that differ from human cycles of death and rebirth mainly in that the coral deaths have never affected the whole reef. And so the reef is still thriving. It is still a major tourist attraction.
Hoagy's reply is below. As you can see it actually does nothing to refute the many research findings about coral survival in all sorts of settings. He just skates around them. Hoagy is losing it.
But maybe he lost it long ago. As I have often pointed out, corals are at their most prolific in the Torres Strait area, Queensland's warmest waters. So how is warming harmful to them? Hoagy has never answered that as far as I can see. The most that warming would do would be a slight alteration to the distribution of species -- and I am sure Hoagy knows that
If you read The Australian or Britain’s The Times this week, you might have concluded that concerns about ocean warming and acidification are all a big beat-up.
Based on a study of the expert literature, the newspapers ran with a line that the marine science expert community has a penchant for "doom and gloom stories which has skewed academic reporting" because we only report the bad bits and rarely the good.
Given that the majority of scientists in this area (including the hundreds working in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process) do not feel this is the case, what is going on?
Newsflash: the dog isn’t barking
Reporting that a dog isn’t barking can sometimes be as important as reporting when it is. However, if we were to follow the newspapers' rationale, the scientific community should be pumping out endless scientific papers that report that nothing has happened. This would lead to numerous and repetitive studies showing that there is no significant effect (if that were indeed the case).
Print space in science journals is in short and coveted supply. To publish in a respected journal, you need to have something new, significant and well supported to say. In the case of the impacts of ocean acidification, it would indeed be newsworthy if a study reported that a set of organisms was unaffected by ocean acidification (to use our analogy, a newsworthy non-barking dog).
Indeed, some studies have shown precisely that, in the case of some invertebrate and fish species. These studies have received considerable attention given their departure from a literature that is finding a vast number of species that are affected.
This is not surprising. But after several studies have convincingly documented how one group of organisms responds, the novelty, significance and appeal of publishing further papers about those organisms quickly falls away. That doesn’t mean that the observations of no effect have been discarded or demoted in importance. The conclusion of "no effect" will remain until credible studies demonstrating the opposite come along. That is, until a study finds a dog that is barking.
Of course, once we have established that dogs bark, there are likely to be many papers to produce about the significant nuances of dogs and their barking such as the effect of size on barking, how important evening light might be for stimulating juvenile dogs to bark and so on. Again, this the way science produces detailed insight into significant issues like ocean warming and acidification.
Paper weight versus significance?
The importance of an idea is not a simple function of the number of papers. We don’t rate an idea or conclusion solely on the weight of the pages on one side versus another. This is where the newspapers and the original study wrongly assumed that the smaller proportion of "no effect" papers on the subject of ocean acidification was an indication of "skewed academic reporting".
In reality, the massive and growing proportion of studies showing that ocean warming and acidification have real effects on ocean life shows that there is much to learn and be concerned about when it comes to these issues.
If the headlines from The Australian and The Times were correct, then conclusions about risks associated with ocean warming and acidification could be refuted at every turn. Our projections of the future of coral reefs, based on our allegedly distorted scientific literature, could be safely ignored.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Over the past year or so, many marine scientists like myself have been watching a very large blob of ocean water, up to 2? warmer than normal, across the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We have been predicting substantial mass coral bleaching across the planet as 2016 unfolds.
At first, you might question our hypothesis and projections – these changes seem to be small changes in sea temperature. Yet we know these small variations can have huge implications. An increase of as little as 1-2? on top of regular summer temperatures can mean the difference between life and death for coral reefs.
However, the past, plus a rich and valuable scientific literature, has taught us that these changes are serious. The Great Barrier Reef, for instance, has lost up to 10% of its corals to these warming events over the past three decades. Over the past 25 years, relatively short periods of anomalously high sea temperatures have killed up to 95% of corals on some reefs.
The evidence suggests that we are likely to lose most corals worldwide in as little as 30 to 40 years if we continue to warm the climate at current rates.
The ultimate test is whether the elevated sea surface temperatures (the "warm blob") translates into impacts on the ground. True to expert predictions, Hawaii and many other parts of the Pacific, including Australia, have begun bleaching on cue – hardly evidence of biased and unreliable science.
And as the year rolls out, we should see mass coral bleaching and mortality across the western Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and, later, the Northern Hemisphere as the year progresses and the third global bleaching event rolls out around the planet. We should also see the significant loss of corals from many parts of the world.
There is no doubt that this type of information sounds alarming. It is not, however, a consequence of biased or skewed science. Rather, it is a function of the careful build-up of significant ideas to which we would be well advised to pay attention.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Great Barrier Reef suffers 'tragic' coral bleaching event
This is utter rubbish. Bleaching events are poorly understood but one thing we know is that they are NOT a response to warmer water. Corals are at their most prolific in Torres strait, the part of Australia nearest to the equator, and hence the warmest East coast waters. And in any case even NOAA's "adjusted" figures showed only 13 hundredths of one degree global temperature rise in 2015
Fears of a mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef have prompted federal authorities to issue an urgent warning on the natural wonder, which is *under threat from climate change*.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on Tuesday said patchy bleaching had been detected on multiple reefs in mainly shallow areas, and weather forecasts of upcoming hot conditions posed a dangerous threat over the next few weeks.
In a statement, the authority said the conditions had triggered "level one incident response" involving more in-water field surveys and monitoring by authorities and researchers.
Climate action advocacy group 350.org said the bleaching was "tragic" and the Turnbull government should block what would be Australia's largest coal mine, by Indian mining giant Adani, and commit to halting new fossil fuel projects nationally.
The authority said the bleaching had occurred in mainly shallow areas where corals are often exposed to high levels of sunlight.
Chairman Russell Reichelt said February and March were the highest risk periods for mass coral bleaching on the reef because of hot, dry El Nino conditions and high sea surface temperatures, adding "the next few weeks will be critical".
"Bleaching is a clear signal that living corals are under physiological stress. If that stress is bad enough for long enough, the corals can die. Corals generally have a temperature limit, and the bleaching indicates they're outside of their comfort zone," Dr Reichelt said.
"At this stage, there appears to be low rates of coral mortality restricted to a small number of reefs, and most of the corals affected by bleaching are those that are particularly vulnerable to this type of event such as plate and branching corals."
The authority says the most common cause of coral bleaching is sustained heat stress, which is occurring more frequently as the climate changes.
Dr Reichelt said the Bureau of Meteorology and the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had forecast a high probability of heat stress that would cause further bleaching.
While sea surface temperatures were fluctuating across the 345,000 square kilometre marine park, in some areas they had reached 2.5 degrees above the summer average, which was exacerbated by lack of cloud cover, he said.
"What happens now will be entirely dependent on local weather conditions. If we're fortunate enough to receive plenty of cloud cover, which will effectively provide shade, it will go a long way to reducing heat absorption by the ocean and alleviating thermal stress on corals," he said.
Dr Reichelt said the bleaching event was less severe than that which has occurred across the Pacific during the current global bleaching event. The authority says past bleaching events show coral reefs can recover if thermal stress does not last for prolonged periods.
If mass bleaching does occur, the authority would study its extent and impacts, alongside coral reef scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, James Cook University, the University of Queensland and the CSIRO.
Blair Palese, chief executive of 350.org said the "tragic coral bleaching" showed coal and gas were "warming the planet and destroying the places we love most".
The authority says bleaching occurs when stress causes corals to expel tiny marine algae called zooxanthellae, which live inside their tissue and provide corals with much of their food and colour.
Without zooxanthellae, the coral tissue appears transparent, revealing the coral's bright white skeleton.