Ocean De’ath

Ocean acidification is a bugaboo that has been flogged recently since the pause made warming rather a non-issue.

They recently adjusted temperatures to “fix” the pause, but have not been able to adjust the global satellite temperature record, so the pause is still there. And people are growing weary of having every single bit of weather ascribed to global warming. But ocean acidification does not have a clear measurement history, thus can be constructed and modeled in a way that can be as scary as desired. And it is poorly understood by the public, and difficult to refute.

Make it scary!

Catastrophists want this news to be as scary as possible, and this truth was revealed recently in a series of emails behind the publication of an ocean acidification disaster story in the New York Times using this graphic:

Acid bath

The image portrays a dead fish, with “pollution” (which is how they think of CO2) rising from cargo and cruise ship and industrial smokestacks, and vehicle exhaust. But as this article describes in detail, the scientists were not cooperative. The editor demanded tales of catastrophe caused by OA (ocean acidification), but were told: “As I said in my last email, currently there are NO areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now.”

The media hype ultimately won out, of course — and we’ve seen thousands of examples of this, particularly in the lead-up to the Paris conference. Utterly shameless catastrophism. But is it all media overhyping, or is the science itself also flawed?  Well, both are true, which makes their cooperation devastating in the sorts of stories produced.

Here’s an example of science problems with ocean acidification. Some time back, Steve McIntyre at ClimateAudit took apart a “calcification scare” — the idea that ocean creatures would not be able to build shells, and in fact their shells would dissolve. The author, Dr. De’ath, is quoted as saying that coral growth could completely “stop by 2050.”

Precipitous drop

Here’s a graph from the alarming paper:

Calcification rateCertainly looks disturbing, doesn’t it? A decline in rate for the past half century — corresponding with the rise of global warming and CO2 — and then things get very bad indeed near the end of the century.

But what happens if you look at data without the statistical smoothing tricks? Suddenly, it looks a little different:

Calcification data, unsmoothed

Now we see a surprisingly steady increase in calcification for about four hundred years, until the very end. In the 1980s, things start getting strange, although the rate is still better than a couple of hundred years previously. And there were wild swings hundreds of years ago. What does the underlying data look like?

How many reefs?

These are measurements of the calcification rates of 69 reefs that are part of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) of Australia. Except that, in the 1980s, the GBR became a protected area, and the ability to collect samples was tremendously restricted, apparently to 12 after 1990. By the time of that precipitous drop at the end, only two reef samples — not 69 — are involved, and those two are near the southern end of the GBR and at a point where a river dumps fertilizer run-off into the ocean. But mix that data in with the rest, and you can produce the “right” effect for presentation purposes. Steve McIntyre carefully takes things apart here. The comments are excellent as well, if you want to get into the nuts and bolts and analyze the data yourself.

In the meantime, there have been countless reports noting that the dreaded “coral bleaching” effects are being recovered from just fine, and that corals are much more resilient than had been previously thought. Of course, even good news must be couched to sound as grim as possible. Check out the lead in to this piece:

Coral reefs around the world are experiencing large-scale degradation, largely due to global climate change, overfishing, diseases and eutrophication. Climate change models suggest increasing frequency and severity of warming-induced coral bleaching events, with consequent increases in coral mortality and algal overgrowth.


It would be hard to guess from this that the actual conclusion is reefs thought to be doomed are actually doing well:

In 2006, mass bleaching of corals on inshore reefs of the Great Barrier Reef caused high coral mortality. Here we show that this coral mortality was followed by an unprecedented bloom of a single species of unpalatable seaweed (Lobophora variegata), colonizing dead coral skeletons, but that corals on these reefs recovered dramatically, in less than a year … the cover of branching Acropora corals at most sites showed an extremely rapid recovery after the seaweed bloom, reaching pre-bleaching levels by December 2006–April 2007 (ca 12–14 months after the onset of bleaching, Fig. 2, Table 1). This represents a 100 to 200% increase in cover of Acropora in approximately 6 months, thereby returning the system to coral dominance.

One more coral reef reference: An article in Scientific American seemed almost disappointed that reefs are much more resilient than they were thought to be.

As the planet heats up so do the world’s waters, and that means more coral bleaching. But now a new study reveals that some corals can bounce back from such near death experiences.

Dissolving Science

They are certain, however, that the news is not good:

The corals that form Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are now growing half as fast as in the 1970s, largely because much of that new growth is dissolving away at night, according to a 2012 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Really? The GBR corals are dissolving away at night? Let’s look at the paper they reference:

Comparison of the benthic community survey results from DK13 and its vicinity conducted during this study and in studies from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s suggest that there have been no significant changes in the live coral coverage during the past 40 years. The reduced Gnet most likely reflects the almost threefold increase in dissolution rates, possibly resulting from increased bioerosion due to changes in the biota (e.g., sea cucumbers, boring organisms) and/or from greater chemical dissolution produced by changing abiotic conditions over the past 40 years associated with climate change, such as increased temperatures and ocean acidification. However, at this stage of research on One Tree Island the effects of these changes are not entirely understood.

In 0ther words, no. It might be changes in animal population, or dissolution, or increased temperature, or “ocean acidification.” And they count coral-eating animals as “dissolution,” creating a confusion of terminology. They don’t know which of these factors are most significant, or if others are — but they do say that there have been “no significant changes in the live coral coverage during the past 40 years.” So whatever the causes, which they merely guess at, the effects are not severe and may even be positive based on their data.

There are many papers like this one talking about coral reef resilience and recovery, but those don’t make the news and have a hard time getting noticed. Such is the state of climate science reporting. But even the underlying papers reporting good news couch it in “but we know the danger is really large, so please publish our paper” sorts of disclaimers.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • JeffR

    There is a tyranny of information overload that’s being perfected by the climatelligentia to shape and utterly control public opinion. Here you’ve shown a perfect example of this doublespeak, that’s full of needlessly technical jargon. This manipulative climatelligentia knows that the half-witted mass media will only skim their published articles and build news stories out of the juicy stuff. In fact, I’ve read more than one exposé on how think tanks are set up to become intermediaries between these kinds of zealous “researchers” and the media. Behind the scenes, they all collaborate to quote each other and link to each other as sources, thus manufacturing a falsely “reputable” pedigree for a given story. Then someone will plant that story with a sympathetic journalist at a newspaper or electronic media outlet, usually even writing the lead for them. It’s like putting a juicy worm on a hook and dangling it in front of an eager liberal journalist, knowing the journalist will strike and swallow it whole, and run to his/her liberal editor with it. Next thing you know it’s on the nightly news, and within a week every liberal opinion writer has incorporated it into a BS op-ed piece. And it’s quoted by every Democrat candidate in the next election campaign.

    Keep up the good work, Keith.
    – Jeff

  • Rog Tallbloke

    Good collation of additional info, thanks.