Walking the Plank-ton

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Following on from Anthony’s article, here are my thoughts about the phytoplankton paper “Global phytoplankton decline over the past century”, by Daniel G. Boyce, Marlon R. Lewis & Boris Worm.

I started to write about this earlier, but I decided to wait until I had the actual paper. The paper in question is behind a paywall at Nature Magazine, but through my sub-oceanic channels (h/t to WS) I have obtained a copy. The paper makes two main claims, that: a) the numbers of phytoplankton have been cut by more than half since 1900, and b) the general warming of the global oceans is the reason for the declining numbers of phytoplankton.

First, what are phytoplankton when they are at home, and where is their home? Plankton are the ubiquitous soup of microscopic life in the ocean. Phytoplankon are the plant-like members of the plankton, the ones that contain chlorophyll and feed on sunshine. Phytoplankton are to the ocean what plant life is to the land. Almost all oceanic life depends on phytoplankton. Other than a thin strip of seaweeds and sea grasses along the coasts, phytoplankton are the microscopic plants that are the foundation of the vast entire oceanic food chain. Without phytoplankton there would be no deep water oceanic life to speak of. Figure 1 shows where you find phytoplankton:

Figure 1. Global distribution of phytoplankton. Lowest concentration is purple and blue, middle concentration is green, highest concentration is yellow and red. Source http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/0702_planktoncloud.html

So where did the Nature paper go wrong?

The short answer is that I don’t know … but I don’t believe their results. The paper is very detailed, in particular the Supplementary Online Information (SOI). It all seems well thought out and investigated … but I don’t believe their results. They have noted and discussed various sources of error. They have compared the use of Secchi disks as a proxy, and covered most of the ground clearly … and I still don’t believe their results. Here’s exactly why I don’t believe them.

This is their abstract (emphasis mine):

In the oceans, ubiquitous microscopic phototrophs (phytoplankton) account for approximately half the production of organic matter on Earth. Analyses of satellite-derived phytoplankton concentration (available since 1979) have suggested decadal-scale fluctuations linked to climate forcing, but the length of this record is insufficient to resolve longer-term trends.

Here we combine available ocean transparency measurements and in situ chlorophyll observations to estimate the time dependence of phytoplankton biomass at local, regional and global scales since 1899. We observe declines in eight out of ten ocean regions, and estimate a global rate of decline of ~1% of the global median per year. Our analyses further reveal interannual to decadal phytoplankton fluctuations superimposed on long-term trends. These fluctuations are strongly correlated with basin-scale climate indices, whereas long-term declining trends are related to increasing sea surface temperatures. We conclude that global phytoplankton concentration has declined over the past century; this decline will need to be considered in future studies of marine ecosystems, geochemical cycling, ocean circulation and fisheries.

The first clue to where they went wrong is visible in Fig. 1. Although as you can see there is more phytoplankton in the cooler regions of the north, the same is not true in the corresponding regions in the south despite the ocean temperatures being very similar. In addition, there are many places where the ocean is warm (e.g. tropical coasts) that have lots of phytoplankton, while in other warm areas there is very little phytoplankton.

The rude truth of phytoplankton is this: phytoplankton growth is generally not limited by temperature. Instead, it is limited by nutrients. Where nutrients are plentiful, the phytoplankton grow regardless of temperature. Nutrients are more common along the coastline, where sub-oceanic currents come to the surface bringing nutrients from the deep ocean floor, and rivers bring nutrients from inland. For example, in Fig. 1 you can see the nutrients from the Amazon river causing the red area at the river mouth (north-east South American coast).

Indeed, the fact that phytoplankton are generally nutrient limited rather than temperature limited has been demonstrated in the “ocean fertilization”  experiments using rust. If you spread a shipload of rust (iron oxide) out into the tropical ocean, you generally get an immediate bloom of phytoplankton. Temperature is not the problem.

So to start with, the idea that increasing temperature automatically leads to decreasing phytoplankton is not generally true. There are vast areas of the ocean where higher temperatures are correlated with more phytoplankton. For example, the warmer deep tropics generally have more phytoplankton than the cooler adjacent subtropics.

The paper’s most unbelievable claim, however, is their calculation that since 1899, the density of phytoplankon has been decreasing annually by 0.006 milligrams per cubic metre (mg m-3). They give the current global density of phytoplankton as being 0.56 mg m-3. Thus they are claiming that globally the concentration of phytoplankton has dropped by more than 50% over the last century.

Now, a half century ago I learned to sail on San Francisco Bay. Since then I’ve spent a good chunk of my lifetime at sea, as a commercial fisherman from California to the Bering Sea, as a sailboat delivery crewman, as a commercial and sport diver, and as a surfer. And call me crazy, but I simply don’t believe that the sea only has half the phytoplankton that it had in 1900. If that were true, it would not take satellites and complex mathematical analysis to show it. People would have noticed it many years ago.

I say this because phytoplankton are the base of almost the entire mass of oceanic life. They are what almost all other life in the ocean ultimately feeds on, predators and prey as well. The authors of the study do not seem to realize that if the total amount of phytoplankton were cut by more than half as they claim, the total mass of almost all living creatures in the open ocean would be cut about in half as well. No way around it, every farmer knows the equation. Half the feed means half the weight of the animals.

And I see no evidence of that having happened over the last century. It certainly does not accord with my own extensive practical experience of the ocean. And I see no one else making the claim that we only have half the total mass of deep-water oceanic life that we had a century ago..

The other thing that makes their claimed temperature/phytoplankton link very doubtful is that according to the HadISST dataset, the global ocean surface temperature has only increased by four tenths of a degree C in the last hundred years.

Four tenths of a degree … an almost un-noticeable amount. Yet their paper says (emphasis mine):

Our analyses further reveal interannual to decadal phytoplankton fluctuations superimposed on long-term trends. These fluctuations are strongly correlated with basin-scale climate indices, whereas long-term declining trends are related to increasing sea surface temperatures.

These kinds of claims drive me nuts. Is there anyone out there that truly believes that a change of global average ocean temperature of four tenths of a degree C over the last hundred years has cut the total mass of phytoplankton, and thus the total mass of all oceanic creatures, in half? Really?

So that’s why I say I don’t know where their math went wrong, but I don’t believe their results. I don’t believe we’ve lost about half the total mass of all oceanic creatures. Half the planet’s open ocean dwellers? Where is the evidence to support that outrageous claim? And I don’t believe that an ocean temperature change of four tenths of a degree over a century has made much difference to phytoplankton levels, as they grow at all temperatures.

Why don’t I know where their math went wrong? Unfortunately, they have not posted up the data that they actually used. Nor have they shown any of their data in the form of graphs or tables. Instead, they have shown model results, and merely pointed to general websites where a variety of datasets are maintained. So we don’t know, for example, whether they used the 1° grid version or the 2.5° grid version of a given dataset. Nor have they posted the computer code that they used in the analysis. Plus, the very first link in their paper to the first and most important data source is dead.

Grrrr … but dead link or not, pointing to a website as the data source in their kind of paper is meaningless. To do the analysis, they must have created a database of all of the observations, with the meta data, and the details for the type etc. for each observation. If they would include that database and their code in the SOI, then someone might be able to figure out where their math went wrong … my guess is that it may be due to overfitting or misfitting of their GAM model, but that’s just a wild guess.

It is a shame that they did not post their data and code, because other than the lack of data and code it is a fascinating analysis of a very interesting dataset. I don’t accept their analysis of the data because it doesn’t pass the “reasonableness” test, but that doesn’t mean that the dataset does not contain valuable information.

[Update] An alert reader noted that the image in Figure 1 was of a particular month and not a yearly average. So I’ve made a short movie of the variations in plankton over the year.

Figure 2. Monthly movie of plankton concentrations. Click on image to see animation.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

174 Responses to Walking the Plank-ton

  1. Tony says:

    Thanks for that one, Willis.

    I hope they will have the grace to release their data.

  2. Leon Brozyna says:

    So, the work looks good (on the surface) but it makes no sense. I’ll buy that and, like I said in a comment to the earlier article:

    “… this PhD candidate has a well-secured area of study mapped out for himself for the next few decades, as long as the grant monies keep on coming. After all, the world will want to know when the oceans’ ecosystems collapse and vast ocean deserts arise devoid of life, while sea levels rise by the meter to inundate coastlines …”

  3. mrtouchdown says:

    Maybe this is a new kind of strawman/proving a negative technique? Kind of a “prove to everybody that there is not enough information or the right information to come to my conclusion” type of thing. It’s time consuming, difficult and in the end the authors can go to wherever they refer to and find what they need. Of course, they know exactly what to look for and websites can change with no public change logs to show what they did… But panels haven’t cared about that so far.

  4. Old Global Warming meme – “Think of the children! Oh noes!”

    New Global Warming meme – “Think of the fishies! Oh noes!”

    I expect the next “deeply thought-out study” will claim the warming world kills puppies somehow… Sigh…

  5. A. Bakker says:

    I can perfectly follow your reasoning that this story is rubbish with only 0.4 ° Celsius temperature difference in 100 years. As far as I know phytoplankton is producing around 80% of all oxygen on earth. If phytoplankton would decrease with 50% the oxygen production would decrease with about the same percentage. This is surely not the case.

  6. pat says:

    If anyone thinks that scientific instrumentation has not changed since 1890 then he is a moron. The measure of sea water clarity is no different than any other instrumentation. The methodologies have improved. And these proxies should be retired. We have been able to measure actual populations since 1950.

  7. JDN says:

    Nature should be known henceforth as The Natural Inquirer.

    What a beat down. I know you were trying to be nice to the authors, but, great job. Can’t wait to see how they object to what is blindingly obvious (now that you mention it).

  8. michel says:

    Your decisive comment, apart from the reasoning on the implausibility of the results which seems reasonable, but is in the nature of the case inconclusive, is that it is impossible to check the passage from the observation data. If you can’t do that, it belongs not in Nature but in the Journal for Unreproducible Results.

    The reply to the paper has to be, show your workings, and then we will start to think about it. Until then, forget it.

  9. Peter Miller says:

    Steve

    Your two most important points are:

    1. If this was true, someone else would have noticed this a long time ago.

    2. Phytoplankton density is primarily a function of nutrient availability, not temperature.

    There are many studies showing that the critical nutrient for phytoplankton populations is the availability of soluble iron – hence your reference to the impact of throwing iron oxide (rust) into the seas.

    I couldn’t find the reference, but about a year or two ago I remember reading a report about how the greenie/alarmist community were horrified by the concept of ‘seeding the oceans’ with iron. This would have the twin effect of taking large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the ocean and atmosphere and hugely increasing the local phytoplankton population.

    As phytoplankton die, their CaCo3 rich skeletons (if not eaten by something further up the food chain) sink to the bottom of the ocean. At one time there was a lot of excitement about how iron oxide seeding of the southern oceans could be used to control atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

    So why would the greenies/alarmists object to ‘seeding the oceans’ in this way? Apart from some nonsense about ‘interfering with nature’, it seems their biggest problem was in people making fortunes out of this process by selling carbon credits.

  10. Pat Frank says:

    A decline of 1% of the global median per year means that the drop in phytoplankton density since 1900 has been 1.01^110 = a factor of 3. So, if the median today is 0.56 mg/m^3, the median in 1900 was 1.67 mg/m^3, and we currently are reduced to a mere 33% of the phytoplanktonic riches of the past.

    Alternatively, if the average density has been decreasing by 0.006 mg/m^3 per year, then in 1900, we had 1.006^110 = 1.93 mg/m^3 more phytoplankton than we do now. That means the total in 1900 was 2.49 mg/m^3, and we’re down to a measly 22.5% of our past riches. Boy, sailing a ship back then must have been like plowing through lentil soup!

    Anyway, I’m guessing a deep underlying scientific truth here, implicit in the paper, which is that 0.4 degree caused by Homo industrialensis var. westernus has enormously more destructive potential than 0.4 degree bestowed by a caring and nurturing Mother Nature.

    It’s a little known fact, for example, that predation, birth defects, and disease were not present among humans before we committed agriculture; a sin unforgivable by Gaia and meriting her punishment; our fallen state only proved by a perverse and decadent love of electricity.

  11. D. King says:

    Maybe they’re trying to create a limestone market.
    Wait…no limestone, no carbon sequestration, acid
    oceans and runaway…OMG! It’s worse than we thought.

  12. Mike Haseler says:

    Something changes … yet further proof of global warming.

    This is not science, this is quackery!

  13. UK Sceptic says:

    An interesting post, Willis. Yet another warmist model that seems to have tripped and fallen headlong off the climate catwalk.

    When will these so called scientists, who apparently wouldn’t know a logical conclusion if it bit them on the bum, stop trying to push an AGW envelope that demonstrably ended up in the dead letter office?

  14. tallbloke says:

    The NAO report on fish stock abundances indicates that there is a ~60 year cyclicity in fish stocks of varies species which is tied to small changes in length of day. The logical deduction is that reversals in length of day have an effect on the deep oean currents which bring nutrients to the surface to feed the base of the food chain which feeds the fish. The last change in LOD direction is the one which brought us to the top of the positive phase of the PDO and AMO.

    Additionally, the Sun had been at it’s most active for many hundreds if not thousnds of years in the late C20th. More solar activity = more UV. UV kills bacteria – another part of the food chain. The UN recomended way of making water drinkable in the tropics is to put it in clear plastic bottles and expose it to the sun for 48 hours to kill bacteria.

    The logical deduction is that a reduction in phytoplankton is more likely due to increased UV and the phase of the major ocean cycles than an increase in temperature at the sea surface.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the reason the authors are coy about providing the data is because the trend has reversed in the last five years since the sun went quiet and the PDO/AMO topped out, and phytoplankton is increasing again. A case of ‘hide the increase’?

    “Show us the data”

  15. Julian Flood says:

    Willis,

    Thanks for this piece. While I understand your concerns, my take is different. Ocean productivity is, so I’m told, very impoverished, with many target species showing catastrophic declines. Our interaction with the ocean is very small when you consider that 70% of the total surface is covered in water. My idea of a proper global warming theory is that it should cover the population crash of the cod on the Great Banks and here it is!

    The limited warming is a problem for their thesis, but not insurmountable. They might usefully check the paper that I’ve lost — those with great google-fu might try to get hold of it, a paper from the FAO with graphs of average windspeeds in the different ocean basins which is some sort of graphic, not text. This paper showed a wind excursion of 7 m/s max over the four great ocean basins during the blip that Wigley describes during WWII. My interpretation is that polluted ocean surfaces engage less with the wind, and wind stirring is one of the great elevators of nutrients to the surface. Fewer plankton, less DMS, fewer clouds, AGW.

    I like this paper. It says, although its authors may not realise this, that the C isotope changes might not be anthropogenic. That great pillar of AGW deserves to be checked and the reasoning behind its inclusion in the great scare should be questioned.

    JF

  16. tallbloke says:

    “Analyses of satellite-derived phytoplankton concentration (available since 1979) have suggested decadal-scale fluctuations linked to climate forcing, ”

    I don’t suppose that decadal forcing might happen to coincide with solar cycles?

  17. son of mulder says:

    So if one assumes that the number of phytoplankton has halved since 1899, how much CO2 per year have they stopped absorbing annually. How does that compare to the amount of anthropic CO2 produced annually?

  18. dh7fb says:

    For the classification of the paper it could be interesting, that one author (Boris Worm) is presently a guest-scientist at the “Potsdam Institute for climate impact research” (PIK) as you can read in an article of the newspaper “Die Welt” ( http://www.welt.de/die-welt/wissen/article8723347/Nahrungskrise-im-Ozean.html ).
    Here http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/fig_tab/nature09268_F4.html you can find some results and the question is: Is there any statistical significance? Nobody found the answer on this question until now…
    A German radio station (Deutschlandfunk) also made a feature about the phytoplankton crisis and the headline is…”Worth than we thought” :-D (http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/forschak/1236178/). It’s the typical diction of the PIK, isn’t it?


  19. At 12:16 am on 1 August, Peter Miller had written to the effect that:

    “…about a year or two ago I remember reading a report about how the greenie/alarmist community were horrified by the concept of ‘seeding the oceans’ with iron.

    In actuality, the Geritol solution has been bruited since the early ’90s, and has been opposed by the ‘viros from the onset of its proposition.

    Experiments in the field and in the laboratory (example here) have demonstrated expected – and I believe greater than expected – absorption of carbon dioxide together with chlorophyll concentration increases in treated volumes with no indications of significant adverse effects.

    This has not prevented the “watermelon” types (“green on the outside, Red to the core”) from putting up enormous opposition to the idea of such geoengineering solutions to the putative carbon dioxide forcing upon which they predicate the Cargo Cult Science of anthropogenic global warming.

    Indeed, it was when I first learned of the catastrophic climate change cabal’s squealing suppression of the “Geritol solution” that I became personally convinced that their hypothesis had finally slipped past the boundaries of pure blunder and had become outright fraud.

  20. dh7fb says:

    “Worse than we thought” of course, please correct! Thanks!

  21. Pete says:

    Hmm multi proxy modelling, outrageous claims, unpublished data, unpublished code, unrepeatable results, published in Nature, repeated ad infinitum…. gas mark 0.4C per decade!

    Are they all following the same CAGW recipe book?

    Josh – have you had your coffee yet :¬)

  22. son of mulder says:

    Or following on from my last post how does the annual reduction of CO2 intake from phytoplankton compare to the annual atmospheric increase in CO2?

  23. Gerard says:

    A. Bakker says:
    I can perfectly follow your reasoning that this story is rubbish with only 0.4 ° Celsius temperature difference in 100 years. As far as I know phytoplankton is producing around 80% of all oxygen on earth. If phytoplankton would decrease with 50% the oxygen production would decrease with about the same percentage. This is surely not the case

    Oxygen is a waste product from the earth’s living history. A 40% reduction in production at the end of only one century will not be measurable.

  24. mikelorrey says:

    The solar cycles are a good point, but Willis hit the nail on the head about the nutrients. The oceans gets its nutrients from where? From continental runoff due to the water cycle, i.e. all the dissolved/suspended stuff that our rivers dump into the oceans.

    When we dam the rivers, we impede that cycle.

    Another contributor is storm activity in the shoreline and riverine environment stirring up sediments into the water column. The first half of the 20th century had 50% more Cat 3 or higher storms make landfall than the second half. So we have had less storm-related disturbance of sediments than before. Less food for phytoplankton.

    We have also stopped sinking millions of tons of shipping every few decades in warfare over the last 60 years. Since ships are iron and iron makes rust and rust is food for phytoplankton, duh?

    Similarly, volcanic ash settles out in the oceans. The lower volcanic activity of the latter half of the 20th century likewise explains a decrease in nutrients.

  25. Thank you again Willis.

    It’s wonderful to have your fresh wind of commonsense and observation, blowing out the cobwebs of the current stagnation, myopia, and plain idiocy in climate science.

    Willis, I look forward to the publication of your book. Book? All your work. We know that Science needs to become interesting to, and understandable by, the ordinary person, so that climate scientologists cannot get away with hiding behind the curtains and smoke and thimble-rigging of new-science-speak.

  26. crosspatch says:

    “And I see no evidence of that having happened over the last century.”

    Consider this year’s salmon run in Oregon. It was an all time record high greatly surpassing the previous record from the 1950’s.

    Maybe there is less plankton today than there was before because there are more whales eating it. Whale populations have rebounded in many areas to the maximum sustainable by their food supply … which is in may cases, plankton. Maybe the plankton are being over grazed by whales.

  27. Roger Sowell says:

    @Willis Eschenbach, great post. If you keep this up, you may be awarded an honorary Knighthood. (reference to Hansen’s comment on “jousting with jesters.”)

    see this link for more on jousting with jesters – and with Knights noble.

    http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/when-engineers-are-wrong-people-die.html

  28. Douglas Cohen says:

    I’ll bet that at the beginning of the twentieth century there was a lot of organic pollution discharged from large cities near the coasts of the developed world. This sort of ocean fertilization probably led to local and large increases in the phytoplankton right off the coast, which may also be where most of the secchi disk and other phytoplankton measurements took place during the early years of the twentieth century. If this is so, I suspect that the decades-long time series on which the supposed drop of phytoplankton is based may be measuring nothing more than the drop in coastal pollution as the developed world’s sewage systems improved! I also like the point that Willis Eschenback makes implicitly, that phytoplankton obviously respond to the absolute temperature, not the temperature anomaly. Hence if the world’s oceans did get significantly warmer overall, we would expect to see tropical phytoplankton in temperate zones and temperate phytoplankton in polar zones, with little change — rather than a drop — in the overall amount of phytoplankton.

  29. peakbear says:

    El Nino is a large variable in the availability of nutrients for phytoplankton off of the South American Pacific coast. The change in wind circulation kills the upwelling of the nutrient which deep water and can have a massive effect on the fisheries in the region.

  30. Tufty says:

    There is also the problem of measuring phytoplankton over long timescales. The Secchi disk doesn’t measure phytoplankton, it measures turbidity – and the observers eyesight. Measurements done by chlorophyll extraction would be more recent and these measurements are also problematic in that there are a number of techniques which can give incommensurate answers.

    Also, as pointed out, the growth of phytoplankton is not temperature dependent but more nutrient dependent. But of course it is also sunlight dependent. That’s right – sunlight. The more the better as far as phytoplankton are concerned.

  31. Alan Mitchell says:

    I worked as a support scientist for many years in the field of Biological Oceanography. Most of my work was around the Great Barrier Reef, but I was involved in a number of ocean cruises in the Pacific. A secchi disk is a fairly crude measure of turbidity. In clear, oceanic water where suspended sediment levels are very low, the secchi-disk depth may be a proxy for phytoplankton levels. The secchi disk is streamed out on the up-swell side of the ship with the ship drifting, so it does not go straight down – but this should not be a major problem. However, there are other problems with its consistent use in oceanic waters. The biggest problem is the surface disturbance, which of course varies with the wind. On a calm day (no wind), you can see the disk to a much greater depth than on a day with wind-derived surface disturbance. In clear tropical waters with which I am familar, a calm day reading might be as high as 56m, while this reduces to 20-30m with surface wind. The time of the day, side of the ship with sunlight are other factors.

    I too am very suspicious of the paper’s results, though I have not had a chance to see it. Is it available? The most pertinent question I would think is whether the secchi-disk history correlates with Chlorophyll-a measurements (a better proxy for phytoplankyon biomass). Did they do this comparison? There have been very many Chlorophyll measurements taken all over the world (I myself have made thousands) for a long time now and I would think that I would have heard of such a decline. Anyway, didn’t the study of satellite imagery show about a 6% worldwide INCREASE of chlorophyll (land and sea) over their 30-year history, possibly due to increasing CO2? By the way, as many readers have pointed out, phytoplankton growth is limited by nutrient availability, mostly N, P, Fe and Si.

  32. Alan Mitchell says:

    I just thought of another issue. The modern trend of wearing polaroid sunglasses will of course give greater readings (i.e. less apparent phytoplankton) than older times when crew or scientific staff did not have them. We would deliberately not wear these sunglasses while taking such measurements, but would have to constantly remind people.

  33. pesadilla says:

    This paper should be brought to the attention of Michael Mann. Thoroughly bad science should not be published and he is just the MANN to fix it.

  34. tallbloke says:

    All good points Mike. So with this many variables in play, we are already calling into question the leap to temperature as the culprit.

  35. tallbloke says:

    There’s also a lot less sewerage sludge being dumped/piped offshore than there used to be, around the UK anyway.

  36. cal says:

    If this were really true much of the increase of CO2 over the last century could be laid at the door of less sequestration by phytoplankton. If, in addition, the CO2 warming hypothesis was true the combination would lead to a positive feedback loop that would result in frequent periods of naturally occuring runnaway warming. There is zero evidence of this. Two wrongs definitely don’t make a right!

    When I studied physics I would always ask myself: does this result look reasonable? Indeed we were encouraged to do a few back of the envelope calculations to check that we were in the right ball park. Clearly these researchers are not physicists.

    Physics is considered to be a very difficult subject and it is. But in fact the systems that physicists study are generally simple. They are artificially constrained by strict boundary conditions and are simplified to special cases in order to make the problem soluble and reproduceable. The discipline and pure logic of a physicist can rarely deal with a complex unbounded system. The physicist can deal with the rules governing individual parts of the system but the phenomena which evolve from their interaction is normally left to others to study. The latter have equally rigourous approaches but their conclusions can never be as convincing. For example physicist might eventually define how individual neurones in the brain fire but they will never have much to say about the works of Shakespeare. Whether Shakespeare is a great writer or not is a a question physics can answer it is a matter of consensus. Where have I heard that before?

    So it is with these so called studies. The data is useful but the conclusions are generally unimportant and, I think history shows, normally wrong. So conclusions without data are worse than useless.

  37. Kum Dollison says:

    I think they “got you” with the use of the “Median.”

    Vast open stretches of Ocean with very little phytoplankton could cause the “Median” to be a very small number compared to the density in the area where phytoplankton actually hang out.

    I would like to see their results expressed as a “percentage” of the “amount” of phytoplankton. It could look a lot more reasonable.

  38. cal says:

    Sorry, correction to my last post. Second to last paragraph.

    Whether Shakespeare is a great writer or not is a a question physics can NOT answer it is a matter of consensus. Got myself tied up in nots!

  39. Barry Sheridan says:

    There must be a grain of truth in the claim that overall marine life has declined somewhat, although it seems improbable to state that this is due to a reduction in phytoplankton. In truth the culprit is over-fishing, an industry whose activities now range over all the world’s oceans, one example of its consequence surely being the decimation of cod numbers around Labrador, sharks too suffering as they are pursued solely for their fins, and all to satisfy some outlandish hunger for soup. While it is not all bad news, voicing uncertain and unproven concerns about about phytoplankton levels seems to distract from the real ssue.

  40. maksimovich says:

    “Analyses of satellite-derived phytoplankton concentration (available since 1979) have suggested decadal-scale fluctuations linked to climate forcing, ”

    Decadal fluctuations do exist for reasons that are poorly understood,however the trends in the observational era show an increase in NCP eg Antoine et al 2005.

    A comprehensive revision of the Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) data-processing algorithms has been undertaken to generate a revised level 2 data set from the near-8-year archive (1979–1986) collected during this ‘‘proof-of-concept’’ mission. The final goal of this work is to establish a baseline for a global, multiyear, multisensor ocean color record, to be built from observations of past (i.e., CZCS), present, and future missions. To produce an internally consistent time series, the same revised algorithms also have been applied to the first 5 years of the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) ocean color observations (1998–2002). Such a database is necessary in order to determine whether or not the ocean biogeochemistry has evolved in the past years and, if so, to be able to detect near future trends. Algorithmic and calibration aspects, along with validation results presented in this paper, are tailored toward the identification of longterm trends, which mandated this reprocessing effort. The analysis of decadal changes from the CZCS to the SeaWiFS era shows an overall increase of the world ocean average chlorophyll concentration by about 22%, mainly due to large increases in the intertropical areas, where the seasonal cycles also substantially changed over the past 2 decades.

    Increases in higher latitudes, where seasonal cycles did not change, contribute to a lesser extent to the general trend. In contrast, oligotrophic gyres display declining
    concentrations

    The authors are also the leaders in bio-optics ie water clarity and opacity eg Natural variability of bio-optical properties

    http://www.biogeosciences.net/4/913/2007/bg-4-913-2007.pdf

    In Variations of biological production and plankton biomass X. J. Wang et al. also found positive trends in the satellite era.

    Recent studies indicate strengthened trade winds and intensified upwelling in the tropical Pacific since the late 1990s, suggesting implications for the biogeochemical processes. We employed a fully coupled physical-biogeochemical model to test the hy-
    5 pothesis that there were climate driven decadal variations in biogeochemical fields
    of the equatorial Pacific. We quantified changes in nitrate and iron concentrations,
    primary and secondary productions, and phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass between 1988–1996 and 1999–2007. Our modeling simulation showed that the intensified upwelling during 1999–2007 resulted in significant increases of nitrate and iron 10 concentrations in the mixed layer of the central equatorial Pacific. In addition, the upwelling front moved westward, causing shifts of oligotrophic conditions to mesotrophic conditions in some parts of the western equatorial Pacific. As a result, there was an overall enhancement of biological activity in the western and central equatorial Pacific, leading to an increase in primary production and secondary production by 10–15% and 15 15–50%, respectively. Our study also indicated that there were changes in ecosystem states in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, suggesting alternative new states with more zooplankton biomass during 1999–2007. Additionally, our study showed significant changes in seasonal variations of biogeochemical fields. Particularly, there was a much stronger seasonality in biological production and plankton biomass near the dateline 20 during 1999–2007 relative to 1988–1996.

    They are also add some interesting discussion

    On the one hand, there is an increase in plankton biomass and enhancement in biological production in the upwelling region. In association with these changes, the ecosystem structure alters with more secondary producer and an increase of large cells. On the other hand, the upwelling front moves westward, causing shifts of oligotrophic condition to mesotrophic conditions in some parts of the western
    equatorial Pacific. As a result, the whole basin has benefited with overall increases of
    nutrient concentration and biological production in the euphotic zone.

    Hensen et al 2009 suggest that no trends are distinguishable from annular or decadal trend as the time series is to short

    We find that detection of real trends in the satellite data is confounded by the relatively short time series and large interannual 10 and decadal variability in productivity. Thus, recent observed changes in chlorophyll, primary production and the size of the oligotrophic gyres cannot be unequivocally attributed to the impact of global warming. Instead, our analyses suggest that a time series of 40 yr length is needed to distinguish a global warming trend from natural variability. Analysis of modelled chlorophyll and primary production from 2001–2100 suggests that, on average, the global warming trend will not be unambiguously separable from decadal variability until 2055. Because the magnitude of natural variability in chlorophyll and primary production is larger than, or similar to, the global warming trend, a consistent, decades-long data record must be established

    Hence the Nature paper is an inverse reconstruction of what the biomass of phytoplankton and NCP was prior to the satellite era.

    The paper ( which I have not read) would need to reconcile the Ar/o2 ratios concomitant to whatever historical observations they used .The additional O2 pulse from the SH Keeling et al., 1996 following Pinatubo and its natural Fe fertilzation experiment show potential uptake is availablem,

  41. observa says:

    I wouldn’t worry about doing the maths Willis, because true believers everywhere use the same computer models and as you know computers never lie. Unfortunately for no comment Ministers for Gaia they don’t always tell the truth either-
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/people-in-politics/energy-star-ratings-in-disarray/story-fn5oa9p3-1225899270215

  42. D. King says:

    crosspatch says:
    August 1, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Consider this year’s salmon run in Oregon. It was an all time record high greatly surpassing the previous record from the 1950′s.

    I think the problem with past low numbers is this:

    http://tinyurl.com/27l5t4e

  43. ArndB says:

    # W.E.: “And I don’t believe that an ocean temperature change of four tenths of a degree over a century has made much difference to phytoplankton levels.”

    Agreed: it is naïve. And from where did they get any reliable phytoplankton data dating back 50, or even 100 years ago? Assessing such a question on a global basis is speculation in pure and worthless. The ocean is not a pond.

  44. paulhan says:

    Hmm, it would appear from the analysis and the comments, that the only way that humans could have contributed, is by the act of cleaning up after ourselves and dumping less waste products into the sea, kind of like the way that some of the warming from the ’70s is believed to be caused by us putting up less aerosols. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t :-).
    There’s a photo on wikipedia showing a plankton bloom in the Bering Sea. On the island in the middle of it, you could fit the entire human population an arms length apart, and still have space to spare. Kind of puts things into perspective.
    /paulhan

  45. S.E.Hendriksen says:

    Phytoplankton has at least two (2) defense systems

    1) Umbrella defense system: When the UV gets to high, the phytoplankton release DMS and make it own low clouds as protection for the UV radiation.

    2) Colony defense system: Phytoplankton is lowest in the marine food chain… when the plankton is treatened for the next chain, it builds colonies, clumps together, in a dramatic way. Imagine one mosquitoes transformed to 5 greenlandic whales in just 6 hours or to 50 big male elephants. When the threat is over they transform back to normal in antoher 6 hours.

    With just one braincell.

  46. Ziiex Zeburz says:

    I placed a wooden pole 5 meters long. 4 meters above ground and 1 meter underground in the middle of a field ( 4 hectares ) at the top, 3 meters, 2 meters I positioned 3 Barton temp. recorders, which have now been recording for 23 days, the variations over 24 hours/23 days in recoded temp. is 0.098c. Science anyone !

  47. Phil. says:

    And I see no evidence of that having happened over the last century. It certainly does not accord with my own extensive practical experience of the ocean. And I see no one else making the claim that we only have half the total mass of deep-water oceanic life that we had a century ago..

    Well I hold no brief for this paper but concern regarding the decline in major fisheries over the last couple of decades is widespread. Generally this is attributed to fishing pressure but this paper suggests that it isn’t that simple.

    Collapse of N Sea fisheries
    http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/53/6/1130.pdf

    Decline in large game fish
    http://www.bigmarinefish.com/extinction.html

  48. tallbloke says:

    Ziiex Zeburz:

    Interesting. What is growing in the field? does it harbour plenty of moisture?

  49. Jimbo says:

    “Other than a thin strip of seaweeds and sea grasses along the coasts, phytoplankton are…”

    Small point, you might want to add the Sargasso Sea.
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2024/whats-the-story-on-the-sargasso-sea

  50. Kum Dollison says:

    That type map greatly exaggerates the area/volume of the Northern Oceans where phytoplankton is very prevalent.

    You could change the “Median” 50%, and possibly only change the total mass of phytoplankton 2, or 3%.

  51. Jack Simmons says:

    dh7fb says:
    August 1, 2010 at 1:03 am

    “Worse than we thought” of course, please correct! Thanks!

    I’m glad it’s a typo. For a second there, I thought Elmer Fudd had become a warming alarmist.

  52. EW says:

    In the above-mentioned transcript of interview in radio
    http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/forschak/1236178/
    the author ascribes diminishing phytoplankton to lesser mixing of the ocean water layers – the surface layer with plankton is a bit warmer due to global warming and suchlikes, therefore it mixes less with the colder lower layer containing nutrients (due to bigger temp difference between them). Apparently he thinks that the lower layer does not get any of this warming and stays as cold as it always was. Does that make sense in physics? When we are told that the missing GW heat lurks hidden somewhere deep in the oceans in a pipeline?

  53. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Wow, is this a can of worms.

    Reverse causation. Does the plankton change albedo and hence temperature?
    (Classically I quote http://dnacih.com/SILVA.htm)

    Predator-prey maths. Examples of cyclic food supplies abound in the literature.
    A random pick, http://www.math.unl.edu/~jlogan1/PDFfiles/BMBpaper2008.pdf

    Nutrition. It’s not just iron. Phosphate can be limiting also. Probably half a dozen more nutrients. Note the higher abundance of plankton globally at the edges of continents, especially near heavy habitation, especially where soil runoff adds nutrients to the ocean. Dare one say that rising sea levels will meet fresh and more nutrients?

    etc etc.

  54. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Ziiex Zeburz says:
    August 1, 2010 at 3:16 am

    A little unclear. Do you mean the underground temperature hardly changes? As an aside, this has implications dor dendroclimatology, because people don’t often report temperature changes in the root zone of plants, a zone that can influence tree rings.

  55. Joe Lalonde says:

    Willis,
    You show once again, the collapse of the “Peer-Review” system. Must be hard up to sell magazines without tanted science.
    The problem is that governments and individuals use this garbage science as leverage for whatever policy they dream up and also for grant monies. Look at IPCC (peer-reviewed science).

    Need an FBI type system:
    Facts mam, nothing but the facts.

  56. Richard S Courtney says:

    Friends:

    I have an interest in this.

    In the 1980s there was an ‘acid rain’ scare in Northern Europe. It was claimed that sulphurous and nitrogenous emissions from coal-fired power stations (notably in the UK and Germany) were increasing the acidity of rain with resulting waldsterben (i.e. forest death) especially in Scandinavia and Germany.

    This was extremely unlikely for several reasons. For example, the highest atmospheric concentrations of the emissions must be adjacent to the power stations, and the emitted oxides of sulphur and nitrogen (SOx and NOx) are very soluble in water. Therefore, the asserted increased sulphur deposition in rain (and damage to plants) should be greatest near the power stations, but there was no significant increase to sulphur deposition near power stations (and there was no discernible damage to plants adjacent to the power stations).

    However, France had converted its electricity supply industry to be mostly nuclear. Constraint of SOx and NOx emissions from power stations would significantly increase UK and German electricity costs – with resulting increase to all UK and German industrial costs – relative to those of France. Also, Scandinavian countries desired reparations for the asserted damage to forests.

    The European Union (EU) established its Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) in response to the ‘acid rain’ scare, and the LCPD continues to close coal-fired power stations and to disrupt European energy policies to this day.

    At the time, I was working at the UK’s Coal Research Establishment (CRE) that was owned by the UK government as part of the National Coal Board (NCB). I observed that the pattern of acidity of precipitation over Northern Europe was not consistent with the ‘acid rain’ scare. Highest acidity was in rain near estuaries of major rivers. Indeed, if the emissions from power stations were to reach Scandinavia then they had to cross such regions of high acidity in rain, and this did not make sense.

    I suggested that a more likely explanation for increased sulphur content of rain was fertilisation of the North Sea by excess nitrate and phosphate fertilisers being used in agriculture. The excess would be transported by rivers to the North Sea. Resulting fertilisation of phytoplankton may be increasing their total biomass with resulting increase to their emission of dimethylsulphide (DMS). This suggestion was supported by the growth of toxic algal blooms that were washing up on shores of the North Sea at the time. And the suggestion would completely explain the observed pattern of increased sulphur deposition in rain across Northern Europe.

    Upon investigation the suggestion turned out to be correct.

    So, farmers – not electricity generators – were causing the increased sulphur content of rain. And, at the time, farmers were a powerful lobby in France. So, constraints were imposed on
    (a) the use of excess fertiliser and
    (b) permissible nitrate and phosphate in rivers.,
    Then the ‘acid rain’ scare was quietly forgotten.

    Furthermore, it subsequently became clear that biomass of Northern European forests had increased throughout the 1980s when the ‘acid rain’ scare raged and the existence of waldsterben was asserted.

    But the LCPD remains and continues to harm energy policies.

    The history of the ‘acid rain’ scare is a warning now that the ‘global warming’ scare is ending. Neither scare has been – or will be – declared over. The ‘acid rain’ scare was quietly forgotten, and the ‘global warming’ scare will be quietly forgotten after its last gasp in Mexico later this year.

    And – like the ‘acid rain’ scare – the ‘global warming’ scare can be expected to harm energy policies for decades after it is forgotten.

    Richard

  57. BillD says:

    The authors of this study did not study the mechanisms that may have lead the decline in phytoplankton abundance and growth. However, they know that phytoplankton grow quickly at warm temperatures when supplied with sufficient nutrients and light. Thus, if asked, they would suggest that the decline in phytoplankton was due to the effects of warming on ocean circulation, thermal stratification and vertical (with depth) mixing. These are the same temperature effects observed in the el Nino/la Nina comparisons and the lower productivity of tropical oceans compared to higher latitudes.

    Such effects of climate warming have been readily documented in large, deep lakes around the world (see for example, the special climate/lake issue of Limnology and Oceanography, December 2009). Most paper in this issue are open access due to fees paid by the authors; at http://www.also.org). Note that warming during the late winter, early spring period has the most impact on thermal stratification, so the overall mean temperature change is not that relevant.

    A 40% decline in mean phytoplankton would not be easily detected by Willis’ anecdotal observations, since seasonal changes are often several hundred percent at one site and his observations are presumably focused on the spatially highly variable coastal waters. A 40% decrease in phytoplankton would not lead to a proportionate change in higher food chain organisms, because lower phytoplankton abundance usually leads to higher turnover. Many large fish, such as bluefin tuna have been reduced by >90 by over fishing, so we cannot use fish as a proxy for phytoplankton. Detecting these changes in phytoplankton needs to be based on real data, not perceptions.

    Note that iron limitation is mainly a factor in the South Pacific. Quite a number of publications concluded that continuous iron fertilization over vast expanses of the ocean would be an expensive and not feasible way of increasing CO2 sequestration, for a number of reasons that I don’t have time to discuss.

    Scientists already had good evidence for long term declines in phytoplankton abundance. This paper shows that the decline is stronger, more pervasive and more consistent than expected. I do not find anything in Willis’ perceptions and anecdotal observations that are serious criticism of the massive amounts of data presented in this publication. Clearly, this study will stimulate more research and more data collection and analysis. To evaluate the hypothesis, we need data, not perceptions.

  58. Jose Suro says:

    Hard Numbers and Anecdotal Stuff

    I know a place where anyone can get some hard numbers on the state of the food chain in the tropics. I lived in the tropics (Puerto Rico) for the first 20 years of my life and visited there on a monthly basis up until about 5-years ago. I have fished the waters off Puerto Rico since I was six, that’s a 45-year timeline, subtracting the last 5-years.

    We sport fished, mostly for Blue Marlin, one of the top pelagic predators in the oceans. It seems obvious that these top of the food chain predators would suffer greatly if the food chain broke down – it never has. Read on.

    Since 1953, the Yacht Club in San Juan (Club Nautico de San Juan) has hosted a now famous yearly international tournament. It is the longest consecutively held billfish tournament in the world. Very strict statistics have been kept during that time, after all this is a competitive sport, on all things like strikes per boat, hookups, releases, landings, you name it. This is a rich database on the presence of Blue Marlin off the coast of Puerto Rico and always at the same time of year – September – when the tournament is held.

    My personal anecdotal observations: There was a time in the late sixties and early seventies when the fishery almost disappeared. The reason: Longliners. During that time, Blue Marling caught on longlines in the Caribbean numbered in the hundreds of thousands per year. Once the catch numbers plummeted it became unprofitable and the longliners left. It took a long number of years for Blue Marlin to return in numbers. The numbers in the last ten or so years are nothing short of outstanding, with many records broken for the number of fish per boat tagged and released in the tournaments.

    The point is, nothing seems to be wrong in the tropics with the food chain. It’s not only Blue Marlin either, Most every (sport) pelagic fishery in the Caribbean is an at all time high. And the tournament statistics prove this.

    And yes, the water there is still nutrient rich from upwelling and rivers. As a matter of fact, sportfishing boats always target the “veril”, the Spanish word for the near-coastal water color change. It is an easily visible color change line that separates the nutrient-rich, green colored coastal waters from the sterile, Deep Ocean blue current. When this color change coincides with the 100-fathom line (called “the drop” because depth drops to a couple of thousand feet in less than an eighth of a mile, and where the upwelling occurs), the sportfishing boats will concentrate there.

    Club Nautico de San Juan website and history:
    http://www.nauticodesanjuan.com/80.html

  59. DavidB says:

    Alan Mitchell makes an interesting point about polaroid sunglasses. Maybe there is a more general point: the quality of people’s eyesight (with or without glasses) may have improved over this period. People have more frequent eye tests and get new glasses more often; glasses are scratch- and glare- resistant; people who are reluctant to wear glasses can get contact lenses, and so on. It certainly would not be safe to assume that the quality of eyesight is a constant over time. There is also the possibility of differences in the population of observers: if in 1900 they were mainly myopic middle-aged professors, while now they are keen-eyed graduate students, that would make a difference to the results. This is all just amusing speculation, but it highlights the need for more direct checks on the validity of the optical tests.

  60. Gail Combs says:

    Julian Flood says:
    August 1, 2010 at 12:51 am

    ……I like this paper. It says, although its authors may not realise this, that the C isotope changes might not be anthropogenic. That great pillar of AGW deserves to be checked and the reasoning behind its inclusion in the great scare should be questioned.
    ___________________________________________
    As you stated in the last post on plankton:
    “The C13 vs C14 isotope absorption is related to C3 vs C4 type plants. “C4 uses much more C13/14 than C3.”

    A bit of googling shows this:
    Carbon-13. C3 and C4 plants.
    Terrestrial vegetation and marine phytoplankton, in the process of photosynthetic absorption of CO2, discriminate against heavy molecules perfering 12C to 13….

    Most plants (85%) (e.g. trees and crops) follow the C3 photosynthesis pathway and have lower values of d13C, between -22‰ and -30‰.

    The remaining 15% of the plants are of type C4. The majority are tropical herbs and have high values of d13C, between –10 ‰ and –14 ‰…. (There is also a third, very minor, group called CAM, a combination of C3 and C4 where some cactus and succulents belong to.)

    http://wc.pima.edu/Bfiero/tucsonecology/plants/plants_photosynthesis.htm

    examples:
    C3—–>wheat, barley, potatoes and sugar beet. (most of the plants are C3)
    C4—–>fourwing saltbush, corn, many of summer annual plants.
    CAM—> cactuses,some orchids and bromeliads

    The other sciencific discovers show that the Carbon isotope picture is not as clean as the CAGW crowd would have us believe. The logic is fossil fuels contain very little 13C and therefore CO2 emissions from fossil fuels is diluting 13C relative to 12C.

    14C in Fossil fuels, This is a general article with links about the contamination of coal by subterranean bacteria: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/c14.html

    There is also evidence that 13C declined sharply in the early Holocene.
    A distinct δ13C decline in organic lake sediments at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in southern Sweden
    ABSTRACT: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119978862/abstract

    “Values of δ13C obtained from conventional bulk sediment radiocarbon dates encompassing the Pleistocene Holocene boundary have been compiled and plotted against 14C age…. A significant decrease in δ13C values, initiated shortly before 10.000 RP and amounting to 5%, is distinguished…. A probable explanation for the δ13C decline in organic material is decreased importance of dissolution of silicates at the transition to the Holocene. During the Late Weichselian. extensive weathering of exposed minerogenic material with subsequent input of bicarbonate to the lake water may have caused a relative enrichment of 13C in dissolved inorganic carbon. Furthermore, the early Holocene increase in terrestrial vegetation cover probably led to an increased supply of 13C depleted carbon dioxide to the lake water by root respiration….”

    Evidence from early Holocene speleothems: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005E%26PSL.230..301W

    “…Delta 13C values were high until 17.79 ka after which there was an abrupt decrease to 17.19 ka followed by a steady decline to a minimum at 10.97 ka. Then followed a general increase, suggesting a drying trend, to 3.23 ka followed by a further general decline. The abrupt decrease in δ-values after 17.79 ka probably corresponds to an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, biological activity and wetness at the end of the Last Glaciation…”

    Chiefio covers more points here: http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-trouble-with-c12-c13-ratios/

    As usual there is evidence that refutes the pat answers given by the CAGW champions.

  61. Tom in Florida says:

    Doesn’t the use of a mercator map distort the percentage of green to blue creating a false image to a casual observer? Maybe intentional?

  62. DirkH says:

    “Why don’t I know where their math went wrong? Unfortunately, they have not posted up the data that they actually used. Nor have they shown any of their data in the form of graphs or tables.”

    So you pay up for such an article and get …nothing. I don’t think Nature’s business model will work out in the long run…

  63. INGSOC says:

    Pat Frank says:
    August 1, 2010 at 12:22 am

    “It’s a little known fact, for example, that predation, birth defects, and disease were not present among humans before we committed agriculture; a sin unforgivable by Gaia and meriting her punishment; our fallen state only proved by a perverse and decadent love of electricity.”

    love it.

  64. Eric Ellison says:

    S.E.Hendriksen says:
    August 1, 2010 at 3:02 am
    Phytoplankton has at least two (2) defense systems

    Thanks! True! and nature provides more. And the systems you mention are a result of adaptation.

    Where is Darwin in this discussion?

    The biotic potential of these critters is HUGE! They have ‘morphed’ millions of times in 100 years. The mere fact that they exist in all temperature regimes in many concentrations, is proof in itself that temperature is not the limiting factor of population.

    I would think we could pretty easily test this premise in a lab somewhere, where all variables are controlled. It only took a few generations of houseflies (20+/- days) to produce a strain resistant to DDT.

    Just observational logic as most are presenting here says “Temp ain’t it!~ look elsewhere!”

  65. anna v says:

    Willis, from the link under your map:
    Image to right: Phytoplankton can be identified by satellite through their chlorophyll (light green). This image is a composite from the Northern Hemisphere spring seasons of 1998-2004. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: NASA/GSFC and ORBIMAGE
    Note, it is spring season in the north.
    Fro the AIRS CO2 animation we see the breathing of the earth alternating between hemispheres.

    I am almost sure that a corresponding map with the spring time composite of the southern hemisphere would show plankton in the southern seas too.

  66. anna v says:

    p.s. which would go to show that increasing temperatures create more phytoplankton, but what weight have real data to compare to model outputs? A generation of “scientists” has come up that believes models trump data.

  67. Ed Caryl says:

    The simplest explanation is usually the correct one. I don’t think whales could harvest enough Phytoplankton fast enough to make a dent in the population. Temperature is obviously not the answer. Fishery collapse might have some sort of negative feedback affect, but that’s not simple. Sunlight reduction isn’t it. We would have noticed. I go with the Polaroid sunglasses theory. Perhaps combined with ship deck height change over time. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a measurement problem, not a phytoplankton population problem.

  68. Gail Combs says:

    If I was this guy’s thesis professor, I would be ashamed to see this paper and make the student do it over. I would certainly not allow it into print because it proves the skeptics are correct, the science is shoddy. Everything is linked to CAGW with not attempt at scientific methodology or looking at any other possible explanations.

    I do not have to be a PhD in the field but I come up with some questions for this student just off the top of my head with no digging:

    1. Could the correlation be linked to the Milankovitch cycle?
    Solar energy reached a summer maximum (9% higher than at present) ca 11 ka ago and has been decreasing since then, primarily in response to the precession of the equinoxes.

    2. Do the “short”-term variations in solar radiation at Earth’s surface (S) were observed to increase from 1983 to 2001 have an effect: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;308/5723/850

    3. Do the 60 to 70 year multidecadal cycles in the
    oceans have an effect:
    http://icecap.us/docs/change/ocean_cycle_forecasts.pdf

    4. Have you taken into account the challenges to the ocean Conveyor Belt Theory?
    Deconstructing the Conveyor Belt:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/328/5985/1507

    Abstract
    “For the past several decades, oceanographers have embraced the dominant paradigm that the ocean’s meridional overturning circulation operates like a conveyor belt, transporting cold waters equatorward at depth and warm waters poleward at the surface…. A number of studies conducted over the past few years have challenged this paradigm by revealing the vital role of the ocean’s eddy and wind fields in establishing the structure and variability of the ocean’s overturning…”

    5. How about the observed 88 year and 200 year oscillations that change the nutrients levels from the land:
    http://bprc.osu.edu/Icecore/lgt-sci-98.pdf

    NASA Finds Sun-Climate Connection in Old Nile Records: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/features.cfm?feature=1319
    “The researchers found some clear links between the sun’s activity and climate variations. The Nile water levels and aurora records had two somewhat regularly occurring variations in common – one with a period of about 88 years and the second with a period of about 200 years.”

    6. The amount of rain not only effects the river levels, but as the 1930’s dust bowl showed it effects the land and can mean a major influx of nutrients from wind blown soil. Have you taken into account these giant dust storms?

  69. latitude says:

    In a round about way, they just said that the worlds oceans are becoming limiting in iron and phosphorus.

    Which means the oceans are getting cleaner.

    Which means the oceans are releasing CO2.

    Which could explain the rise in CO2 levels.

  70. Henry Pool says:

    I am thinking here that they may have it wrong entirely about the the warming of the oceans having something to do with dwindling figures of plankton/

    If the plankton content is going down, then I suspect it is to do with the acidity and salinity – possibly also the COD demand – and this is from all our desalination and industrial processes. At the end of the day, all our waste water does end up in the sea, also a lot of the carbon dioxide that we put up in the air (as carbonates)

  71. latitude says:

    Geoff Sherrington says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:46 am
    Nutrition. It’s not just iron. Phosphate can be limiting also.
    =======================================================

    Exactly Geoff, that’s why just throwing iron out there doesn’t work.

  72. dh7fb says:

    DirkH says:
    August 1, 2010 at 6:54 am

    “Why don’t I know where their math went wrong? Unfortunately, they have not posted up the data that they actually used. Nor have they shown any of their data in the form of graphs or tables.”

    Look here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/fig_tab/nature09268_F4.html
    and search the statistical significance! :-)

  73. larry says:

    Since when did 2 graphs travelling in the same direction prove that one caused the other? The entire global warming science appears to be either identify any slow moving trend which can be claimed to be bad and state it is caused by global warming because of correlation or get separate scientists to tweak parameters to separate models and publish only the worst possible bits out of each run – to give the impression each one is new research and give a cumulatively bad impression to the public – and apparently a consensus of scientists believe in something or other which is never quite clear, so it must all be good science. Do university degrees in the environmental sciences come free with bio-cornflakes?

  74. Hu McCulloch says:

    The high phytoplankton areas seem to be correlated with those that were glaciated 12K years ago — Perhaps the loess runoff is still fertilizing the adjacent waters.

  75. Gail Combs says:

    Douglas Cohen says:
    August 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I’ll bet that at the beginning of the twentieth century there was a lot of organic pollution discharged from large cities near the coasts of the developed world. This sort of ocean fertilization probably led to local and large increases in the phytoplankton right off the coast, which may also be where most of the secchi disk and other phytoplankton measurements took place during the early years of the twentieth century. If this is so, I suspect that the decades-long time series on which the supposed drop of phytoplankton is based may be measuring nothing more than the drop in coastal pollution as the developed world’s sewage systems improved..
    ______________________________________________________________________
    And to follow that idea ships follow “shipping lanes” and discharged sewage into the ocean. The Age of Sailing Ships ended with the emergence of the Steam ship in the second decade of the Twentieth Century. The last commercial sailing ship to round Cape Horn was in 1949. Sailing ships would take much longer to make the passage and were constrained by the wind patterns.

    Now there are laws….
    Vessel operators need to be aware of the following regulations for waste, oil and trash disposal that apply to both federally controlled and state waters. The Refuse Act prohibits throwing, discharging or depositing any refuse matter of any kind (including trash, garbage, oil, and other liquid pollutants) into the waters of the United States.

    “…international regulations for the prevention of sea pollution by sewage from ships became effective from August 1,according to a statement from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The revised Marpol Annex IV regulations are considered important because the discharge of raw sewage into the sea can create a health hazard,the IMO statement said. In addition, in coastal sea areas, the waste material can lead to a depletion of oxygen in the water and visual pollution – a particular problem for countries with much tourist industries. The revised regulations prohibit the discharge of sewage by ships within a distance of 12 nautical miles,…” http://www.best-maritime-employment.info/catalogue_companies_list/company_source_76058_11.html

    Are we seeing the results of faster ships and less sewage discharge?

  76. Henry Pool says:

    Why yes, if the oceans get warmer, it means that this reaction gets more prominent

    Co3 2-+ acid = 2H3O 1+ => CO2 + 2H2O

    Simple chemistry. (that is where Al Gore made his big mistake – cause and effect, he put it the wrong way around)
    So global warming is good for getting rid of the extra acid that we have been putting in the oceans. I would also think that that makes the oceans cleaner and would therefore also submit that warmer sea water must be good for (plankton) life. Unless they need the CO2 in the CO3 form?
    I still think it is rather the poisons in our waste water (COD etc) that may be killing the plankton (if their numbers are dwindling).

  77. latitude says:

    Gail, you bring up good points as always.

    The biggest flaw I see with this paper, is the same flaw I see with all climate science.
    And yes this is a climate science paper trying to disguise itself as biology.

    They make the assumption that the phyto levels 100 years ago, were ‘normal’.

    First, they need to establish that ‘normal’ line.
    It’s just as possible that something happened 100 years ago that created a huge world wide plankton bloom. This is actually more likely.

    And just like temperature records, when you start at a high, it has no where to do but down.

  78. phil says:

    Is it possibleto make an FOI requestfor the data?

  79. Gail Combs says:

    dh7fb says:
    August 1, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Look here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/fig_tab/nature09268_F4.html
    and search the statistical significance! :-)
    ___________________________________________________________________
    My computer is real old so it is a bit hard for me to read the graphs.

    Am I seeing a huge spike in the amount of plankton in the 1930’s corresponding to the dust bowl????

  80. latitude says:

    or you could just look at the volcanic dust index prior to the 1900’s to see where all that plankton fertilizer came from and why plankton leves were so high in the early 1900’s

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/histvolcanoerup.jpg

  81. latitude says:

    “why plankton leves”

    plankton doesn’t have leaves!
    should be “levels”

  82. DirkH says:

    dh7fb says:
    August 1, 2010 at 7:56 am
    “[...]Look here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/fig_tab/nature09268_F4.html
    and search the statistical significance! :-)”

    Thanks. Wild variability in there. There seems to be some decline in some areas.

    Here’s an idea: Humanity’s impact on the oceans is mostly that we extract millions of tons of fish every year. If we wouldn’t, all the biomass would be recycled by the ecosystem; dead fish would become raw material for other creatures. Fish poo would become raw material for phytoplancton. Could this not be the real cause for nutrient depletion?

  83. AlanG says:

    In fisheries science it’s called shifting baselines. Fact is we are taking about 1 billion tons of organic matter – fish – from the oceans every decade and have been doing so for decades. Most of the fish taken are carnivorous fish which eat [plankton] filter feeders.

    Why or why is climate change assumed to be the reason? Oh I get it. They are ‘climate scientists’ who know sqat about the ongoing fishing holocaust. It must be ‘their’ science because fishing doesn’t pay their wages. Someone slit their gills please.

  84. Gary P says:

    I see one purpose for this paper. It is the reference paper for applying for grants to visit various tropical paradises to study the layers of mud from the last 100 years to do a plankton count.

    The data will then be correlated with the made up worldwide grid temperatures to select those mud samples to be included in the a report. Samples with no trend will be eliminated as having to much noise and the data from increasing plankton counts will be inverted in the Mannomatic “statistical analysis.” Snippets of the raw data will be leaked to Steve to start a new controversy that will will require more conferences and studies in tropical paradises until retirement.

  85. John says:

    Like Willis and others, I can’t believe that the tiny amount of temperature change we’ve had in 110 years could have done such a horrific deed (40% reduction in phytoplankton since around 1950) , especially when you consider that the world was 1 to 2 degrees warmer, for about 1,000 years, about 8,000 years ago, and was 2 to 3 degrees warmer during the last interglacial.

    I don’t think that any of the sea floor cores have picked up large reductions in phytoplankton during interglacials.

    And the mechanism proposed for the big decline — warmer waters overlying nutrient rich deep water, preventing nutrients from getting to the surface — doesn’t work for most of the places where the decline in phytoplankon is observed — like sub polar areas, north Pacific. [Note that the authors aren't saying that plankton doesn't grow as well in warm water -- they are instead claiming that warmer ocean water will more effectively overlay the cooler deep waters which have the nutrients, thus causing nutrient deficits near the surface.]

    I don’t necessarily disbelieve the calculations out of hand. The authors themselves note that there were some large areas which didn’t have enough historical data — I think parts of the Southern Ocean, where there are large springtime blooms — so that the full picture might show different level of decline. Or, the figures COULD be seriously in error. I would like the authors to make their data and methods available for audit. Otherwise, they might be suspected of Mannian generation of bogus data. However, I don’t suspect every scientist of acting like the Hockey Team, and I don’t think we should have that level of distrust as a general rule. “Trust but verify,” yes, but not an automatic “You’ve buggered the data!”

    Only the BBC article on the phytoplankton reduction points out that overfishing may be a more reasonable explanation FOR the reduction in phytoplankton — not the other way around. Specifically, the article suggests are now less fish to graze zooplankton, so there are more grazers OF phytoplankton (the zooplankton).

    Here is the BBC article link:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10781621

    Here is the part I found most interesting:

    ———–

    “….Carl-Gustaf Lundin, head of the marine programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), suggested there could be other factors involved – notably the huge expansion in open-ocean fishing that has taken place over the century.

    “Logically you would expect that as fishing has gone up, the amount of zooplankton would have risen – and that should have led to a decline in phytoplankton,” he told BBC News.

    “So there’s something about fishing that hasn’t been factored into this analysis.”

    ———–

    The overfishing hypothesis makes much more sense. I hadn’t realized it until reading the BBC account that zooplankton are major targets of many fish populations (yes, I verified, didn’t take the article on face value).

    Take away fish, you get more zooplankton. If this happens, you get more zooplankton grazing on phytoplankton. Bingo!

    Overfishing is very well accepted. Look at the collapses of New England and California fisheries in the past 40 years, and for a longer term perspective, read “Cod,” which explains that it has taken about 10 centuries to reduce what once was an incredibly abundant fish all over northern waters (one that when dried out, served as currency in 11th and 12th century Europe), to one which can no longer be fished, and can barely be found, on the East coast of the US and Canada. The Grand Banks off Nova Scotia used to be a prime fishing area for cod. It was so fished out by about 1990 that the Canadian government finally was able to institute a ban on fishing cod, so that hopefully they could come back. But they haven’t come back.

    Open ocean fisheries have exploded in the last 50 years, with factory ships everywhere it seems at high latitudes. The growth in open ocean fishing by factory ship correlates well over 60 years with increases in CO2. So we have, perhaps, an excellent example of how correlation (in this case, CO2 increases with phytoplankton decreases) is NOT causation. The CO2 growth has a spurious correlation with the apparent actual cause, in this case the increase in overfishing (yes, this too needs to be verified, it isn’t demonstrated at this point — good science can take time).

    A moral here is that scientists sometimes get things right – in my opinion, more often than not. They warned of collapses of fishing stocks for many years before the collapses actually happened. Fishermen only agreed to bans on fishing when they could barely find their target fish. And the bans in some cases have been very successful at bringing back the target fish — striped bass on the mid-Atlantic coast, for example.

    Because much science in the end is accurate, it took me a long time to come to the reluctant conclusion that a lot of climate change science in various ways is “bent.” I was instantly suspicious of the conclusions of this article (climate change causes 40% reduction in phytoplankton!) because I’ve seen this movie, this hockey stick, this Himalayan glacier disappearance, this 50% reduction in North African rainfall by 2020 — I’ve seen this all before. And I found it laughable that with all the temperature cycling that has gone before, that phytoplankton are this sensitive.

    That’s why I felt that the climate change explanation for phytoplankton decline was wrong, even if the 40% reduction was right (which still needs to be verified, it’s just one study). But I do buy the overfishing explanation, because it comports with science that has not been politically distorted, and which is accurate and has stood the test of time, in my view.

    One commenter on the earlier WUWT article on this subject wondered why overfishing (which usually targets large species which no longer primarily eat zooplankton) would cause a zooplankton decline. Here is my response to his thoughtful question:

    “Yes, it is correct that ocean fisheries usually target bigger fish, that no longer eat zooplankton. But we also target ever smaller fish populations — anchovies, sardines, menhadden — for fish oil supplements, and for feed for salmon and other farmed fish. And we also take in a lot of non-target fish (“bycatch”) and throw them overboard, dead. The smaller bycatch and the smaller target fish would be the ones more likely to eat zooplankton, wouldn’t you think?”

  86. Geraldo Lino says:

    I am a geologist, not a marine biologist or oceanographer, but my discomfort with this Nature article is not quite due to its findings but to its presentation instead, that seems to have been carefully planned for profiting from the global warming scare machine.

    First of all, it is quite uncommon that a still unfinished doctoral thesis gets such a notoriety, making headlines all over the world. In a public conference here in Rio de Janeiro last Thursday, one of the Brazilian “Nobel Prize” IPCC scientists waved the corresponding article which filled half the page of the Science section of the “O Globo” newspaper, as an unmistakable proof that Mankind is overheating the planet.

    Second, it seems obvious that such a great global decrease in the phytoplankton stocks, even if confirmed by other studies, cannot be attributed to the tiny temperature changes observed in the oceanic temperatures since the middle 19th century (at least as the chief cause), as suggested by the main author in the press release. After all, during much of the Holocene epoch (since 12,000 years BP) the oceanic temperatures were quite higher than the current ones and before blaming them one ought to look for the evidences of such massive decreases during those warmer times (in the Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia, phytoplankton generally thrived during the warmer periods).

    Third, independently of the accuracy of his findings it seems that Mr Daniel Boyce is an adherent to the “Michael Mann” school of hiding his database and methods (by the way, first published in the pages of “Nature” magazine also).

    So, let’s wait and see whether this is real science or just more warmist hype.

  87. Paul Birch says:

    The experimental technique used in this paper is appropriate only for ocean waters. Coastal waters have many other sources of turbidity. But compared to inland and coastal waters, estuaries and upwellings, where the vast bulk of planckton activity takes place, the oceans are nutrient-poor deserts, of scant importance for the biosphere. Even if planckton were becoming still scarcer in the deep oceans, it wouldn’t much matter. However, if we did wish to increase ocean productivity (and fishing), we could do so by creating artificial upwellings; the temperature difference between the surface and abyssal waters is sufficient to drive Ocean Thermal Systems to power large floppy turbines pumping deep water to the surface. There’s no shortage of nutrients down there – just up in the photic zone.

  88. Pascvaks says:

    In Science things change.

    One day you get historical credit for showing your thoughts and calculations in a diary or in old letters to a freind that are found by someone a hundred years after your death.

    On another day, you get credit for a three page paper published in an obscure quarterly that only 230 people in the whole wide world know anything about.

    On another day, you get credit for saying something in a ‘public’ monthly or weekly that is ‘read’ by millions that happens to support an underlying prejudice of the day and which you naturally ‘include’ in your paper because you won’t be published without mentioning it, but which has no direct connection to your work, really, when everything is spread out a few years after you win your Nobel Prize; after all, what’s a little lie for the sake of science, at least you get published? Right?

    If you want to play the game and win, ya’ gotta’ play by the rules –whatever the are when you’re playing.

  89. Paul Birch says:

    Oops, I notice I’ve been mis-spelling plankton with a “c”. I wonder if that’s because I talk about Planck’s constant more than I talk about plankton? Sort of Freudian slip.

  90. hunter says:

    The biggest tell that this alleged study is garbage is this:
    If the source of most of the biomass in the world was, as they allege, reduced by 50% then there would be dramatic and dangerous results in the food chain.
    The major side effect of AGW belief is a reduction in intelligence of the true believer.

  91. Ed Caryl says:

    I think all this discussion is getting to the answer. Their numbers are a result of a combination of measurement problems: sunglasses and eyesight improvements; and less pollution fertilization. We would need to look at their raw data. One check would be to look at their numbers for locations where we know that recent fertilization has increased, such as at the mouth of the Mississippi river in the Gulf of Mexico.

  92. hunter says:

    Sorry, hit the post button too quickly.
    Additionally, NASA satellites are showing that life on Earth- in the oceans and on land- is increasing.

  93. Severian says:

    Let’s see…rising temps reduce the amount of plankton, which means there’s less plankton to soak up CO2, whoa! Positive feedback loop! It’s WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!!!!!!!!

    It’s always “WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!” Funny ain’t it, you’d expect sometimes things would move in a better than we thought direction wouldn’t you?

    As for the lack of Gaian support for seeding the oceans, no surprise. I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but one head weenie from one of the enviro groups once said that it’d be a catastrophe if we (meaning humans) discovered an abundant, cheap, non-polluting energy source because of what we’d do with it. Chew on that logic for a while, the only thing I can come up with is misanthropic.

  94. chemman says:

    Maybe things have changed since I took by Bachelor’s degree. But I seem to remember that the oceanic phototrophs were responsible for around 80% of O2 production. While I understand that a 50% drop in phototrophs wouldn’t yield a 50% decrease in atmospheric O2 levels we should see a measurable change in pO2. Where is that change?

  95. Kum Dollison says:

    Yada, yada.

    What is the ACTUAL PERCENTAGE LOSS in the Mass of phytoplankton?

    How many Tons/Pounds/Teaspoons/Grams/ have disappeared? What is the Percentage?

    Median Density is a lousy metric for this subject.

  96. latitude says:

    Willis said:
    So where did the Nature paper go wrong?
    =====================================================
    The didn’t qualify their starting point. Everyone that talks about global warming knows you can show anything depending on where you start and stop the line.
    Looks like there was a huge amount of volcanic dust in the air before 1900. Which is fertilizer for phyto.
    ========================================================
    “While this might not seem like a large number, this translates into a decline of about 40 per cent since 1950″
    ========================================================

    If someone wants to have some fun with this, use their own numbers against them.

    Think adding iron to sequester CO2.

    How much CO2 did they claim phyto can sequester?
    How much CO2 would be released with a 40-50% reduction in phyto?

    I would be willing to bet, using their own numbers, you would account for 100% of the increase in atmospheric CO2.

  97. PJP says:

    Gerard says:
    August 1, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Oxygen is a waste product from the earth’s living history. A 40% reduction in production at the end of only one century will not be measurable.

    I think you are missing something. O2 is very reactive (which is why it is so useful for living creatures to extract energy). It is continually reacting with the environment. The primary form of degradation of most products is oxydation (combining with atmospheric O2).

    The concentration of O2 in the atmosphere is not a result of millenia of accumulation, but a steady state, a balance between the rate it is being produced and the rate at which it is combining with various other elements to form oxides.

    Stop the production and the concentration will fall very rapidly.

  98. Marc77 says:

    One problem with the method they used(with a disk). They tested the concentration at the top level of the ocean. What if the phytoplankton had a tendency to live in slightly deeper water because of some unknown factor? Possible factors to test would be: Amount of UV rays, ratio of deep water to surface water temperature, amount of CO2 in the water, salinity of the surface water, and probably many more factors. It always seems so easy to point global warming and end the research right there.

  99. Tom in Texas says:

    I haven’t read any of the comments yet, so this point may have already been made:

    Out of curiosity, I clicked on the Google ad attached to this post (Highest Quality Pure Multi-Strain Phytoplankton (1 Bottle $29.95)) which stated:

    “Marine Phytoplankton is considered to be one of the most powerful foods on Earth because it is loaded with high-energy super anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and proteins in microscopic form. It is a tiny little plant (about the size of a red blood cell) that naturally grows in the ocean and is the beginning of the food chain where as all other living creatures in the ocean feed on other living things that feed on this little plant. It is responsible for over 70% of the planet’s oxygen”

    If 50% of the Phytoplankton is gone, has anyone noticed that 35% of the oxygen is gone?

  100. Tom in Texas says:

    Yup, comment #5 made this point about oxygen depletion.

  101. Billy Liar says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:57 am

    But the LCPD remains and continues to harm energy policies.

    Why hasn’t the UK Government challenged the EU in court? Are they too Lib-Dim?

  102. latitude says:

    Had fun crunching their numbers

    Nasa says that:

    “‘Every day, more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean by billions of microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton during photosynthesis.””

    That would be +36 billion tons a year. (100 million X 365)
    If plankton is reduced by 50% in the past 100 years, then prior to 100 years ago, the oceans would have taken up +/-72 billion tons a year.
    So there’s a net gain of +/-36 billion tons a year from lazy plankton.

    NASA also says:

    “”Between 1751 and 2003, 306-626 billion tons of carbon were added to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, mostly through fossil fuel combustion””

    That’s 252 years.
    If you divide their high number – 626 billion – by 252 years, you come up with only about 2.5 billion tons added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels.

    So lazy plankton explains 100% of the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.

    Guys, temp has nothing to do with it. There were massive volcano eruptions prior to 1900 that put dust and iron in the atmosphere. Fertlizer for phytoplankton. They started their measurements at 1900, the height of a plankton bloom.

    Here’s the volcano dust index for that time period:
    http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/histvolcanoerup.jpg

  103. Gail Combs says:

    Billy Liar says:
    August 1, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Richard S Courtney says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:57 am

    But the LCPD remains and continues to harm energy policies.

    Why hasn’t the UK Government challenged the EU in court? Are they too Lib-Dim?
    ________________________________________________________________

    For the same reason the USA did not get rid of all the regulations on childcare centers when it was found the criminal trials were based on “evidence” from Social Services brainwashed kids and many innocent people spent years (or died) in jail. The real target are the laws, the lies are used to get the public to accept the laws they would not accept otherwise. Once the laws are in place they are cast in stone and the next step in stripping the masses of their freedom is initiated.

    Two steps forward never any steps back. Money and Power are the goals of politicians that we have to always guard against.

    “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” — Wendell Phillips, (1811-1884)

  104. Steve in SC says:

    I don’t believe I would give these boys their phds.

  105. John says:

    Re oxygen depletion — would we be able to see the oxygen depletion in our atmosphere if phytoplankton have declined 40% since 1950?

    You will certainly get less oxygen in the atmosphere, over time, if the creatures that produce half or more of it decline in number by 40% or more.

    Whether you would notice much of a change in a few decades depends upon the cycling rate of oxygen out of the atmosphere, though.

    It it were to take 2,000 years for oxygen to disappear from the air if it were not replenished, then we should see an approximate 10% drop in 200 years, a 1% drop in 20 years, and thus a 3% in 60 years. If phytoplankton produce half the oxygen, and if they have declined 40% in 60 years (since 1950), then we would have a fraction of the 3% decline in 60 years which would occur if all sources of oxygen replenishment disappeared. The reduction would be 0.4 times 0.5, or 0.2, e.g., a 20% reduction in replenishment, vs. the hypothesized 100% reduction.

    So you can calculate 1/5th of the 3% oxygen depletion that would occur over 60 years, or 0.6% reduction. It is a tiny figure, but with our expertise in detecting things, we might be able to find such a reduction, I would guess, if it has in fact occurred.

    The 2,000 year life is taken from an article by Wally Broecker. I THINK I read it correctly, but I’m not a climatologist.

    Comments??

  106. vigilantfish says:

    Lucy Skywalker says:
    August 1, 2010 at 1:12 am

    Thank you again Willis.

    It’s wonderful to have your fresh wind of commonsense and observation, blowing out the cobwebs of the current stagnation, myopia, and plain idiocy in climate science.

    Willis, I look forward to the publication of your book.

    ————–
    I just want to second everything that Lucy Skywalker said. I’ve been away and mostly WUWTless due to lack of Internet time and access and it’s wonderful to return and find Willis’s pithy critique which as always goes to the heart of the inconsistencies and inadequacies of yet another headline-grabbing but ultimately empty ‘scientific’ alarm story. If only Willis would write a book about how to target and deconstruct scientific nonsense: case studies from his wonderful WUWT articles would of course illustrate how this is done. As I have said before, I’d be first in line to order any book Willis published…(hint, hint).

  107. stumpy says:

    They survived the last ice age, and they survived previous warmer periods – its frickin obvious they dont care about temperature!

  108. Willis Eschenbach says:

    dh7fb says:
    August 1, 2010 at 7:56 am

    DirkH says:
    August 1, 2010 at 6:54 am

    “Why don’t I know where their math went wrong? Unfortunately, they have not posted up the data that they actually used. Nor have they shown any of their data in the form of graphs or tables.”

    Look here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/fig_tab/nature09268_F4.html
    and search the statistical significance! :-)

    Thanks, dh7fb, for the link to the figure from the study. That Figure was one of my great frustrations. When I saw it I thought “Great, some data to analyze”. But then I noted that the caption says it’s not data at all, viz:

    a, GAM [Generalized Additive Model] estimates of Chl [chlorophyll) as a discrete (points) or smooth function (lines) of yearly variability in each region (n = 10).

    Grrrr, I’ve inadvertently wandered into a data-free zone …

    It also strained my belief that there was a 95% error range shown for the South and Equatorial Pacific, yet they claim that we know the amount of chlorophyll in the North Pacific exactly, with no error range at all … and I get a bit nervous when someone cites “95% Bayesian credible limits” without showing the normal 95% confidence intervals as well. While Bayesian statistics are a valuable tool, they can also lead you very wrong.

  109. vigilantfish says:

    Phil. says:
    August 1, 2010 at 3:20 am

    And I see no evidence of that having happened over the last century. It certainly does not accord with my own extensive practical experience of the ocean. And I see no one else making the claim that we only have half the total mass of deep-water oceanic life that we had a century ago..

    Well I hold no brief for this paper but concern regarding the decline in major fisheries over the last couple of decades is widespread. Generally this is attributed to fishing pressure but this paper suggests that it isn’t that simple.

    Collapse of N Sea fisheries
    http://icesjms.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/53/6/1130.pdf

    —————–

    Phil,

    I went through this paper and the only reason for the decline in all four of the major North Sea fisheries as outlined in the conclusion is overfishing. The discussion is whether the problem is over-high total allowable catches or a by-catch problem (since discarded fish are dead) and in each case, from the demersal fishees to the groundfish to the mackerel and herring the problem is one version of overfishing or another.

    Lots of good arguments by W.E., Alan Mitchell and others about the limiting roles of nutrients, the minute degree of actual sea surface temperature increase, and also how observation-taking has changed, making past observations an unreliable standard for recent observation comparisons. I wonder if recent scientists disclose any information about what eyewear they are sporting as they make their secchi-disc observations.

    As far as I can tell (apologies if posted before) ocean water chlorophyll a measurements began in 1965. The first announcement of the method was in Carl J Lorenzen “A method for the continuous measurement of in vivo chlorophyll concentrations” Deep Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts
    Volume 13, Issue 2, April 1966, Pages 223-227

    It appears, therefore, that this leaves only one proxy – ocean transparency – for 67 years of the claimed decline. And I doubt that the method spread so rapidly that chlorophyll a measurements were taken extensively around the world as of 1966.

    OT – am just reading Vladil Lysenko’s “A Crime Against the World” (1983) – a book by a former Soviet trawler captain which divulged Soviet fisheries policy in the era before the 200-mile EEZs when Russian factory trawlers vacuumed up much of the world’s most valuable fish stocks. He provides a political side that I had never realized: the Soviets overfished not just to meet their own protein needs and because of the system of production targets that was politically dictated in all sectors of the Soviet command economy, but also to actively destroy fish stocks so as to economically damage the industries of capitalist nations. A rivetting read and strongly recommended.

  110. DirkH says:

    Tom in Texas says:
    August 1, 2010 at 11:35 am
    “I haven’t read any of the comments yet, so this point may have already been made:

    Out of curiosity, I clicked on the Google ad attached to this post (Highest Quality Pure Multi-Strain Phytoplankton (1 Bottle $29.95)) which stated:

    I gotta get into that plankton business.

  111. Spector says:

    RE: “The other thing that makes their claimed temperature/phytoplankton link very doubtful is that according to the HadISST dataset, the global ocean surface temperature has only increased by four tenths of a degree C in the last hundred years.”

    It might be interesting to conduct a random public opinion telephone poll asking people how much average temperatures have increased over the last 100 years due to ‘global warming.’ My guess is that most activists are assuming something like 6 to 10 deg F. Perhaps the writers of this paper were assuming the same or perhaps they just expected their readers to do so. I cannot imagine anyone getting worked up over a 0.4 deg C increase.

    I wonder what a similar poll of members of Congress would yield.

  112. Dr A Burns says:

    Willis,

    >>a change of global average ocean temperature of four tenths of a degree C over the last hundred years

    It is not as simple as that, particularly if you consider UNADJUSTED SSTs:
    http://climateaudit.org/2005/06/19/19th-century-sst-adjustments/

    The unadjusted change from 1860 to the most recent data is virtually zero.

    The “adjustments” are big enough to account for almost all the temperature change.

  113. BillD says:

    Douglas Cohen says:
    August 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I’ll bet that at the beginning of the twentieth century there was a lot of organic pollution discharged from large cities near the coasts of the developed world. This sort of ocean fertilization probably led to local and large increases in the phytoplankton right off the coast, which may also be where most of the secchi disk

    Folks:

    The earth’s human population increased about 400% since the late 1900s. The increase in fertilizers on farm fields has been massive in recent years. Human effects on the nitrogen cycle (the limiting nutrient in most marine waters) have been dramatic over the last 30-40 years. Evidently, these effects increasing nutrients in coast waters are easily offset by effects of warming on thermal stratification in open oceans far from continental shelves. I’ve read alot of off the cuff criticism by Willis and bloggers here but from the perspective of a scientist who does research on pelagic food chains, this criticism is naive and off the point.

    [reply] population increased 400% since the late 1900’s? Might need to check figures. RT-mod

  114. nigel jones says:

    Richard S Courtney says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:57 am

    “Friends:

    I have an interest in this.

    In the 1980s there was an ‘acid rain’ scare in Northern Europe. It was claimed that sulphurous and nitrogenous emissions from coal-fired power stations (notably in the UK and Germany) were increasing the acidity of rain with resulting waldsterben (i.e. forest death) especially in Scandinavia and Germany.

    ……………………….

    And – like the ‘acid rain’ scare – the ‘global warming’ scare can be expected to harm energy policies for decades after it is forgotten.

    Richard”

    That’s fascinating. I remember the acid rain scare with TV shows in the 80s. There were shots of very agitated Norwegians complaining about taller smoke stacks in the UK causing their problems ,and evasive ministers apparently blathering on about more research being needed.

    It dropped from view and I never came across the resolution. However, we are left with the serious consequences of ill-judged legislation.

    I don’t know if it’s been done before, but your observations seem too important to be just a comment on another article.

    Depending on the way you feel about it, maybe you should approach Anthony and write this up as a lead post?

  115. anticlimactic says:

    Do these people have any common sense?!

    For arguments sake let’s say the sea temperature ranges from -2C at the poles to 32C at the equator. They are saying that a change in this range to -1.6C to 32.4C has reduced the phytoplankton by 40%!

    They could argue that phytoplankton are unique to each area and so are individually vulnerable, but the seas and oceans are contiguous [and fluid!] so if this were the case then for any change in surface temperature phytoplankton from neighbouring areas would migrate and thrive. In addition the 0.4C global rise in sea temperature is far less than the annual variation so why would it have any significant effect?

    As you suggest, this makes no kind of sense whatsoever.

    It is easy to think of these kind of people as idiots or amateurs, but really the alarmist case now seems to be almost 100% deliberate propaganda. It does just seem to be another case of Bad Science. I would hope their peers would point at them and snigger!

  116. Mike says:

    @BillD

    The paper excluded coastal areas where plankton has increased do to increased runoff.

    @WE: “So where did the Nature paper go wrong? The short answer is that I don’t know … but I don’t believe their results.”

    You should stopped there.

    “And call me crazy, but I simply don’t believe that the sea only has half the phytoplankton that it had in 1900. If that were true, it would not take satellites and complex mathematical analysis to show it. People would have noticed it many years ago.”

    I refrain from name calling. People, scientists, have noticed regional declines in plankton. But, as the paper points out, there is a great deal of year-to-year and even decadinal fluctuation in plankton. This paper is ground breaking in being to first to study the issue on a global scale over many decades.

    “I say this because phytoplankton are the base of almost the entire mass of oceanic life. They are what almost all other life in the ocean ultimately feeds on, predators and prey as well. The authors of the study do not seem to realize that if the total amount of phytoplankton were cut by more than half as they claim, the total mass of almost all living creatures in the open ocean would be cut about in half as well. ”

    What is the basis for your claim? Do you know how to measure the zooplankton levels over this period? What about deep sea life? And how do you count fish – over the whole globe? Maybe there are researchers out there that can do these things, but you cannot.

    If you don’t want to be crazy try keeping an open mind. Why do you have to decide if this Nature paper is correct now? It seems like a good paper, but obviously much more work will need to be done. If this finding is corroborated we would still need to understand their likely impact.

    This study adds weight to the claim that we should take action to limit GHG emissions, but no one result determines where the balance of evidence lies.

  117. Larry Fields says:

    The results of the study also strike me as being risible. And when I’m in a humorous mood, it’s very difficult for me to resist the temptation to make an atrocious pun. That said…
    Q: Have you heard about the new vegetarian dog food?
    A: It’s made from Fidoplankton.

  118. Dr. Dave says:

    Spector makes an excellent point. Normal body temperature is 37 degrees C. If you had a body temp of 37.4 degrees C you wouldn’t notice it nor would you be considered “febrile”.

  119. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Thanks, Willis!! To quote you, “Grrrrrr!” Simply bad science!!

    I haven’t read the article yet & will do so, but it doesn’t appear that they addressed toxicity from pollutants, nutrient depravation or other factors into their model. This is simply an old-school “Let’s scare the populace with more bad news about global warming!!” type of schlock.

    Since the Arctic ice mass isn’t in a death spiral, the CAGW crowd are getting desperate for proxies of impending doom, and they are now implying the phytoplankton. A more persuasive argument is that acidification at the Arctic is impacting coccolithophorids (using calcium in their morphology), but the data is still not conclusive yet. Temperature has nothing to do with it.

    Organisms adapt to their surroundings if they can, and rising temperatures select for extremophilic organisms. I’m presently working with extremophilic algae isolated from hot springs in Wyoming. Depravation of nutrients or influence of toxics (particularly persistent organic pollutants, POPs, from China and India) from airborne sources is another complication.

    Temperature? Not so much….

  120. Dr. Dave says:

    Mike says:
    August 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    “This study adds weight to the claim that we should take action to limit GHG emissions, but no one result determines where the balance of evidence lies.”

    What utter nonsense! This study adds weight to the claim that we should dump more taxpayer money into studying phytoplankton, that’s all. I’m sure this study was funded by a grant and I would love to read the grant application. I’d be willing to bet a month’s pay that the grant application mentioned a reference to global warming due to GHGs. Just another example of some lame biologist jumping on the global warming gravy train.

  121. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Dr A Burns says:
    August 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Willis,

    >>a change of global average ocean temperature of four tenths of a degree C over the last hundred years

    It is not as simple as that, particularly if you consider UNADJUSTED SSTs:
    http://climateaudit.org/2005/06/19/19th-century-sst-adjustments/

    The unadjusted change from 1860 to the most recent data is virtually zero.

    The “adjustments” are big enough to account for almost all the temperature change.

    Thanks, Dr. Burns. I suspect you are correct, but I used the “consensus” view of the changes to avoid an unrelated argument that would distract from the main points.

  122. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I have posted up a movie I just made of the annual cycle of phytoplankton. It’s at the end of the head post, take a look, interesting variations. Always more to learn …

  123. Kum Dollison says:

    Please people, read what he Wrote. He didn’t say Phytoplankton levels were down 50%

    He said the “MEDIAN” Density of phytoplankton in the “World’s” Oceans has fallen 50%.

    His numbers are, quite likely, Correct.

    And “Meaningless.”

  124. jorgekafkazar says:

    Well, we’ve known for a long time that they were making this up as they go along.

  125. DirkH says:

    So the total of phytoplankton has risen, but they excluded coastal areas from the study to arrive at the desired conclusion. This is Potsdam-style science. Bend the numbers anyway you can to arrive at “Growing temperatures create a huge problem”.

  126. DirkH says:

    Oh, BTW my statement that Phytoplankton levels have risen come from here:
    “Gregg and his colleagues published their new study in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The researchers used NASA satellite data from 1998 to 2003 to show that phytoplankton amounts have increased globally by more than 4 percent.”
    from
    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/chlorophyll.html

    I got the link from the other Plankton thread.

  127. Sean Peake says:

    I think Larry Fields should be barred after that atrocious pun. ;-)

  128. bubbagyro says:

    Major reason for decline of fish:

    1) Too many whales
    2) Too many sharks
    3) Too many seals

    Whales, sharks and seals, now protected, are at the top of the food chain. Each of their numbers is at record highs. One sperm whale can eat 3/4 ton of herring in one bite. Many other whales and sharks are sieve feeders and grow to enormous sizes (e.g. basking shark, whale shark, baleen whales). Predatory sharks are at all time highs, being seen in huge (dangerous) numbers everywhere. Seals prefer menhaden, herring, and the like, all of which are also favorite foods of our favorite food fish (e.g. tuna, mackerel) and game fish (e.g. sailfish, tarpon).

    Why do we not begin to cull our competitors at the top of the food chain? Plain foolishness, if you ask me, that we do not.

    We are just noticing populations of those particular edible fish that we, but also the predators mentioned that are proliferating unchecked, prefer.

  129. BillD says:

    Sean Peaks:
    Sharks have been drastically reduced world wide, mainly due to the oriental demand for shark fin soup. Most whale populations are still far below levels when whaling was at it’s peak in the 1800s. I’m not sure about seals. They eat alot of fish in near shore waters but would have no effect in the open oceans. Marine biologist are especially concerned about sharks, which have reached the lowest abundance since the begining of fisheries data. Try a search in google or better, google sholar on shark populations.

  130. Larry Fields says:

    bubbagyro says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm
    “Why do we not begin to cull our competitors at the top of the food chain? Plain foolishness, if you ask me, that we do not.”

    There would be a few unintended albeit predictable consequences. Here’s an example of one that’s already happened. The cougar is *locally* extinct in parts of New England, in which Lyme Disease is a public health problem. Coincidence you say? Hardly. The local deer are a part of the life cycle of the tick that carries LD, and they’re also an ice-cream species for cougars. The demise of the cougars there has contributed to the increased deer population, which in turn is fostering LD.

    Reintroducing the cougar would decrease the incidence of LD. If all adults hiking in the woods there traveled carried in pairs and carried sidearms, cougar-related human fatalities would be minimal to non-existent. It would also be helpful to avoid mountain-biking and jogging, both of which activate the prey drive in cougars.

    The big picture there is that reintroduced cougars plus a few supplementary common-sense measures would prove to be beneficial for the public health of New Englanders. I wouldn’t call that foolishness.

    An alternative approach: Shooting more deer would have a similar effect.

  131. latitude says:

    Mike says:
    August 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm
    This study adds weight to the claim that we should take action to limit GHG emissions, but no one result determines where the balance of evidence lies.
    ======================================================
    No it doesn’t Mike.
    It only shows that plankton needs more nutrients and that the oceans are getting nutrient poor and will not support the same amount of plankton it supported 100 years ago.
    Prior to there measurements in 1900:
    There were 8 major volcano eruptions, with a DVI – Dust Veil Index – of over 300.
    And over 20 eruptions with a DVI of 100 – 300
    Krakatoa was 1883 and had a unbelievable DVI of 500

    Eruptions put iron and other fertilizer in the oceans for plankton.
    All they did was start their measurement when plankton levels were at their highest, because of the recent volcanoes.

    Here’s the volcano dust index for that time period:
    http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/histvolcanoerup.jpg

  132. Roger Dewhurst says:

    As the ice sheets retreated say 15,000 years ago there were large
    expanses of rock flour exposed. Much of this was deposited elsewhere as
    loess. Much however would have been blown into the oceans to fertilize
    them. This would have resulted in an increase in the microphyta
    followed by increases in everything else up the food chain. Much more
    recently poor agricultural practices, in the USA particularly, led to
    dustbowl conditions and, one might reasonably expect, further
    fertilization of the oceans. Perhaps a reduction in ocean microphyta,
    if indeed there is any, might simply be due to recent improvements in
    agricultural practices and soil conservation.

  133. bubbagyro says:

    BillD says:
    August 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Not true. Forget Google. Read the fishing reports. Whales are at 50 year measured highs (except for sources like Greenpeace, ADF, etc. – and we know how that goes). They did not have accurate reporting before then. Whales are everywhere, Minkes, Killers, Sperm, Pilot, and all others all over the Great Banks. Whale watch boats never fail a day from New England ports to spot whales. live near the Gulf of Maine and go out 50 miles to fish for cod and tuna (and the shark derby). You cannot hook one tuna for every 5 sharks. My son in law hooked a Great White out 30 miles. Mako, Lemon, all kinds. Great Whites are everywhere, even coming in to Cape Cod recently. Even the grey whale is showing up in southern waters. In Florida, where I also live, every shark, especially Hammerhead, Reef, and Bull, is more noticeable even in the last ten years.

    As for deer ticks and LD, that is an absurd stretch, Larry. I lived in PA which has the healthiest deer and the most hunters. No Lyme. Hunters take the place of the cats and wolves, although coyotes are a scourge now in PA as hunting has declined, so perhaps Lyme will surface there. Coyotes are a scourge in New England now, and take huge amounts of deer, more than cats or canines ever had. Lyme disease is a very low percentage disease, not to be cited as a calamity (except for the few that get it). Lyme was not even discovered until recent decades, so people who got it lumped it in with all other “wasting diseases” of the past centuries.

    Don’t believe everything you read. That is the gist of WUWT, our eyes are opening to what the Greenies and Gaia worshippers are spouting, so that one should keep an open mind and let the debate sort things out. Although from some comments, it may be a lost cause.

  134. crosspatch says:

    “The earth’s human population increased about 400% since the late 1900s.”

    Late 1800’s I would buy, not late 1900’s.

  135. Crossopter says:

    For a refreshing and, quite frankly, stunning interpretation of the natural variability inherent between climate and ocean, phyto- and zooplankton abundance and fish productivity, I recommend reading, “Cyclic Climate Changes and Fish Productivity”, by L.B. Klyashtorin and A.A. Lyubishin. Originally in Russian, later translated into English in 2007, it throws the book (pun?!) at much conventional thinking. It’s big at 226pp, or below as a 2.78MB pdf:
    http://narod.yandex.ru/100.xhtml?alexylyubishin.narod.ru/Climate_Changes_and_
    Fish_Productivity.pdf
    The translator is Dr. G.D. Sharp (formerly IPCC) who abandoned after the 2nd Report citing, I believe, misuse of data etc. and no lover of GCM’s.

  136. latitude says:

    Roger Dewhurst says:
    August 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm
    ==============================
    Excellent points Roger.
    Talking about the dust bowl, reminded me of African/Saharan/dust, that’s the main driver for the Caribbean.
    Since it’s obvious it has nothing to do with ocean temperatures, and everything to do with fertilizer, I’d like find something on historic African dust events.

  137. bubbagyro says:

    “University of Queensland’s Dr Michael Noad, who heads the East Coast Australian Humpback Whale Population survey, says about 100 whales a day are passing through.

    “In the last survey (in 2007) the whale numbers weren’t as big. The biggest day was 130 whales with 70 whales a day being the average,” Dr Noad said.

    “At the moment our guys are seeing 100 whales a day consistently.”

    Dr Noad said he expected 13,000 humpbacks in Queensland waters this year, which would be about a 10 or 11 per cent increase on the 2007 figures.”

    From July 24:

    “It’s very unusual in terms of just the sheer number of animals,” said Daniel Palacios, a Monterey oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The bay is abuzz.”
    Passengers aboard the Sea Wolf II, operated by Monterey Bay Whale Watch, saw this abundance on Thursday. In a three-hour tour, they saw 80 humpback whales, 400 Risso’s dolphins and 150 northern right whale dolphins.”

    From Oregon this winter:

    ““It was the highest visitor count in five years, and the highest number of whales spotted in five years,” said Morris Grover, head of the Whale Watch Center in Depoe Bay.
    Morris Grover at a spring Whale Watch Week in Nye Beach.
    Under the aegis of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Whale Watching Spoken Here program has been in existence for 33 years now, Grover said. This past Whale Watch Week yielded some major records, as volunteers stood on overlooks across the Oregon coast’s 364 miles for four hours a day and helped visitors spot the giant watery beasts.
    “The whale count set an alltime record,”Grover said. “Now, we don’t even have quite all the data in yet, as a few stations haven’t submitted their paperwork yet. But so far, the whale count was 672, and we had 9,134 people come by.”

    From Gulf of Maine last winter:

    “We’re excited because seeing 44 right whales together in the Gulf of Maine is a record for the winter months, when daily observations of three to five animals are much more common,” said Tim Cole, who heads the team. “Right whales are baleen whales, and in the winter spend a lot of time diving for food deep in the water column. Seeing so many of them at the surface when we are flying over an area is a bit of luck.”

    Published Aug. 16, 2009
    Previously rare in local waters, world’s largest fish recently spotted with frequency off Alabama coast: In other years, scientists said, multiple sightings of whale sharks off Alabama would have been so rare as to be almost unbelievable. But in 2009, the Alabama coast became one of the best places in the world to see the ocean’s largest fish, with dozens of sightings reported to a whale shark Web site by fishermen, scuba divers and pilots.

  138. Gail Combs says:

    Larry Fields says:
    August 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    bubbagyro says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm
    “Why do we not begin to cull our competitors at the top of the food chain? Plain foolishness, if you ask me, that we do not.”

    There would be a few unintended albeit predictable consequences. Here’s an example of one that’s already happened. The cougar is *locally* extinct in parts of New England, in which Lyme Disease is a public health problem. Coincidence you say? Hardly. The local deer are a part of the life cycle of the tick that carries LD, and they’re also an ice-cream species for cougars. The demise of the cougars there has contributed to the increased deer population, which in turn is fostering LD….
    ______________________________________________________
    First the cougar seems to be back in New England: http://www.mountainlion.org/newsroom_article.asp?news_id=826

    In North Carolina there are “officially” no cougar despite plenty of sitings and photos. My neighbor has a wild life camera and caught a picture of one. My husband nearly hit one with the truck… it was black. (Saw a bald eagle for the first time in the wild last week near Jordan Lake) http://mountainlion.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=19
    http://www.fieldandstream.com/forums/campfire/mountain-lions-east-coast

    Given the problems with attacks on people out west, I think the officials know darn well the cats are here and are keeping their mouths shut. There is an “official” population of about 100 in Florida. They are solitary with a range up to 370 sq miles and can travel as much as 30+ miles in a night. A young male cougar ( radio collared) traveled over five states. “Mountain lions dispersing into the Midwest have been known to travel hundreds of miles.” http://www.mountainlion.org/newsroom.asp

    Here in North Carolina Rocky Mtn fever from ticks has been bad. Two friends and a neighbor had it and hubby was comatose for ten days from it.

  139. Rational Debate says:

    Has research from the 2004 SeaWiFS instrument aboard the Seastar satellite study been debunked? If not, I’d sure like to know how the researchers for this new ‘phytoplankton have radically decreased’ square their data, results, and conclusions with that of the satellite data which showed:

    ….”The results surprised Steven Running of the University of Montana and Ramakrishna Nemani of NASA, scientists involved in analyzing the NASA satellite data. They found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines. When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square metre of land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.”….

    Its awfully hard to imagine two sets of research with more contradictory results.

    This was from an article “In Praise of CO2″ June 2008 by Laurence Soloman: http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=569586

    and posted on WUWT by Anthony with the subject: Surprise: Earths’ Biosphere is Booming, Satellite Data Suggests CO2 the Cause
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/06/08/surprise-earths-biosphere-is-booming-co2-the-cause/

  140. Gail Combs says:

    #
    #
    latitude says:
    August 1, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Roger Dewhurst says:
    August 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm
    ==============================
    Excellent points Roger.
    Talking about the dust bowl, reminded me of African/Saharan/dust, that’s the main driver for the Caribbean.
    Since it’s obvious it has nothing to do with ocean temperatures, and everything to do with fertilizer, I’d like find something on historic African dust events.
    _______________________________________________
    The dust bowl in the USA certainly had to have an effect. I wonder if there are dust records available from the ice cores. I remember reading a comment that connected dust amounts to the ice cores, I think it was in relation to percipitation.

    I just googled and got a BIG surprise!
    Study of Dust in Ice Cores Shows Volcanic Eruptions Interfere with the Effect of Sunspots on Global Climate
    Seems Sunspots DO correlate with climate…. Unless volcanic action interferes according to this study of dust in Greenland ice cores, sunspots, and volcanoes.

    “The research, published in a paper in the May 15 [2002] issue of Geophysical Research Letters, provides striking evidence that sunspots — blemishes on the sun’s surface indicating strong solar activity — do influence global climate change, but that explosive volcanic eruptions on Earth can completely reverse those influences.

    It is the first time that volcanic eruptions have been identified as the atmospheric event responsible for the sudden and baffling reversals that scientists have seen in correlations between sunspots and climate…

    “By carefully studying the timing of other volcanic eruptions, we found that they coincided with all of the correlation reversals between sunspots and climate,” said Ram.

    A chart in the paper shows how six major volcanic eruptions between 1800 and 1962 occurred during precisely the same years when there were reversals in the correlation between sunspot activity and climate….

    According to Donarummo, it long has been known that volcanoes add more dust and more sulfates to the atmosphere.

    The UB team discovered that these additional sulfates cause cosmic rays to have a more pronounced effect on Earth by spurring the formation of small droplets in the atmosphere that, in turn, cause the formation of a type of cloud that does not produce rain.

    “During these times of high volcanic activity, the sunspot/climate correlation reverses and dust levels rise, even in the absence of high sunspots,” explained Stolz. “

  141. R. Gates says:

    Willis,

    I actually find your arguments to have merit– though I do tend to believe that plankton have declined as the study suggests. They have a lot of data points and their methodology is sound.

    I would ask you to consider this question: Suppose they are correct? Plankton of course play a vital role in many aspects of the biosphere’s regulation of food supply as well as climate feedbacks. I would like you to put your considerable scientific skills to work on playing “what if” for a moment, suspending your disbelief in this study, and giving an opinion about what it might mean if plankton are indeed in decline.

  142. bubbagyro says:

    In two of the last three years we have had blooms of red tide plankton both in the Gulf of Mexico twice and in New England once. The extensive blooms were furious and made life miserable. In the ten years before that, we had none.

    I don’t know where these dudes were sampling, but shoreward they were very healthy populations. The causes were not known, but were attributed without proof to excessive nutrients.

  143. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Kum Dollison says:
    August 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Please people, read what he Wrote. He didn’t say Phytoplankton levels were down 50%

    He said the “MEDIAN” Density of phytoplankton in the “World’s” Oceans has fallen 50%.

    His numbers are, quite likely, Correct.

    And “Meaningless.”

    On a dataset the size of the one in question, if the median drops by half, the mean will drop by about half as well. What this means is that the total mass will drop by half.

  144. Lance says:

    Willis,

    I sleep better knowing you are out there checking out these alarmist studies. Do you sleep at all? It’s all I can do to read a few papers a month and skim through a few blogs.

    Hopefully your diligent and cheerful efforts will inform more and more rational people to investigate more and more of these dubious studies until the tide is turned.

  145. Paul Birch says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    August 1, 2010 at 11:52 pm
    “On a dataset the size of the one in question, if the median drops by half, the mean will drop by about half as well. What this means is that the total mass will drop by half.”

    Not when the distribution is highly skewed! Most of the mass of plankton comes in a small fraction of the area. Concentrations in nutrient-rich coastal waters can be many orders of magnitude higher than throughout the nutrient-poor oceans. So the median is far far below the mean, and changes in the median (that is, changes in ocean waters) have next to no effect on the total (which can only be significantly changed by changes in the areas of high concentration).

  146. Kum Dollison says:

    Thank you, Paul. You explained it very well. I kept thinking they would catch on after awhile.

  147. Kirly says:

    “If you spread a shipload of rust (iron oxide) out into the tropical ocean, you generally get an immediate bloom of phytoplankton.”

    I read that and then watched the animated gif. I wonder how the plankton correlates to the major shipping channels. it’s probably nothing but a passing thought but there it is.

  148. bubbagyro says:

    Kirly says:
    August 2, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Good thought. However, even though we are talking about a trace element requirement for iron, this still needs hundreds, or thousands or more tons of iron when we consider the huge size of the oceans.

  149. BillD says:

    crosspatch says:
    August 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm
    “The earth’s human population increased about 400% since the late 1900s.”

    Late 1800′s I would buy, not late 1900′s.

    Crosspatch:

    You are 100% correct. I meant to type “late 1800s” and not late 1900s. I hope that most people would have figured out the mistake. Man’s effects on the environment are related to total population and energy use, and both of these factors have drastically increased since the turn of the 20th century. It’s true that we have made some progress in reducing the amounts of pollution in terms of pollution/$GDP, but not enough to offset great increases in population and exploitation.

  150. BillD says:

    bubbagyro says:
    August 1, 2010 at 6:45 pm
    BillD says:
    August 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Bubbagyro:

    I can’t dispute your fishing success, but I did some reading about world shark populations. Sharks are slow growing, long lived species that produce only a few young at a time, unlike most bony fish. Over the last 20-30 years, populations of most of the larger species have decreased by 70-90%. This is largely due to the killing of sharks for their fins, which cost $300/lb in Asian markets. There are still sharks and perhaps the high kill rate has less effect in US waters than in other parts of the world, especially in the tropics and Asian waters.

  151. Smokey says:

    BillD,

    Please explain why WE in the U.S. are always assumed to be at fault?

    Neither you nor any other alarmist critic ever goes on the warpath against the real polluters in the world like China, Brazil, Russia, India, and over a hundred smaller countries.

    It’s always the fault of the U.S.

    Hypocrisy.

  152. bubbagyro says:

    This from 2008:

    Spanish scientists have reported a ten-fold increase in the number of sharks spotted off popular tourist beaches in north eastern Spain.
    At least 20 sharks were recorded in Mediterranean waters off the Catalan coast last year, a figure that far exceeded previous years.
    In 2003 three were seen, in 2004 five were reported and in 2005 and 2006 only two of the fish were found each year.
    A report published by the Foundation for the Conservation and Rehabilitation of Marine Animals (CRAM) revealed that among the unusual visitors to the area were a hammerhead shark and several sandbar sharks, one of which was caught and transferred to Barcelona Aquarium last August where it died several days later.

    This next report from 2008 within two months of the previous report:

    Reuters) – The number of sharks in the Mediterranean has fallen by 97 percent in the last 200 years, putting the sea’s ecological balance at risk, a report released on Wednesday said.

    The report, by the Washington-based Lenfest Ocean Program, used records such as fishermen’s logs, shark landings, museum specimens and visual sightings to estimate the number and size of the Mediterranean sharks over the last two centuries.

    There was only enough data on five of the 20 big shark species present in the Mediterranean to be useful to the study — the hammerhead, thresher, blue and two species of mackerel shark, which averaged a decline of 97 percent.

    The difference? One is by marine biologists, the other by fishermen. Marine biologists are responsible for the lions’ share of reports. Just like the bulk of “climate science” reports allowed into the media are from the alarmists. Maybe we need more warm-earthers, ecologists, and marine biologists to get more “unbiased” reports? [sarc...]

    Vested interests at work, perhaps? I guess everyone has to make a living. You pays your money, you takes your chances. “Fallen by 97% in the last 200 years”? Really – sound familiar?

    I recommend not swimming in the ocean after dark, at any rate.

  153. Some background information is in place.
    1) I don’t trust any of Boris Worm’s publications. He is too much an activist/politician than a scientist. Check it out for yourself.

    2) The Secchi disk (Sd) method consists of lowering a black/white disc into the sea and measuring the depth it disappears. I’ve done some thousands of such measurements myself and soon found out that major improvements were needed. Waves, ripples, sun reflection and clouds can add 50-80% error to the measurement and pollution even more (mud). To do it accurately from a ship is unthinkable. One needs to be in the water with a dark mask, for lowering the Sd. I had to make one that sank fast, and flashed for more accuracy. Even then the correlation between Sd depth and plankton biomass was tenuous. It appears that the method measures light diffusion more so than light absorption, and light underwater does strange things (Raleigh & Tindall diffusion and reflection).

    3) Measuring plankton density from satellites will probably never be possible. There are too many interpretations, calculations and corrections to make it a stable method over decades. Then there is the assumption that plankton is green as in chlorophyll, yet most biomass is brown. Then one assumes that the surface is representative of the entire photic depth (sunlit depth). It is not. Then there are the mixotrophs, animals with plant cells in their skins, living mainly in very clear seas, being almost invisible, yet very productive.

    4) The plankton ecosystem is the least understood in this world. Some people think that overfishing causes more zooplankton and thus less phytoplankton. Rubbish. The sea does not work like that. What is still being overlooked is that the sea’s main biomass consists of bacteria that decompose biomatter. Bacteria rule the sea (and the land). And then there is the mysterious Recalcitrant Dissolved Organic Carbon (RDOC), a huge inert biomass. Most of our thinking and logic about the sea is totally wrong. http://www.seafriends.org.nz/dda/
    To link plankton productivity with a tiny increase in sea temperature, shows arrogance.

    5) The published data is erratic and discontinuous and entirely irrelevant. To average it and draw curves through it is not science. This is a failed experiment and should have been recognised as such, and should never have made it to a ‘respectable’ journal.

  154. BillD says:

    Smokey says:
    August 2, 2010 at 10:55 am
    BillD,

    Please explain why WE in the U.S. are always assumed to be at fault?

    Smokey:

    If you read my comment, you should understand that I said that the decline in sharks is mainly due to “finning” for Asian markets. As far as I know, we in the US are not involved in this wasteful and distructive practise. I also stated that the situation for sharks may be better in US waters.

  155. Oakden Wolf says:

    Most of the comments of relevance have already been provided, so my submission
    here is unlikely to generate any particular notice. Still, I am surprised that passionate scientifically-minded readers are so partial to this commentary by WE; from what I read, WE has mainly written a personal opinion stating his argumentum ad incredulus regarding the study findings. Several times he states that he “doesn’t believe” the results can be true, and his esteemed opinion seems to hold sway amongst some readers here.

    “The short answer is that I don’t know … but I don’t believe their results.”

    The authors of the study do not seem to realize that if the total amount of phytoplankton were cut by more than half as they claim, the total mass of
    almost all living creatures in the open ocean would be cut about in half as well. And I see no evidence of that having happened over the last century.

    So that’s why I say I don’t know where their math went wrong, but I don’t believe their results. I don’t believe we’ve lost about half the total mass
    of all oceanic creatures.

    I read three relevant dissenting comments; those of Julian Flood, EW, and BillD. These comments are in line with my own thinking on this subject and the published research paper. Herewith is a short summary of my main thought-points.

    1. The technique provides a way to look back into the past of oceanic conditions,
    albeit with several caveats, which are noted. Because open ocean seawater optical
    conditions are primarily determined by phytoplankton populations, this technique
    seems viable under the proper conditions. However, it should be clearly noted that some of the most productive regions, particularly coastal upwelling zones, might not be the proper conditions. In the areas of the ocean with very low phytoplankton populations, there could be a significant reduction of phytoplankton mass without a noticeable effect on higher trophic levels, because the higher predators don’t generally congregate where there is very little to eat. Indeed, the mentioned Grand Banks cod collapse was partly enabled by the predictable cycle of the Grand Banks seasonal productivity, which the cod followed. It follows that if the major upwelling zones have remained just about as productive as they were a century ago, they may provide the vast majority of the plankton utilized by predators, while there could still be an overall decline in the global phytoplankton population as described.

    2. It has been noted, in one respect by Myers and Worm with regard to oceanic
    megafauna, that our collective memories are short. We of this generation and probably a couple generations back may not remember well the abundance of the nature world before there was significant human impact. This article comments at some length on this:

    Ocean Life Of Ages Past Boggle Modern Imagination With Incredible Sizes, Abundance And Distribution

    The lead example, that there were 27-32,000 southern right whales around New Zealand (that number is only for southern right whales around New Zealand — not ALL whales in the global ocean) is remarkable. Is there any way to estimate the amount of phytoplankton biomass required to sustain the pre-whaling whale populations of the globe? I doubt it, but this one quoted number indicates that whale populations were orders of magnitude larger than present. Those numbers require a lot of phytoplankton, to feed the baleen whales directly and to feed the toothed whales indirectly. The decimated whale numbers obviously required much, much less; hence, the impact of massive reduction of the base of the food chain is far less
    noticeable if higher trophic levels have already been markedly reduced. And this applies not just to whales, but to all manner of top-level open ocean predators, like bluefin tuna, swordfish, sharks, etc.

    * Just a note; the well-known high productivity of the Mesozoic enabled the nutritional requirements of the dinosaurs; somewhere out in Webland there is an estimate of the Earth’s extant dinosaur population at any given time based on some assumptions of fossil preservation. Any way that it is sliced, the number is astonishingly large; but fauna grew well back then. So the plant-eaters ate a LOT of plants, and the meat-eaters ate a LOT of plant-eaters.

    3. One of the main misstatements here is that phytoplankton growth is not generally limited by temperature. That’s correct, but largely irrelevant. As WE correctly notes, what determines phytoplankton growth is nutrient availability. What he doesn’t correctly follow with is that nutrient availability is a function of ocean circulation, and that is a function of oceanic weather and oceanic climate. The way that stratification works is that a warm stable surface layer forms, where nutrients have been replenished and where sunlight is abundant. (OK, fine, this has been called into question by Behrenfeld, but only at the beginning; the primary growth phase of phytoplankton blooms is still when the surface has stratified.) During that phase, the phytoplankton utilize the nutrients in the warm surface layer, and then the bloom fizzles out, and the waters await winter replenishment. If the waters stay warm, winter mixing is suppressed, and there will be less surface nutrients for subsequent blooms. Furthermore, warm surface waters, particularly as noted for El Nino, deepen the thermocline and make both mixing and upwelling less effective, requiring more energy to bring the nutrients up from below. Surprisingly, there are some areas where there has been a documented increase in winds, causing more mixing and
    higher productivity — in some cases, too much productivity, causing the rise of undesirable phytoplankton instead of the apparently nutritionally-preferable dominant diatoms. So, therefore, nutrient availability is determined by ocean winds and ocean currents; and that would be influenced by changes in climate.

    My final point has been reinforced and remembered by necessary consultation on the environmental impact of nuclear power plants. While that’s not my primary field of expertise, sometimes you have to help out other guys, and you learn from them. The basics of the biological productivity systems of lakes and oceans are similar.

    Thus, to make a concluding statement, I would not think it prudent to dismiss this study prima facie primarily on the basis of what we believe. This study now needs to be examined in the cold impartiality of other fact that can be collected.

  156. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Paul Birch says:
    August 2, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    August 1, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    “On a dataset the size of the one in question, if the median drops by half, the mean will drop by about half as well. What this means is that the total mass will drop by half.”

    Not when the distribution is highly skewed! Most of the mass of plankton comes in a small fraction of the area. Concentrations in nutrient-rich coastal waters can be many orders of magnitude higher than throughout the nutrient-poor oceans. So the median is far far below the mean, and changes in the median (that is, changes in ocean waters) have next to no effect on the total (which can only be significantly changed by changes in the areas of high concentration).

    They have dealt in the paper with some of the issues you have raised. The Supplementary Online Information says:

    All nearshore measurements (< 25 m depth or 50 mg m-3 globally or >5 mg m-3 in open ocean waters (> 200 m depth or >200 km from the nearest coastline) were flagged as biologically improbable outliers and removed (n=23,379).

    So that puts some limits on the question. Next, if we assume that the reduction is uniform (across the board), mean and median move in tandem. If the reduction is only in the large values (inshore), or only in the small values (open ocean), the median won’t move much at all. Which makes me suspect an across the board decline …

    However, as you point out, the median is not the proper measurement. Since we are interested in the total productivity of the ocean, the mean would be a much more valuable measure.

  157. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Oakden Wolf says:
    August 2, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Most of the comments of relevance have already been provided, so my submission
    here is unlikely to generate any particular notice. Still, I am surprised that passionate scientifically-minded readers are so partial to this commentary by WE; from what I read, WE has mainly written a personal opinion stating his argumentum ad incredulus regarding the study findings. Several times he states that he “doesn’t believe” the results can be true, and his esteemed opinion seems to hold sway amongst some readers here.

    Oakden, rather than dissing my judgment, perhaps you could take the other side and explain to us why you believe the paper’s claim that a change in ocean temperatures of 0.4°C has caused a 50% decrease in the total production of the ocean. No, I don’t believe that, and if you do, you need to explain why that does not seem as “incredulus” to you as it does to me.

    I find that to be an extraordinary claim, and as the old saw goes, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. In my opinion, they have not come anywhere near providing that extraordinary evidence.

    But I’m always willing to listen. I say their results are not believable, and far from relying on “argumentum ad incredulus” as you say, I have specified exactly why I don’t believe them.

    You have said that their results are believable … but you haven’t provided any more evidence for the reality of their claims than the paper did. Where is your extraordinary evidence that we have lost half of the productivity of the ocean because of a 0.4°C rise in global ocean surface temperature?

    w.

  158. Gail Combs says:

    Dr Floor Anthoni says:
    August 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Some background information is in place.
    1) I don’t trust any of Boris Worm’s publications. He is too much an activist/politician than a scientist. Check it out for yourself.,,,
    ____________________________________________________________
    Dr Anthoni, Thank you for your analysis of this paper.

    One of the great things about WUWT is people who actually have detailed knowledge in the field comment. Many here can pick out that a paper does not pass the “smell test” but can not necessarily pin point exactly what is wrong, so thank you.

    This paper really had a bad smell to it. So I hope you write a letter of rebuttal to the paper that published it.

  159. phlogiston says:

    The big mistake in this paper is to equate concentration with production rate – a serious mathematical illiteracy. At higher temperatures, both primary production and zooplankton grazing will be at a higher rate, but phytoplankton conentration not necessarily different.

  160. phlogiston says:

    Roy Spencer recently showed that 20th century temperatures could be modeled as a direct function of the ENSO related ocean oscillation cycles. This leads to an interesting causation palindrome – either increasing SSTs influence the ENSO and ocean cycles and cause increased stratification; or ENSO and ocean cycles cause increased SSTs – and more stratification (e.g. El Nino). Take your pick. In any case, with a second big La Nina in a half-decade, it looks like the cycle is changing.

  161. Willis Eschenbach says:

    phlogiston says:
    August 2, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    The big mistake in this paper is to equate concentration with production rate – a serious mathematical illiteracy. At higher temperatures, both primary production and zooplankton grazing will be at a higher rate, but phytoplankton conentration not necessarily different.

    Thanks, phlogiston. It is true as you say that production rate can change with a stable concentration. My point is slightly different. This is that if you have half the concentration and the same reproduction/predation rate (ceteris paribus, as usual), you will only get half the total production.

  162. Paul Birch says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    August 2, 2010 at 10:44 pm
    “Next, if we assume that the reduction is uniform (across the board), mean and median move in tandem. If the reduction is only in the large values (inshore), or only in the small values (open ocean), the median won’t move much at all.”

    Oh dear, you’re still not getting it. There is absolutely no reason to assume that the reduction is uniform, because the experiment does not and cannot give reliable data for the coastal waters (where most of the plankton reside and most plankton activity takes place, and which are subject to quite different and differently varying conditions). Because the majority of samples are in ocean waters, the median is determined only by what happens in those ocean waters. Not by what happens elsewhere. Total productivity could have increased a thousand-fold, and this metric would not show it. We have no idea (from these observations) what is happening to the mean, and all the statistical cleverness in creation cannot tell us.

  163. Jim Cripwell says:

    I dont know if anyone is still reading this, but I was given a reference to what is alleged to be the information that Willis is looking for.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7306/extref/nature09268-s1.pdf

    Is this the missing data and methodology?

  164. Bart Nielsen says:

    Hi Willis,

    Small knit to pick in an otherwise excellent article. When you say,”The authors of the study do not seem to realize that if the total amount of phytoplankton were cut by more than half as they claim, the total mass of almost all living creatures in the open ocean would be cut about in half as well. No way around it, every farmer knows the equation. Half the feed means half the weight of the animals.” I think in truth if the mass of phytoplankton were to cut in half, the effects on the creatures higher up the food chain would be far more devastating than a 50% reduction. This has to do in part with the density of phytoplankton in the water. For instance, if you put enough feed in a manger to keep a cow alive and maintaining a weight of 1,100 lbs., cutting that feed in half will probably kill the cow rather than just giving you a 550 lb. cow. Now if you take the feed needed to keep the cow at 1,100 lbs. and instead of putting it in a manger, scatter it uniformly over a 100 acre parking lot with no other food source available, once again the cow will not be able to maintain its 1,100 lb. weight because it will take too much effort to gather the food, and at that density much of the available food won’t be usable to the cow.

    The bottom line here is: IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!!!

  165. phlogiston says:

    Willis Eschenbach, Aug 3, 1:42 am

    Point taken, your argument is made stronger by understatement (one could almost mistake you for an Englishman!). Indeed the kind of climate trauma that would result in marine primary production being cut in half would probably qualify as a small to medium sized mass extinction of the era boundary defining type. (The watermelon red-greens would of course claim that humans are achieving just that, but our efforts so far have fallen well short of replacement of the whole macrofauna which is the benchmark for a decent extinction event.)

    In characteritic AGW self-contradiction (e.g. every region of the world is the fastest warming) the BBC a few days ago posted an article about eutrophication in the Baltic (sorry no link, I’m writing from a mobile phone). Here we are told that agricultural fertilizer run-off causes increased algal blooms at sea – also photogenically visible from satellite – and that this is one of the more serious anthropogenic impacts on the oceans.

    So we are increasing and decreasing primary production, at the same time? Maybe that’s why the reality is probably little if any change.

  166. nandheeswaran jothi says:

    only thing that this article shows is that,

    1: if you start with some preconceived notion, you can create trends that are actually not there.
    2: if you are willing to say what the journals/fundGranters want, you can get money and publish that nonsense.

  167. Oakden Wolf says:

    Willis,

    You missed a lot of marks with your reply. It is not up to me to prove anything; I was commenting that your remarks on the paper seemed to merely indicate your disbelief in the results, without having any particular factual basis for your disbelief other than anecdote. You have raised question with the results; if you are going to show that your (dis)beliefs have merit, you would support them with an actual research analysis, as would any scientist.

    On the other hand, I supposed that the significant reduction in higher trophic level populations, particularly top predators (whales, sharks, 75% or more of fisheries at full capacity or overexploited) would mean that a reduced phytoplankton biomass does not have to support the former abundance of the oceans. I provided a Web reference linked in my previous reply; this was a report preceding a conference of the History of Marine Animal Populations Oceans Past II conference:

    History of Marine Animal Populations
    Census of Marine Life
    Oceans Past I and II

    The HMAP compilations indicate a substantial reduction in marine populations. This is consistent with my comments. They have plenty of data that could be used in
    research.

    Finally, you are asking for support for changes in phytoplankton abundance due to a 0.4 C rise in ocean temperatures. As I noted to Steven Goddard, that is not all there is to it, by a long way. An example: in the Arabian Sea, warming continental temperatures have led to increased monsoon wind speeds, causing an increase in productivity and a species shift, disfavorable to diatoms. The ocean temperature change range of the monsoons has probably not altered much. But the dynamics of the monsoon have.

    The Boyce paper itself says: “Long-term trends in phytoplankton could be linked to changes in vertical stratification and upwelling, aerosol deposition, ice, wind and cloud formation, coastal runoff, ocean circulation, or trophic effects.” So if the state of the global ocean system is to be assessed, it will not be assessed simply on the basis of one or two globally-averaged metrics. The oceans aren’t that simple.

    I’ve posted a couple of articles in the past on this:

    Trophy fish now would have been bait-size decades ago

    The ones that got away just aren’t there anymore

    (Willis, you are a perceptive individual; your posts are worth reading. This one immediately struck me as offhand and shallow. What’s the point of reading for accurate information if at the times we find it lacking, we don’t note that? Your usual standard is much higher than this.)

    Danke – auf Wiedersehen — und gute Nacht.

  168. Max says:

    Prior to the Assuan Dam, the flooding of the Nile each fall brought nutrients to the sea and supported a productive fishing industry. In 1970 the Nile water supply to the sea was cut off by the Dam, no nutrients were delivered and the fishing industry collapsed. However, since the 1980s fertilizer and sewage nutrients have more than replaced the historical levels. The fishing industry has recovered.

    Obviously, nutrients were the limiting factor off the Nile delta. Not the seawater temperature.

  169. Ziiex Zeburz says:

    tallbloke Aug. 1 2010 3.27am
    in reply to my post Ziiez Zeburz Aug. 1 3.16 am
    Sorry for the delay in answering and I don’t even know if you will see this answer to you questions,
    I ‘borrowed ‘ the Barton recorders from my works store as all are on holiday right now and they are excess to our requirements for a few weeks, I did this because of the continual references to decimal point temperatures, having some experience in heat and pressure recording I am always a bit skeptic when reading ” world sea temp. increasing by 0.04c or global temp increasing by 0.2c By placing the recorders in the field ( grass, that had been cut and bailed 2 days before I started) and the 2 recorders at different height’s from the ground I wanted to see the variances in the 3 temp.
    As explained in the above post it was 0.097c now 2 days later and having had in that time 6.3 hours of rain and plus 9 hours of above average humidity the differance in the 3 temp. recorders is 0.0948 which to me proves my belief that anyone quoting global or even area temp. of decimal points is not understanding his subject, as a fixed position record shows decimal points in variation.
    Ziiex

  170. Ziiex Zeburz says:

    Correction to the above post
    and the 2 recorders different heights from the ground / should read 3 recorders.

  171. Anderlan says:

    “The first clue to where they went wrong is visible in Fig. 1. Although as you can see there is more phytoplankton in the cooler regions of the north, the same is not true in the corresponding regions in the south despite the ocean temperatures being very similar.”

    Well, of course, temperature is not the only thing a phytoplankton needs to survive. It also needs sunlight. You seem to be saying that because sunlight ALSO effects it, temperature is not killing it off. That really seems to be your line of argument. (If the image of the concentration of phytoplankton represents an instant or small section of time, then it is clearly taken during the norther summer, when there would be hardly any light in the extreme south for them.)

  172. Anderlan says:

    Hey, I spoke to early when I had just seen the first figure and your first point, and jumped at how weak it appeared. My point still holds, that because you show that phytoplankton are very dependent on nutrients, doesn’t prove the point that temperature does not significantly effect their numbers. The data shows that temperature has coincided with a decline. Perhaps temperature effects nutrients.

    You need to show that there is something else that caused the decline or that there has been no decline. Use the same site that they used for data, prove them wrong. But you have to have a specific idea of what’s going on. We need to figure out the 26,000 individual things that are causing the 26,000 lines of “evidence” to occur that all these fools keep attributing to CO2 emissions.

  173. jmrSudbury says:

    Suzuki has a silly article about this. He says that, “[Phytoplankton] also remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce more than half the oxygen we breathe.”

    http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Environment/Suzuki/2010/08/04/14920156.html

    If the phytoplankton really produce more than half of the oxygen we breathe, and the phytoplankton are down by about 40 percent since 1950, then our oxygen levels would be down by at least 20 percent. That would definately have gotten noticed.

    John M Reynolds

Comments are closed.