The Climate Change Blues

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It's already started

Via Eurekalert, and from the “Department of Population Color Doppler Shift”, comes this story of the bluing. Next comes the violet. After that, well, I don’t even want to talk about it…

 

Published in the Journal of Animal Ecology

Climate change is making our environment ‘bluer’

The “colour” of our environment is becoming “bluer”, a change that could have important implications for animals’ risk of becoming extinct, ecologists have found. In a major study involving thousands of data points and published this week in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Animal Ecology, researchers examined how quickly or slowly animal populations and their environment change over time, something ecologists describe using “spectral colour”.

Ecologists have investigated the link between fluctuations in the environment and those of animal populations for the past 30 years. They describe fluctuations as a colour spectrum, where red signifies an environment or population that fluctuates more slowly over time (such as ocean temperature) and blue signifies more rapid fluctuations (such as changes in air temperature).

Existing models and theories suggest that the spectral colour of the environment should affect the spectral colour of animal populations. Now for the first time ecologists have assembled field data to confirm the theory.

Bernardo Garcia-Carreras and Dr Daniel Reuman of Imperial College London examined three large sets of data. They used the Global Population Dynamics Database, from which they extracted data on changes in population for 147 species of bird, mammal, insect, fish and crustacean over the past 30 years, and two sets of temperature data from the Climatic Research Unit and the Global Historical Climatology Network. The latter includes data collected from weather stations worldwide throughout the twentieth century.

The study not only confirmed that the colour of changes in the environment map onto the colour of changes in animal populations, but found that our environment is becoming “bluer”, in other words fluctuating more rapidly over time.

According to Dr Reuman: “We showed using field data for the first time that the colour of changes in the environment maps onto the colour of changes in populations: redder environments mean redder populations, and bluer environments mean bluer populations. We also found that the colour of the environment is changing – becoming bluer – apparently due to climate change.”

“The colour change refers to the change in ‘spectral colour’ but this does not mean that red means warmer temperatures. Spectral colour tells us how quickly or slowly temperature is oscillating over time. If the oscillations are comparatively slow, then we say that temperature has a ‘red’ spectrum, and if the changes are quick, then temperature is said to be ‘blue’. When we talk of temperature becoming ‘bluer’, we mean the oscillations in temperature are becoming faster over time,” explains Garcia-Carreras.

The results are important because previous studies show that the spectral colour of a population affects its extinction risk. Some simple models tell us that bluer populations – those that fluctuate more rapidly over time – are at less risk of extinction. This is because adverse conditions are more likely to be followed by better conditions when the environment is fluctuating more rapidly.

According to Dr Reuman: “Since it was previously known that the colour of changes in populations is related to extinction risk of the populations, our results show a way that climate change should impact the extinction risk of populations by affecting the colour of populations.”

While the study seems to provide some good news for species facing extinction, the researchers warn that this is offset by other pressures. “This apparent good news is tempered by the fact that habitat loss, overexploitation and other factors are likely more important drivers of extinction risk than the colour of temperature fluctuations,” Dr Reuman says.

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Bernardo Garcia-Carreras and Daniel C. Reuman (2011), ‘An empirical link between the spectral colour of climate and the spectral colour of field populations in the context of climate change‘, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01833.x, is published in Journal of Animal Ecology on 6 April 2011.

Summary

1. The spectral colour of population dynamics and its causes have attracted much interest. The spectral colour of a time series can be determined from its power spectrum, which shows what proportion of the total variance in the time series occurs at each frequency. A time series with a red spectrum (a negative spectral exponent) is dominated by low-frequency oscillations, and a time series with a blue spectrum (a positive spectral exponent) is dominated by high-frequency oscillations.

2. Both climate variables and population time series are characterised by red spectra, suggesting that a population’s environment might be partly responsible for its spectral colour. Laboratory experiments and models have been used to investigate this potential link. However, no study using field data has directly tested whether populations in redder environments are redder.

3. This study uses the Global Population Dynamics Database together with climate data to test for this effect. We found that the spectral exponent of mean summer temperatures correlates positively and significantly with population spectral exponent.

4. We also found that over the last century, temperature climate variables on most continents have become bluer.

5. Although population time series are not long or abundant enough to judge directly whether their spectral colours are changing, our two results taken together suggest that population spectral colour may be affected by the changing spectral colour of climate variables. Population spectral colour has been linked to extinction; we discuss the potential implications of our results for extinction probability.

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72 thoughts on “The Climate Change Blues

  1. Research funded by the BBC,
    they got hundreds of millions to spend, and 25,000 salaried employees to spend it!

  2. Bernardo Garcia-Carreras and Dr Daniel Reuman of Imperial College London examined three large sets of data. They used the Global Population Dynamics Database, from which they extracted data on changes in population for 147 species of bird, mammal, insect, fish and crustacean over the past 30 years, and two sets of temperature data from the Climatic Research Unit and the Global Historical Climatology Network. The latter includes data collected from weather stations worldwide throughout the twentieth century.

    Perhaps they shouldn’t have relied on data from CRU?

    /Mango

    I don’t deny climate change, I know climate changes

  3. Isn’t this saying that “climate change” -> “bluer spectra” -> “less extinction”?

    Although the concept of correlating spectral exponents on such things as “global temperature” vs “animal populations” sounds like an awfully tangled idea.

  4. Well, whoopee doo! “Habitat loss, overexploitation and other factors are likely more important drivers of extinction risk than the colour of temperature fluctuations!”

    How dare the British Ecological Society imperil our grandchildren’s future by sponsoring a study that shows that rapid climate changes could be actually beneficial to biological diversity? And worse, how dare they compound that heresy by suggesting that there are other, really detrimental anthropogenic environmental changes that should concern us?

    Mobilise the EU to cut their funding immediately!

    (if necessary, /sarc off)

  5. What a bunch of hooey these folks are shoveling. The Earth is blue: the “blue marble,” as seen from space. But to the eco contingent, that’s apparently a very bad thing; as we all know, the only good and holy color is Green.

    Hooey! I just found a spot of green on my block of Parmesan cheese. But it was a sort of blue-green, so I guess it wasn’t all bad. I’ll have to model it to be sure.

  6. I’m not certain, but I think they may have just proved that Climate Change causes changes in climate. The mind boggles.

  7. They clearly don’t understand that the rate of climate change and the rate of change in animal populations are ultimately driven by deterministic chaos.

    If the did understand this point, they would realise that the observed correlation from this and previous studies has no validity and I suspect it will be found after a few years of time that the relationship is reversed.

  8. This reminds me very much of the reports the Ministry of Silly Walks used to release.

    Maybe this mob finally caught up with Chuck Darwin, if the environment changes, species populations change, if it doesn’t, they don’t.
    You know it makes sense.

    p.s. I am perversely feeling sorry for our pommy cousins watching the billions upon billions of their hard earned being flushed down the dunny and there is nothing they can do about it. You lot need to take to the streets.

  9. It amazes me that they can come to such specific conclusions by studying a period of only 30 years in the evolvement of animal species. What, in any case, does this costly research achieve for mankind other than an awful waste of money for some unsuspecting funding organisation.

  10. I can see it now: The representatives of each species lining up two-by-two to “get their colours done” by an expert so that they can tell the rest of the species whether or not they are at risk. Or, maybe, they will do it online http://www.colourmebeautiful.co.uk/

    I wonder if comedians are feeling threatened by this stuff yet? Are they are at risk as a species, or is this nonsense just a rich mother-load of material for their routines?

  11. OK, so we all understand that burning a forest down is a rather rapid change and bad news for the animals that live there, as they don’t have time to adapt to their new environment. And we all understood that simple idea, didn’t we?

    I guess the ecologists are desperately trying to dress up their science in a manner which makes it much harder for the layman to understand so they can sound as clever as electronics engineers and nuclear physicists. So they have adopted some of the language of physics and re-deployed it to make their own field seem so much more abstract. They ain’t fooling nobody.

  12. Let me get this straight. People are starving, and others get paid to dream up this shite? We’ve lost the plot.

    I nearly went for the spade when I was reading this lot. It’s my normal reaction when I see a steaming pile…

    Tim

  13. I start to worry when an alarmist peer reviewed paper contains nothing much to worry about and when at the same time they admit it. Clearly the matter has not been researched with enough thoroughness or zeal. Please tell them to go back and start allover again. The very least they could have done was sound the alarm over something completely unrelated that the science has supposedly settled.

  14. I wonder if their model was full of simulations & representations, making it all rather sophisticated? You all know what I mean! :-)

  15. While the study seems to provide some good news for species facing extinction, the researchers warn that this is offset by other pressures. “This apparent good news is tempered by the fact that habitat loss, overexploitation and other factors are likely more important drivers of extinction risk than the colour of temperature fluctuations,” Dr Reuman says.

    In other words, yes, we have this great study, but because it runs counter to CAGW, you can discount it. Don’t send money? :D

  16. I’ve noticed my Ferrari moves slower on hot days. Where do I get a grant application?

  17. Anyone got a copy of the paper? I’d really love to see how they demonstrate a measurable and significant change in the spectral properties of *mean* summer temperatures that is not an artifact of averaging, changed measurement systems and so forth.

  18. Yesterday a strong cold front passed through dropping temperatures about 20F in a few minutes. That made me blue (as in sad).

  19. There is a quite malignant level of scorn and derision from posters for the science described here. Many posters seem to be keen to describe these findings of increased biological change as specious, irrelevent or biased apparently without feeling the need to justify or back-up these views.

    Can anyone explain what they think is wrong with the science of this study rather than just labeling the scientists involved as ‘stupid’.

  20. I am puzzled by this.

    Imperial College is the one university in Britain not tainted by ‘social engineering’ and is truly independent; so it can give the finger when told to implement trendy government whims, such as kowtowing to the cult of AGW.

    This is clearly a ludicrous piece of research having no real merit.

  21. As the Germans sing:

    “heute blau und morgen blau und übermorgen wieder”

    today blue and tomorrow blue and the day after tomorrow again. If a German gets “blau” (blue) he gets drunk….

  22. This is some sort of test and we have all failed it?

    ================

    Seriously, My best guess is that the authors of this paper are using “red” and “blue” in a way that has next to nothing to do with color. In their framework properties that change quickly and often apparently are red. Those that change more slowly are blue. Even allowing for that, I have some trouble figuring out what they are saying and I don’t think I care enough to work it out. About the best one can say for it is that perhaps it will make perfect sense to their target audience which is, I assume, other ecologists.

  23. Ecologists have investigated the link between fluctuations in the environment and those of animal populations for the past 30 years. They describe fluctuations as a colour spectrum, where red signifies an environment or population that fluctuates more slowly over time (such as ocean temperature) and blue signifies more rapid fluctuations (such as changes in air temperature).

    Oh. Not realcolor, but pseudocolor. I was thinking of blue tongues, blue LEDs, and bluebloods. Please don’t do this to me in the morning.

    According to Dr Reuman: “We showed using field data for the first time that the colour of changes in the environment maps onto the colour of changes in populations: redder environments mean redder populations, and bluer environments mean bluer populations. We also found that the colour of the environment is changing – becoming bluer – apparently due to climate change.”

    Is this climate change the fluctuation or climate change the warmer? Does Red mean Red? Does No mean No? (Except at Yale?) Please don’t do this to me in the morning.

    “The colour change refers to the change in ‘spectral colour’ but this does not mean that red means warmer temperatures. Spectral colour tells us how quickly or slowly temperature is oscillating over time. If the oscillations are comparatively slow, then we say that temperature has a ‘red’ spectrum, and if the changes are quick, then temperature is said to be ‘blue’. When we talk of temperature becoming ‘bluer’, we mean the oscillations in temperature are becoming faster over time,” explains Garcia-Carreras.

    Oh. Climate change means faster oscillations. Please don’t do this to me in the morning.

    Summary

    1. The spectral colour of population dynamics and its causes have attracted much interest. The spectral colour of a time series can be determined from its power spectrum, which shows what proportion of the total variance in the time series occurs at each frequency. A time series with a red spectrum (a negative spectral exponent) is dominated by low-frequency oscillations, and a time series with a blue spectrum (a positive spectral exponent) is dominated by high-frequency oscillations.

    If the subject has attracted much interest, why is this the first I’ve heard on the subject? WUWT, you’re letting me down!

    “a negative spectral exponent” is coupled with “low-frequency oscillations”? That’s just blown out my EE signal processing training. It was bad enough wrapping my head around representing sine waves as the sum of two exponentials, one with a positive imaginary exponent and one with a negative imaginary exponent. The only way this makes sense is to modulate some natural oscillation with some carrier frequency and treat the whole mess as an AM (amplitude modulation) or DSB (double sideband) signal.

    My brain just exploded. Please don’t do this to me in the morning.

  24. yeah izen, here’s what’s wrong – it’s a shameless manipulation of numbers which are then translated into pretty crayola colors so they look all warm and fuzzy while hiding what the so-called “scientists” are actually saying.

    They are trying this slight of hand to hide the assumption that “Change” is Bad! Bad! Bad! But look at this claim seriously – they are claiming that any rapid change increases the chances of extinction.

    Oh really? So if the environment gets much more friendly and all animal populations increase dramatically, they are all at an INCREASED danger of extinction???

    that’s exactly what their “blue” model says, and that’s why they try so hard to hide it behind the crayola box. In their model, all “change” is Blue, including every instance where conditions are improving greatly. And there is ANOTHER dodge built into this – change to circumstances and populations happens constantly, and in bullet point #5 they themselves note that “population time series are not long or abundant enough to judge directly whether their spectral colours are changing” – in other words they have no idea whether what they are measuring is actually unusual or just the world at work as it always has been.

    BUT – by setting up a model that claims that all “Change” is BAD, then *anything* that happens at all will look like it confirms their theories of DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! The only thing that will look “good” to them is absolute, static, inertia, which in a living dynamic system is a ridiculous goal. But of course, this is a game in which the point is to show DOOM! with no chances of anything ever getting better – except their chances of getting more grant money to play with magic markers, of course.

    it’s an idiotic assumption, and an idiotic study, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  25. You’ve got to be kidding. Good thing it wasn’t Canadian Tax Dollars. This drivel gets published??? Perhaps they can determine the spectral characteristics of the disconnect some humans have with reality?

    Just call me Yuri Sarcoff.

  26. Now the Red is Blue and the Warm,Cold and the Wet Dry.
    I’m glad I don’t drink anymore….

  27. One bright day in the middle of the night,
    Two dead boys got up to fight.
    Back to back they faced each other,
    drew their swords and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman heard the noise
    and ran to save the two dead boys.
    If you don’t believe this lie is true,
    ask the blind man, he saw it, too.

  28. We have known the current TSI is low, but the UV output is higher. Therefore, I would expect the output spectrum to be shifted toward blue. ;-)
    Seriously, I get really tired of these species population studies based on models of conjecture. About 2000, they “re-introduced” lynx into western Colorado. I suppose they discovered the one that was looking into my living room through the glass patio door in 1995 died, and they needed more. I came across a reference somewhere in the past year about species population modeling coming from Arrhenius, of CO2 forcing fame.

  29. Izen,
    Not much wrong with the study, it’s just that they could have spent the money researching something important.
    Like “Is the Greenhouse Gas theory any more than a theory?”
    Or “Do CO2 increases in the atmosphere influence the climate in any meaningful way?”

  30. izen says:
    April 6, 2011 at 5:08 am
    “…Can anyone explain what they think is wrong with the science of this study rather than just labeling the scientists involved as ‘stupid’…

    If you take a more care in reading this thread you find several explanaitions of why this study is rubbish.

    It has been well known for several decades that the rate of climate change and the rate of change in animal populations are ultimately driven by deterministic chaos.

    This makes a nonsense of any correlation found in this paper as there are many other reasons why populations change. The whole paper is just a reductio ad absurdum as at the end of the paper they actually state this.

  31. jsbrodhead says:
    April 6, 2011 at 12:21 am
    So, change is good, except when it’s bad?

    Or, change is bad, except when it’s good?

    This is too confusing!

    Change is good, but dollars are better!

    I heard this quote in the 1990s from one of the two Warner Bros., Yakko or Wakko, along with their sister, Dot. It kind of fits with AGW and research grants.

  32. izen
    April 6, 2011 at 5:08 am

    It is unwise to argue with fools. There is so much wrong with this non-science, it is hard to find a place to begin. First, as someone who has actually researched population dynamics of fresh-water fishes and North American reptiles, I can say with confidence, with at least these two well understood groups, the data just does not exist to derive the results claimed. I doubt that this data exists for any other group, such as insects, either. Second the whole thing is embedded tightly in a ultra greeny world-view that presupposes all sorts of nonsense. The fact is that with a changing environment, specialist species tend to disappear. BUT, generalist species evolve and diversify. This is a GOOD thing, it is how evolution works. Third, 30 years? Give me a break, that is several orders of magnitude smaller then any significant time frame. I think 30,000 years wold be more like it.

  33. So we had all better get more green so that the environment can be more red than blue. Huh?

    This is Sesame Street environmentalism.

  34. When has there ever been a sign in blue to indicate urgency or quick?

    They should not violate tradition? A red alert warns of a quick and serious event. They describe red as slow and not urgent. That could be confusing since red is usually used to denote danger. Hunters, for instance, wear an orange vest to tell other hunters don’t shoot the orange vest or me. All hunters, with a license, know that. A stop sign is in red which means stop or else and all drivers and cops and judges know that as does any first grader.

    Or maybe they think a color code is more convincing no matter the color. Just a thought.

  35. I know what happened- you aussie readers exported all your redheads! Filthy blueys all over the place now!

  36. I suspect land change/use has more to do with a bluer spectral world than climate change. The blue animals might agree.

  37. @-wws says:
    April 6, 2011 at 5:58 am
    “They are trying this slight of hand to hide the assumption that “Change” is Bad! Bad! Bad!”

    No they are not. Perhaps you have misunderstood the point of the study because of an unfamiliarity with the outlook of biological ecologists.

    In biology change is ALWAYS present and it has no qualitative value of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it is merely measured in terms of RATE of change.
    That seems to be the error others have made in posting, the colour coding is merely a way of charaterising the rate of change, not some other quality that might be attributed to it.

    Resource over-exploitation (ie the collapse of fish stocks) and the changing land use have caused very rapid ecological change even without any contribution from a changing global climate.

  38. Climate change is a fact (but not unprecedented) and depending on how great the change, it will affect the environment accordingly. Whether it is detrimental is still speculative and certainly not answered in this study. The main question here; is AGW the culprit for climate change? I think not, at most AGW is a minor attribute to CC compared to what seems to be primarily an earth sun geophysical relationship also noticeable on other planets in our solar system.

  39. They used CRU and GHCN – I guess we can save the animals by bodging these temperature records. It is a preposterous idea to equate these fluctuations to colour spectra. It creates a whole new meaningless data set. The “ology” sciences have an inferiority complex vis a vis the “hard” disciplines of physics, chemistry and mathematics and they use obscuring terminologies to hide simple ideas. The famous condensation of economics to “buy-low, sell-high” or three permutations of three words to condense psychology: “I am here”, “Here am I”, “Am I here?” poke fun at the obfuscations that riddle such disciplines.

  40. The “Global Population Dynamics Database” suffers exactly the same problems as CRU and GHCN. Both are compiled by agenda driven post-normals with all of their greeny biases , is it a wonder that they have some correlation?

  41. “…“The colour change refers to the change in ‘spectral colour’ but this does not mean that red means warmer temperatures. Spectral colour tells us how quickly or slowly temperature is oscillating over time. If the oscillations are comparatively slow, then we say that temperature has a ‘red’ spectrum, and if the changes are quick, then temperature is said to be ‘blue’. When we talk of temperature becoming ‘bluer’, we mean the oscillations in temperature are becoming faster over time,” explains Garcia-Carreras….

    This a critical paragraph. The key point here is that a noisier climate is more difficult to adapt to. Note that the issue is not temperature, nor is it warming or cooling trends. It has to do with oscillation – i.e. “noise.” Populations adapt through a number pathways: evolutionary [-genetic selection], developmental [physiological responses - e.g. growing more hair in cold climates], and migration as populations relocate geographically to follow more agreeable environmental conditions. “Preferred” paths tend to be correlated with individual longevity and size and for larger animals relocation tends to be a preferred means of adaptation to changing conditions. Even forests can “migrate” following better growing conditions – if the changes are consistent and take place slowly enough that new generations of trees have a chance to reach maturity. When the climate become “noisy,” oscillating abruptly and unpredictably, successful adaptive responses may be difficult. This very likely the primary reason that major extinction events tend to correlate with very abrupt changes in climate in the geological record.

  42. Due to what evolutionary biologists call “punctuated equilibrium,” species generally evolve rapidly to fill new ecological niches; spend 90% of their existence at adaptational plateaus; and decline precipitously to extinction when abrupt environmental shifts including but not limited to climate-change render their inert gene pools mal-adapted, over-specialized.

    Over time the average species of large mammal persists about 7-million years, including roughly half a million years to reach its peak, no more than 50 – 100,000 years to pass away. On lengthy time-scales, “high frequency” evolutionary turnover thus represents a feedback mechanism due not only to external conditions such as climate, but to inchoate Darwinian competition among contemporary species.

    Given a rapidly evolved, hitherto unopposed species of large predator, existing populations vanish overnight. With them go whole networks of inter-dependent eco-systems, opening the way to yet more unpredictable growth-and-change. To call this “chaotic” –meaning “non-random but indeterminate”– is an understatement. Nature as a complex dynamic system goes her evolutionary way, and there is not one blessed thing anyone can do to “model” or otherwise predict the consequences in any way whatever.

  43. I’ve been reading for years now that as America becomes “bluer” disaster is around the corner. I guess those in those “red” fly-over states can feel better now.

  44. I’m kind of confused… what they are saying is that there are power-law descriptions of the temperature and the various animal populations and that these power-laws are changing significantly over 30 years. Call me crazy but I think that the power-law for the temperature should be governed by the physics and shouldn’t ought to change significantly unless you really mess the atmosphere up a *lot*.

    Anyway, power-laws also describe noise processes. When they mean “getting redder” it can just as well mean “getting more strongly like a random walk” or “more like a slow ramp”. Likewise getting “bluer” could mean “getting more like white noise” or just “getting slightly less random walky”. If the power-laws are in fact already random walks then getting a little less random walky is not really much of a deal and probably meaningless without knowledge of the underlying physics (for the temperature) .

    And fitting power laws is a total bitch if you don’t have clean data and lots of it. They should be using Allan variance to at least separate the various power law contributions. But correlating power-laws? Forget about it.

  45. “…apparently due to climate change.”

    Well of course. Isn’t it always apparent? Do they even need to point it out anymore?

  46. Hopefully the BBC will soon produce a coloring book to teach children about this very serious pseudoscientific garbage… if they can color neatly within the lines they should get PhDs from East Anglia or Penn State.

  47. There is a whole lot of money available for biology studies that purport to show damage to ecologies from AGW. Standards of publication are shockingly low. For example, a thirty-year period in this context is so short as to be ridiculous. The study would have been unpublishable 40 years ago.

  48. Seems to me that the climate fluctuated rapidly between 1870 to 1900.
    Been there, fluctuated that.

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