“We need more hurricanes to save the coral reefs”

http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/irene_heat_loss.png?w=602&h=375

Above: SST heat loss from Hurricane Irene

The title is sarcasm, but it does present an interesting quandary for alarmists. What’s more acceptable – hurricanes and the loss of life and property they bring, or loss of coral reef systems? My guess is that given the dislike for humankind often demonstrated by the environmental movement, they’d go for more hurricanes, and then use them to squall about “increasing extreme weather”. Fortunately, as Dr. Ryan Maue has shown us again and again, there is no upward trend in hurricane frequency.

From the AGU weekly highlights:

Preventing coral bleaching, one hurricane at a time

In recent decades, sea surface temperatures and the occurrence of heat stress in coral communities have soared.

High surface water temperatures lead coral populations to evict their symbiotic, and colorful, algal residents. The photosynthesizing algae are what feed the coral, and the process-known as bleaching-can eventually kill it, leaving parched white exoskeletons in place of formerly vibrant reefs. However, not all coral reefs seem equally affected by mass bleaching at the hands of global warming. Some processes, like deep water upwelling, are known to offset rising temperatures locally, but Carrigan and Puotinen investigate a novel mechanism that they suggest may be responsible for protecting some susceptible populations.

Tropical cyclones (TCs) induce ocean mixing. Their strong winds whisk heat away from the sea surface, cooling surface temperatures by up to 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in an area typically spanning hundreds of kilometers from the eye of the storm. Though the strong waves associated with TCs are known to damage coral reefs, the extent of the cooling effect far exceeds the localized damage. Using historical TC storm tracks and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch’s records of thermal stress from 1985 to 2009, the authors analyze whether or not the cooling effect of TCs could temporarily alleviate escalating sea surface temperatures, staving off coral bleaching. At the basin scale, they find that TCs play a significant role in mitigating thermal stress for coral reefs in the North Atlantic. Further, their analysis suggests that TCs are likely important for the Great Barrier Reef, along with coral communities in western Australia, Japan, and the southwest Indian Ocean, though the spatial and temporal resolution of their model is not detailed enough to make a definitive statement. The authors note that their investigation only considered the effect of TCs on reef ecosystems that were already experiencing thermal stress. They raise the possibility that cyclones could play a preventative role, cooling the ocean waters before the corals’ heat threshold is exceeded.

Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2011GL049722, 2011 http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011GL049722

Title: Assessing the potential for tropical cyclone induced sea surface cooling to reduce thermal stress on the world’s coral reefs

Authors: A. D. Carrigan and M. L. Puotinen: Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia and School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, Ohio, USA.

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39 Responses to “We need more hurricanes to save the coral reefs”

  1. onlyme says:

    Does this mean that offshore wind farms with giant turbines which slow down airflow and thus reduce wind induced mixing of the various temperature waters and reduce evaporative cooling will contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs?

    Inquiring minds would like to know.

  2. TerryS says:

    Second line “prevent an interesting quandary” should be “present an interesting quandary”

    [FIXED. Thanks. -REP]

  3. Ryan N. Maue says:

    This paper is quite good and deserves to be an AGU highlight since they rightly acknowledge the limitations of ascribing global TC activity changes to global warming:

    From their paper,

    [10] TC activity at reefs in all regions varies considerably over time (Figure 2), most notably over the second half of the study period where activity increased in the North Atlantic (Figure 2b) and declined in the Northwest and Southwest Pacific (Figures 2d and 2h, respectively). The recent active period in the North Atlantic corresponds to a transition to the warm phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) beginning in 1995 [Bell and Chelliah, 2006]. In the Northwest Pacific, observed decreases in TC activity have been associated with fluctuations in the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) that are not yet fully understood [Maue, 2011]. Despite a recent decrease (2007–present), overall global TC activity shows no significant trends with observed interannual and decadal fluctuations in the spatial distribution of TCs between basins attributed to large-scale climatic patterns [Maue, 2011].

  4. Wait, I thought the deep ocean was chock-full of missing heat. Where is all this magical cold water coming from, then?

  5. vboring says:

    onlyme,

    Wind turbines increase near surface turbulence and mixing, so they should decrease sea surface temperatures, as well as increase evaporation by moving more humid air away from the surface higher into the atmosphere (and thus accelerate the water cycle, alter cloud cover, etc).

    Though, the scale of the impact is tiny.

  6. peter_ga says:

    Normally the cooling effects of any form of evaporation or convection are ignored in global warming apocalypticism.

  7. Gary Pearse says:

    What kinds of temps are we talking about for endangering coral reefs. Do we have studies from the 193os -was there alarm then? What about the various “optimums” throughout geological time? What about the lower temp range like that of the last glacial maximum? I recall a recent post here where a study discovered that there was no net damage to the G. Barrier Reef.

  8. Pat Moffitt says:

    The wonders of infinitely complex self organizing systems.

  9. “However, not all coral reefs seem equally affected by mass bleaching at the hands of global warming.”

    To this day I find it astounding how they can just make an assertion and get away with it like this. In the heyday of science, if one asserted a cause for something, the onus of proof then asserted itself. The above quote is just more lazy claptrap.

  10. “However, not all coral reefs seem equally affected by mass bleaching at the hands of global warming.”

    The above statement of cause slid by the reviewers like a greased penguin on an ice floe. Where on earth is the burden of proof??

  11. Latitude says:

    This paper is quite good
    =============================
    Actually no ryan…. they start with false assumptions
    Changing their dinos is perfectly normal, something they have evolved to do, and something marginal hard and soft corals do every season change.
    In recent decades, sea surface temps have fallen or stayed the same, depending on where you want to start.

    If corals are in such great danger from a very small increase in temperatures, explain this:

    http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media//00/65300-050-8342E485.jpg

  12. “However, not all coral reefs seem equally affected by mass bleaching at the hands of global warming.”

    Just did a Google search for “hands of global warming,” and returned 32,500 hits…oh what busy hands they must be….I’m sure this phrase will soon be accepted into the undoubtedly soon to be published, “Big Book of Acceptable Scientific Phrases.”

  13. Pamela Gray says:

    That’s a lot of heat missing. I wonder just how much heat gets kicked up beyond greenhouse gasses by such vacuum cleaners. Too bad we can’t measure it. Trenbreth?

  14. James Sexton says:

    Stark Dickflüssig says:
    December 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Wait, I thought the deep ocean was chock-full of missing heat. Where is all this magical cold water coming from, then?
    ================================
    Stark, surely you know by now, its the warmcold!

  15. Brian H says:

    Coral bleaching is a non-issue. It’s just a change of tenants. Once the existing algae evacuate, another variety suited to the new temperature moves in. It doesn’t even take all that long.

  16. son of mulder says:

    Someone needs to do a survey to assess if corals are more or less happy than they were 50 years ago. Until that exercise has been carried out, all this is so much hot (or not so hot) air!

    The UK government has questionaires that could help with this. I predict that the corals will give a happiness score of 7.4 out of 10 on average and that their state of happiness will not have changed in absolute terms although they may feel relatively less happy because of all the scaremongering thay will have read in the newspapers.

  17. jack morrow says:

    I guess it’s about over for the reefs when they have to depend on hurricanes to survive. The rotten ice,parrot fish,giant sea cucumbers,divers,net fisherman,co2 and acidification,and oil spills have caused a tipping point I guess. Everyday that passes a new crisis is reported. I would hate to live like some people who worry about all this stuff. Ever notice how some folks are upset about something all the time?

  18. Mike the convict says:

    Wow this CAGW stuff is the savior of the Great Barrier Reef, but, but, what about the silting caused by the associated flooding and the algal blooms from the fertilizer run off from all the sugar cane farmers and cattle and sheep stations along the Queensland coast. I thought that would have also been a problem. Oh hang on, we actually haven’t had an increase in Cyclones have we?

  19. kim2ooo says:

    ;) A friend of mine walked into my room, as I was viewing the graph, and asked what it was.

    I explained.

    She said: “Thats a bogus graph”.

    Inquisitive , I asked, “why?”

    She replied: “Well it’s obvious – the have all that land colored at -5.0″
    :)

  20. Robert of Ottawa says:

    Wot the world needs is more weather!

  21. Jessie says:

    Jack Morrow @ 3.39pm

    Where was the post on giant sea cucumbers?

    cf
    1. Coral reefs are extremely diverse ecosystems that support enormous biodiversity. But they are at risk….. New research led by …… analyzed the role of sea cucumbers in portions
    2. The research group set out to examine the role that sea cucumbers play in the reef environment.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/26/sea-cucumbers-dissolving-coral-reefs/

    Slight confusion arising from Mike Bromley’ quip @ 1.19pm me thinks and perhaps elevated blood alcohol levels from brandy pudding post 25/12!??

  22. pat says:

    O/T but i can’t help feeling when these figures drop to ZERO, we won’t hear another word about CAGW:

    30 Dec: Bloomberg: Matthew Carr: German Power, Carbon Declines After Italy Misses Debt-Sale Goal
    German power for next year dropped to its lowest level in more than a week and European Union carbon permits declined after Italy auctioned 18 percent less debt than its target…
    EU carbon permits for December 2012 decreased 6.6 percent to 7.26 euros a metric ton on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. United Nations emission credits for December next year lost 7.1 percent to 4.07 euros a ton…
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-29/german-power-carbon-declines-after-italy-misses-debt-sale-goal.html

    ——————————————————————————–

  23. pat says:

    another academic disaster:

    30 Dec: USA Today: Doyle Rice: Does enduring extreme weather make you vote liberal?
    The study was led by Ann Owen, a professor of economics at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.
    Additionally, the authors write in the study that “our results are consistent with the idea that experiencing extreme weather causes individuals to become more aware of the issue of global warming, and increases their perception of the risk of global warming.”
    The study findings are based on an Internet survey of about 2,500 Americans, conducted in August 2009 by Owen and three other Hamilton College economists…
    Although the survey focused mainly on heat waves and droughts, and was conducted in the summer, Owen says their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards and tropical storms.
    So, potentially, study authors report that weather disasters may hurt conservative candidates more than liberal candidates, because of their positions on environmental policy…
    The study is scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/12/severe-weather-global-warming-environment-laws-vote-liberal/1

  24. Streetcred says:

    Brian H says:
    December 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm
    Coral bleaching is a non-issue. It’s just a change of tenants. Once the existing algae evacuate, another variety suited to the new temperature moves in. It doesn’t even take all that long.
    =====================================================================

    This behaviour of symbiotic zooxanthellae is demonstrated regularly in my coral cultures.

  25. noaaprogrammer says:

    More butterflies need to start flapping their wings.

  26. King of Cool says:

    Quote:
    “Fortunately, as Dr. Ryan Maue has shown us again and again, there is no upward trend in hurricane frequency.” Unquote.

    Obviously the GBRMRA do not read Dr Ryan Maue:

    http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/8783/GBRMPA_ImpactsTC_Yasi_onGBRSept2011.pdf

    “The scale of impacts caused by these extreme intensity storms takes on extra significance in light of concerns that climate change could increase the frequency of severe cyclones over the course of this century.
    .
    Modelling suggests that an increase in cyclone intensity by half a category would result in 50 – 60 per cent greater cyclone-related loss in coral cover both inshore and offshore (compared to present rates and assuming full recovery between events).

    Over coming decades severe cyclones can be expected to cause further severe damage more often to more reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.

    The impacts of climate change on cyclone formation and behaviour remain an area of active research, but there is growing concern that warming oceans will result in an increase in the frequency of extreme intensity cyclones.”

    But never fear:

    Effective management is critical to the optimal recovery of damaged reefs, so current efforts to build reef resilience will be particularly important for areas affected by major disturbances such as TC Yasi.

    These portents of climate change provide an important opportunity to better understand the outlook for the Reef, and to improve our ability to manage the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in a changing climate.”

    So give us lots more research funds?

    I would hate to underestimate the importance of proper care of the very precious GBR but can’t help feeling if we took away boat anchors, snorkel fins, human induced run off and stopped overfishing, it would do just fine.

  27. Rational Debate says:

    re post: Mike Bromley the Canucklehead says: December 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    “However, not all coral reefs seem equally affected by mass bleaching at the hands of global warming.” The above statement of cause slid by the reviewers like a greased penguin on an ice floe. Where on earth is the burden of proof??

    Gotta say I’ve also got serious doubts whether the authors could actually support this statement from their abstract:

    Coral reefs face an uncertain future as rising sea surface temperature (SST) continues to lead to increasingly frequent and intense mass bleaching

    If they haven’t got sufficient supporting data in their paper establishing that claim over a sufficient time period and with solid evidence of cause (e.g., not just an assumption that bleaching occurred because of temps), or at least from several good solid references, then chalk that line up to another that has no business being in anything called a scientific research paper, and that ought to have been eliminated during the peer review process.

  28. davidmhoffer says:

    Pat alerts us to another academic disaster:

    experiencing extreme weather causes individuals to become more aware of the issue of global warming, and increases their perception of the risk of global warming.”
    The study findings are based on an Internet survey of about 2,500 Americans, conducted in August 2009 by Owen and three other Hamilton College economists…
    Although the survey focused mainly on heat waves and droughts, and was conducted in the summer, Owen says their findings can be extrapolated to any type of severe weather event, including blizzards >>>

    Blizzards cause people to believe in global warming… you just cannot make this stuff up!

  29. MikeO says:

    What is this nonsense about the Great Barrier Reef? I am Australian and I know that it was eaten by the crown of thorns starfish back in the 60s. A couple the Crops I think implored us Australians to save it by going to it and killing them. We didn’t I plead laziness and so it is no more. After that we realized that anyone that talks about its demise again is full of it!

  30. johanna says:

    “Effective management is critical to the optimal recovery of damaged reefs, so current efforts to build reef resilience will be particularly important for areas affected by major disturbances such as TC Yasi.

    These portents of climate change provide an important opportunity to better understand the outlook for the Reef, and to improve our ability to manage the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in a changing climate.”
    ———————————————————————
    Do these people ever listen to themselves? Coral reefs which have survived massive changes to just about every variable they face for millenia suddenly need pinheads like this to ‘manage’ them, or they will perish?

    “Optimal recovery of damaged reefs” – here is the stasis, perfectly harmonious ecosystem model beloved of fairytales and scientifically illiterate environmentalists intruding again. Everything should stay the same, change being defined as ‘damage’. The starting point for ecological perfection is whatever date the researcher nominates as representing Nirvana.

    The reference to Yasi is particularly dishonest, as it was a big storm, not a cyclone, for the most part. There is quite a bit of evidence that the ‘peturbation’ that cyclones cause are beneficial to coral reefs in the long term anyway. One thing is for sure, cyclones are not fatal, or the GBR would have been gone long ago. Indeed, tropical coral reefs all exist in cyclone-prone areas – funny, that. Perhaps they have all been hanging on for thousands of years waiting for these researchers to come along and ‘manage’ them so that they are not destroyed.

    Once again, breathtaking arrogance and ignorance is wrapped in the sheep’s clothing of ‘caring about the environment’.

  31. Raveendran Narayanan says:

    ” By capturing conc: Deicers from Desalters, the intencities & number of Hurricanes are reducing each year. International Desalinations Association ( IDA ) World Congresses on Water & Environmental Protection are having a Committee & conducting many Seminars to install ZERO DISHARGE SYSTEMS ( ZDS ) in all Heavy Duty Desalters.
    Coral Reefs are not bleaching due to Heat. Many types are Desalination Systems are dumping Millions of Tons of Sodium Hypochlorite & CONC: BRINE to Oceans & Seas 24/7/365 basis since 1985. In my paper of 1997 IDA, Madrid, SPAIN, World Congress, I mentioned about it & I lost my Job & Profession from Abu Dhabi Water Department, U.A.E. immediately after the World Congress.”

  32. Peter Miller says:

    What bit about “live corals grow on dead corals, then die and new corals then grow on them” do the alarmists not understand?

    That’s why they are reefs – to grow, they constantly have to die.

    This article is complete drivel – corals are killed by so many things, such as crown of thorns starfish to parrot fish, sewerage to being touched by divers etc, etc. A little warming is going to do them no harm at all; the only difference might be a small difference in the weighting of different species of coral.

  33. John Marshall says:

    One thing guaranteed to kill a coral reef is a fall in sea levels all the rest coral can cope with.

  34. Jessie says:

    A quick google search Raveendran brings up a few links.

    State of the Planet, Earth Instituteis this you commenting posted @ Aug 30 2010?
    http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2009/12/08/real-scientists-are-climate-skeptics/

  35. Corky Boyd says:

    What alarmists fail to recognize is the world isn’t static. If the earth’s oceans become too warm to support coral formation in the tropics, the area of growth will move north (in the northern hemisphere).

    There are the remnants of coral formation off the Delmarva peninsula shown on marine charts. This is a thousand miles north of where coral grows today. In reality climate change (global cooling) killed off this coral many eons ago.

  36. enneagram says:

    Really what it means is the following: To have hurricanes (as “Al Baby” preached) we need first warmer sea waters, then they recognize THERE ARE NO WARM WATERS, NO “GLOBAL WARMING!”…….aaahrgggg! It can not be:
    Hide the decline right now!!

  37. ferd berple says:

    Anyone that has spent more than a few months living on a coral reef will tell you that coral bleaching is a temporary affect. Part of the normal life-cycle of coral.

    Corals are mostly found almost exclusively in tropical areas because they like warm water. If they were sensitive to warmth, there would be no corals near the equator. Yet, all major coral reefs are in the tropics.

    Name one ocean location where it is too hot for coals. There isn’t any.

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