Save the Sunburnt Whales

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it — and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.

—Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

I was reminded of this Mark Twain quote by a recent paper called “Acute sun damage and photoprotective responses in whales” published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (hereinafter “Sunburnt Whales”). Their Abstract reads in part:

We conducted photographic and histological surveys of three seasonally sympatric whale species to investigate sunburn and photoprotection. We find that lesions commonly associated with acute severe sun damage in humans are widespread and that individuals with fewer melanocytes have more lesions and less apoptotic cells. This suggests that the pathways used to limit and resolve UVR-induced damage in humans are shared by whales and that darker pigmentation is advantageous to them.

Figure 1. A whale working on suntanning its stomach

So what does Pudd’nhead Wilson have to do with sunburnt whales?

Unfortunately, the authors of Sunburnt Whales did not stop with learning the wisdom in the experience. They went on to tell us how the whales are being threatened by the upcoming Thermageddon™:

Taken together, our results show that whales exhibit lesions typical of acute UVR exposure, suggesting that the thinning ozone layer poses a significant and rising threat to the health of our oceans’ whales. Considering that UVR is expected [by climate models] to increase 4 per cent in the tropics and up to 20 per cent in the poles, more studies are needed to fully understand the consequences of UVR-induced damage and the evolutionary significance of cetacean pigmentation.

OK, what’s their evidence for that? Well, they measured UV-induced blisters and a corresponding measure of UV exposure called “cytoplasmic vacuolation” in a small number of whales in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Both measures increased over the period, although the changes were statistically insignificant for cytoplasmic vacuolation.

For the blisters, in 2007, 12% of the whales had blisters (N, the number of whales measured, was 48). In 2008, 28% had blisters (N=28). In 2009, 68% had blisters (N=22). How do they explain that?

Despite the short time frame, our results would suggest that, as predicted, heightened exposure to UVR secondary to global and regional ozone depletion is leading to more skin damage in whales.

Say what? They’re claiming that the large two-year changes in whale skin health was caused by increased UV … but unfortunately, there’s a huge, glaring problem with their claim. According to NASA:

UV Exposure Has Increased Over the Last 30 Years, but Stabilized Since the Mid-1990s

There has been no increase in the UV radiation in the last fifteen years … but the authors of Sunburnt Whales claim that increased UV has caused whale blisters to quintuple (five times as many) in two short years.

Now I’m sorry, but I simply don’t believe that claim. I can believe that whales have more blisters. But I don’t believe that UV radiation, which has not changed in the last 15 years, has caused whale blisters to suddenly increase five-fold in two years.

They claim that this blister increase is related to the fact that these whales spend time in Baja California, where tropical UV levels are high. But UV levels have changed less in the Tropics than elsewhere. NASA (op. cit.) says about the post-1979 increase:

The high latitudes of the southern hemisphere have seen ultraviolet exposure increase by as much as a quarter. The low latitudes have seen little increase, and the mid-and-high latitudes of the northern hemisphere have seen about a five percent increase.

The low latitudes, where Baja California is located, have seen “little increase” in general, and even less in the last 15 years. So no, I don’t think UV increases are harming the whales, because for the last 15 years UV hasn’t increased. And in Baja California, even the increase since 1979 is on the order of only 5% or less.

Judith Curry keeps on about how we need to repair the trust between the public and climate scientists, and I agree with her. However, she thinks the scientists are not explaining things well, that it is a communications problem.

I say the problem has nothing to do with communication. The problem is bogus climate science being shovelled in our direction by the Royal Society and the other “scientific” journals. Until this kind of bovine waste-product stops being shipped in containers saying “100% Peer Reviewed Climate Science Inside”, people are not going to believe anything a climate scientist says, even though it may, through some unusual combination of misunderstandings and coincidences, actually be true. How does this kind of clearly nonsensical junk ever, ever get through peer review?

Oh, yeah, one final note. Seems to me if you want to see if the UV exposure is increasing the blisters on whales, how about measure some whales year after year and see if the blisters are increasing? Seems like a bozo move, simple, give you good data to confirm or deny the hypothesis.

Which is probably why the authors of Sunburnt Whales were very careful not to do that. They report:

In each season recaptured individuals were excluded from the analyses, the first capture being the one included.

Yeah, that’s the way to tell whether blisters are increasing, throw out valid data … not. Where is the headslap icon when I need it?

PS – I’m back in the Solomon Islands for a week, where even the electrons move slowly, so my replies may be delayed … have patience.

PPS – After writing this but before posting it, I discovered that the Proceedings of the Royal Society B have a letter responding to the study, which says in part:

This article is quite interesting in that the exposure of whales to UV and their response in terms of skin cancer lesions suggests the need to worry about the possible future effects of climate change on wildlife. This suggests that any non-fur protected or pigment protected species is at risk. The risk is higher at the equator where the protective ozone layer is naturally less than at mid and high latitudes.

However, the attribution of the observations to existing changes in UVR is misleading at best. In the equatorial regions, there have been no statistically significant changes in UVR [Herman, 2010 in JGR]. The significant changes start as small increases at mid latitudes, which only become medically significant at high latitudes. Unless I missed it, the article does not mention cancer lesion measurements from the past as an indicator that there has been any change in the whale’s health over time. The lack of cause and effect studies makes the statements about ozone change in this article “alarmist”. There are enough real problems with climate change and chlorine induced ozone change without suggesting unproven and unlikely problems. …

What he said …

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96 thoughts on “Save the Sunburnt Whales

  1. Personally I think these scientists are onto something. But they’re going to need long term funding, a boat and cruise around the tropics checking out whales for a lot longer before we all understand what it is…

  2. I say the problem has nothing to do with communication. The problem is bogus climate science being shovelled in our direction…
    FTFY. Science nowadays (perhaps it was always so) is definitely following the ‘85% of everything is rubbish’ rule.

  3. They have cherry-picked the “convenient” whales?
    In any event, the passage “…..more studies are needed to fully understand the consequences of UVR-induced damage and ….” must be the crux.

  4. Obviously the blisters are cause by anthropogenic UVR, not the kind that we grew up with. And the predicted result is CUVR blistering. I’m going to need a research grant to study AUVR affects on non-feathered surface features of emperor penguins as a consequence of the AOH (anthropogenic ozone hole).
    I may add a request to study basking sharks – clearly any shark with time to burn as basking sharks have is at risk.

  5. My question is whether or not the non-science of AGW has plumbed new depths with this report?
    It grieves me severely as one who trained as a scientist and who works in a technical field where I have to produce meaningful results to have this amount of manure shoveled out and passed off as meaningful.
    Yea Gods, is this the best they have ?
    If so it is Game, set and Match. TG

  6. Aaargh they be lieing swabbies.
    I see lots of whales on me mermink hunting adventures. Me and Nemo reckon they got their heads up their bilge pumps. The last one with any common sense in the Royal Society was ol Charlie Darwin, famous for saying, “I don’t think that big tub of hot water is fer bathing Cookie, I am gonna sit this exploring adventure out”. That man had the flair for causing for real debate.
    Probably the next great green scam, taxpayer subsidised sun tan lotion for cetaceans. It should be easy to check, we got whale tourism on every continent.
    We even got a great big white humpie be regular as clock work, runs down the east of Van Diemens Land. So if one is gonna have increased sun burn she be the one. (Her name be Migalloo.
    I’ll phone Bindi’s mum, see if she can get the SS Irwin, to check it out. Always pays to have a squizz. We’ll get back to the Royal society boof head boffins in say four years.

  7. Typical research BS. “We need to do more research”.
    Perhaps we need less researchers, not more.

  8. >Calling All Geoengineers!!!
    We need to put out an RFP (request for proposals) to explore the building of machines to use carbon sequestration technology and chemistry to convert CO2 into SPF 50 sunscreen. We need a device that could continuously apply this sunscreen as a nanodeposited film on the sea surface.
    Idea: (and any idea, of course, should be on the table, No?) We could explore retrofitting the seagoing previously designed aerosol monster ships, originally intended to produce clouds to cool the earth, but having failed in concept miserably to do so, to spray the converted sunscreen agent, while the “climatologists” cruise the southern seas.
    NEXT: Save the whale retinas! Ray-Ban Cetacean sunglasses.

  9. Well, first, whales don’t stay put so one would need to know whether or not whales and UV radiation are geographically correlated.
    But another thought: Diet can affect an animal’s skin sensitivity so it may be that the whales with the higher incidence of problems have had a diet high in a problem food. The point is – don’t blame one thing until you have thought of other possibilities and eliminated them.
    My analogy is with horses and clover. A common clover found in pasture seed mixes is called “Alsike” but usually as a smaller percentage. Under stress Alsike responds better and a couple of years of poor weather for clovers can result in a pasture having almost all Alsike clover. “. . . horses with alsike poisoning develop severe photosensitivity secondary to biliary (pertaining to the bile and/or bile ducts) disease.”
    http://forums.barrelhorseworld.com/forum/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=302969
    There is a Richard Feynman video where he talks about the issue of a scientist eliminating other possibilities for the issue being studied. If I can come up with one, then I don’t think these folks did their job.

  10. Royal Society;
    The risk is higher at the equator where the protective ozone layer is naturally less than at mid and high latitudes.>>
    Huh? When did they move the ozone holes from the high latitudes to the equator? Did they bring the poles with them? What’s a pole without a hole look like? And what did they fill the holes with? Smoke perhaps? Yes that makes sense, they’re blowing smoke up our ozone holes.

  11. Here ya go Willis, ask and ye shall receive (well, sometimes!). Since it’s for the whales, animal kingdom representatives seemed appropriate….






  12. What a bunch of self-serving bollocks. “More research is needed”- and by whom, and funded by whom, one wonders. Or not.

  13. dp says:
    Obviously the blisters are cause by anthropogenic UVR, not the kind that we grew up with.

    I’m sure that LED-based lighting special interests are behind this study. They want to convince people that fluorescent light bulbs are the anthropogenic UVR, and by switching to all-LED light sources we will save the wales.

  14. Did the scientists take a look at how many cloud-free days had occurred over the area of ocean where the whales were? A correctly timed stretch of cloudy weather in 2007 and sunny weather in 2009 could easily explain the observations.

  15. Was this research funded by pharmaceuticals that produce sunscreen lotion. It’s a new big market. Application could be an issue.

  16. “Until this kind of bovine waste-product stops being shipped in containers ”
    Not quite the way I would express it, but I concur with the sentiment.

  17. … people are not going to believe anything a climate scientist says, even though it may, through some unusual combination of misunderstandings and coincidences, actually be true.

    Mark Twain could not have put that observation better, Willis.

  18. Yeh, the first time I saw that study it got me laughing. I guess they don’t understand that every time a study like this gets released, they’re simply fueling the fires of disgust and now even ridicule. Is it really that easy to be a “scientist”? And is the scientific community really going to continue to allow people such as the Sunburnt Whales team be representative of them? Really? It is so pathetic that I can’t work up to anger anymore. I almost pity them. Obviously, there is something pathological at work here. Its like two powerful people are making bets as to how many ludicrous assertions can be placed in various studies and pass some sort of review. About the only thing left to say is put this on the list too!

  19. ZZZ says:
    November 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Did the scientists take a look at how many cloud-free days had occurred over the area of ocean where the whales were? A correctly timed stretch of cloudy weather in 2007 and sunny weather in 2009 could easily explain the observations.

    Far as I can tell, they didn’t investigate a single alternate hypothesis … climate science at its finest.

  20. It seems like there have been 3-5 of these sterling works of “science” every week for months now. Almost all heralded by PR puff pieces, which greatly amp up the already exaggerated alarmism in the studies themselves, and all exhibiting a similar level of scientific excellence, i.e. abysmal. And yet I also find myself bombarded by almost daily public pronouncements, from politicians with room temperature IQs, moronic Hollywood celebutards, and mouthbreather denizens of the blogosphere, declaring that, if I refuse to accept that these most excellent “scientists” have achieved a “consensus” judgement that completely solves the enduring enigma of the planet’s climate, I must be a knuckle-dragging ignoramus and evil Earth destroying spawn of Satan whose only just reward should be a quick and maximally bloody death.
    Admittedly I am not now, nor have I ever been a practicing scientist, but I am old enough to have been educated when critical thinking was still the backbone of the curriculum. Having now spent decades following reference links that were supposed to provide convincing evidence of impending climatic doom and finding instead glaringly obvious holes in the underlying logic, flaws in experimental design and execution, statistical manipulations, and wild leaps beyond the evidence collected, my initial insecurity in challenging supposedly superior specialist expertise has been replaced by a firm conviction that anyone willing to declare themselves convinced of any position relative to the climate, other than “we don’t know”, is displaying a level of epistemological discernment on a par with those on Bernie Madoff’s client list.
    Rant off.

  21. davidmhoffer says:
    November 12, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Royal Society;

    The risk is higher at the equator where the protective ozone layer is naturally less than at mid and high latitudes.>>

    Huh? When did they move the ozone holes from the high latitudes to the equator? Did they bring the poles with them? What’s a pole without a hole look like? And what did they fill the holes with? Smoke perhaps? Yes that makes sense, they’re blowing smoke up our ozone holes.

    Although there is very little ozone at the South Pole (the ozone hole), the Royal Society is talking about the risk of sunburn or other damage to human skin from UV. While that is possible at the South Pole, if you take off your clothes there you’ll likely not die first from excess UV …

  22. Capn Jack Walker says:
    November 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm
    Aaargh they be lieing swabbies.
    Aye Cap’n Jack.
    Tis fearful true, the Mermink and Toothy Spermacelli, the Har-Har-Whale and the Greater-Lesser Miniature Snout Fish, all be free-tailin’ apon the brynie deep sans 100+ Max Factor.
    Many a night, apon the deep waters near Samoey, the inky black alites to the spontaneous combustion, as the mighty beasts succumb to the Moses Blight.
    Hark now!
    Or call me a liar, the terrible plight o’ the dezidens of the deep places, is caused by the calamatous UV,…
    …’Ubiquitous Vitriol’
    Aye,…that by-product of original sin, ‘Creeping Hubris’ and ‘Hansen’s Folly’…ye see, them frolicking beasties have been afflicted by Man Made PHILOSOPHY!
    At night, with tear streaked cheeks, I bellowed Ovid, Aristotle and Plato, to drive away the mean spirit that taints all life with a hate’o man, in search of a remedy.
    How many I saves, who knows, who knows, but last I saw, the conflagration be driven away by methodes scientifique.
    When next I spy the blazing whale, I’ll regale it with the Planck Constant, or the Laws O’Boyle, let that be the only bump on the Snout Fishies hide.
    Aye,…

  23. Many thanks, Willis, I needed a good laugh this wet an windy Saturday morning. :-))
    The ‘peer reviewed’ paper is typical of how cargo cult climate science is done and is good example of how the facts are distorted to fit the agenda.
    Ignore scientific data if it conflicts with the pre-determined desired result.
    Cherry pick the proxies to support the belief.
    Use a non-statistically significant time period and small sample size.
    Keep moving the sample over time.
    Use computer models based on false assumptions, which have no predictive value, to paint a picture of possible future disaster.
    End the paper with a plea for more money to continue the work, as the initial finding is not conclusive.
    Climate scientologonomy is so badly screwed that anyone with even a ounce of critical thinking can see it is valueless. No wonder few now believe in their prophecies or the need for expensive action. The CAGW meme is dead!

  24. Roger Carr says:
    November 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    … people are not going to believe anything a climate scientist says, even though it may, through some unusual combination of misunderstandings and coincidences, actually be true.

    Mark Twain could not have put that observation better, Willis.

    Thanks, Roger. I’ve been reading Twain lately (Following the Equator), and his wry humor tends to rub off on a man.

  25. They deliberately excluded those subjects with which a direct year-over-year comparison could be made and instead made year-over-year comparisons on totally unrelated populations. Seems logical to me.

  26. Apparently climate science is advancing.
    Here we can see it advanced from cherry-picking to whale-picking.
    That’s a change we can believe in.

  27. How on earth did the wales live through the Holocene Optimum without sun block? Perhaps the “experts” would like to answer this most vexing question…

  28. Re. James Sexton says:
    November 12, 2010 at 11:17 pm
    ,,,” Its like two powerful people are making bets as to how many ludicrous assertions can be placed in various studies and pass some sort of review. About the only thing left to say is put this on the list too!”
    Thanks James, and this “list” illustrates why the good Prof Lindzen gives a little sarcastic laugh when he is told that the overwhelming number of “climate scientist” believe in CAGW.

  29. Willis, why do you always have to ask critical question?? Thats not nice! You always spoil their parties!! Please stopp that, because they know where you live!

  30. Here the BBC has a report about it:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9173000/9173271.stm
    The scientists did ponder the possibility of a change in cloudiness.
    “The increase in skin damage seen in blue whales is a matter of concern, but at this
    stage it is not clear what is causing this increase. A likely candidate is rising ultraviolet radiation as a result of either ozone depletion, or a change in the level of cloud cover.”

  31. Rejecting last season’s subjects! That really puts this silliness into perspective.
    But what a wonderful way to get someone else to pay for extended vacation cruises!

  32. Whale blisters… I’m sorry but this just cracks me up. I know all science can’t be as glamorous as counting tree rings, but whale blisters?
    Did these poor folks happen to do any histological examinations to find changes of CO2 concentrations in the blister serum? If not then I’m afraid this business is all just too incomplete to invest any concern in anyway.
    Just dump a couple cases of coconut oil in the ocean so the whales can at least get a decent tan until ocean acidification eats their skin (blisters and all) off anyway.

  33. @ UK Sceptic says:
    “How on earth did the wales live through the Holocene Optimum without sun block? ”
    A very valid question. Perhaps we can apply for a grant and study the sheep shaggers in their natural element and then publish a mutually reviewed set of papers on the subject. Might I be permitted to suggest we start with EUSSR funding grants as they seem to be heading for a budgetary increase.

  34. re: Dirk H
    The BBC is full of credulous, lazy, scientifically illiterate (their most popular motoring journalist famously doesn’t understand how an engine works!) media studies graduates. You can feed these MSM bufoons all the BS you like as they don’t possess the critical tools to challenge any of it. If you told them a cheese mine had been found on the moon, at the very least one of them would believe it.

  35. When I was young, half a century ago, people used to sun themselves throughout the summer to get tanned–many hours of direct sun exposure. Whales surface only briefly, not exposing the same body surface in a deliberate or systematic manner. How can the researchers prove that such fleeting sun exposure causes these blisters? Are the blisters cancerous? Have the scientists allowed for age differences in the populations in each year’s part of their study? Had they checked the recaptured whales, they could have told us if some of the blisters had gone away since their last meeting. The whales could have swum through the water near a resort, where the aloe vera concentration was high enough to cure some of the blisters. So many unanswered questions! Now for something serious, please . . . Well done, Willis!

  36. Could it have anything to do with decreasing cloud cover or less aerosols? Both factors being strong alternative candidates to the AGW CO2 increase explanation?

  37. What about the mullet? I understanding they’re getting angrier. I thought it was due to climate change but it is probably due to ozone. Why?

  38. Oh, what a cynical lot you are.
    I’m concerned. By exterpolation, the percentage of whales observed with blisters for 2010 will be around 98% (N=number observed – going down each year – so, say 4) – and of course in 2011 it will be 100% on one observed whale..
    Slightly off-subject, but there was a recent article in The Sunday Times by Jonathan Leake, their Environment correspondent – who in his article trotted out the mantra that it was likely that the Arctic would be ice free in the summer any time soon. I wrote in a letter for publication, inviting him to look at the total consistency of sea ice year-on-year as per your graphs from several learned institutions – needless to say my letter wasn’t published, and I got a sniffy note from one of their minions saying that my comments had been passed on to Mr Leake.
    Moral – ignore the facts in pursuit of a good story…

  39. The scientists snake-oil salesmen who wrote this pap, together with the peer reviewers who gave it the green light, and the journal that published it, would be severely reprimanded in a just world.
    Of course, there will be alarmists who accuse us of wanting to “witch-hunt” anyone with pro-AGW views, as they have said regarding the perfectly justified attacks on Mann. But as with Mann, these BS’ers are selling anti-science to the public, for grants donated at the expense of the public, which gives governments excuses to pass ever more draconian laws and taxes which adversely affect the lives of the public. Words cannot express the contempt I feel for these lowlifes.

  40. Let’s not be too harsh on those seeking grant money. After all, street walkers will also say anything to get your money. Either way, if you fall for it you get the same result.

  41. The main problem with the study was that it was cross-sectional in design, which meant they should have labeled their speculations as such, but did not do so.
    They point to a 2003 study to link UV and skin cancers. Melanoma – one of the skin cancers has been steadily increasing in incidence in the past four decades – is postulated to have a UV exposure link. The 2003 study citation, therefore is incomplete and misleading.
    The authors explain that they studied
    “cytoplasmic vacuoles”
    “intracellular edema”
    “cytoplasmic glycogen”
    Firstly – all three putative lesions – will produce the same histopathologic appearance, or mimic each other very closely. The authors’ claim that they unequivocally distinguished these three different entities from each other, and quantified them separately, is very weak, to put it charitably.
    Secondly, the term “intracellular edema” is scientifically inaccurate and reveals the authors’ lack of understanding of pathologic processes. Edema is the accumulation of fluid, of varying compositions but usually transudative in the *extracellular* space. Consequently a term like “intracellular edema” is meaningless for the wider scientific/medical/technical community. This is indeed reflected by the picture used to illustrate ‘intracellular edema’ – it does not show anything! A better picture could have been provided.
    Moreover, UV damage causes fluid accumulation in between cells – intercellular edema. This is a feature of blistering disorders, of which UV-related skin damage is one. Is this what the authors meant?
    Thirdly, the authors provide a picture showing extensive perinuclear retracion artifacts, to illustrate what they called as grade 3 cytoplasmic vacuolation (see supplementary figures). This appears, at least to me, as being outright false and extremely unconvincing. Such retraction artifacts are common, and are attributed to processing. The mismatch between what is termed grade 1 and grade 2 vacuolation is clearly evident in their own illustrations – I would encourage readers to take a look themselves. The authors do not provide any clarifications.

  42. Someone needs to do a study of the UV effect on Brazileiras sunning in their natural habitat on Ipanema beach.
    By the way, should that have been n instead of N?

  43. Hey, c’mon guys, son’t be so hard on them. They are obviously going for the Ig Nobel Prize. Clicked on ‘Roys’ link (11/13/2010 at 3:12 am) above and found this:
    “Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.”

  44. Obviously photographic and histological surveys are inadequate to the purpose here. We need actual samples. I suggest these folks get on board with the Japanese, who have been doing hands-on whale studies ever since the whaling ban.

  45. No need for me to repeat why this is execrable science, since Willis did it so much better than I ever could. One wonders how species actually survived without us humans looking after the climate for them!
    But John F. Hultquist (November 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm) has made a very good point in regard to nutrition.
    From my own observations (anecdotical, sure) I know that Border Collies, who have very short white fur on top of their noses, will get sun burn when taken from rescue kennels into new homes. They’ve suffered stress, had inadequate food and not enough exercise outdoors – result: sunburn on noses, which can become infected.
    Perhaps we could interest the kind people at WWF to start collecting for waterproof sunblock for the poor whales?

  46. I’m surprised they didn’t claim that “ocean acidification” was also to blame for the increased skin sensitivity and blistering. I guess that would be another $tudy though.
    “There are enough real problems with climate change and chlorine induced ozone change without suggesting unproven and unlikely problems. …”
    So, what they’re saying is, we have enough (mythical) problems caused by CAGW to try to defend, we don’t need new ones. These are such trying times for thermageddonists. If I were them, I’d can Cancun.

  47. Well, shiver me bleedin timbers…..not only be it worser than thuspected but a real cauth for alaaaarm …..
    From the paper, conclusively, “Considering that UVR is expected to increase four percent in the tropics and up to 20 percent in the poles [39], more studies are needed to fully understand the consequences of UVR-damage and the evolutionary significance of cetacean pigmentation.”
    Where’s the evidence for the key postulate of increasing UVR? I could go on but this is junk….both the authors and RS as publishers, let alone NERC, must know that.

  48. How can we expect climate scientists to provide any solutions when they are proving again and again that they are the problem.

  49. “How does this kind of clearly nonsensical junk ever, ever get through peer review?”
    I am sure that question was rhetorical, but it is clear that they (academic researchers & their peer reviewers) are all feeding from the same public-supported grant trough. They all have a personal stake in keeping the public scared so the money keeps flowing their way. How many taxpayers would support these researchers specifically if they simply said we are going to study sunburned whales ?? I am guessing none & these folks would be out of a job.
    Researchers commonly like to represent themselves as having no economic drivers (ie , they aren’t funded by “big oil”, “big tobacco”, “big industry” & other “evil forces”) but when you depended personally on bringing in grant money for your job & livelihood, your economic motivation is extremely high. Anyone who has been in a graduate level science program (at least in the US) has seen this 1st hand. Until this unhealthy relationship between researchers, reviewers & grant money is broken, you will get continue to get research with an alarmist tone.

  50. Willis writes:
    “I say the problem has nothing to do with communication. The problem is bogus climate science being shovelled in our direction by the Royal Society and the other “scientific” journals.”
    Exactly right. They are willing concede anything except for the underlying hypothesis being fundamentally wrong. Interestingly this is the general response we’re getting from the liberal establishment on a whole range of issues. For example, Obama is now spouting the same drivel – “our policies are right and if we had communicated better you too would understand they are right”. That too is bullcrap as what they really believe is that we’re too stupid to understand. Obama gave this away beginning with the infamous pre-election remark about rural America clinging to guns and religion and post-election saying the recession has us so afraid that we can’t think clearly. Anything but admitting the underlying hypothesis (whether it’s catastrophic CO2 emissions or health care or Wall Street bailouts) there’s never doubt expressed about the hypothesis only some lame permutation of “you’re not bright enough to understand the hypothesis”. Intellectual elitists convinced of their own superiority and infallibility annoy the hell out of me.

  51. Can someone explain to me why a group of “Scientists” (probably with sun stroke) are allowed to not only disturb but “Capture” a protected species in their breeding grounds?
    Great post Willis, I did find this part to be encouraging:
    “The lack of cause and effect studies makes the statements about ozone change in this article “alarmist”. There are enough real problems with climate change and chlorine induced ozone change without suggesting unproven and unlikely problems.”

  52. To a “Modern Scientist” EVERYTHING bad is the result of manmade global change to the environment. Indeed, to not claim that this is true is a foolish, self-inflicted No-No of the highest order. The malady of EVERYTHING is rooted in the “root of all evil”, money. And who made money? People! And how does a Modern Scientist get more money? By blaming everything on People! This is PROVEN SCIENCE. Scientists prove it every day.
    People, and the top .0001% especially–they what have PhD’s, are very suseptable to some as yet unknown, mind-numbing, manmade, chemical or biological agent that robs them of all reason and perspective. If a cure is not found soon, all will be lost; and history will record the beginning of another DARK AGE for mankind. Would it help if we placed all those afflicted with this disease on one of the Northern Hawaiian Islands?

  53. I actualy read (skimmed the study) this comment I found curious” It is worth mentioning that we found no evidence that the population is ageing” How did they possibly examine the population with out a vey comprehensive study, also and more cogent, was the “tested” population on average aging and why would they not at least mention the results of finding the same whale each year, and when the tested whales migrated and how long they were in the southern waters could have a great deal to do with results, and, how did the UV change in each of the years in the test, and, and, and? none of which I saw in the study. Maybe I just missed it.

  54. Yet another demonstration of why “peer review” means absolutely nothing in climate science. IPCC may as well cite NGO propaganda pamphlets; what is the difference?

  55. I can see all kinds of fixes for this sunburnt whale problem. Distribute umbrellas. Coat the ocean surface with sunscreen. Provide feeding centers that force the whales to pass under a sunscreen chemical soaked tarp. Don’t laugh. We do that with cows with fly problems. Include sunscreen advertisements in whale magazines. After I have my second cup of Bailey’s coffee, I should be able to come up with more useful ideas. Or maybe just fall asleep. Which ever comes first in considering this globally devastating, alarmist, disrupting condition.

  56. Their main conclusion was that whales with less skin pigment are more prone to skin cancer than those with normal pigment? Calling Captain Obvious. Sounds like someone is justifying a tropical whale watching vacation by calling it research. “More studies are needed to fully understand the consequences of UVR-induced damage and the evolutionary significance of cetacean pigmentation.” — I need a tropical whale watching vacation. Sign me up!

  57. Wonder what the percentage of this sunburnt population are Irish whales? Hey! My hypothesis is just as valid as the one in the paper. Give me a grant and I’ll go to Ireland to study me whales.

  58. R. de Haan says:
    November 13, 2010 at 8:40 am
    Thanks, a very interesting study and prediction:
    “Based on the foregoing we forecast the next 11-years‘ (Schwabe) cycle. We expect a late (2014) and low (sunspot number 55) next maximum. It will be the onset of another Grand Minimum, expected to begin in the twenties of the present century.”

  59. R. de Haan says:
    November 13, 2010 at 8:40 am
    Not off topic at all—I was thinking of solar UV output as relates to solar cycles also.
    While solar irradiance varies by only about 0.2% cycle to cycle, the UV output varies by almost 10%. Why did the paper in question not take these published data into consideration, especially since UV irradiance has declined substantially during the study’s duration, concurrent with the weak current sunspot cycle?
    The other, more alarming failing of the warm-earthers is their difficulty in processing parallel relevant data. It’s like the left hand does not know, or does not have the acumen to comprehend, what the right hand is doing.

  60. Along the same sort of strand, I recently watched with astonishment a tv commercial showing polar bears, adrift on an icefloe, of course, with a gentle voiceover inviting you to send £3 to WWF to ‘help save the polar bears…’
    Er – how does this work, exactly..? Does a WWF boat haul up next to a couple of (obviously surprised) polar bears, and someone says to them: ‘Here’s three quid, chaps – go and get yourselves a nice fish supper..’…?
    Help me out, please, someone…

  61. bubbagyro says:
    November 13, 2010 at 9:24 am
    “R. de Haan says:
    November 13, 2010 at 8:40 am
    Not off topic at all—I was thinking of solar UV output as relates to solar cycles also.
    While solar irradiance varies by only about 0.2% cycle to cycle, the UV output varies by almost 10%. Why did the paper in question not take these published data into consideration, especially since UV irradiance has declined substantially during the study’s duration, concurrent with the weak current sunspot cycle?”
    I don’t know how you get 10% variation from min to max UV during a solar cycle. The variation in UV is really much smaller more like 1.5 %.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/244/4901/197
    A simple calculation based on the data from the above paper will get you 1.9% variation in UV irradience.
    The years of the whale study were close to the minimum of the cycle, so the variation in UV solar irradience will not be a significant factor at all.
    The variation in UV exposure of whales due to other causes is going to dwarf the solar irradience.
    The whale sunburn paper is not that good. The people who wrote it are not experts on UV radiation, and don’t claim to be. They leave the cause of the variation open.
    On the other hand it doesn’t help the case against the ill effects of the ozone hole to use the tactic of using misinformation and an poorly thought out argument in an attempt to discredit it.

  62. Bluecollardummy says:
    November 13, 2010 at 3:47 am
    For 50 million dollars I’ll cruise around Baja and slather spf 50 on those affected!
    If you are taking Baja, I want Hervey Bay, and a 50ft crusier, and a penthoue, and a…….

  63. I would like to second what Shub is saying and add that it’s worse he thinks.
    The data in this paper is so ridiculous that it deserves a response. Microblisters (which they call microvesicles) are the cause of big blisters. Small ones come together to form big ones (not quite that simple, but, close to it). Finding them correlated with blisters is a knee slapper. That’s where blisters come from.
    The magnification they use in their images is so low, you can’t tell whether they’ve done their TUNEL staining correctly. It looks like bad staining to me. TUNEL is supposed to mark the nicked ends of DNA, but, I don’t see apoptotic bodies (small compacted globs of DNA which form during apoptosis) which is a problem. They may be there, but, their figures don’t demonstrate it. See some killer TUNEL staining in skin at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10500176. There also aren’t apoptotic bodies, but, these are early time points so you wouldn’t expect them.
    MOST IMPORTANTLY, apoptosis is entirely the wrong thing to look at for UVB damage. They need to look at the type of DNA damage to establish that it’s UVB (for instance pyridine dimerization as covered in this review from Dermatology Online: http://dermatology.cdlib.org/133/reviews/DNA/scheinfeld.html). This review has a very nice summary of the problem: “A significant DNA type of defective linking of DNA nucleotides involves pyrimidine dimers. Cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) make up much of the damage (perhaps 75 %, depending on the sequence context), and pyrimidine (6-4) pyrimidinone dimers (known as 6-4 photoproducts) are among the photo-products that can result from DNA being exposed to ultraviolet light. The fingerprint or signature of UVB on DNA is the distinctive pattern of mutations that they cause.”
    So, they’re trying to pass off some bad TUNEL staining as evidence of hypothetically increased UVB-induced DNA damage and maybe skin cancer. I found no research article in PubMed where any researchers have examined whale DNA crosslinking and the actual work of determining UVB injury in whales. THEREFORE, nothing can be concluded from this article, and, nobody has any knowledge of the type of DNA damage present in these lesions on whales.
    I should also point out a nice blog entry about a mechanism whereby viral infection can cause blisters by reducing the skin’s ability to repair UVB lesions. http://science.blogdig.net/archives/articles/February2010/25/The_role_of_beta_HPVs_in_skin_cancer_development.html
    Now, we have no idea whether these whale skin lesions are UVB-induced, but, it is overly simplistic even to attribute UVB-induced DNA damage to an increase in UVB exposure when there are other possibilities whereby UVB-type damage can occur by subverting DNA repair.
    These marine scientists are dilettantes in skin damage. The two skin researchers on this paper, O’Toole & Singh, don’t appear to have any previous pubs on skin cancer or skin damage either. O’Toole’s experience appears to be in keratinocyte growth, and, Mr. Singh appears to have some expertise in shingles research. However, given the ease with which a deeply flawed paper can be published given the right circumstances, it would probably be best to review their other works to see how good they actually are.

  64. @ Gaylon wrote:
    ““Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter.”
    The prize for research on whale snot was awarded in September. There is no reason why next year’s prize should not also be awarded for research on whales – what with snot and sunburn there are obviously many aspects of whale life that have been hitherto neglected by science. Nominations for next year’s prize can be submitted by e-mail. The address is given on the page whose link I gave earlier.
    http://improbable.com/ig/miscellaneous/nominate.html

  65. eadler says:
    November 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

    The following is from a peer reviewed paper. Mr. Eadler, since you are so adamant and fixed in your Wikipedia knowledge, I’m sure you can find the reference. [Hint:1995]
    “…the present day solar activity minimum between cycles 21 and 22) we estimate reductions of 64% in the irradiance of the Lyman α line of neutral hydrogen (at 121.6 nm), 8% at 200 nm, and 3.5% in the wavelength range from 210 to 250 nm. The reduction in the solar output from the entire spectral band between 120 and 300 nm is estimated to be 0.17 W/m2, which is approximately 6% of the change in the total solar irradiance of 2.7 W/m2 previously estimated by us (Lean et al., 1992a) over the same time span. ”
    And the recent “minimum” you speak of lasted for almost three years and counting.

  66. There’s some pretty fundamental stuff here.
    O’Toole and Singh have a paper published by the Royal Society, with all the kudos that that carries, in which they make some wild leaps of logic based on flawed climate-related assumptions.
    Clearly, many of the contributors on here are not only very knowledgeable relating to the very specific field of whale skin conditions, and rightly question the conclusions drawn both in terms of the actual lesions and the reasons for them.
    Frankly, shouldn’t O’Toole and Singh have invited views from these contributors and other specialists, rather than publishing the sort of seat-of-the-pants logic which is likely to be taken as gospel by those in high places, who are hell-bent on grasping at anything that might help their argument that we’re all doomed, and must therefore be taxed to a standstill..??
    Not missing anything, am I..?

  67. Ok … if it’s not the solar radiation…
    then it must be the acidification of the oceans!
    oh god, we are doomed!

  68. “The risk is higher at the equator where the protective ozone layer is naturally less than at mid and high latitudes.”
    I’m confused with this, as is it not the hole in the Antarctic that the lower ozone. THen there is mixing northward, so that the tropics would be fairly normal, not the least.

  69. “The magnification they use in their images is so low, you can’t tell whether they’ve done their TUNEL staining correctly. It looks like bad staining to me. TUNEL is supposed to mark the nicked ends of DNA, but, I don’t see apoptotic bodies (small compacted globs of DNA which form during apoptosis) which is a problem. They may be there, but, their figures don’t demonstrate it.”
    “So, they’re trying to pass off some bad TUNEL staining as evidence of hypothetically increased UVB-induced DNA damage ”
    JDN, I agree with many of your comments, especially those on the TUNEL staining. Their picture for the highest degree of TUNEL stain looks as though each and every cell is marked (!?!). TUNEL is a long-established technique, but it still can be tricky – so your pictures have to be convincing. Even their histology pictures look like crap.

  70. Guy said: “Someone needs to do a study of the UV effect on Brazileiras sunning in their natural habitat on Ipanema beach. ”
    Someone already did and the summary was made into a popular song, about a generation or so ago. You recall it: it begins, “Tall and tanned and young and lovely…”; yes?

  71. Shub and JDN, thank you kindly for your contributions. I have absolutely no expertise in the question of TUNEL staining, apoptosis, or the rest of the skin damage questions. Your explanations have been clear, cogent, and very much to the point.
    However, I am totally unsurprised by their further errors. Given the state of the parts of their paper I do understand, the problems with their claims about the skin damage are almost a given.
    For me, this is just another example of the huge gulf between far too many mainstream climate scientists, and real scientists. Real scientists run their statistical results past statisticians, and their whale skin damage results past whale skin experts.

  72. WOW !!!!!!
    A cheese mine on the moon!
    I’m not wasted a second!
    I’ve filed my application to NASA for a grant to study this first hand.
    Remind me, when does the next regular flight service take off for the moon?
    (NO, I’m not going myself, but I’m sending them whallee scientists fellows and girls there.
    We need a comparison study of earth and moon bound whales.
    That’s a properly controlled study, see you unbelievers , pleanty of CO2 here, none on the moon.
    I’ll bet there is no blister struck whales on the moon.
    But the serious scientists just need to check to make sure.)

  73. Scenario: Interior of hillside cave, outside, flashing lightning and rolling thunder.
    !st stone age protagonist: Listen to that! The gods be angry today…what did we do to deserve this?
    2nd stone age protagonist:The gods be angry alright! What will we do? Better sacrifice a goat.
    3rd stone age protagonist:I’ve been thinking….What if the thunder isn’t really the voices of angry gods…what if…
    1st and 2nd stone age protagonists: Shut up 3rd stone age man. What would you know? Everybody here except you KNOWS correlation means causation!

  74. This is so 1980s. From Al Gore’s 1992 book “Earth in the Balance” at page 85 et seq, dealing with UV light and the hole in the ozone layer:
    “In Patagonia, hunters now report finding blind rabbits; fishermen catch blind salmon…”
    Proble. At that time, there were no instruments monitoring long-term UV radiation flux anywhere near Patagonia. Therefore, Gore could not make any causation connection between UV and blindness.
    At least he could claim a double blind experiment, rabbits and salmon. But I think he must have been smoking a placebo.

  75. Beth Cooper says:
    November 14, 2010 at 1:09 am
    Scenario: Interior of hillside cave, outside, flashing lightning and rolling thunder.
    !st stone age protagonist: Listen to that! The gods be angry today…what did we do to deserve this?
    2nd stone age protagonist:The gods be angry alright! What will we do? Better sacrifice a goat.
    3rd stone age protagonist:I’ve been thinking….What if the thunder isn’t really the voices of angry gods…what if…
    1st and 2nd stone age protagonists: Shut up 3rd stone age man. What would you know? Everybody here except you KNOWS correlation means causation!
    I don’t suppose anybody asked the goat what he thinks about it. Could be a game breaker!

  76. The problem with whale research is that the scientists have to be exposed to the sun for long periods-brain scans before and after should be part of the data. I wondered how whales managed to spout off Coolum Beach in south Queensland and found that it was explained by the warm moist whale breath hitting the cold Antarctic air. A little Newtonian physics on the back of an envelope revealed that 2500 litres expanding in two seconds was more than adequaete to freeze the whole of the expired air-not just the outer edge in contact with the cold air. This present pearl equals it! If only the Royal Society could erase the Piltdown Man. Geoff Broadbent

  77. This reminds me of something I saw in the UK press the other day about children getting rickets, even in the south of Britain. That’s another name for vitamin D deficiency. Caused by lack of sunlight, specifically lack of UV rays in sunlight.
    Rickets hasn’t been a public health problem for something like over a century now. People are scratching their heads and provisionally pointing the finger of blame at the internet, television and whatever else keeps people inside the house rather than outside in the sun.
    Possible solution: encourage whales to migrate to UV-deficient British waters, and/or “fortify” televisions and computer monitors with strong UV emitting phosphorus or lamps behind LCD displays. For the sake of the children, of course.

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