Fabricating Climate Doom – Part 2: Hijacking Conservation Success in the UK to Build Consensus!

English: Large Blue butterfly, Maculinea arion...

Large Blue butterfly, Maculinea arion, Rabastens-de-Bigorre, Hautes Pyrénées, France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guest essay by Jim Steele, Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University.

What Good Conservation Science Reported

Good stewards of the environment are compelled to engage in good science. In 1980, butterfly experts in the United Kingdom predicted that both the Silver-spotted Skipper and the Large Blue butterfly were doomed to extinction. The widespread Silver-spotted Skipper was gradually restricted to just 46 locations. The more rare Large Blue had been declining from over 90 estimated colonies supporting tens of thousands in the 1800s to just two colonies and about 325 individuals by 1972. The question that had continuously eluded conservationists was why?

Disturbed by repeated failures to correctly identify the causes of the decline, Dr. Jeremy Thomas embarked upon extensive research that ultimately unraveled the mystery. It is a model of superb scientific research and demonstrates why good environmental stewards must employ carefully detailed studies. For those of you who enjoy bizarre nature stories, the life of the Large Blue is a fascinating tale of deception and betrayal in which plump, seemingly helpless caterpillars turn the tables on voracious ants. And oddly enough, despite global warming, the Large Blue went extinct in England because its microclimate had cooled.

In earlier attempts to stave off the Large Blue’s extirpation, UK conservationists had protected nine areas in order to minimize any human impact on the remaining populations. However this habitat protection uncharacteristically failed to slow the species’ decline, so conservationists inferred that the most likely culprits must be unscrupulous butterfly collectors who were trying to cash in on the value of its increasing rarity. So conservationists hurriedly erected protective fences, only to watch hopelessly as the last population continued to decline. Ironically, the fence itself, not greedy collectors, was the final nail in the Large Blue’s coffin.1

Europe’s Large Blue belongs to a group of butterflies whose survival has been eternally entwined with the fate of local ants. In a process that sounds lifted from a Disney or Pixar screenplay, Large Blue caterpillars summon ant bodyguards with special calls and scents. The discovery of talking caterpillars is a fascinating story in itself, but the story gets better. Upon arriving, the summoned ants are fed with a sugary reward oozed from special pores in the caterpillar’s bodies. The caterpillars also exude intoxicating chemicals that make their new ant bodyguards more aggressive against other less friendly ant species. (Search YouTube for “ant caterpillar mutualism” for a 2-minute real-life video)

clip_image002One species of the Blues not only beckons the ants to come to its protection, but then seduces the ants to carry it into the ant colony. Once inside, the caterpillar then mimics the sounds of the queen ant, demanding to be fed in royal ant fashion. This is not quite the royal treatment imagined by humans: the caterpillar’s instinctual impersonation induces the worker ants to approach and regurgitate their stomach contents, upon which the caterpillar gratefully dines.

The Large Blue’s relationship with ants has an added twist more reminiscent of a grade B movie depicting the horrors of adopting a mysterious orphan. After hatching, Large Blue caterpillars feed on their host plant just as all other caterpillars do. And like other species of Blues, they soon drop to the ground to summon and then mesmerize a local ant species. Because the ants’ worm-like larvae resemble the size and shape of the early stage of these caterpillars, the intoxicating charade is sufficiently convincing, and the ants quickly carry the caterpillar into their nest.

Once the caterpillar is safely nestled into the ant’s nursery, the hideous betrayal commences. One by one the ungrateful adoptee devours the ant’s larvae. The Large Blue’s very existence has evolved to become completely dependent on eating “baby ants.” And only this one species of ant will do. Ironically, these butterflies often cause the extirpation of the adopting ant colony, which in turn limits the butterfly’s population.

Earlier conservation solutions had been simply based on the prevailing biases that failed to prevent extinction. Thomas lamented, “every hypothesis [collectors, insecticides, fragmentation, inbreeding, climate, pollution] on which the conservation measures of the previous 50 years had been based was untenable.”

To be kind to those earlier researchers, the critical changes in the Large Blue’s protected habitat were barely perceptible. These changes created a baffling illusion that something was oozing across the boundaries of their protected conservation areas and decimating the species. So blaming collectors, pollution, climate change, or disease made sense simply because those phenomena readily cross artificial boundaries. But further observations never supported these suspicions. To unravel the Large Blue’s extinction mystery, Jeremy Thomas painstakingly identified and measured every possible confounding factor that might affect not only the butterfly directly, but also its host plants and the host ants. In addition to general weather variables, he tallied the various local ant species, measured temperatures above and below ground, differences in turf height, plant species composition, and the amounts of bare ground available.

It was laborious and detailed work, but exactly what good science dictates. Why the real agent of extinction had gone unnoticed finally became clear. Thomas discovered that just a few millimeters of change in the height of the grass, during the spring and autumn, could lead to the butterflies’ local extinction. The species of ants that the Large Blue plundered requires a very short grass habitat, which allowed the sun to warm the soil and their underground colony. When the grass grew from 1 to 2 centimeters, the temperatures just below the surface in the ants’ brood chamber dropped by 3–5°F. When the turf exceeded 3 cm, the microclimate below the grass cooled enough that competing ant species overran the Large Blue’s host ants. Three centimeters is less than your little finger, so such a small change in the height of the grass had been understandably overlooked.

Over the years, as more efficient animal husbandry reduced sheep and cattle grazing, pastures were increasingly abandoned. Biologists assumed that as more pastures returned to their natural state, wildlife biodiversity and abundance would also increase. That assumption is often true, but without human management, not only did the grass grow taller, but shady trees and shrubs soon invaded. The increasing shade was killing not only the Large Blue but was also endangering a diverse array of the United Kingdom’s other warmth-requiring butterflies like the Silver-spotted Skipper.

In addition to reduced grazing, earlier attempts to control UK rabbit populations added to the demise of these warmth-loving butterflies. Rabbits are not native to the British Isles, or to Australia, but had been introduced long ago as a source of meat. As growing populations of escaped rabbits competed for grasslands with the sheep and cattle (also nonnative), people attempted various forms of pest control. In Australia, humans erected the “great rabbit fence” to separate western and eastern Australia. Eventually, they turned to germ warfare, employing a newly discovered myxomatosis virus, which decimated the Australian rabbit population. In France a bacteriologist introduced the disease to rid his estate of rabbits. It then quickly spread, killing 90% of France’s native rabbit population. The virus then spread, either naturally or intentionally, into Great Britain. By the mid 1950s it had devastated the rabbit populations there. With fewer cattle, fewer sheep, and fewer rabbits grazing, the grasslands became increasingly overgrown, and warmth-loving butterflies became increasingly scarce. Not realizing the importance of grazers, the well-intentioned conservationists who had erected the protective fence unwittingly destroyed that which they sought to protect.

Once informed by the detailed work of Jeremy Thomas and his colleagues, by 1980 conservationists had begun efforts to successfully reintroduce the extinct Large Blue. Government subsidies and environmental schemes were enacted to encourage grazing, while conservationists mowed abandoned pastures to the optimum turf height. Individuals from Large Blue populations that still survived in Sweden were shuttled to England’s “terra nova” for a second chance. Under careful management, the reintroduced Large Blue is slowly rebounding.

But why should people need to intervene so directly and so intensively? Why couldn’t the Large Blue and other butterflies just exist “naturally”? Another ironic twist to this story is that humans actively created much of England’s grasslands, starting between four and six thousand years ago when new colonists introduced farming and grazing to England. To feed their sheep and cattle, early Britons increasingly cut down the natural forests that had once covered most of Great Britain. These human-generated grasslands were then maintained by grazing sheep and cattle that ate the sprouts of any trees that dared to recolonize. Similarly, the Victorians set fires to clear much of Scotland’s forest to encourage heather for grouse hunting. Much of Great Britain’s “natural” habitat is actually the product of millennia of human design. To maintain human-made biodiversity requires human stewardship.

Metamorphosing Conservation Success into Climate Alarm

“We search for a climate fingerprint in the overall patterns, rather than critiquing each study individually” 3

– Dr. Camille Parmesan, University of Texas

While serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Camille Parmesan (whose work was introduced here Fabricating Climate Doom – Part 1: Parmesan’s Butterfly Effect) issued the paper “A Globally Coherent Fingerprint of Climate Change Impacts Across Natural Systems.” In contrast to Jeremy Thomas’s detailed investigations, Parmesan again advocated that biologists should ignore local details. She wrote, “Here we present quantitative estimates of the global biological impacts of climate change. We search for a climate fingerprint in the overall patterns, rather than critiquing each study individually.” However, critiquing individual studies is always the essential first step. Otherwise the overall pattern will be distilled from faulty information. And in order to support her supposed pattern of global warming disruption, she again omitted crucial contradictory details.

Parmesan tactfully offered lip service to altered landscapes, but stated that her “probabilistic model” accurately separated the effects of land use from climate change. To demonstrate her model’s power, she wrote, “Consider the case of the silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) that has expanded its distribution close to its northern boundary in England over the past 20 years. Possible ecological explanations for this expansion are regional warming and changes in land use. Comparing the magnitudes and directions of these two factors suggests that climate change is more likely than land-use change to be the cause of expansion.” That was a very odd claim.

This was the very same Silver-spotted Skipper that Jeremy Thomas’ detailed studies and subsequent conservation prescriptions had saved from extinction along with the Large Blue. Parmesan was hijacking a conservation success story to spin a tale of climate disruption. Her “proof” that climate change was driving the Silver-spotted Skipper northward came from the work of her old friend C.D. Thomas, known for predicting that rising CO2 levels had committed 60% of the world’s species to extinction.5 Using a mesmerizing statistical model, C.D. Thomas argued that because the Silver-spotted Skipper “needs warmth,” only global warming could account for its recent colonization of a few cooler north-facing slopes of England’s southern hills.

The Skipper is indeed fond of hotter south-facing slopes. However, the butterfly had historically inhabited cooler northern slopes if those slopes had been grazed. Like the Large Blue, the Skipper had disappeared from both cool north-facing slopes and warm south-facing slopes whenever the turf grew too high.6,7 C.D. Thomas’ model was statistically significant only if he ignored recent conservation efforts to promote warmer, short-turf habitat. At the end of his paper, relegated to his methods sections, he quietly stated, “we assumed that grazing patterns were the same in 1982 as in 2000.”4 Parmesan and C.D. were guilty of grave sins of omission.

I emailed Dr. Jeremy Thomas regarding the study by C.D. Thomas and asked, “I assume due to earlier collaboration, you are aware of the habitat his study referenced? If so, is his implied assumption of no changes to turf height valid?” He replied, “No, it’s not valid. There was a massive change in turf height and vegetation structure …between 1980 and the 1990s onwards for 2 reasons. (emphasis added)” First, since the 1986 paper, several of the key surviving sites were grazed more appropriately by conservationists and most of them, and many neighbors, are today in “agri-environmental schemes” to maintain optimum grass heights. Second, from 1990 onwards the rabbits had gradually returned and did the same job on several abandoned former sites.

Although he did not have local climate data for the Silver-spotted Skipper’s recovery, Jeremy Thomas suggested that at least two thirds of the Skippers’ recovery and their subsequent recolonization had resulted from both the increased grazing and the rabbits’ recovery. He was willing to attribute as much as a third of the butterflies’ recovery to climate warming between the 1970s and the present.

If, for argument’s sake, we accept that one-third of the recovery was due solely to CO2 warming and ignore published arguments that the warming in England have been caused by the warm mode of the North Atlantic Oscillation9 (and recent cooling by the cool mode), habitat improvements still account for at least two-thirds of the skippers’ expansion. Furthermore, the Silver-spotted Skipper had yet to expand further northward than its previous 1920s boundary. Yet that was Parmesan’s best example of a “coherent fingerprint of global warming” disruption! It was bad science, but the consensus flocked to it in agreement.

To date more than 3500 papers have referenced her interpretation as evidence of climate disruption. It is a consensus built on misleading results that hijacked legitimate conservation science. In contrast, Jeremy Thomas’ successful preservation of two species on the brink of regional extinction had unequivocally demonstrated that the long-term changes were due to the quality of the caterpillar’s habitat. Although weather change causes short-term fluctuations in butterfly populations, a change in habitat quality affects populations 100 times more powerfully than weather.8 But such successful conservation efforts do not get funded in the same way as global warming horror stories do, and Jeremy Thomas’ “Evidence Based Conservation of Butterflies” has been cited by just 17 papers. Such a gross imbalance is a sad testimony to how the politics of climate change has corrupted the environmental sciences. I fear it is a hijacking that will only breed distrust for our legitimate green concerns in the future.The misguided obsession with CO2 and Parmesan’s faulty probabilistic model has supported equally bad analyses regards the fate of polar bears, penguins, frogs, pika and marine ecosystems, but that takes a whole book to document.

Why have so few scientists celebrated the good science like Jeremy Thomas’ when it empowers us with the critical understanding that allows us to locally build a more resilient environment? Why instead have thousands of scientists uncritically pushed false scenarios of catastrophic climate change? Although some skeptics have suggested a nefarious scientific conspiracy, I believe it demonstrates the ease with which the human mind embraces illusions. Once those scientists accepted CO2 warming as a reasonable explanation for ecological disruptions, despite never thoroughly examining the issue, they embraced whatever supported their choice. Their intellectual identity became intimately entwined with any validation of their chosen hypothesis. Like an avid sports fan, they feel great when their team is “winning” and distraught when their team is “wrong”. They brand anyone who challenges their hypothesis as a denier, stupid, traitor or infidel, and do not hesitate to brutalize anyone on the wrong team.

Robert Bolton wrote, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.” Once we make a choice, that choice possesses us. One of the more active areas of psychological research deals with “change blindness” and “choice blindness”. An international team from Harvard, the University of Tokyo, and Lund University in Sweden cleverly demonstrated how humans are hardwired to defend their choices despite contrary evidence. Test subjects were asked to choose who was the most attractive person in a set of two pictures displayed on the other side of the table. The researchers would then retrieve the pictures and ask the subjects to explain why they made their choice. However the lighting in the room was designed to allow the researchers to switch pictures and the test subjects were handed the picture they did not choose. Most subjects never noticed the switch, and believing it was their choice proceeded to explain in great detail how the picture they never chose was the most attractive.10 A National Geographic series called Brain Games modified that experiment on a recent segment called “You Decide” and I urge you to watch it. Once you believe CO2 is destroying the world, any “search for a climate fingerprint” will always be “found” even when it is not there. Whether you are a CO2 advocate or skeptic, we are all victims to “choice blindness.” More critical analyses and respectful debate are the only paths to follow if we are ever to free ourselves from the shackles of our own illusions.

Adapted from Deceptive Extremes in Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

Literature Cited

1. Thomas, J., et al., (2005) Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly. Science, vol. 325, p.80-83.

2. Thomas, J., et al. (1986) Ecology and Declining Status of the Silver‑spotted Skipper Butterfly (Hesperia Comma) in Britain. Journal o Applied Ecology. Vol. 23, p. 365-380.

3. Parmesan, C. and Yohe, G. (2003) A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems. Nature, vol. 142, p.37-42

4. Thomas, C.D, et al., (2000) Ecological and evolutionary processes at expanding range margins. Nature, vol. 411, p. 577‑581.

5. Thomas, C.D, et al., (2004) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature , vol. 427.

6. Thomas, C. D. and Jones, T. M., (1993) Partial recovery of a Skipper Butterfly (Hesperia comma) from Population Refuges: Lessons for Conservation in a Fragmented Landscape. Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 62, p. 472-481.

7. Thomas, J., et al. (1986) Ecology and Declining Status of the Silver‑spotted Skipper Butterfly (Hesperia Comma) in Britain. Journal o Applied Ecology. Vol. 23, p. 365-380.

8. Thomas, J et al. (2011) evidence based Conservation of butterflies. J. Insect Cons., vol. 15, p. 241‑258.

9. Hurrell, J. and Deser, C. (2009) North Atlantic climate variability: The role of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Marine Systems, vo. 78, p. 28–41.

10. Johansson, P., et al. (2008) From Change Blindness to Choice Blindness. Psychologia, vol. 51, p. 142-155.

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119 thoughts on “Fabricating Climate Doom – Part 2: Hijacking Conservation Success in the UK to Build Consensus!

  1. Citations: 3500 to 17 about says it all. We are past the Age of Reason and into the Middle Ages again.

  2. Jim,

    Logical and superbly written, this short essay distills with absolute clarity how all science should be approached. This should be compulsory reading for all first year tertiary science students. In fact, understanding how real science works should be part of every undergraduate course, especially those studying sociology and politics.

  3. A beautiful story of a beautiful animal. Thank you for posting.

    To those in and visiting us here in the UK who have never been, and take an interest in butterflies, I can wholeheartedly recommend the butterfly tent at London Zoo (in Regent’s Park) – a spectacular experience and worth the visit alone.

  4. Simply the sharpest, logical incrimination of the CO2 hooligans (both the accidental and intentional ones) that I’ve read. Thank you.

  5. This has to be one of my all-time favourite WUWT posts (Willis, yours are a close second). A great story. I will print this one off.

  6. I’m a scientist and this fascinating piece revives my belief in the way science is supposed to be performed. Unfortunately, in the present climate (no pun intended) the most banal statements based on shoddy reasoning from inadequate research (such as is evidenced by the comment from C.D. Thomas “we assumed grazing patterns had not changed from 1980 to 2000”) that implicate climate warming, will guarantee publication and attract widespread interest whereas the painstaking research cataloged here attracts virtually no attention whosoever. Good for WUWT for [bringing] it to the attention of a much larger audience than otherwise would have been the case

  7. “…Like an avid sports fan, they feel great when their team is “winning” and distraught when their team is “wrong”. They brand anyone who challenges their hypothesis as a denier, stupid, traitor or infidel, and do not hesitate to brutalize anyone on the wrong team.

    Robert Bolton wrote, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.” Once we make a choice, that choice possesses us. One of the more active areas of psychological research deals with “change blindness” and “choice blindness”. …..
    ******************************************************************************************************
    Tribalism would be the word I use.

  8. IT’S YOU TUBE HOUR, BOYS AND GIRLS!

    “The caterpillar has, in effect, shouted to the ants, ‘Come and get it!'” (lol)

    And, now, featuring….. Jeremeeeee Thomas! #[:)]


    “… a subtle ploy… .”

    Large Blue Butterfly at Collard Hill, UK

    ********************
    Thank you, Jim Steele, for another fine article. How fitting that this was published here on WUWT during the time (end of July, first of August) the Large Blue lives out its one week of life on earth.

  9. “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.”

    That’s just so very true. However I still believe through evidence that blaming Man and CO2 for everything just makes it easy for lazy pseudoscientists to get and maintain grants, because grabbermints have proven historically that they’re not careful how they spend the public purse and, that the current rock star fame of “climate scientists” at the moment is an easy excuse to be granted funding.

  10. Good science is hard – Let’s do it wrong.

    It probably belongs above the door of most of our lodges of higher education.

  11. “Once you believe CO2 is destroying the world, any “search for a climate fingerprint” will always be “found” even when it is not there.”

    This is climate science in a nutshell. I have said the same thing before. The IPCC was set up to examine the consequences of human caused climate change. Right there is the problem.

  12. So the fascinating, scientific, well-intentioned, and successful effort to restore vanishing butterflies also reinforced the unscientific and dangerous CAGW meme?

    *sigh*

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  13. At the end of his paper, relegated to his methods sections, he quietly stated, “we assumed that grazing patterns were the same in 1982 as in 2000.”

    “Check your assumptions.”

  14. Fascinating read for a number of reasons: first of all, it is a dispassionate exposé. Second of all it lacks the tacky grade-school prose of an article that uses climate change to explain away complex systems. And it ultimately points out the latter agenda. Great stuff.

  15. If the Large Blue requires warm ants, where did it evolve and live before grazing animals trimmed the grass in the UK?

  16. This is a far more powerful treatise than meets the eye. The conservation movement of the 50’s- 70’s was based on and used the lifetime work of dedicated scholars with a genuine concern for saving species. No models were needed, as real data were collected, analyzed, reanalyzed, discarded or extended, and interpreted through a long-established literature, experience and common sense. Many of these efforts were supported by the same NGO’s that today have invaded the fear-mongering climate changers. I worked on NA bluebirds during the 70’s and 80’s, partially funded by WWF. They now support the bird choppers.

    This example illustrates both the complexity of possible factors affecting individual species, and the simplicity of the ultimate explanation. Years (decades) ago it was recognized that most species at risk had narrow “ecological” amplitude. They were at risk because they had a narrow tolerance to change, or occupied at limited “niche”. Most of us in the game tried to measure as many environmental parameters as possible in an attempt to identify what put the species “at risk”. We didn’t enter the game with any preconceived notion (aka climate change) of what was likely the issue. Many of my colleagues spent their entire careers trying to save the whooping crane. Now they have to sit and watch the worthless windmills wipe out their lifetime of work. Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?

  17. Magnificent thread. RoHa, great question. Obviously not in the UK. Adaptation versus mitigation.

  18. @ Jim Steele — You’re welcome! My pleasure.

    At Ro……….. HA! (I have been waiting for a chance to do that!) Well, sonny, lemme tellya ’bout the time ah saw a Large Blue in the land of the rotary mowers…. They lived in perfect harmony, side by side, on the lawns of a great chateau, until….. the owners got their heads chopped off and they couldn’t mow the lawn anymore and…… (a wild guess with absolutely NO supporting documentation — yes, ON TOPIC, since CAGW is a minor theme, here — BWah, ha, ha, ha, haaaa!)

    Now, they are in danger of being made extinct from the building of nuclear power plants….. [%|]

  19. @RoHa Throughout much of northwester Europe there are patches of “calcareous grasslands”. Calcareous refers to the alkaline conditions created by limestone deposits that were formed from ancient ocean reefs or thick deposits of shellfish remains. Due to the restrictive soil chemistry, usually only short turf grasslands develop. In turn, due to the resultingshort truf and its warming effect of the surface, calcareous grasslands are renowned for its great insect (and other arthropod) biodiversity. Ironically although Parmesan with the help of the UK journal Nature metamorphosed butterflies into iconic victims of global warming, the great majority of insects especially butterflies seek warmer habitats. I first learned this expecting a restored watershed to promote abundant butterflies. Instead although the more luxurious vegetation sustained more birds, it created more shade and fewer butterflies.

    From a freely available online research paper “Conservation and restoration of calcareous grasslands: a concise review of the effects of fragmentation and management on plant species”
    they write, “Calcareous grasslands are known as the most species rich plant communities of northwestern Europe (up to 80 plant species/square meter)……

    Historically these grasslands occurred on steep, calcareous outcrops in mountainous regions or on hilly domes, characterized by extreme environmental conditions. Prehistorical human activities such as felling of the primeval forest and later transhumances and increased sheep flock migrations have lead to an increase in area of this habitat. At this time many species, often originating from more southern regions, could establish in north- western European calcareous grassland regions, where they were earlier rather confined to natural calcareous open habitats such as forest clearings on calcareous outcrops or on steep slopes where forest development was prevented.

    Intensification of agriculture and abandonment of traditional agricultural practices, often followed by afforestation [new forest growth], resulted in a tremendous decrease in the area and habitat quality of the remaining calcareous grasslands “

  20. De-lurking to express my thanks for a really great article/post.
    3500 vs 17 says everything one needs to know about the state of environmental science.

  21. Mr. Steele,

    I know yours of 6:25PM was directed at RoHa’s excellent question, but THANK YOU for giving us all more of your wonderful, encyclopedic, knowledge. I LOVE THIS SITE!!! (thanks to excellent scientists like you)

    Janice

  22. @R2Dtoo says”Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?”

    My environmental friends often raised a few eyebrows when I told them I was writing this book. But I passionately believe we need to reclaim the hopeful environmental movement that has been hijacked by Co2 doomsdayers. If not legitimate conservation efforts will suffer a devastating political backlash.

  23. Re: Bob at 4:45PM “Dr. Steele, can you provide this extraordinary wonderful essay as a PDF?”

    @ Dr. Steele — How about a plug for your book (title/link to Barnes & Noble or other store)?

  24. When the grass grew from 1 to 2 centimeters, the temperatures just below the surface in the ants’ brood chamber dropped by 3–5°F. When the turf exceeded 3 cm, the microclimate below the grass cooled enough that competing ant species overran the Large Blue’s host ants.

    That is a surprisingly large effect. It also has important near surface temperature implications.

    The Earth’s surface absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night. When the grass is longer, heat that previously would have warmed the surface, now warms the grass. Clearly, the capacity of grass to store heat is minimal, in comparison to the Earth;s surface, so that heat will be released to atmosphere within a short time, resulting in warmer days, and cooler nights.

    I have never seen any study into, or even mention of, this effect, and if the 3-5F is correct, the effect is substantial.

  25. I live in England, I concur without having been aware of the story. I’ve watched the destruction, the changes, horrible for humans too (youngsters will be ignorant of this). It’s actually very visible, a lot of it caused by 1960s decisions to exclude the people from land. (and for that matter urban space)

  26. The discovery of talking caterpillars is a fascinating story in itself, but the story gets better. Upon arriving, the summoned ants are fed with a sugary reward oozed from special pores in the caterpillar’s bodies. The caterpillars also exude intoxicating chemicals that make their new ant bodyguards more aggressive against other less friendly ant species.
    ————————————————
    Wow! The universe is not only queerer than I imagine, but queerer than I can imagine.

  27. R2Dtoo said @ August 6, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Many of my colleagues spent their entire careers trying to save the whooping crane. Now they have to sit and watch the worthless windmills wipe out their lifetime of work. Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?

    Like old farts everywhere, our ideas are considered out-of-date and old-fashioned. Many thanks for this finest of essays, Jim and Anthony too for publishing it.

  28. Janice Moore said @ August 6, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Re: Bob at 4:45PM “Dr. Steele, can you provide this extraordinary wonderful essay as a PDF?”

    @ Dr. Steele — How about a plug for your book (title/link to Barnes & Noble or other store)?

    I found the link here:

    http://landscapesandcycles.net/

    and clicked on the “please make it available on Kindle” button.

  29. @ Janice “How about a plug for your book”

    Thanks for the plug. However I need to clarify one point. Usually directors of field stations are Professors but I only have a Masters. New students always called my Doctor, and I often gave up correcting people. So despite 25 years of university service, I should not be called doctor. Unfortunately most professors do not want to be tied to a field station. Dr. James Kelley who was the Dean of SFSU’s College of Science and Engineering, appointed me director because I was a capable biologist and he believed my passion for environmental science could save the Sierra Nevada Field Campus from being shut down. Our chairman, Crellin Pauling, Linus’ son, did not believe in field stations and wanted to close it down to use the money to support molecular and genetics research. I am proud to say Dr. Kelley and I were able to turn the rustic Sierra Nevada Field Campus into one of California’s leading environmental education centers. Dr Kelley is also a skeptic and wrote the foreword to my book.

    Due to extreme weather, the Sierra Nevada Field Campus only operated during the summer so my director’s position was only half time and my main duties were during the summer. So instead of pursuing a doctorate, I chose to teach science in San Francisco’s innner city schools during the remainder of the year to fulfill my sense of social justice. Although a few kids were harder to love than others, my students honesty and love for learning made me a better teacher and a better person. I realized that if didn’t get my students to understand the science that enthralled me, then I had simply not made it clear enough.

    Later I lectured the cell and molecular biology labs for the introductory biology class for majors at SFSU. I asked my students to call me Jim as I will also ask you. Acceptance of what I say should not be based on any percieved “authority” but the evidence I present. My understanding of climate change evolved as I grappled with the varying populations of birds that we studied each summer for 25 years. Cycles of El Nino greatly altered the regional climate and landscape changes greatly altered the microclimate. So I named the book is Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and click on my name and it will take you t the web site with a link to Amazon. Parmesan’s checkerspot butterfly was nearby, and the shabby science blaming climate change (as I wrote in part 1) demanded I look critically at all such claims. Once I saw the similar faulty science for penguins,polar bears, pika, frogs and marine ecosystems I knew I had to write the book.

  30. @PompusGit “please make it available on Kindle”

    I have been attempting to put it on Kindle but the graphs and illustrations are all distorted. I will be in the Sierra Nevada for a few weeks but when I get back I will talk with the Kindle people to see how I can resolved the formatting issues.

  31. Thank you Dr. Steele for such a superb essay. I would love to purchase your book on my Kindle app, but it does not seem like that option is currently available (hope it will be soon). For those interested in the paper version of the book, try here:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1490390189/ref=kinw_rke_tl_1

    There are some impressive early reviews. There is one wretched non-review from someone who admits he has not read the book but has ideological reasons for attacking it.

  32. This is a brilliant article that should be required reading for Obama, all Obama’s minions at the EPA, and all environmentalists. It contrasts genuine science, which requires one to get dirty while discovering the facts about the butterflies, with climate science presumption which requires only that one illustrate the application of some a priori principles as they might apply to the butterflies.

  33. @Phillip Bradley “I have never seen any study into, or even mention of, this effect, and if the 3-5F is correct, the effect is substantial.” Read Thomas, J., et al., (2005) Successful Conservation of a Threatened Maculinea Butterfly. Science, vol. 325, p.80-83.

    He writes “When mean swards exceeded ~2 cm, the microclimate in their warmest daytime brood chambers near the soil surface fell more than 2° to 3°C relative to 1-cm tall turf.”

    You also say, “That is a surprisingly large effect. It also has important near surface temperature implications.” Absolutely, thats why landscape changes are so critical.Change the vegetation, and you change the skin temperature far more than C02 is capable of doing. Change the skin surface and you change the air temperature and local climate. Dr. Pielke Sr. has been championing this effect for decades, but the IPCC has underplayed its effects.

  34. As a butterfly fan – the variety here in Hong Kong is amazing – I really enjoyed this article. The bonus is it kicks the CAGW meme into touch.

  35. Hi, Jim, I cross-posted with your last couple of comments, so I only now see them. Thanks for the explanation about the Kindle issues and for more detail about your career and experience. We are truly fortunate to be able to learn from you here.

  36. jim Steele says:
    August 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Kudos to you, sir, for several jobs well done.

  37. @ Skiphil “There is one wretched non-review from someone who admits he has not read the book but has ideological reasons for attacking it.”

    From the language and similar blog post on HotWhopper, it seems most apparent that either Ryan or Sou wrote that review.

  38. Unintended consequences…..

    Boy it sure seems that folks with good intentions; “lets save that beautiful butterfly”, a noble cause in itself no doubt, got it all wrong (at first). Then someone did the hard work and found that their hubris was in fact the problem.

    So, these well intentioned folks tried to save a nice little butterfly and failed because they assumed they “knew” the answer.

    Makes you wonder about folks that claim they “know” (or “believe”) what the climate will do in one hundred years………….

    Cheers, Kevin.

  39. There was a fascinating set of programs on the BBC [Secrets of our Living Planet] about ecologies in various parts of the world. The most memorable one was about the Amazon rain forest and the Brazil nut tree.

    The main driver was that because there is no winter tree pests can thrive all year round. This means that seeds need to germinate a distance from the parent tree or the pests could easily migrate. In turn this meant that pollination required unique vectors which would only feed on the flowers of that particular type of tree. As the trees were also developing poisons against pests the pests also had to specialise on one type of tree.

    The series was about various ecologies as fascinating as the article above. I don’t think it mentioned climate change once, but if so it would be unique for the BBC! I may buy the DVD!

  40. jim Steele said @ August 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    I have been attempting to put it on Kindle but the graphs and illustrations are all distorted. I will be in the Sierra Nevada for a few weeks but when I get back I will talk with the Kindle people to see how I can resolved the formatting issues.

    See: How to convert your book from InDesign to Kindle in 10 minutes or less

    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/diy-it/how-to-convert-your-book-from-indesign-to-kindle-in-10-minutes-or-less/434

    Hint: I have InDesign 5.5, a Kindle and I am retired… :-)

  41. Robert Bolton wrote, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.”

    I think he nailed it!

  42. RoHa says:
    August 6, 2013 at 6:03 pm
    If the Large Blue requires warm ants, where did it evolve and live before grazing animals trimmed the grass in the UK?
    ==========
    when asked by his disciples where would they get the money to build his envisioned temple, the Reverend Moon replied “from where it is now”.

    Fantastic paper demonstrating that nature is much more complex and subtle than allowed for in our textbooks. How can we hope to predict what we cannot even imagine?

  43. jim Steele says:
    August 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Thanks.

    The effect I was referring to was the effect on air temperatures from a small change in grass length.

    I know many land use changes affect air temperatures, but this particular one is new to me.

  44. “Their intellectual identity became intimately entwined with any validation of their chosen hypothesis. Like an avid sports fan, they feel great when their team is “winning” and distraught when their team is “wrong”.”

    This wonderfully expressed idea explains the people who don’t have time to think all that deeply. Once an issue becomes important, however, people are forced to become a little deeper. When truth glares, people tend to be “fair weather friends,” and when a ball team is losing, the cheering crowds dwindle. At that point people who can’t see a loser is a loser are either blinded by loyalty, or “nefarious.”

    This is not to say being blinded by loyalty is necessarily a bad thing. As a boy I remained loyal to the Boston Red Sox even when they always came in next-to-last place, and the crowds at Fenway Park were usually under 9,000. I knew the names of all the players, and enjoyed the team.

    However I will say “nefarious” behavior is, by definition, a bad thing, and that the word “nefarious” does describe the behavior of certain scientists. They belong in jail.

  45. Thank you, Jim Steele – truth is indeed stranger than fiction. This is the kind of stuff that has inspired true lovers of nature from the beginning – whether it be Victorian butterfly collectors, or the earliest conservationists – true wonder and marvel at the millions of stories about how nature works. Yet, somewhere along the way environmentalism was hijacked by ideologues whose sense of curiosity and wonder seems to be non-existent.

    I hope you find time to submit more articles to WUWT, and I will buy your book asap.

  46. “I believe it demonstrates the ease with which the human mind embraces illusions. Once those scientists accepted CO2 warming as a reasonable explanation for ecological disruptions, despite never thoroughly examining the issue, they embraced whatever supported their choice. Their intellectual identity became intimately entwined with any validation of their chosen hypothesis. Like an avid sports fan, they feel great when their team is “winning” and distraught when their team is “wrong”. They brand anyone who challenges their hypothesis as a denier, stupid, traitor or infidel, and do not hesitate to brutalize anyone on the wrong team.”

    Yep!

    I have not read a single comment yet,,,,but I don’t think I am off base…….

  47. Dear Jim,

    So, you’re not a “doctor”……. Then, that makes you………… EXTRAORDINARILY BRIGHT, INSIGHTFUL, and RESOURCEFUL!!! And, that you would lavish all your fine intellectual talents on “the least of these,” shows you have the most important thing of all: a loving heart. No WONDER your lovely field campus (See: http://www.sfsu.edu/~sierra/About.html ) is such a treasure trove of beauty and knowledge.

    Thank you, again, for all the GREAT free teaching here. Have a fun time in the mountains in the coming weeks!

    Your grateful student,

    Janice

    *******************************
    @ Pompous — thanks for the tip. I DID go to Amazon an clicked on the make-it-into-a-kindle thread (even though I MUCH prefer paper books — I don’t KNOW why; I just DO).

  48. @Philip Bradley “The effect I was referring to was the effect on air temperatures from a small change in grass length.”

    I am not sure why I missed your point. I was trying to emphasize the point that escapes most people I have talked to. The air is primarily heated by contact with the surface. The hotter the surface, the hotter the air temperature. The sun does not directly heat the air. Vegetation shades the surface, holds the moisture and increases soil capacity, and transpiration wicks away latent heat cooling the surface. Step barefoot from the grass to the pavement and there is an extreme change in temperatures.

    A hotter surface also produces more infrared that affects the nighttime greenhouse effect and drives minimum temperatures. Less vegetation allows warming to reach a greater depth of soil, which is why minimum temperatures are so sensitive to landscape changes. For that reason Christy, Pielke, and others suggest maximums are a much better indicator of climate change.

  49. @Caleb I too am an undying Red Sox fan. I grew up in Lynn, MA before hitchhiking around the country to fulfill a dream of backpacking in the west and never left California. I “snuck” into the 1967 World Series for a dollar. When were the crowds ever as low as 9000? When they play the SF Giants, it is almost as if I was back in Boston.

  50. Hey, Johanna, have you seen any parrots lately? Are those stupid terriers next door still terrorizing the birds? Hope all is well in your half of the globe.

    ****************

    Pompous, often, when I have my morning cup of Constant Comment tea, I think of you and your premium Darjeeling. Enjoy! (and, in your ear, I remember the goal you set awhile back — you’ve got MONTHS under your belt, now! Don’t give up!! Soon, it will be YEARS — don’t get mad, but I p-r-a-y about that for you and 3 other WUWT guys with the same goal — you can do it!!!).

  51. Janice Moore said @ August 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    @ Pompous — thanks for the tip. I DID go to Amazon an clicked on the make-it-into-a-kindle thread (even though I MUCH prefer paper books — I don’t KNOW why; I just DO).

    I have a long relationship with dead-tree books going back to the late 1950s; I love their looks, their smell, that when purchased second-hand as most of mine were, they possess a personal history. My copy of Hans Zinsser’s Rats, Lice and History for example is grimy with Pennsylvania coal dust and travelled in a car boot through Egypt.
    Nevertheless, the advantages of Kindle are firstly, instant gratification. Within a minute I can be reading the book I just purchased. The paperback will take about 10 days to arrive at my local PO and take up to another week before it’s collected and brought home. Second, my Kindle is very light and compact and travels with me everywhere. I have always carried books to fill in those moments when one’s surroundings are hardly worth contemplating — waiting rooms, supermarkets, queues of any sort… My Kindle is many books, and certainly very much lighter than the 1956 Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (unabridged) that I brought home last Friday!

  52. Yes, indeed, Mr. Git, there is room in the world for both kindle and gilt-edged, mellowed, leaves between marbled paper-lined, ornately decorated covers… . But, given the choice, I’ll still take a paper book every time. A virtual book never sailed around The Horn in my great-grandmother’s steamer trunk from New Brunswick, Canada to La Conner, Washington, USA. Or kept a coal miner (as with your used book, I think) smiling down in the bowels of the earth. Besides, (yes, yes, I’m sure, while the power is available, there are ways to do this digitally, too) I LOVE to write in the margins. Why, some of my books would have ended up flung hard at the wall (or into the trash) if I had not had the outlet of correcting an author’s appallingly specious reasoning or nauseatingly uninformed, and historically inaccurate (no doubt!), opinions. Or just adding my gems of insight. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m a used bookstore book-a-holic (and that suits me fine!).

  53. Hi Janice – in the last few days I have had sulphur-crested cockatoos, pink galahs, crimson rosellas and a king parrot in my yard. Not to mention several other kinds of birds. It’s an endless free nature documentary right outside the kitchen window.

  54. Wow, Johanna, I would have to travel many, many, miles to see what you see out your window. Lovely. Where I used to live, I loved to watch the Douglas squirrels come eat the black oil sunflower seeds I put out for them (they are SOOOO cute!), especially the young ones with their big clown feet. Nothing exotic like you have, though. Thanks for answering my question, BTW, only about 1 in 5 does that on WUWT! (all business, don’t you know — Ahem!)

    Well, sigh, back to it!

  55. jim Steele:

    You have provided a truly wonderful article. It is a ‘keeper’, and I learned from it. Thankyou.

    I also write to draw attention to an important point you made in this thread at August 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm. You there wrote

    I chose to teach science in San Francisco’s innner city schools during the remainder of the year to fulfill my sense of social justice. Although a few kids were harder to love than others, my students honesty and love for learning made me a better teacher and a better person. I realized that if didn’t get my students to understand the science that enthralled me, then I had simply not made it clear enough.

    [my emphasis]
    Yes! Oh, yes!
    Putting that into the way I think about it,
    If I cannot explain something to a reasonably intelligent person then I do not understand it adequately.
    Indeed, I have always found that a good way to test my understanding of something is to determine my ability to explain it to a reasonably intelligent person.

    As is common, you demonstrate that good scientists have a range of experience so most good scientists have not spent all their time in the limited intellectual environment within the closed walls of academia and divorced from field work.

    Again, thankyou. Sincerely, thankyou.

    Richard

  56. @ Janice Moore

    One of the delights of Kindle is being to read everyone’s glosses! I’m with Stephen Fry who said that paper books are as threatened by eBooks as stairs are by the elevator.

  57. Buy the book “Landcapes & Cycles” by Jim steel. Great detailed read. It outlines many climate frauds coming from a different angle. I loved the book.

  58. Jim Steele – I am in Canberra, the national capital. It is a wholly artificial city plonked in the middle of bare sheep paddocks. Because many millions of trees (especially European ones with lots of nuts and seeds) and other plants, plus artificial lakes, have been introduced, it is a haven for all kinds of birds which would otherwise be scarce, especially in winter when food is scarce.

  59. RICHARD S. COURTNEY!!!

    So GLAD to see you!

    Welcome back, my fellow enthusiastic truth-in-science fighter.

    What a delight to see you post. Hope you had a lovely holiday.

    Fire away!

    Janice

  60. @ johanna

    No King parrots (?), but rosellas, hawks (sparrow and brown), wedgetail and sea eagles, sulphur crested cockies, Major Mitchell cockatoos, native hens, herons, grebes, wood ducks, cormorants, egrets, pardalotes, plovers, swift parrots, pallid cuckoos, welcome swallows, kookaburras, skylarks, cuckoo-shrikes, superb blue wrens, several varieties of thornbill, flame robins, grey fantails, grey shrike-thrushes, silvereyes, yellow-throated honeyeaters, New Holland honeyeaters, yellow wattle-birds, black and clinking currawongs are all visible from where I sit at my computer. Obviously, not all at once and I need my Gerber Montana field glasses to see the smallest (diamond birds) at all clearly.

    The only ones that I detest are the kookaburras for eating the eggs of the pardalotes and other small birds. I merely resent the sulphur-crested cockatoos for eating all of my walnuts most years. Neither are native to Tasmania, but since they are native to the mainland, they are protected!

  61. Pompous one,

    Yep, I get most of those as well in my humble backyard (no raptors or seabirds, of course). Plus magpies, blue wrens, silvereyes, willie wagtails, and various other finches that are too fast for me to identify, blackbirds, magpie larks (peewees), domestic and Indian (grrr) mynahs, just to name the ones that come to mind quickly. They provide an unending source of pleasure.

    All it took was planting a few things birds like to eat and some dense foliage for them to hide in, no cats or dogs, and putting out fresh water every day.

    Must get some decent field glasses. But mostly they are in easy sight range of the kitchen window.

  62. jim Steele, my point was the solar energy that isn’t entering the ground, must be entering the grass instead, where it would get transferred to the air almost immediately, thus warming daytime air temperatures (ignoring humidity changes) and cooling night time temperatures.

    Why grass feels cool on a sunny day would get us into a discussion of evapotranspiration and albedo.

    I notice in the WMO’s surface station siting guidelines that grass must be kept to 4cm or shorter. This research indicates to me that changes in grass length from 1cm to 4 cm would produce significant air temperature effects, which to my knowledge have never been studied. A quick look at a couple of station siting papers shows people seemed only concerned that grass had been cut in the not too distant past. Often not the case BTW.

    Thanks for your responses.

  63. Bill Bryson on Canberra:

    “I glanced at my watch, appalled to realize it was only ten minutes after ten, and ordered another beer, then picked up the notebook and pen and, after a minute’s thought, wrote, “Canberra awfully boring place. Beer cold, though.” Then I thought for a bit more and wrote, “Buy socks.” … Then I decided to come up with a new slogan for Canberra. First I wrote, “Canberra — There’s Nothing to It!” and then “Canberra — Why Wait for Death?””

    – from Down Under

  64. LOVE that quote, O Pompous One. LOL. GREAT writing.

    Is Canberra as bad as “Happiness is Lubbock [Texas] in My Rearview Mirror”? (not generally a country music fan, but they have some great titles!). I met a couple who had to live in Lubbock for awhile. They said the song was correct.

    Well, I already KNOW it can be lovely — Johanna’s backyard proves it.

  65. Philip Bradley said @ August 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    I notice in the WMO’s surface station siting guidelines that grass must be kept to 4cm or shorter. This research indicates to me that changes in grass length from 1cm to 4 cm would produce significant air temperature effects, which to my knowledge have never been studied.

    Dunno about never. Here’s a starter with plenty of references.

    Skin temperature perturbations induced by surface layer turbulence above a grass surface Gabriel G. Katul, John Schieldge, Cheng-I Hsieh, and Brani Vidakovic

    http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/people/faculty/katul/ts.pdf

  66. @ Janice Moore

    I find visiting Canberra somewhat akin to visiting a mental home; everything seems designed to keep one tranquilised. That said, I do enjoy the National Gallery where there was a very impressive exhibition of impressionists the last time I visited. I am also a fan of Pollock’s Blue Poles and spent a very pleasant 15 minutes absorbed by its flamboyance.

    Other visits include the one where I took a YL out to dinner after a conference. She was a vegetarian (Marxist/Lentillist), but the closest we could get to suit her dietary needs was a ham salad!

    Apropos Lubbock, Texas, I have never been there, but I do possess some fine music made by one of its natives :-)

  67. Pompous, you sure do have a wonderfully rich variety of interests. Enjoy your afternoon. I am going to bed. Thanks for writing.

  68. Canberra is a city of secrets – the unwitting tourist is often left with the impression that something they are looking for doesn’t exist, when in fact they just don’t know where to look. For example, TPG, there at least three dedicated vegetarian restaurants, plus several cuisines (such as the 2 Ethiopian restaurants) where most of the menu is vegetarian.

    But I digress.The main thing is, it is chock full of wildlife – from peacock colonies in the suburbs, to kangaroos on the lawns of Parliament House during the drought, to pesky possums (grrr) in plague proportions, to echidnas in a park not far from my house, to platypus in Lake Burley Griffin (the only time I have ever seen them outside a zoo) … you get the idea. In fact, the roos do so well thanks to the extra water and grass brought by evil humans that we have just culled about 1000 of them. Hitting a roo is the biggest single cause of car collision accidents. They live in several reserves within the city limits, as well as hanging around golf courses and sports fields where we have considerately provided a constant smorgasbord for them.

    As I said above, the same goes for the birds. Go out into the surrounding bare sheep paddocks, and there is nowhere near the bird life that there is in town.

    Of course,getting a greenie ideologue to admit that human settlement can benefit wildlife is practically impossible.

  69. The Pompous Git says:
    August 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    That paper is about heat transfer from grass by air turbulence. Whereas, I was referring to the heat gain of the grass versus ground, and its effect on air temperatures.

    3 different kinds of cockatoos and various smaller parrots where I live in Perth. Noisy and impressively destructive buggers. Where I used to live, my neighbour had an almond tree and the cockatoos would turn up every year and strip it in 2 or 3 days. Many perching on my roof as they dug out the nuts with a constant rain of almond shells.

  70. I note the complete absence of troll comments, presumably stunned by a glimpse at what real science looks like, as opposed to their own little world of data manipulated CAGW fantasies. An excellent read and it just helps to illustrate how little we really know about our planet – perhaps, this is the lesson for those obsessed with the ‘beauty’ and complexity of their highly flawed climate models.

    Johannesburg in South Africa sounds like Canberra, a city built in a grassland wilderness. A city with a huge amount of imported trees and an astounding amount of wildlife, which would not be there were it not for the activities of man.

  71. Thanks Jim (as you prefer to be called), for an excellent and well-written essay. I live in an area officially designated an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_of_Outstanding_Natural_Beauty
    – the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire, UK. It’s an area of “calcareous grasslands”, and home (on steep sunny slopes) to many chalkland species of butterfly. If “1-2 cm” sounds rather unlikely for grass height (lawn lovers weep in frustration!), I can confirm that rabbits (introduced after 1066 by the Norman French invaders) crop the grass to that length. I can also confirm it’s very warm to walk on in bare feet on a sunny day.

    Those steep slopes , scattered with scrubby bushes and only a few taller plants, can look surprisingly bare and uninteresting, but closer examination reveals a wealth of plant and insect diversity. A world in microcosm, well worth studying. I’ve no idea why so many indigenous species of butterfly are blue, or mostly blue – has anyone?

    You quoted Robert Bolton – “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.”, and as you say, we should all be wary of acquiring beliefs without research and reasoned thought. Confirmation bias is a scientific sin – let’s all cleanse our souls and be rid of it.

  72. This was the best article of its kind i can remember since before Sci Am took the fall.
    Healthy, nutritious and delicious.

  73. @R2Dtoo “Whatever happened to the real “green” movement?”
    Communists needed something else to latch onto after the fall of their idolic Soviet Union so they switched to Environmentalism as a tool to bash capitalism. Science and facts and rationality then play second fiddle to emotional driven belief and the agenda.

    The same sort of thinking which promoted communism, is exactly the sort of thinking which dismisses measured empirical evidence in favour of theoretical models, because only the models match their beliefs. They start out with a flawed set of assumptions and build their models based on those and then dismiss reality when it fails to support those models. THIS IS NOT SCIENCE!

    Those self-labelled scientists which still promote Catastrophic Climate Change all need to retake science101.

    If the evidence does not support the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is wrong!

    Climate models are merely an extrapolation of the CAGW hypothesis. They are NOT experimentation, nor a valid test of the hypothesis. They ARE the hypothesis. Empirical measurement does not support the hypothesis. The models are wrong.

  74. Now there’s an astute comment from Peter Miller August 7 @12.20 am He notes there are no troll comments and there aren’t. When I wrote earlier there were few comments but it is so refreshing to see so many rapturising (a new verb perhaps) as much as I did over this article. I think the trolls may well have read it realised that they were looking at true science and departed discomforted. Actually what could they criticise? Lack of models?

  75. Jim Steele, thank you for a wonderfully uplifting start to my day. Evidently the Sierra Nevada Field Campus is in safe hands, unlike too much of academia; this is science as it used to (and ought to) be done.

    I am about to run off a pdf copy to pass around, Those wondering about pdf copies are advised to try “CutePDF”, which patches into the system as a printer and (on *most* sites, including WP ones like WUWT) “prints” very usable pdfs of web pages, etc. Recommended. (I have no connection with it except as a satisfied user.)

  76. @ Philip Bradley

    It was as I stated ” a starter”. When it comes to fairly obscure areas of academic research, I find it useful once I have located a researcher in that general area, to email that person and strike up a conversation. Nearly always they enjoy the attention. Also, one of my mantras is: “Love your librarian”. Librarians are amazing in what they can dig up for you!

  77. @ johanna

    I was perhaps being a little unfair in recalling what our illustrious capital was like 3-4 decades ago. I was actually very impressed by the food served at the old senate on the occasion of a niece’s wedding a couple of years back. Over a hundred main courses served simultaneously (choice of chicken, or beef) and all cooked to perfection. A bit different to when Richard Carlton was the barman ;-)

  78. We have the original site for the reintroduction of the large blue butterfly a mile from where I live in Somerset. The main problem seems to be getting the correct amount of grazing to keep the grass at the correct length. Last year was very wet with abundant grass growth, this year we had a cold spring follwed by very hot weather and restricted grass growth, then followed by sunshine and showers that have again stimulated grass growth.
    All this makes for a very difficult time for farmers to get the stocking rate correct to match the speed of grass growth, and as the areas involved are relatively small it is uneconomical to have to keep shunting stock on and off the areas involved, and also requires the farmer to have alternative grazing areas to keep the stock when not on the ‘butterfly pastures’.
    That said, it has been a marvellous illustration of how good research out in the field has produced welcome results.
    The only pity with the Large Blue butterfly is that it is not very large! Only in comparison with the Small Blue buttterfly. Visitors come expecting to see a butterfly 2 inches wide, and are rather disappointed to see something much smaller. However when they hear about the wonderfully intricate life cycle it more than makes up for it, and the pastures that the butterfly inhabits are very attractive places in their own right, amid beautiful countryside.

    I see the polar bear story on the news today is being milked for all it is worth:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/06/starved-polar-bear-record-sea-ice-melt

  79. jim Steele says:
    August 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm
    …. I passionately believe we need to reclaim the hopeful environmental movement that has been hijacked by Co2 doomsdayers. If not legitimate conservation efforts will suffer a devastating political backlash….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Well said and exactly my thoughts. Thanks for a superb essay. I even got my husband to read it.

  80. Janice Moore says: @ August 6, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m a used bookstore book-a-holic…
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>..
    Me too. Unfortunately I can not bare to toss any out and they are taking over the house. Time to sort and give some away. (I found a church that will take them to old folks who will appreciate them)

  81. The Pompous Git says:
    August 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    @ Richard Courtney

    “To teach is to learn twice.” — Joseph Joubert.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Amen. I spend my homeroom and study halls in jr high and highschool tudoring the other students in the math learned the day before. I never got nailed by the teachers for talking either.

  82. Peter Miller says:
    August 7, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I note the complete absence of troll comments…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    More likely they never bothered to read past the first few paragraphs and/or the “How to talk to skeptics” Ap had nothing appropriate.

    Either way I am glad they gave this excellent essay a pass although THEY are the ones who should be reading it.

  83. Well Dr. Steele, thank you very much for that fascinating post. I learned about butterflies, how the ground cover can vary and what effects that can have, how good intentioned interventions by us can make things worse and how we can deceive ourselves so easily.

    Such a content rich and well articulated post that I am linking all of my friends on both sides of the debate to it. We live and learn daily here on WUWT.

  84. I have just got back from walking the dog. I have never seen so many butterflies. There were so many they kept flying into me. Here is a clue to the increase in numbers. A poor harvest last year and a cold spring meant that farmers were not taking any chances on crop failure and left many fields fallow. These fields are covered in wild flowers and butterflies.

  85. Thanks for this fascinating story. However I think that Mr Steele’s comparison of citation numbers is skewed, as for J. Steward, he uses the paper in J. Insect cons. which is recent and published in a second class journal, instead of the 2005 paper in Science.

  86. Terrific article. What a fascinating study by Dr. Jeremy Thomas. Real life is so much more complex than one can imagine, and the simplistic environmentalists and global warming acolytes seem to actually be contributing to natural harm by their misdiagnoses and misguided corrective efforts.

    And that other study by C.D. Thomas, wherein “…he quietly stated, “we assumed that grazing patterns were the same in 1982 as in 2000.”4 Parmesan and C.D. were guilty of grave sins of omission….” I think they were guilty of lying straight out. They had J. Thomas’s work, and had to know the findings of that, and so they completely fudged the issue.

  87. This is a beautiful exposition of proper science. Thank you Mr Steele for this – if you do work like this you definitely deserve a doctorate.

    What strikes me forcibly is that this is about careful observation and experiment. The problem with much of climate science (in my view) is that it does not encourage experiment but either data analysis or modelling. Both of these, without understanding how data is obtained and its limitations, are built on foundations of straw.

  88. Thanks to your excellen essay I learned something today.
    Not sure how usefull it will be to me but that is the beauty of science and nature, as we struggle to explain and understand how things work we are often surprised by what we find and its wider implications.
    I really admire Thomas effort, it takes a keen mind and a lot of determination to find an explanation where so many had failed.

  89. @StephenP “I see the polar bear story on the news today is being milked for all it is worth:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/06/starved-polar-bear-record-sea-ice-melt

    Notice the “in depth science” used to connect sea ice and one bear’s death. No other alternative were suggested because it make a powerful image that rallies the “team” of catastrophic believers. I have friends who lead cruises to Svalbard every year and they report seeing abundant fat and healthy bears, but the disseminators of climate doom don’t the uplifting news.

    I wrote about the duplicity of the polar bear scientists mentioned in that article in a recent WUWT essay ” Why Less Summer Ice Increases Bear Populations” https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/06/why-less-summer-ice-increases-bear-populations/

    In 2012, polar bear experts Ian Stirling and Andrew Derocher (who predicts by the middle of this century, two-thirds of the polar bears will be gone due to rising CO2) published “Effects of climate warming on polar bears: a review of the evidence.” To illustrate the importance of ringed seal pups they wrote, “In the mid-1970s and again in the mid-1980s, ringed seal pup productivity plummeted by 80% or more for 2–3 years…. A comparison of the age-specific weights of both male and female polar bears from 1971 to 1973 (productive seal years), to those from 1974 to 1975 (years of seal reproductive failure), demonstrated a significant decline in the latter period.” 16

    Without argument, bears always benefit from more seal pups, but Derocher’s retelling of the seals’ decline in a section titled, “Why progressively earlier breakup of the sea ice negatively affects persistence of polar bear subpopulations” was (to be kind) highly deceptive! The seals’ productivity had plummeted because the Arctic had cycled to years of heavy ice, not due to “a progressively earlier break-up. Somehow that critical point escaped peer review.

    Instead of directly mentioning the heavy ice connection, they simply referenced Stirling’s 2002 paper. In that paper Stirling contradicted the “review”, “Heavy ice conditions in the mid-1970s and mid-1980s caused significant declines in productivity of ringed seals, each of which lasted about 3 years and caused similar declines in the natality of polar bears and survival of subadults, after which reproductive success and survival of both species increased again.” In 2012, Stirling coauthored another paper with a seal researcher and concluded all declines were caused by heavy ice years. Their paper proposed that “the decline of ringed seal reproductive parameters and pup survival in the 1990s could have been triggered by unusually cold winters and heavy ice conditions that prevailed in Hudson Bay in the early 1990s, through nutritional stress”.

  90. @RC Saumarez “What strikes me forcibly is that this is about careful observation and experiment.”

    Yes indeed. Jeremy Thomas’ work exemplifies the methodology of modern science first advocated by The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, or just Royal Society. I sign my books with their motto “Nullius in Verba” or “take nobody’s word for it.” Science requires careful observation and experiment.

  91. Citations, like much in academia, is much blacker art form then they like to admit to .
    Citing each others work is standard you starch my back and I will starch yours trick along with citing work form people on the basis other people so it must be OK working the area have citied them , regardless of quality or relevance.
    To be fair to climate ‘science’ its a problem that can seen in many areas , good undergraduate courses will always teach you to go back to original sources and to watch out for tricks such as the authors often citing their own work in the ‘research’

  92. Richard Courtney,

    You’re welcome! Thanks for directing me to your reply on a thread I had stopped reading by then. Glad you made it home safely and glad you decided to come back here, too.

    Janice

  93. An excellent essay, and I will be buying the BOOK (not Kindle, no way, not no how) as soon as possible. Hopefully it comes in hardcover.

    If new books that I want to read ever are only available in electronic format, I will take it as a sign that I should step in front of a bus.

  94. @Jim Steele

    About a million years ago, when i was young and taking a course in environmental education, I went on a field trip to a chunk of Derbyshire where alkaline and acidic rocks came together. The point was to compare the number of plant species on each type of rock. We didn’t count the creepy-crawlies, though.

    Since I grew up in Australia (back in Oz now), and have lived in a wide variety of climates, I found it hard to accept the idea that Global Warming would do anything other than encourage insects, so I didn’t buy Parmesan’s line. Still like her cheese, though.

    But no, I don’t have a garden full of lorikeets and rosellas. Just honey eaters, a visiting possum, occasional brush turkeys, a very occasional long-legged thingy (white faced heron?) and lots and lots of lizards and geckos.

  95. Ha, Ro, thanks for the thumbs up to my French chateau conjecture [;)]. Say, re: your (5:38PM, 8/7) Derbyshire field trip alkaline – acidic observation…. and v. a v. a musing above about why most of the butterflies in England (? not going to go find the comment to verify location) are blue,

    Q. I wonder if they are blue for essentially the same reason hydrangeas are more blue or pink depending on the pH of the soil?

    Gail Combs? Are you in the neighborhood? ………. she’s out in the back 40 with her lovely horses, no doubt. (I ask her, FYI to anyone unfamiliar with Ms. Combs’ expertise, because she is a semi-retired (yes, Ms. Combs — you are still TEACHING —> here!), first class, professional chemist.)

  96. Most of the butterflies are blue because most butterflies are conservatives. This is not unusual among country folk, and the British Labour party is so far from socialist that even Labour-voting butterflies will still be pale blue.

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