Blinded by Beliefs: The Straight Poop on Emperor Penguins

Guest essay by Jim Steele,

Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

clip_image002Two recent press releases concerning the Emperor Penguin’s fate illustrate contrasting forces that will either advance or suppress trustworthy conservation science. The first study reminds me of Mark Twain’s quip, “Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.” Embodying that truism is a paper by lead author Dr. Michelle LaRue who reports new advances in reading the Emperor Penguin’s fecal stains on Antarctic sea ice that are visible in satellite pictures. Two years ago the fecal stain method identified several large, hitherto unknown colonies and nearly doubled our estimate of the world’s Emperor Penguins.1,2 That didn’t mean climate change had necessarily increased penguin numbers, but a larger more robust population meant Emperor Penguins were far more resilient to any form of change. 

LaRue’s new study advances the science by analyzing the shifting patterns of penguin poop, and her results are prompting some scientists to “unlearn” a key belief that has supported speculation of the Emperors imminent extinction. Believing Emperors are loyal to their breeding locations (philopatry), whenever researchers counted declining penguins at their study site, they assumed the missing penguins had died. However other studies had shown populations could suddenly double, and such observations challenged the notion of philopatry.10 The only reasonable explanation for unusual rapid population growth was that other penguins had immigrated from elsewhere, and loyalty to a breeding location was a misleading belief. LaRue’s study confirmed those suspicions by identifying the appearance of freshly stained ice in several new locations. LaRue rightfully said, “If we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics. We’ve just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations.”….”That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes.”

Of course several alarmist websites have spun this evidence of an ancient behavior into a new behavior forced by climate change disruptions.

Although mistaking unanticipated emigration for a local extinction has been the hallmark of several bad global warming studies, some researchers refuse to unlearn mistaken beliefs. In 2009 scientists argued that a missing herd of caribou that once numbered 276,000, had been extirpated by climate change. But the herd was later found in an unexpected location in 2011 just as native peoples had suggested. Likewise the co-author of the penguin extinction papers 3,8, Hal Caswell from the Woods Hole Oceanic Institute, mistakenly interpreted polar bear emigration as evidence of death due to climate change to advocate the bears’ imminent extinction as discussed here and here). He was similarly instrumental in modeling the extinction of the “March of the Penguins” Pt. Geologie colony. (Pt. Geologie Emperor Penguins are also known as the Terre Adelie colony or the Dumont d’Urville colony, named after the adjacent French research station known by the locals as DuDu.). Caswell and his co-authors are now doubling-down on their first prophesy of extinction for DuDu’s penguins to promote a more calamitous continent‑wide extinction scenario.

In a recent interview posted at ScienceDaily, the lead author Jenouvrier summarized their new extinction study saying, “If sea ice declines at the rates projected by the IPCC climate models, and continues to influence Emperor penguins as it did in the second half of the 20th century in Terre Adélie, at least two-thirds of the colonies are projected to have declined by greater than 50 percent from their current size by 2100.” “None of the colonies, even the southern-most locations in the Ross Sea, will provide a viable refuge by the end of 21st century.”

But Jenouvrier’s reference to sea ice’s influence on Emperor penguins during “second half of the 20th century in Terre Adélie” is a belief that should have been wisely abandoned. It was originally based on bizarre speculation in a 2001 paper Emperor Penguins And Climate Change,9 speculations that defied well-established biology and contradicted observations. The most obvious being Antarctic sea ice has not declined as al climate models predicted, but sea ice has now reached record extent. By attaching flipper bands and monitoring how many banded birds returned to DuDu researchers argued the penguins were less able to survive due to climate change. The paper’s authors, Barbraud et al, reported a 50% population drop from 1970 to 1981, and they blamed a prolonged abnormally warm period with reduced northward sea-ice extent. But any correlation with northward sea ice extent was absolutely meaningless.

Indeed the northward extent of sea ice had varied from 400 to 150 kilometers away from the colony, but the Emperor’s breeding success and survival depends solely on access to the open waters within the ice such as “polynya” and “leads.” That open water must be much, much closer. When open water was within 20 to 30 kilometers from the colony, penguins had easier access to food and experienced exceptionally high breeding success. When shifting winds caused open water to form 50 to 70 kilometers away, accessing food became more demanding, and their breeding success plummeted.7 Yet Barbraud et al absurdly argued that a reduction in sea ice extent, for unknown reasons, had lowered the penguin’s survival.9 It was catastrophic climate change speculation based on nothing more than a meaningless statistical coincidence.

Barbraud also argued that the warming of winter air temperatures from -17° to -11°C in 1981 contributed to the penguins demise, even though penguins would welcome any respite from deadly cold. When the penguins spend most of their lives swimming in +2°C water, there is no reason to believe the rise to -11°C had any deadly consequences. Again it was nothing more than a statistical coincidence. Yet the journal Nature gladly published their nebulous analyses and climate far, and then Jenouvrier, Caswell and several climate scientists were using that apocryphal study to predict more catastrophic extinctions.

Below is the graph featured by penguin expert Dr. David Ainley on his PenguinScience website showing a purported connection between the penguins’ decline and rising temperatures. His website argues, “The Emperor Penguin colony where the movie “March of the Penguins” was filmed has been shrinking. The colony ( Pt Géologie) is located in northern Antarctica where temperatures have been steadily rising. In recent years, the ice has become too thin, and so it blows away before the chicks are grown. Therefore, fewer and fewer young penguins have been returning to live in this colony. Most Emperor Penguin colonies occur much farther south where temperatures are still very cold. This could change, however, if global warming trends continue.”


The blue arrow in Figure A. suggesting a “steadily rising” temperatures, is a figment of Ainely’s imagination. The actual temperatures for the DuDu research station are seen in Figure B. Ainley and I had been involved in several pleasant and thoughtful email discussions about the decline of DuDu’s Emperors, when I became aware of his Fig. A. I emailed him and asked how he justified such a false representation. He apologized and promised to remove it saying, “My intent with the graph was to refer to the temperature trend, a period when temperature was increasing. Sorry about that.” I have always had great respect for Ainley’s work and from our discussion felt a kindred spirit and dedication to being good environmental stewards. But 2 years have passed and his bogus graph remains as of this writing. Perhaps it will be removed if enough people object to its the gross misrepresentation.

Despite satellite estimates that more than doubled the population of known Emperor Penguins, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed their ranking of Emperors from a species of Least Concern to a Near-Threatened species based on modeling studies blaming the decline of DuDu’s penguins on climate change as presented in Jenouvrier and Caswell’s study. Likewise Ainley’s paper Antarctic Penguin Response To Habitat Change As Earth’s Troposphere Reaches 2°C Above Preindustrial Levels10 had great influence. Ainley believed the DuDu colony had been unable to recover since 1980 because global warming had caused a thinning of the sea ice resulting in a premature loss of sea ice that was drowning chicks. Based on his faith in the models, he warned thinning se ice would get worse. However there was no evidence for such catastrophic events. So I first contacted Ainley to determine if his “drowning chicks” were based on observation or theoretical beliefs. Ainley confessed his claims were based on a sentence in Barbraud’s paper that stated, “Complete or extensive breeding failures in some years resulted from early break-out of the sea-ice holding up the colony, or from prolonged blizzards during the early chick-rearing period.” The early break-out of the sea-ice holding up the colony was merely a belief consistent with global warming hypotheses.

Mark Twain again provides insight to why bad science so easily goes viral having written, “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from others.” And apparently scientists suffer the same second‑hand folly. Not wanting to succumb to a similar mistake, I emailed Barbraud and asked for the dates during which he had observed an “early break-out of sea-ice holding up the colony”. As it turns out, I was not the only one having difficulty finding that evidence. Dr Barbraud replied, “We are currently doing analyses to investigate the relationships between meteorological factors and breeding success in this species, including dates of sea ice break out, which are relatively difficult to find for the moment!” So why did he ever make the claim of “premature breakouts” in the first place?

There is a much more parsimonious explanation for the DuDu penguins’ decline. Between 1967 and 1980 researchers from DuDu attached flipper bands to breeding penguins, and that is exactly when the penguins began to desert the colony as seen in Figure A. By the time the much-ballyhooed “warm spike” occurred in the winter of 1981, the colony had already declined by 50%.

Several studies have shown that tight flipper bands can increase penguin mortality because flippers can atrophy or swimming efficiency is reduced. Those observations have prompted researchers to argue for another “unlearning” writing, “our understanding of the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems based on flipper-band data should be reconsidered.” 15 However it is unlikely that atrophied flippers from tight bands can fully explain the 50% drop in the Emperor’s abundance. However, interrupting the Emperor’s pair-bonding and vital huddling behavior to attach flipper bands and count birds is a significant disruption that would encourage penguins to seek a more secluded breeding colony.

Placing a band on an Emperor Penguin is no easy task. Male Emperors must conserve energy in order to survive their 4 month winter fast, and tussles with researchers consumed their precious energy. Emperors must also huddle in order to conserve vital warmth (as seen below in the picture from Robertson 2014). But huddling was disrupted whenever researchers “drove” the penguins into files of 2 or 3 individuals in order to systematically read bands or more accurately count the population. “Droving” could also cause the males to drop their eggs that are so precariously balanced on their feet.

When DuDu’s flipper banding finally ended in 1980, coincidentally the Emperors’ “survival rate” immediately rebounded. Survival rates remained high for the next four years despite extreme shifts in weather and sea-ice extent. However, survival rates suddenly plummeted once again in 1985, despite an above-normal pack-ice extent.Coincidentally, that is when the French began building an airstrip at DuDu, and to that end they dynamited and joined three small islands.



I had argued with Ainley that the only parsimonious explanation for the decline in DuDu’s penguins was that researchers had created such disturbances to their breeding ground, that the Emperors chose to abandon the colony to join others far from such disruptions. Satellite studies such as LaRue’s now support that interpretation as 2 new colonies have been discovered and are the likely home for DuDu refugees.

Yet despite those obvious disruptions, and despite the growing and thickening sea ice, and despite the lack of any warming trend what so ever, the scientific literature is spammed and the public bombarded with more propaganda claiming climate change has put penguins in peril. A peril derived from how they imagined climate change had killed the DuDu penguins in the 1970s. Robert Bolton wrote, ““A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind” and catastrophic climate changes is tragically possessing too many minds. To repeat LaRue’s advice, if we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics. And basically, changing concentrations of CO2 have done absolutely nothing to hurt the Emperor Penguins.



Literature Cited

1.Woehler, E.J. (1993) The distribution and abundance of Antarctic and Subantarctic penguins. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, Cambridge.

2. Fretwell, P., et al.,, ( 2012) An Emperor Penguin Population Estimate: The First Global, Synoptic Survey of a Species from Space. PLoS ONE.

3. Jenouvrier, S., et al., (2009) Demographic models and IPCC climate projections predict the decline of an emperor penguin population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806638106

4. Brahic, C., (2009) Melting ice could push penguins to extinction. NewScientist,

5. BBC New, (2009) Emperor penguins face extinction.

6. Fraser, A., et al. (2012) East Antarctic Landfast Sea Ice Distribution and Variability, 2000‑08. Journal of Climate, vol. 25, p. 1137-1156.

7. Massom, R., et al. (2009) Fast ice distribution in Adelie land, east Antarctica: interannual variability and implications for Emperor penguins Aptenodytes forsteri. Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol. 374, p. 243-257.

8. Jenouvrier, S., M. Holland, J. Stroeve, M. Serreze, C. Barbraud, H. Wimerskirch and H. Caswell (2014), Climate change and continent-wide declines of the emperor penguin. Nature Climate Change, , doi: NCLIM-13101143-T

9. Barbraud, C., and Weimerskirch, H. (2001) Emperor penguins and climate change. Nature, vol. 411, p.183‑186.

10. Kato, A. (2004) Population changes of Adelie and emperor penguins along the Prince Olav Coast and on the Riiser-Larsen Peninsula. Polar Biosci., vol. 17, 117-122.

11. Ainley, D., et al., (2010) Antarctic penguin response to habitat change as Earth’s troposphere reaches 2°C above preindustrial levels. Ecological Monographs, vol. 80, p. 49–66

12. Dugger, K., et al., (2006) Effects of Flipper Bands on Foraging Behavior and Survival of Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelisadeliae). The Auk, vol. 123, p. 858-869

13. Robertson , G. et al (2014) Long-term trends in the population size and breeding success of emperor penguins at the Taylor Glacier colony, Antarctica. Polar Biol (2014) 37:251–259

14. Saraux, C., et al., (2011) Reliability of flipper-banded penguins as indicators of climate change. Nature, 469, 203‑206.

Adapted from the chapter “The Emperor Penguin Has No Clothes” in Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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July 1, 2014 10:20 am

And how did they decide to split off from the other groups in the first place? I guess they voted with their feet.

July 1, 2014 10:20 am

Reblogged this on the WeatherAction Blog and commented:
A nice rebuttal of model based doom mongering by those who rely on computer models over observation.

July 1, 2014 10:21 am

Thank you! Good read!

July 1, 2014 10:29 am

Ronald Reagan said it best about the left/liberals: “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”
Settled. Science.
That should be known as an oxymoron.

July 1, 2014 10:38 am

Two years ago the fecal stain method identified several large, hitherto unknown colonies and nearly doubled our estimate of the worlds’ Emperor Penguins.
“By their fecal stains shall ye know them”.
-Colonel “Penguin” Guano

mark in toledo
July 1, 2014 10:49 am

this is so classic….i wonder how many of the “calamities” related to climate change are totally overblown nonsense like this built on untested hypotheses?

July 1, 2014 10:59 am

Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
Yup! If folks pester a wild animal or foul while their defending their newborn or newly hatched youngsters they will change their domicile if they have to, to protect their offspring and themselves. They want peace and quiet to flourish just like we do.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
July 1, 2014 11:00 am

Apparently, following the dudu is not the correct method, among other things.

John S.
July 1, 2014 11:02 am

But Morgan Freeman would never lie to me.

jason hardwick
July 1, 2014 11:07 am

fecal stains. awesome

July 1, 2014 11:09 am

too bad the mendacious fools in the climate cult have not yet gone extinct…

July 1, 2014 11:12 am

Mark and two Cats says:
July 1, 2014 at 10:38 am
Two years ago the fecal stain method identified several large, hitherto unknown colonies and nearly doubled our estimate of the worlds’ Emperor Penguins.Enter your comment here…

Keeping with the tradition of NOAA changing data, I expect to hear about enviro-fascists running around Antarctica with buckets and mops to “scrub” the data.

Kon Dealer
July 1, 2014 11:15 am

“We don’t need no steenkin’ facts- we’re Climate Scientists”

July 1, 2014 11:19 am

OT: Anthony Watts was just mentioned on The Rush Limbaugh Show!
YAY! 🙂

Pat Frank
July 1, 2014 11:33 am

So penguin conservation studies, in the form of flipper-banding, droving, and individual captures for counting and band reading, is most likely what led to population declines, breeding failures, and flock-migrations. That, and the occasional dynamite explosions.
It seems that the literature amounts to conservation scientists looking for reasons to blame anything but themselves for the environmental stresses experienced by penguins.
Jim’s essays here have been a litany of conservation biologists violating the integrity of their discipline through an inviolable attachment to CO2-driven climate as the explanation for everything. AGW: the solvent that dissolves all rationality.

July 1, 2014 11:35 am

” … the shifting patterns of penguin poop …”
Shifting? or is that a typo?

July 1, 2014 11:35 am

mark in toledo says:
July 1, 2014 at 10:49 am
this is so classic….i wonder how many of the “calamities” related to climate change are totally overblown nonsense like this built on untested hypotheses?
>all of them

July 1, 2014 11:37 am

It’s worse than we thought. Emperor penguins in Antarctica are DOUBLE previous estimates.

Abstract – April 13, 2012
…..We estimated the breeding population of emperor penguins at each colony during 2009 and provide a population estimate of ~238,000 breeding pairs (compared with the last previously published count of 135,000–175,000 pairs). Based on published values of the relationship between breeders and non-breeders, this translates to a total population of ~595,000 adult birds……
An Emperor Penguin Population Estimate: The First Global, Synoptic Survey of a Species from Space

The more sea ice, the longer the poor penguins have to walk. Antarctica’s sea ice is near record levels, BUT the future looks grim with record cold recorded in E. Antarctica last year, as well as extreme snowfalls.

Abstract – 7 JUN 2013
Recent snowfall anomalies in Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica, in a historical and future climate perspective
Enhanced snowfall on the East Antarctic ice sheet is projected to significantly mitigate 21st century global sea level rise. In recent years (2009 and 2011), regionally extreme snowfall anomalies in Dronning Maud Land, in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica, have been observed. It has been unclear, however, whether these anomalies can be ascribed to natural decadal variability, or whether they could signal the beginning of a long-term increase of snowfall. Here we use output of a regional atmospheric climate model, evaluated with available firn core records and gravimetry observations, and show that such episodes had not been seen previously in the satellite climate data era (1979). Comparisons with historical data that originate from firn cores, one with records extending back to the 18th century, confirm that accumulation anomalies of this scale have not occurred in the past ~60 years, although comparable anomalies are found further back in time. We examined several regional climate model projections, describing various warming scenarios into the 21st century. Anomalies with magnitudes similar to the recently observed ones were not present in the model output for the current climate, but were found increasingly probable toward the end of the 21st century.
High-resolution 900 year volcanic and climatic record from the Vostok area, East Antarctica
…..The strongest volcanic signal (both in sulfate concentration and flux) was attributed to the AD 1452 Kuwae eruption, similar to the Plateau Remote and Talos Dome records. The average snow accumulation rate calculated between volcanic stratigraphic horizons for the period AD 1260–2010 is 20.9 mm H2O. Positive (+13%) anomalies of snow accumulation were found for AD 1661-1815 and AD 1992-2010, and negative (-12%) for AD 1260-1601. We hypothesized that the changes in snow accumulation are associated with regional peculiarities in atmospheric transport.

Political Junkie
July 1, 2014 11:49 am

Emperor Penguin fecal stain analyst – gives a totally new meaning to the term ‘sh*tty job’.
That person’s guidance councilor had a cruel sense of humor. It’s not only the limited career openings in a highly specialized vocation – the geographical restrictions are also a killer!
On the upside, very few competitors for the jobs.

Robert of Ottawa
July 1, 2014 11:52 am

I’ve learnt more about Emperor Penguins than ever desired.
I’m tempted to make some relation between fecal stains and climate scientists, but I won’t go there.

July 1, 2014 11:56 am

The Du-du do-do study is now in deep do-do due to lack of due Du-du do-do diligence.

July 1, 2014 11:58 am

Maybe it has something to do with what is shown in the cartoon at the link below, too :,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=15
\joke off.

July 1, 2014 12:07 pm

Yes, I do have this insane urge to propose some sort of study on finding out how far a rotating blade on a wind turbine can throw fecal matter from an Emperor Penguin. However, in deference to the Movie “Airplane”, I’m not going there.

July 1, 2014 12:11 pm

By attaching flipper bands and monitoring how many banded birds returned to DuDu researchers argued the penguins were less able to survive due to climate change.

It has been shown that these wing tags reduce their swimming ability and the ability thus to catch fish and survive. They suffered reduced life expectancy.
News about the effect of banding.
Research published in Nature
Coverage on WUWT

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
July 1, 2014 12:21 pm

This was an interesting read; thank you. I’ve bookmarked this for more detailed study later.

July 1, 2014 12:31 pm

Adélie penguins are funny old things.

…..The greatest diffusion of rookeries occurred between 3 and 4 ka, a period of particularly favorable environmental conditions that has never been repeated. It was followed by a sudden decrease in the number of penguin rookeries shortly after 3 ka. This event has been attributed to an increase of the sea-ice extension and may have been correlated to a worldwide phase of climate change near the Subboreal-Subatlantic boundary. A minor phase of penguin reoccupation occurred locally in the eighth to fourteenth centuries (A.D.). ….

July 1, 2014 1:01 pm

When a mommy penguin is hungry she will do what she must to find food and sometimes that means going out of town. If a daddy penguin loves the mommy penguin very much he will follow her to the ends of the earth. Since penguins think about food every day (foodaphilia) and sex once a year I’m going to bet that rookeries are created near abundant food and suitable haul-outs and not because the area is well-suited for an annual romp.

July 1, 2014 1:04 pm

More on the effects of human disturbance of Emperor Penguins. The real danger to the penguins is not alleged boiling of the waters around Antarctica but humans. Just leave them alone and they will do better. They are being killed with kindness and worry.

Disturbance of emperor penguin Aptenodytes forsteri chicks by helicopters
Responses of Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) to encounters with ecotourists while commuting to and from their breeding colony
Identification of an agent suitable for disinfecting boots of visitors to the Antarctic
Effect of human disturbance on body temperature and energy expenditure in penguins

Joe Public
July 1, 2014 1:05 pm

Aw shucks!
The Beeb’s report “Warming threat to emperor penguins” (30 June 2014 Last updated at 12:51), states:-
“The US, British and Dutch researchers urge governments to list the birds as endangered. Such a listing could impose restrictions on tourism and fishing.”
That’d put the brakes on Chris Turney’s future escapades in the region.

Baa Humbug
July 1, 2014 1:06 pm

Likewise the co-author of the penguin extinction papers Hal Caswell from the Woods Hole Oceanic Institute, mistakenly interpreted polar bear emigration as evidence of death due to climate change.

Lets not be so naive. These “scientists” are not stupid, they’re just dishonest and crooked. They know exactly what the data show, but in order to advance their agenda, they’re eager to tell bold faced lies.

James Strom
July 1, 2014 1:08 pm

Jim, thanks for the discussion of banding. I have wondered about the practice in the past, but it must pose a special hazard for animals hovering at the edge of extinction because of exposure to constant temperature extremes.

July 1, 2014 1:17 pm

Adelies are much more nimble than Emperors and can easily clamber up rock slopes that Emperors can not. So Emperors breed almost always on flat fast-ice but Adelies nest later in the year when the land is likely free of snow. However unlike the Emperor marathoners, Adelies will abandon a colony if they are forced to walk over sea ice for more than 3 kilometers. Heavy ice years are detrimental.
A heavy wind event compressed the sea ice against the peninsula’s coast and causing the greatest observed breeding failure as many Adelies abandon the site. Most interesting, is those same winds travelled up and over the peninsula causing a foehn storm on the eastern side associated with the collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf.
Massom, R., et al., (2006), Extreme anomalous atmospheric circulation in the West Antarctic Peninsula region in austral spring and summer 2001/2, and its profound impact on sea ice and biota, Journal of Climate, vol. 19, p. 3544– 3571.

Mark Bofill
July 1, 2014 1:34 pm

I think far too little attention is being paid in this discussion to how the penguine fecal stains will effect albedo.
Stop the Penguins, before it’s too late…
/ sarc

Mark Luhman
July 1, 2014 1:41 pm

In Minnesota in the late 90 or early 2000, school children found multi legged frogs many with miss shaped it multiple legs often two or more when there should have been one. A university of Minnesota biologist brought out a book from the late 1800 showing the same thing he was told to put it away, after such things were not normal and it had to be human caused. After many hundreds of thousand dollars of research, gee it was natural, nematodes were the problem. Not pesticides, fertilizer, lead or any other thing the eco nuts wanter to blame it on. Mark up another it had to humans biting the dust, the only question is how does the taxpayer get his money back.

July 1, 2014 2:08 pm

It doesn’t surprise me at all to read that these animals have more strategies for survival than once believed. “Nature will find a way” is more than just a memorable line from a movie. It only took me a few seasons of raising one of our local moths to discover that some of the well accepted truths of the species found in all books was incomplete or simply wrong. They had more survival strategies then anything I had read.
I think some of these scientists practice the religion of environmentalism which influences their thinking. Any finding that varies from what is considered the most typical behavior is interpreted as adverse and must be human caused even with little to back it up. There’s a lot of speculation in science that somehow passes as fact just because it sounds like it could be true.

john robertson
July 1, 2014 2:57 pm

The sad facts are that government nitwits never apologize nor abandon the idiotic policies set in motion by these”accidents”.
Here in the North caribou hunting is still severely restricted and several outfitters have lost their businesses, because of those “vanishing caribou”.

Pedantic old Fart
July 1, 2014 3:06 pm

Thank you Dr. Jim Steele, I shall certainly email this one on to all my family and acquaintances who are strictly religious greenies!

July 1, 2014 4:13 pm
July 1, 2014 4:16 pm

The Antarctic warming fallacy was spawned by Steig’s broadly falsified study. Steig applied the usual statistical nonsense, using PCA to spread the warming in West Antarctica over the entire continent, in-filling nonexistent temperatures over huge swaths of geography. The ice being shed in Antarctica is mostly glacial calving that reflects the accelerated accumulation of land ice and the historic low temperatures. Shrinking glaciers do not calve. They actually shrink. As for West Antarctica, the warming there is almost certainly an ocean current-based phenomena, with the oceans possessing around a thousand times the thermal storage content of the atmosphere. Blaming CO2 is roughly the equivalent of attempting to melt an ice rink with a blow dryer.

July 1, 2014 4:32 pm

The position of global alarmists are similarly identified!

July 1, 2014 4:49 pm

at least Reuters included these two details, which should have suggested this report was a bit dodgy, but the CAGW-infested MSM lapped it up anyway:
30 June: SMH: Alister Doyle/Reuters: Emperor penguins slide towards endangered list
The report urges governments to list the birds as endangered, even though populations in 45 known colonies were likely to rise slightly by 2050 before declining…
Despite rising global temperatures, sea ice around Antarctica has expanded in recent winters…

July 1, 2014 4:49 pm

Steig’s Antarctic work is a curious jumble. Although it was mostly the Antarctic peninsula that armed in the 80s and 90s, and was deemed as one of the 3 most rapidly warming places on earth, in 2006, he and David Schneider wrote a paper (Antarctic temperatures over the past two centuries from ice cores. Geophysical Research Letters, vol.. 33, L16707, doi:10.1029/2006GL027057) in which he documented that temperatures were warmer in the 40s than in 2000. They wrote, “We present a composite of water stable isotope data from high-resolution ice cores from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This record, representative of West Antarctic surface temperature, shows extreme positive anomalies in the 1936-45 decade that are significant in the context of the background 20th Century warming trend. We interpret these anomalies, previously undocumented in the high-latitude SH, as indicative of strong teleconnections in part driven by the major 1939-42 El Nino.
The later paper you referred to starts its temperature trend in 1950 after there was rapid cooling. If the teen started in 1945, the alarmists could not show a significant warming trend.

David in Michigan
July 1, 2014 5:00 pm

I don’t comment often but I just had to say that I appreciated your article. Thank you.

July 1, 2014 5:37 pm

Wonder if they could extend orbital excrement surveying to other species, like polar bears, seals, and sea lions. Bet their populations are also seriously undercounted.

July 1, 2014 6:28 pm

Slightly off-topic, but still about penguins:
“Some people have told me they don’t think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen an angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100 mph. They’d be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.”
―Linus Torvalds

D. Cohen
July 1, 2014 6:38 pm

The biggest threat to the penguins of Antarctica is the existence of polar bears in the arctic. Sooner or later some joker is going to introduce polar bears into Antarctica and that will be that. Polar bears are undoubtedly the reason why nothing that reproduces like penguins ever evolved in the arctic.

July 1, 2014 6:40 pm

NASA should send up more fecal stain detecting satellites instead of CO2 monitoring birds.

July 1, 2014 6:49 pm

steele in the reading list makes a mind stronger.

Jimmy Finley
July 1, 2014 7:02 pm

Mr. Steele: Once again, kudos. You do a fantastic job of debunking these bullshit artists and fakes who populate environmental science. Your article on the Blue butterflies and their travails in England were an eyeopener to me, and you just keep doing it. Thank you. You should approach the Kochs to see about a TV program, say “The Real Ecological Story”. The real story is fascinating.
Jim finley

July 1, 2014 8:01 pm

Jim Steele–Steig is far from the worst or most arrogant climate scientists. He has actually been to Antarctica. When his paper was challenged in the blogosphere, he participated for a while in a solid debate. The paper got dropped into the Mannomatic PCA machine however.

stan stendera
July 1, 2014 8:18 pm

Bravo Mr. Steele.

July 1, 2014 9:22 pm

Daddy king penguins do the hatching and also hold the chicks under their belly. As the Antarctic is very cold (news?) during the dark winter nights they all crowd together and rotate the outside penguins. They don’t eat for months, so no food, no poop I would suspect. I love all varieties of penguins. But they are preyed on by leopard seals and killer whales who eat the seals.. However I was kissed by a young leopard seal once! He smelt awful, wet leather and fish. Give me a bottle nosed dolphin any day? LOL

July 1, 2014 11:33 pm

Thank you, Dr. Steele! This was an impressive contribution to WUWT, I particularly enjoyed your use of footnotes!
It never ceases to amaze me how resilient nature really is….and how badly we humans manage to underestimate it.

Dr. Paul Mackey
July 2, 2014 12:35 am

Very interesting indeed – thank you. I was particularily struck by the notion that the act of observation ( flipper bands ) perturbs the results. Much like the quantum mechanical idea and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
One wonders how many other such population measurements are precipatating changes in the populations measured. Do any of these studies take this kind of effect into account? I mean if I was looking for a girlfriend, I might avoid the ones that have the huge alien transmitter attached to her back………

July 2, 2014 1:33 am

An old saying when I was growing up (1950s) was “Finding the solution to a problem changes the problem.” Obviously, the act of banding or otherwise keeping tabs (!) on the penguins has proven to be bad for them; so how about stopping such practices? Occasional high flyovers with good distance cameras should tell real scientists all they need to know about numbers, location, and similar issues.

July 2, 2014 1:43 am

It just shows how Environmentalists can screw up a species by uneducated observation.
Well done the Emperor Penguin, despite man’s best efforts to ”save it” from extinction.

Sean O'Connor
July 2, 2014 3:29 am

Excellent article – but my only minor point is that isn’t it Antarctic sea ice *area* that’s just hit a record rather than *extent*? I think CryosphereToday records area.

July 2, 2014 5:45 am

An excellent article exposing another ‘hypothetist’ and AGW fanatic (see Penguin Science site). Well done Mr Steel.
The hysterical hype promoted on Penguin Science site is beyond the pale.
It demonstrates clearly, as does the NGOs that support it, – this global warmist pursuit is all on there to see for yourself. The Dr. David Ainley’s PenguinScience site is totally focussed on AGW with the complete range of all warmist hype for all to see, which in turn completely contradicts the site’s commentary, articles and studies on it.
‘Like animals everywhere, Antarctic penguins are adjusting, or not, to changes in their habitat brought by warming temperatures’ What Climate Change in the Antarctic ?
Is there an email address or any contact address so we can ask the good doctor some pertinent questions about his now completely erroneous statistics, claims and fantasising studies and unscientific commentary ?
Here is one graph.

Jeff Alberts
July 2, 2014 7:41 am

jim Steele says:
July 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Steig’s Antarctic work is a curious jumble. Although it was mostly the Antarctic peninsula that armed in the 80s and 90s, and was deemed as one of the 3 most rapidly warming places on earth, in 2006,

OMG! We must stop peninsular arming! Armed peninsulas are well known as the leading cause of the following: Middle-East Unrest, baldness, genital warts, fecal stains, religious fervor, reality TV, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olberman, tech neck, bacterial promiscuity, climate models, Scientology, and athlete’s head.
Never mind.

Jeff Alberts
July 2, 2014 7:45 am

Dr. Paul Mackey says:
July 2, 2014 at 12:35 am
Very interesting indeed – thank you. I was particularily struck by the notion that the act of observation ( flipper bands ) perturbs the results. Much like the quantum mechanical idea and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

What Dr. Steele describes is WAY beyond observation. When observing penguins non-intrusively can be shown to affect the results, then maybe you can go the Heisenberg route.

Jeff Norman
July 2, 2014 11:48 am

Pat Frank,
“It seems that the literature amounts to conservation scientists looking for reasons to blame anything but themselves for the environmental stresses experienced by penguins.”
This reminds me of the claim a few years ago that because of global warming, grass was now growing on the Antarctic Peninsula. Despite the fact grass grows in the high Arctic, they found it surprising that grass was now growing on the sub-Antarctic Peninsula, never ever considering they (or their predecessors) might have tracked the seeds in on their boots during the seasonal shift in hemispheric research.

July 2, 2014 11:58 am

I might avoid the ones that have the huge alien transmitter attached to her back………
surprising the number of scientists that claim to be interested in animal conservation, that remain completely blind to their own effects on the animals they are studying.
reminds me of the fisherman complaining about the lack of fish. “I don’t understand why there are no fish, we caught millions of them last year.”

July 2, 2014 12:09 pm

Following their logic I can claim that the human population of the planet is going extinct based on the population of Detroit plummeting in the last 10 years.

July 2, 2014 8:43 pm

What is the normal life span for an Emperor penguin? Only 19.9 years. That’s providing they don’t become prey of some hungry seal.

Jeff Norman
July 3, 2014 6:50 am

This also reminds me of reading in O.E. Wilson’s compilation “Biodiversity” of how biologists measured the biodiversity in the Amazon. The spread a giant net under a tree then fumigated the tree with a poisonous gas and then count the number of creatures that fell dead into the net.

Jeff Norman
July 3, 2014 6:51 am

*They spread…*
Why does the most effect proof reading always occur after you’ve hit the “Post Comment” button?

July 3, 2014 8:43 am

Another quality post from Jim Steele. More, please!
Regarding dodgy data about animal populations, this is a common device used by greenies to raise alarm and stop development. Here in Australia, they say that if a bird or critter has not been seen somewhere for a while, it proves that the local population is extinct. They never acknowledge that populations move around, for all sorts of reasons. This is particularly the case with birds. Having spent a couple of decades watching the birds where I live, there are species that I have only seen once, some that pop up every 6-10 years, and so on right down to the permanent inhabitants.
Yet, this absurd methodology has been used to stop developments (e.g. the Case of the Orange-Bellied Parrot, which Poirot would immediately have perceived as a smokescreen). Not to mention the Case of the Earless Lizard, and many others of the same ilk.
And, thanks for drawing attention again to the damage that researchers do when they harass, capture, weigh and measure, and attach devices to wild animals. They always make it sound as though this has no effect whatsoever. In fact, depending on the animal, it may have effects from reducing their capacity to survive (such as messing with penguin flippers) to literally scaring them to death, or leaving them open to predators or disease, as a result of delayed shock.

July 3, 2014 2:44 pm

Jeff Norman says:
“Why does the most effect proof reading always occur after you’ve hit the “Post Comment” button?”
That is the story of my writing career. After 2 or 3 “proof readings” I just go blind to those typos. Still the question remains why do we suddenly see those mistakes afterwards.

July 3, 2014 3:37 pm

The reason I say I have held Dr. David Ainley in high regard despite our disagreements can be seen in the email I just received.
“Hey, Jim, I hope you are doing well!!
Michelle LaRue sent me a link to your blog about the emperor penguin
situation. Sorry to see that I should have deleted that EMPE stuff from
our website back when you and I were discussing it and you were convincing
me that stuff wasn’t adding up. I actually began to write text to revise
the website but kept putting off as other things reared their ugly heads.
Currently, when I do get the revision uploaded — and you’ve shamed me to
do it sooner than later — I’m thinking that it won’t include emperor
penguins at all.
Another reason I have to do this, practical one, is that I’m supposed to
address the Natl Science Teachers annual mtg first week of August (in PA)
and talk to them about penguins and climate change. Been gnashing my
teeth, when thinking about what to say, about the emperor penguin story.
So, now I’ve been kicked in the butt. Thanks!!!
Best regards,

July 3, 2014 4:35 pm

Dr David A. sounds like a genuine scientist, albeit slightly disorganised (as many of us are).
It would be interesting to find out what he says in his talk.

Brian H
July 14, 2014 12:41 am

Baa Hamburger;
It’s “bald-faced lies”. YCLIU
Only childers think words that sound slightly alike are equivalent and can be substituted at will.

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