Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Back in 2010 I wrote a post called “Walking the Plank-ton“. In that post I baldly stated that claims of a 40% loss in plankton since 1950 were totally bogus. However, I also admitted that I didn’t know why or where they’d made a mistake, and I really had no data to show that they were wrong.
Figure 1. Global distribution of phytoplankton. Lowest concentration is purple and blue, middle concentration is green, highest concentration is yellow and red. Source
So I was overjoyed today to find an article entitled Ocean’s hidden green plankton revealed by fixing glitch in model. The article totally agreed with me, saying that the claims of a 40% loss in plankton were indeed bogus. The conclusion of the article was:
In other words, estimates of plankton death were previously exaggerated more than sixfold in much of the oceans.
I bring this up for three reasons. First, of course, is so I can say “I told you so”. Hey, I’m not going to deny it, validation is indeed sweet, particularly when it is long-delayed like this.
The second reason I bring it up is to highlight that I made my judgement on the study solely on the basis of a lifetime spent on, in, and under the ocean. I didn’t know why they’d gotten the bad results. Here’s what I said at the time:
So where did the Nature paper go wrong?
The short answer is that I don’t know … but I don’t believe their results. The paper is very detailed, in particular the Supplementary Online Information (SOI). It all seems well thought out and investigated … but I don’t believe their results. They have noted and discussed various sources of error. They have compared the use of Secchi disks as a proxy, and covered most of the ground clearly … and I still don’t believe their results.
If the authors of the study had actually spent the same amount of time observing the ocean that they spent observing their model of the ocean, they might have doubted their own results and saved themselves much grief. So I bring this up to show that sometimes a lifetime of experience may indeed be worth more than a lifetime of study.
Finally, I bring this up to point out that once again, Watts Up With That is not just ahead of the curve—it is years ahead of the curve, five years in this case. My profound thanks to Anthony and the moderators for the creation and maintenance of this marvelous scientific agora, where ideas can get peer-reviewed immediately by some of the best minds in the game.
Best of life to everyone,
My Usual Request: If you disagree with me or anyone, please quote the exact words you disagree with. I can defend my own words. I cannot defend someone’s interpretation of my words.