Claim: Climate change may shrink Adélie penguin range by end of century

From NASA/GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER

Climate has influenced the distribution patterns of Adélie penguins across Antarctica for millions of years. The geologic record tells us that as glaciers expanded and covered Adélie breeding habitats with ice, penguins in the region abandoned their colonies. When the glaciers melted during warming periods, the Adélie penguins were able to return to their rocky breeding grounds.

adelie-penguin

An Adélie penguin cares for its chicks. CREDIT University of Delaware/Megan Cimino

Now, a NASA-funded study by University of Delaware scientists and colleagues at other institutions reports that this warming may no longer be beneficial for Adélie penguins. In a paper published June 29 in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers project that approximately 30 percent of current Adélie colonies may be in decline by 2060, and approximately 60 percent of the present population might be dwindling by 2099. They also found the penguins at more southerly sites in Antarctica may be less affected by climate change.

The study results suggest that changes in climate, particularly sustained periods of warmer than usual sea surface temperatures, are detrimental to Adélie penguins. While the specific mechanisms for this relationship remain unknown the study focuses attention on areas where climate change is likely to create a high frequency of unsuitable conditions during the 21st century.

“It is only in recent decades that we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming, which suggests that many regions of Antarctica have warmed too much and that further warming is no longer positive for the species,” said the paper’s lead author, Megan Cimino, who earned her doctoral degree at University of Delaware in May and is now a postdoctoral scholar at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.

The Adélie penguin is a species that breeds across the entire Antarctic continent. The penguins are experiencing population declines along the West Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth. Conversely, Adélie populations in other areas of Antarctica where the climate is stable or even cooling remain steady or are increasing.

The researchers’ objective was to understand the effects of climate change on Antarctic Adélie penguin colonies. The study, funded through the NASA Biodiversity program, used satellite data and global climate model projections to understand current and future population trends on a continental scale. They analyzed satellite observations from 1981 to 2010 of sea ice concentration and bare rock locations, as penguins need ice- and snow-free terrain with pebbles to make their nests. The scientists also took into account data from previous studies that had used satellite imagery to detect the presence or absence of penguin populations. Finally, the team also analyzed sea surface temperature data, which, together with bare rock and sea ice, was used as an indicator of the quality of penguins’ nesting habitats.

“From other studies that used actual ground counts — people going and physically counting penguins — and from high-resolution satellite imagery, we have global estimates of Adélie penguin breeding locations, meaning where they are present and where they are absent, throughout the entire Southern Ocean. We also have estimates of population size and how their populations have changed over last few decades,” said Cimino. “We used all these data to run habitat suitability models.”

“When we combined this data with satellite information and future climate projections of sea surface temperature and sea ice, we can look at past and future changes in Adélie penguin habitat suitability,” Cimino said. “Satellite data allowed me to look at all Adélie penguin habitats throughout the entire Southern Ocean and over multiple decades, which otherwise would not be possible using data solely collected on land or by ship.”

By analyzing past satellite observations, the researchers examined the number of years from 1981 to 2010 that had novel or unusual climate –when sea surface or ice temperatures deviated from average– during the Adélie penguin chick-rearing period and then used an ensemble of global climate models to make predictions about Adélie penguin habitat suitability from 2011 to 2099. The team validated the models with documented population trends.

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This graphic shows the current status of Adélie penguin colonies. CREDIT NASA’s Earth Observatory

 

adelie-penguin-colonies-2099

This graphic shows projected changes to the status of Adélie penguin colonies through the year 2099. CREDIT NASA’s Earth Observatory

According to Cimino, the southern regions of the West Antarctic Peninsula, associated islands and northern regions of the Peninsula, which are already experiencing population declines, are projected to experience the greatest frequency of unusual climate this century due to warm sea surface temperatures. This suggests that warm sea surface temperatures may cause a decrease in the suitability of chick-rearing habitats at northerly latitudes.

“Penguin colonies near Palmer Station on the West Antarctic Peninsula have declined by at least 80 percent since the 1970s,” Cimino said. “Within this region we saw the most novel climate years compared to the rest of the continent. This means the most years with warmer than normal sea surface temperature. These two things seem to be happening in the West Antarctic Peninsula at a higher rate than in other areas during the same time period.”

By contrast, the study also suggests several refugia–areas of relatively unaltered climate–may exist in continental Antarctica beyond 2099, which would buffer a species-wide decline. Understanding how these refugia operate is critical to understanding the future of this species.

“The Cape Adare region of the Ross Sea is home to the earliest known penguin occupation and has the largest known Adélie penguin rookery in the world,” Cimino said. “Though the climate there is expected to warm a bit, it looks like it could be a refugia in the future, and if you look back over geologic time it was likely a refuge in the past,”

The researchers reported that climate change impacts on penguins in the Antarctic will likely be highly site-specific based on regional climate trends, and that a southward contraction in the range of Adélie penguins is likely over the next century.

“Studies like this are important because they focus our attention on areas where a species is most vulnerable to change,” concluded Cimino. “The results can have implications for other species that live in the area and for other ecosystem processes.”

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88 thoughts on “Claim: Climate change may shrink Adélie penguin range by end of century

  1. “Could” – “might” – “may” – Pfui.
    I “might” sprout wings and fly, too.
    Give us a specific prediction and the scientific basis for it, or SHADDUP already.

    • Exactly what struck me about this. Science makes specific findings and reports them. Might be/ may be or may not / might not be is not science. It’s just idle speculation which contains no falsifiable result.

      • Earth to NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center.
        Numerous studies both real and imaginary (Playstation studies) have shown incontrovertibly that Adelie Penguins simply do not flap their wings hard enough or fast enough to achieve actual lift off, let alone to reach orbital escape velocity and become space objects.
        It is suggested that you are studying the wrong thing.
        We could cut your budget, if you no longer are interested in Space Flight, and prefer to study swimming instead.
        g

  2. ” The study, funded through the NASA Biodiversity program, used satellite data and global climate model projections to understand current and future population trends on a continental scale.”
    Say no more. The models are bilge, the study is bilge. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

  3. MAY be in decline. MIGHT be dwindling. DESPERATE for bad news, doom-and-gloom, catastrophe, end of the world, etc., etc. on and on and on. End the funding already. Clearly funding caused global pessimism.

  4. I believe there was a severe shortage of penguins when Antarctica was ice free. Where the hell did they all come from? Maybe they brought ice with them?
    Bloody penguins, ruining a perfectly good continent!
    Cheers.

  5. “The study results suggest that changes in climate, particularly sustained periods of warmer than usual sea surface temperatures, are detrimental to Adélie penguins. While the specific mechanisms for this relationship remain unknown the study focuses attention on areas where climate change is likely to create a high frequency of unsuitable conditions during the 21st century.”
    Question from a lay person: I thought correlation did not imply causation in science. Now, all of the sudden, it does? What changed?

    • What changed? Climate “science” was invented. Now ALL correlation equals causation – even when there is no correlation (lookup graphs for temperatures from 1880 – 2016 compared to graph of atmospheric CO2 level from 1880 – 2016. No correlation despite the clear causation).

    • In this new science-religion one is not allowed to ask questions. If one dares to ask questions one may be set upon by name-callers and possibly judicial investigation. At the very least one will suffer a drying up of any funding one might be receiving, especially if one is a scientist of the old school.
      /sarc.

    • I want to know what caused the warming periods before the man made warming periods. Apparently, Vikings and now penguins were both affected.

  6. Did anyone actually measure ocean temperatures in that part of the Earth during the time frame they “studied?”

  7. After a hooch-fueled binge I dreamt the penguins were overrunning the whole damned continent in 2075, crawling up my leg in 2080 and crashing in my living room after an all-nighter of whisky and poker in 2095. I looked at a map of Antarctica from 1955 and it was mostly white, so I assume, since there were no black dots, there were no penguins there in 1955 so I constructed a computer model showing they migrated from the Bronx five years later (which explains many things — including the stains on my living room rug). Further research is needed. Where’s my grant money?

  8. I wonder if the authors discussed the possibility that the penguins have the sense to move when conditions are unfavorable?

    • this was the simple answer when Dr Chris “ship of fools” Turney reported a while back that the adelie penguins had all died out because a big ice floe had parked on their nesting grounds. Turned out they’d just moved around the corner where the nesting was fine.

    • Don’t be silly – the authors have no sense, so why would they think a penguin would?

  9. “…Finally, the team also analyzed sea surface temperature data, which, together with bare rock and sea ice, was used as an indicator of the quality of penguins’ nesting habitats…”

    An amazing study into the phenomenon of confirmation bias driven studies.
    Simple assumption regards warm = bad for penguins; easy to write as a formula used in models.

    “…The study results suggest that changes in climate, particularly sustained periods of warmer than usual sea surface temperatures, are detrimental to Adélie penguins. While the specific mechanisms for this relationship remain unknown…”

    We don’t know, so we made the whole blooming thing up!
    Next week we learn how well they performed at modeling play-doh, last year.

  10. Since Penguins have been in existence for 65 million years, and the Adélie penguins possibly for 19 million years, through all those climate changes, I doubt if they are in danger.

  11. Jim Steele, you here tonight? I’m just reading Landscapes and Cycles, and I’d be interested in your take on this study.

    • I hope he will weight in also. My own discussion of Adelie penguins/ climate change comes in the first of three parts of essay No Bodies. Just aint so.

    • That was my immediate thought having recently read Landscapes and Cycles. This just sounds like a computer game study not science.

  12. The money line: …”during the Adélie penguin chick-rearing period and then used an ensemble of global climate models to make predictions about Adélie penguin habitat suitability from 2011 to 2099. The team validated the models with documented population trends.” So now the penguin can validate climate models.

  13. Some basic facts about penguins:
    http://www.defenders.org/penguins/basic-facts
    – live on 4 continents in the southern hemisphere: South America, Africa, Australia, Antarctica
    – live in regions having polar climates to tropical climates
    – there are millions of them and they are quite adaptable to changing environments.

  14. I make this the third bs study on Adélie penguins this year.
    These critters have an amazing migratory pattern for a start. They all move at the same time even though the colonies may be hundreds of km apart.
    They occur on fringe islands a long way from mainland Antarctica, and, albeit rarely, have been recorded in Tasmania and mainland Australia.

    • Yeah. This study appears to be an outright lie or a best misleading.
      1. There are Adele penguin colonies on mainland Australia. Anthropogenic activities have had a negative impact. Adele penguins have been hunted for food, eggs, oil, and as vermin.
      2. Antarctica is not going to get as warm as mainland Australia.
      3. Seals, killer whales, sharks eat adult penguins. Skuas and others sea birds eat their eggs and chicks.
      4. Much of the Antarctic coastline is dirt at least part of the year. Even in East Antarctica.
      This fact set makes this study absurd. Predation has more of an impact than temperature.
      There are 2.5 million breeding pairs, not penguins, breeding pairs. When the count reaches 500,000 let me know and we will consider that the Adeles have a problem.

  15. Why is NASA studying penguins in the first place? NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration…Had to look it up.
    Jupiter good, Earth from above – good. Penguins, not their bailiwick…

  16. Time NASA got active in validating satellite temperature data and confirming the pause and sacking ersatz scientist activists who deny the pause with weird made up karlized equations. Once that is done we can work towards pure climate science based on scientific fact rather than relying on faulty modelling projections that only feed the climate fear campaign with their observable faulty results.
    It seems remarkable that a short term warming (decadal) spell of some 9 years plus, culminating with the 1998 El Nino high has been used to promote this ongoing meme that the planet is warming to hell when it could just as easily be reverting to a declining temperature trend where we will require huge stocks of warming energy stockpiles, to look after not only the advanced nations populations, but to build developed economies so that we can also have the economic capacity and goodwill to protect lesser economically secure marginal populations from a decline into poverty and starvation.
    That is the clear challenge of thinking scientists to end this perversion of science, and work towards energy security for all.
    To do otherwise is to encourage instability and world conflict and the worst part is that they must know that both the models and the meme are fundamentally flawed, as is , their politics and greedy pursuit of money.

  17. “The Adélie penguin is a species that breeds across the entire Antarctic continent.” No reason to read further since that would be impossible and in reality all colonies have to be along coasts for access to the sea unless one believes that with respect to their thesis that it is too warm inland for breeding.

  18. But what about the exponential explosion of the fruit-fly population in Timbuktoo?
    Better send Dr. Fruit-Fly Suzi-Q quick to suss-it-out, and target the GW culprit before homo sapiens succumbs to a premature fate.
    First-class, of course, if not accompanied by — Gasp! Fall to knees!! — Leo Himself on His private jet.
    (P.S. If there isn’t an exponential fruit-fly explosion in Timbuktoo, I’m sure “They” will soon be on to the notion that there might be. Let’s keep ’em busy making fools of themselves.)

  19. They are going to conduct a standard Climate Science research project.
    Tag a thousand penguins.
    Monitor the mortality of the group.
    In 2050 after 35 years they are all dead.
    Guess what? Their prediction came true!
    “In the long run they are all dead”.

    • On the up side, eventually all the climate “scientists” will die of old age and be replaced.

  20. It is kinda obvious that these penguins would do a LOT better if it was significantly warmer in Antarctica. There is almost nowhere they can breed now because it is so frigging cold. Maybe the Jackass Penguins will move back home from South Africa if it gets warm enough.

  21. Shrinkage. Perfectly normal.
    The prophecy of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming has a lucrative future as an off-Broadway play or a prime-time sitcom.

  22. So NASA is stating that the waters surrounding Antarctica is warming which is/will be the cause of the disruption to the Adele nesting habitat and this is bad.
    But MIT had an article published in mid April talking about the Southern Ocean cooling that was responsible for the increasing sea ice extent. Which was bad because it meant that warmer water was on its way
    So, is the Southern ocean warming which is bad
    Or, is the Southern ocean cooling which is bad?
    And, it is unclear to me just how a warmer climate with presumably less snowfall is detrimental to a species that nests in the rocks

  23. “From other studies that used actual ground counts — people going and physically counting penguins …”.
    =================================================
    http://www.ecophotoexplorers.com/images/antarctica/AntarcticaStationsMap1.jpg
    There is correlation between the areas of declining penguin population and the presence of research stations.
    Maybe the penguins don’t like the presence of irritating nosey human beings; maybe being constantly interfered with and counted by researchers has driven the penguins to find quieter breeding grounds.

    • I appreciate the map, the comment quoted below made me wonder about the likely effect of these stations. Perhaps a better use of the researchers’ time would be to examine the impact of scientific research on Antarctic species.
      ““Penguin colonies near Palmer Station on the West Antarctic Peninsula have declined by at least 80 percent since the 1970s,” Cimino said.”
      Funny how wildlife populations tend to move away and/or decrease when humans invade. Animals in suburbia will move their nests or change shelter locations if humans seem to have “found” them. What do they think is going to happen with an animal that is used to being one of a very few mammals on the land?
      If I were in the penguins’ position, I would move too.

      • I rather doubt that disturbance is very important. At Port Lockroy in the Peninsula there is an easily accessible colony of Jackass Penguins (admittedly another species). Almost all tourist ships call at Port Lockroy. The colony is divided into two parts, only one of which is open to tourists. It is quite interesting walking around in the colony. The penguins ignore the tourists utterly so you can watch their intimate life at zero range.
        The idea about the divided colony is to study the effect of disturbance, but I have never seen any published results, and I was told why by one of the professional guides. The penguins in the “tourist” part of the colony consistently raise more chicks successfully than those in the undisturbed part. The reason being that despite being strictly told not to interfere, the tourists regularly chase away the skuas when they attack the incredibly cute penguin chicks.

  24. Speechless I am. The AGW nuts need a new poster child since the polar bear has defied their doom and gloom and is thriving. Based on recent studies they have settled on penguins, A smart choice since penguins are relatively harmless and beloved for their Charlie Chaplin antics, whereas polar bears are just about the most vicious predators existing in the world. They even routinely stalk humans. Almost no other species on earth does that. Unfortunately for them their data on penguins is as flawed as their data on polar b

  25. The warmists are getting desperate so they’re dumping the polar bear in favor of the penguin. i guess polar bears aren’t cute ‘n cuddly enough (in light of the pause) anymore…

    • Only someone with no knowledge of nature would consider a polar bear to be cute and cuddly.
      Unfortunately, that category includes most environmentalists these days.

  26. Penguins are found on shoreline habitats of Antarctica, South America, Africa, and Australia, as well as numerous islands generally south of the equator (the Galapagos Islands are ON the equator, and host the Galapagos Penguins). There are 18-20 surviving species, and at least 32 species that are *known* to have become extinct, through NATURAL processes. Unless climate change totally eliminates shoreline habitats, either through a Noachian flood or through total evaporation of the world’s oceans, there will always be shoreline habitats for penguins to enter, adapt to, and exploit.

  27. Still remember the warmist ABC show Catalyst doing a disappearing sea ice show on Antartica ,only to show polar bears in the background .
    I thought Antartica was getting colder so surely this would not help the Penguins nesting .

    • Transferring polar bears to the Antarctic would be pretty rough on the penguin populations.

  28. How is it that colonies that are increasing, stable and declining can all be in the same area as they should be influenced by the same local climate?

  29. Seriously what are the findings? Might, maybe, maybe not, perhaps, and i am paraphrasing! So what decisions do we make based on this? Piffle, drivel and who the hell would pay for this?

    • I come to the conclusion that a large group of researchers might be researching the effects of unemployment if they keep up this this sort of rubbish.

  30. – You guys realise that nobody’s listening right now. With all this Trump/Clinton stuff and that Brexit nonsense on the other side of the pond we’re getting shoved on the back burner. So what have we not done for a while that might get us some attention? Ideas, guys, please.
    – It’s a while since we did penguins.
    – Yeah, right. Penguins. We could do something there. Those little cutie ones. What are the called again?
    – Adelies?
    – Yeah, them. Go see what we’ve got that could turn into something about how global warming will cause them all to disappear or eat each other or something scary.

  31. A few comments. If (a big if) temperatures go up strongly in the Antarctic I would expect that the adelie penguins would simply move into new areas. Note that there is not a single colony in the whole Weddell sea area today. Reason: no reliably open water in summer.
    Also I would expect penguin numbers to start declining throughout the Southern Ocean fairly soon. Reason: penguin numbers have exploded in in the last half century or so since the baleen whales were hunted to near-extinction, freeing a vast new food resource for penguins. As whale stocks start to recover, penguins can be expected to decline.
    This might even have bearing on adelie penguins in the peninsula. Whaling stopped earlier in the South Atlantic and you definitely see a lot more baleen whales in the Drake Passage than e. g. south of New Zealand.

  32. While the specific mechanisms for this relationship remain unknown
    we know Adélie penguins population declines are associated with warming
    ===================================
    what utter nonsense. in one sentence they say they don’t know the cause, then in the next breath they say they are certain.
    you cannot be certain of a cause and effect relationship if you don’t know how the cause and effect operates. at best you have an unexplained correlation. it is just as likely that studying the penguins has a detrimental effect on them.
    do a correlation on the number of people visiting penguin colonies with the population of the colonies, you are more likely to find that is the mechanism you are observing at work. the penguins are likely moving to more remote locations to escape the human researchers/observers than they are trying to escape climate change.

    • On top of that, all of the observational evidence indicates that the penguin populations have been more adversely affected by cooling, rather than warming.

  33. The climate change we have been experiencing is caused by the sun and the oceans and Mankind does not have the power to change it so we have no power to change the climate situation. There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate.

    • Well…There’s at least a little evidence that it has at least an insignificant effect.

      • CO2 is a minor greenhouse gas. Increasing its concentration in the atmosphere will increase radiative forcing. Without the greenhouse effect, the average surface temperature of the Earth would be about 30°C cooler than it currently is.
        This is basic physics.
        Humans are responsible for about half of the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s.
        The degree to which anthropogenic forcing has affected or will affect the bulk temperature of the atmosphere is unknown. All of the observational evidence indicates that it is insignificant (0 to 1.5°C per doubling of CO2).
        This is at least a little evidence that it has at least an insignificant effect.

      • So, in theory, there should be evidence. We just can’t point to it. Too much noise in the system. Tricky, that.

      • While there’s a lot of noise, it’s tougher than separating signal from noise. It’s trying to separate one specific signal out of a multitude of signals. It’s like looking for one specific needle in a stack of needles.

  34. They can’t even get the unmodelled parts correct:
    “The Adélie penguin is a species that breeds across the entire Antarctic continent. “

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