Great Barrier Reef bleaching study; Karoly et al (April 2016), Part A.

Guest essay by Bob Fernley-Jones


This headline image is for a publically released article (the article) in the Australian university-partnered blog The Conversation in which ‘the study’ cited therein is of major concern particularly in the point highlighted with red underline:


It focussed on the month of March in 2016, when record high Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) in the Coral Sea prevailed and which coincided with an extraordinarily powerful El Niño unlike anything seen since 1998. Because accessible GBR data were not available until recently, it employed Coral Sea data to predict future GBR bleaching events.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) had reported March 2016 at 29.48 0C, which was 0.08 0C warmer than February, a mere 0.02 0C warmer than twelve years ago in February, when March was inharmoniously 0.16 0C cooler. Also at odds was that the SST’s in January and February are typically warmer than in March but only the anomalously cooler month was considered in the study.

Of major concern is that a Google search as illustrated in this cropped screenshot revealed thousands of hits on the coupled exact phrases as seen default bolded (hyphen optional):


It is still going with 4,210 hits on 22/July and 4,560 on 8/September/2016.

I’m advised via email from the University of Melbourne that the study is to be replaced:

“In the more comprehensive study, we analyse observational data for the narrow coastal GBR sea temperatures and the larger Coral Sea region in March and in Jan-March, as well as climate model simulations and palaeoclimate reconstructions”

All other information has been declined and anyway apart from it being effectively an admission of the former inadequacies it is not relevant to the subject of this review. The issue remains that the public domain is still widely misinformed with defunct assertions for three months after its original release. Requests to remedy this have been refused.

Synopsis and methodology:

Part A of this review employs only empirical data and comparisons with authenticated observations. In so doing it deliberately avoids consideration of some arguable theoretical or cause-and-effect arguments and omissions within either the article OR the study it contains. For instance, in their use of monthly SST data it disabled any analysis of the quite abundant findings in the literature that thermal bleaching may not be caused by only a function of SST x time, but also in the rate of

change in temperature[1]. In order to avoid debate and distraction from the incontrovertible facts, such things will be deferred to Part B.

Importantly, the study was focussed on revelation of mass bleachings as found by aerial surveys in late March 2016 and was associated with reports of the hottest ever March in the Coral Sea, a tiny part of which is the GBR. Then, in late April with remarkable alacrity and before the 2,300 Km (1,400 miles) x ~3,000 reefs could be surveyed by divers, the five co-authors publically released their study without peer review into the public domain. The aerial surveys could not determine when the bleaching occurred (or how severe) but the author’s study assumed it was in March 2016.

Because of that focus on SST’s in the vast Coral Sea, correlations with past authenticated events and non-events on the GBR were explored. Of eight major GBR observations over the past twenty years there was no correlation with seven of them, and the only one that was a fit was arguably accidental among a host of other El Niño global fits.

Eight other major empirical conflicts were found elsewhere to show that even if the study were to pass peer review and be found to be internally correct for projecting future SST’s in the Coral Sea, it was not relevant to the shallow GBR. (For instance, there are significant zonal issues within the ~3,000 reefs and great length of the GBR of 2,300 Km/1,400 miles). That is not to dispute that there has been very high coral mortality reported (with some puzzling distributions) in the far north in 2016 but that the study is misleading and excessively alarming.

Note: [1] Rate of change: e.g. see page 4 in this substantial synthesis of various causes of bleaching.

Empirical Analysis; (in 9 progressive steps):

Step 1) The last twenty years in the Coral Sea:

Figure 1) shows twenty years of monthly SST anomalies[2] in the period embracing the extraordinary El Niños of 1998 and 2016. The red circled numbers identify recognised GBR mass bleaching events and those circled in grey are other conflicting observations. Although 2016 fits the concurrent observation very well, seven failings are found WRT earlier events.

Note: [2] Anomaly is relative to the standard BoM 1961 -1990 average


Graphics typically use downloaded BoM data archived in Excel spreadsheet supplements

(1) The first recognised mass bleaching on the GBR (and globally) coincided with the 1998 Super El Niño. However, SST in the whole Coral Sea fell 0.07 0C below its 20-year average. Unlike (3) and (8) where bleaching was greatest in the north region, it was reportedly most severe in the centre.

(2) The Coral Sea March SST averaged 0.29 0C above (1) and 0.25 0C above (3) mass bleachings and yet no bleaching was reported.

(3) This was an El Niño neutral mass bleaching confined to the GBR. However, the Coral Sea March SST was slightly below average.

(4) Coral Sea March SST was significantly warmer than (1) and (3) mass bleachings yet the Australian Institute of Marine Research (AIMS) does not recognise a significant event.

(5) AIMS reported localized high mortality thermal bleaching only in the far south particularly around the Keppel Islands and yet the Coral Sea March SST was near average.

(6) The recognised American global authority of Coral Reef Watch is in NOAA. They describe the second global mass bleaching per the 2010 El Niño (whereas AIMS reported 2002 as second on the GBR). However, there were no significant reports on the GBR for 2010.

(7) Coral Sea was significantly warmer in 2015 than (1) & (3) and approaching the record high of (8) and yet AIMS reported on 5/April/2015 significant coral recovery over the previous three years, putting aside heavy cyclone mortality (19.7 %) in the north.

(8) This correlates with the 2015/16 El Niño, global mass bleaching and the globally high record temperatures. Although the Coral Sea correlated with GBR observations in this single instance, it was not an exclusive indicator for GBR bleaching.

Thus there are seven years of conflicts versus one OK in twenty years which conflicts with the following reply comment given under the article by Prof Karoly:

“…GBR experts have confirmed that the sea surface temperature variations in the Coral Sea are highly correlated with those in the shallow waters of the GBR. That is why we included Ove Hoegh-Guldberg as a co-author in our study, as he is an expert on climate variations and coral bleaching in the GBR. In addition, the Bureau of Meteorology uses the observed sea temperatures in the Coral Sea to provide warnings of possible coral bleaching conditions to the GBRMPA [Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority]…”


Step 2) AIMS daily data & March typically coolest Month in the hot season:

The study held great significance in the record high SST in the whole vast Coral Sea (CS) in March 2016 and predicted future increasingly severe highs there for March with an assertion that it would be applicable to the GBR.

However, the GBR is located in the shallow waters of the Continental Shelf parts of which at low tides are even out of water with a multitude of varying ambient conditions arising. (to be elaborated in Part B). On the other hand, the Coral Sea has an average depth of ~2.4 Km over an area of ~4.8 million Km2 (3 million miles2) together with complex bathymetry and erratic circulation; basic flows CSIRO animation here.

At the time of the study, GBR data were inadequate for purpose and only the readily accessible BoM monthly data for the Coral Sea where employed. However, and importantly, AIMS do have some daily water temperature records and in figure 2 their “long term” (LT) records (which vary in length but average at about ten years) reveal several issues in the use of coarse monthly data:


A monthly data plot is available in supplementary spreadsheets, (Fig 2b)

One of the features in past GBR bleaching events is that their distribution has varied inconsistently from severe to nil over the length of its 2,300 Km. The GBRMPA mortality distribution map for 13/June/2016 is quite intriguing especially around Lizard Island, (a proposed later post). The AIMS data also show a wide water temperature range compared with the more equable Jan–Feb–Mar averages for the whole of the Coral Sea. Those single temperatures do not address the higher variability on the GBR.

In addition not only is February warmer than March but March temperatures typically (and logically) drop more rapidly on the GBR compared with the Coral Sea. That observation is unsurprising at least because of the major difference in thermal mass.

Notice that in the Coral Sea 20-year average monthly data that March is typically the coolest month there too and again unsurprisingly it is more equable. Step 9) compellingly quantifies this issue further.


Step 3) Comparing February and March in the Coral Sea:

Step 2) confirmed that March is not typically the hottest month on the GBR or Coral Sea and figure 3) considers the five most significant events out of those first seen in figure 1):


· February in 1998 and 2002 better support the reported mass bleaching on the GBR than does March in the Coral Sea. (High global mortality was reported in 1998 but 2002 was unique to the GBR).

· February in 2001 was less contradictory than March because March was warmer than in 1998 & 2002 but February was cooler. (March 2001 per Coral Sea ideation should have endured bleaching if it were a correct predictor).

· Both February and March 2015 are highly contradictory to a period of good coral recovery from 2013 through 2015 according to AIMS (apart from the previously mentioned 19.7 % cyclone loss in the north).

Step 4) The BoM released SST data for the GBR after public launch of the study.

This new data [13] now enables comparison of anomalies in the typically hotter month of February with the March ideation:


· February GBR data is mostly a better fit to observations than March in the Coral Sea particularly in the big El Niño mass global bleaching of 1998 and the non-event in 2015.

· However, February 2004 is even more paradoxical than March given that AIMS does not recognise significant bleaching that year.

Potential explanations for that paradox are to be presented in Parts B & C, but quickly moving on:

Step 5) Anomalies versus actual temperatures.

The focus of the study was on a record-high SST in March 2016 which is presented by the BoM in their time-series graphs as a deviation from the BoM standard 1961-1990 average for that particular month, or an anomaly. The anomaly for March 2016 was most extraordinary, and outlying of the twenty-year trend. However, each month and site has its own declared average base for those anomalies (per drop-down menu options at the link immediately above). Thus, although an anomaly may be high for a particular month it may actually be cooler than a typically hotter month with a lower anomaly.

The primary cause of bleaching is attributed to high water temperature. Accordingly, figure 5) reviews temperatures versus anomalies for the conflicting years (those first featured in Step 1).


Coming back to the focus of the study on the anomaly for March 2016 in the Coral Sea, when GBR data (from the same BoM source) are considered together with February it can be seen that the dark red bars foretelling the study’s model are rather less significant than when first seen alone in fig. 1. Unfortunately, the GBR data are also single monthly temperatures for the whole of the GBR (the average of nine points) over which there is high regionality in bleaching events and in water temperature range, (Re figure 2), but that aside here are but four big issues:

  • There are wide disparities between the GBR and Coral Sea data, particularly with respect to actual temperatures rather than anomalies.
  • It seems that there should have been a major bleaching in February 2004 but not so according to AIMS.
  • The High SST’s in the Coral Sea in 2001 and 2015 are strongly contradicted by the GBR data which corrects those ‘CS-should-have’ but actually ‘non-happening-events’ on the GBR.
  • The data support a major bleaching in February 1998 and 2002 with 1998 being the warmest although AIMS reports that 2002 was more severe. (Whilst Coral Sea temperatures were below the 20-year average in March!)



Step 6) Monthly data versus daily, and regionality of events:

According to AIMS, (and others) coral bleaching and mortality can occur in periods much shorter than a month with higher temperatures.

Figure 6) compares water temperatures in the hot season on the GBR per AIMS together with their longer term (LT) trends.


The big aerial surveys finding mass bleachings were conducted in late March 2016 but they could not determine the timing of the events.

These graphics show that there are volatile short hot-periods which may fall in any of the three hot months or across a cusp, individually or severally. Although the sample in the north is very small, it does support assessments of the greatest coral loss there in March. However, in the centre and south, hot periods predominated in January and February or across cusps and they are contrary and notably bigger anomalies in the south.

  • Monthly data are too coarse to reliably predict bleaching (according to AIMS), particularly in March when the shallow waters of the GBR rapidly cool.
  • Modelling based on March in the Coral Sea also cannot emulate January and February events on the GBR or their regionality.


Step 7) March 2016 in the Coral Sea….a sample of 1:

Figure 7) shows that the two “Super El Niño” years deviate significantly from the long term averages, predominantly in February but with March 2016 being especially unique versus the past 20 years:


  • Figure 7a shows that the two “Super El Niños” had a significant warming effect over the long term underlying trends on the GBR and by logical extension big La Niñas (which typically follow) will have a cooling effect, including that the article gives that La Niñas are also associated with increased cloudiness in the Coral Sea region. (Prof Karoly comment[3])
  • The high values in 2015 seen in figure 7b [4] also point to the big El Niño being the main driver in the Coral Sea because early 2016 is but the peak in a two-year oscillation.


[3] Regional SST’s are not only typically cooler during La Niñas by virtue of changes in ocean circulation but also from reduced sunshine penetration. E.g. Prof Karoly advised in comments under the article: “El Niño changes the sunshine duration in the region by reducing the cloudiness in the Coral Sea region, not changing the length of day. This is consistent with its impact of reducing rainfall in eastern Australia.”

[4] Figure 7b was constructed from cropped copies of BoM time-series graphs [14]. Figure 7a was found from downloaded BoM data as archived in the supplementary Excel Spreadsheets. (As typically with the preceding graphics)

8) Coincidence of mass bleachings with big El Niños

The 2016 “worst ever” GBR bleaching was associated with a “Super El Niño” year the like of which has not emerged for 19 years and both 1998 and 2016 were also mass global events both in temperature and coral bleaching. Despite these coincidences with mass bleachings on the GBR, the article included these assertions (my bold):

“The decaying El Niño event may also have affected the likelihood of bleaching events. However, we found no substantial influence for the Coral Sea region as a whole…

Overall, this means that the influence of El Niño on the Coral Sea as a whole is weak.”

Putting aside that the Coral Sea is not the GBR, figure 8a) shows all twelve months of the year in the Coral Sea and the red ellipses frame three years where six or more months are clustered at anomalously high levels. Those years are associated with recognised super or big El Niños and three global mass bleaching events as recognised by the world authority NOAA:


  • Clearly the data show that El Niños do affect the Coral Sea SST’s but the seasonal timing of their impact is unpredictable
  • The GBR local ENSO neutral mass bleaching in 2002 is not impressively reflected by proportionate Coral Sea SST anomalies.
  • The high value in February 2004 appears to be faulty…..a non-event…..Parts B & C will be to offer some potential explanations

Figure 8b) shows a stronger twelve-month correlation in anomalies with El Niños on the GBR but a repeat of the paradox with the local ENSO-neutral mass bleaching in January 2002.


  • Another problem WRT predictability from poorly understood phenomena is uncertainty in timing of ENSO events and how they impact on GBR modelling difficulties


9) Use of CS to model GBR also invalidated by big thermo-dynamic differences:


  • In terms of monthly data, March is clearly the coolest and the Autumnal onset effects are more rapid on the GBR in March.
  • Diurnal variability in atmospheric conditions and solar exposure etcetera are consequently more volatile on the GBR
  • A question not explored here is whether SST’s rule supreme in predicting bleaching versus what might happen under greatly varying ambient conditions for corals when exposed during low tides, particularly WRT time of day and weather.
  • Also, as with all the temperatures and anomalies reviewed here, they are mean values over day and night and another issue that could be explored is if this is the best metric to assess risk of bleaching


The combined resources of five authors from three Australian universities launched a non-peer-reviewed article into the public domain on 29/April/2016 which subsequently went globally viral, presumably in a widespread acceptance that it was authoritatively true. The writers included the media-popular Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and Prof David Karoly.

Hoegh-Guldberg is described by his University of Queensland as: “…[an] expert for media…” and, as “…the inaugural Director of the Global Change Institute… … is deeply-motivated by a desire to communicate science effectively”. Amongst many other things he has performed on TV with a scientific experiment to prove that the oceans are acidifying by blowing air from his lungs through a tube into a container of water + pH meter! But, moving on and in brief:

This Part A rebuttal focuses on the University of Melbourne’s (UniMelb) involvement in which Karoly has taken the lead in onsite comments and in email exchanges WRT the study and its headline claim of: “Coral bleaching was made 175 times more likely thanks to climate change”. Oddly though, it seems that based on advice from the Head of Science at UniMelb, that the true author of the modelled statistic is co-author Andrew King who has remained conspicuously silent throughout.

It is not the first time that Karoly has taken the mantle of co-authorship in a field where he apparently has zero expertise, seemingly in order to advance his mantra of CO2 driven planetary doom. For instance, he was co-author in a UniMelb biology paper ‘Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming’ that found from unnatural hatchings in a lab that when the data were transcribed to the temperature record for Laverton, (a declared UHI affected suburb of Melbourne) the poor creatures would be emerging ten days too early. For your entertainment I quote from his email reply to me on some issues that I raised in his role as a biologist (my underline): “…our study on the temperature trends and the changes in phonology of the common brown butterfly…” In effect he was declaring that increasing levels of CO2 were changing the voices of the butterfly and when I teased him on it he claimed it was a typo, although if he intended e instead of o they are far apart on qwerty keyboards. Oh, and many readers may be aware of the ‘Gergis et al’ hockey-stick saga.

In a series of emails and evasions by Karoly it became futile so I went to higher levels at UniMelb and after more evasions I eventually received in full:

· From Head of Science Prof Phillips on 27/July: I believe that Prof Karoly has addressed the issues raised in your various emails. Consequently, we consider the matter closed and will not be providing further responses.

· From Dean of Science Prof Day on 29/July: I believe that Prof Karoly has addressed the issues raised in your various emails. Consequently, we consider the matter closed and will not be providing further responses.

But, it was precisely that Karoly, Phillips and Day had absolutely not responded over these matters, including presentation of key graphics similar to those above. Also, despite that they claimed to be submitting a very different enhanced study* to an unknown journal, they have not responded to a request to retract the non-peer-reviewed faulty one gone globally viral in the public domain or to consider its review in that domain.

* It allegedly adds consideration of the warmer months of January and February and actual GBR SST’s rather than inappropriate Coral Sea data.


1). A prime conclusion is that the claim of ‘175 times worse’ is false and it should be openly and effectively retracted from the public domain

2). Contrary to assertions in the article, the 1997/1998 and 2015/2016 El Ninos did significantly affect monthly SST’s in the Coral Sea but differently to the GBR. (One factor is in accumulative lag effects from earlier months)

3). Predictions for bleaching events on the GBR fail if founded on March average SST’s for the whole of the Coral Sea, particularly versus the big north-south distribution of water temperature and observed events along the 2,300 Km length of the GBR.

3). The 20-year averages for January and February are typically hotter than the wrongly chosen month of March.

4). A superior model would use daily SST’s (not monthly) on the GBR that analyses the entire hot season in at least three zones; North, Centre and South. However, the poorly understood ENSO and hot water poolings remain as an obstacle to reliable predictions.

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September 8, 2016 11:28 pm

Karoly is a sad character, whose life is relegated to the importance of the Climate Council title that he can use to perpetrate such laughable but serious misconception of actual scientific research. History can only record and provide the assumption that money and assumed importance became his desperate goal in life, So sad and worse because he must know that unless suffering from some delusion that sets aside ability.

M Seward
Reply to  KenB
September 9, 2016 6:11 am

I just laugh or roll my eyes whenever Karoly comes out with something be it in the media or pal reviewed published. He ranks with Tim Flannery and whatshisname from the Ship of Fools episode in my pantheon of eco buffoons and Gaiantologists.
I have had that attitude to him since I watched him sitting behind his talking head mate, the Nobel Prize winning microbiologist Professor Peter Doherty, apparently reading from a script contributed to or pal reviewed by karoly, where he bagged out “deniers” on a presentation at Melbourne University televised by the (Oz) ABC. A slide went up listing anti vaxxers, anti flouriders, holocaust deniers and finished with, you guessed it, anthropogenic climate change “deniers”. The link to ‘holocaust denial’ was plain as day and clearly calculated. One specific target seemed to me another professor at Melbourne University, Ian Plimer, well known AGW skeptic and a professor of geology.
It was so obvious what was going on and just how slimy and cowardly it all was and for mine, his reputation went down the toilet with the rest of the intellectual excreta and ass wipes.
This effort is about par for the course from Karoly imo. When it comes to nutty professors I think he is about on a par with Timothy Leary frankly. Maybe that’s a bit rough but certainly in the Leary – Lewandowsky quadrant of the Gaian Galaxy.

bit chilly
Reply to  M Seward
September 9, 2016 1:34 pm

i thought by now anyone with a passing interest realised karoly was an out and out cagw advocate and nothing more.

Reply to  M Seward
September 9, 2016 6:16 pm

Steady on. Leary was quite sane in comparison 😂

Robert from oz
September 8, 2016 11:29 pm

If it’s BOM it’s made up as they go , as for the mass bleaching I thought it was 5 percent of the reef that was affected , how is that quantified as mass ?

Robert from oz
Reply to  Robert from oz
September 8, 2016 11:39 pm

Silly me obviously mass refers to what the church of climatology do on Sunday .

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Robert from oz
September 9, 2016 3:56 am

No you’re quite wrong, this religeous bunch meet every day of the week for mass!!!! 😉

September 8, 2016 11:45 pm

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is not an “expert on climate variations and coral bleaching in the GBR.”. He is a poor excuse for a scientist and mostly a Green activist who is an expert at acquiring rent seeking grant funding for his ecof*scism.
He’s like the Tim Flannery of the GBR.

Reply to  J.H.
September 9, 2016 1:05 am

I believe that Hoegh-Guldberg was reported to the University of Queensland Vice-chancellor and QCAT for breaching the Public Sector Ethics Act Qld in which UQ is specifically mentioned in the list of government institution to which the Act applies. The Act amongst various requirements of conduct requires public officers to be “apolitical”. Hoegh-Gulberg is a supporter of ACF and has prepared reports for them and various environmental groups. He appeared on behalf of an environmental group in a court case against the Adani coal mine proposed development. One would have thought he would keep his head down over breaches of the PS Ethics Act. Note that unskeptical Cook is in his department.

Reply to  cementafriend
September 9, 2016 4:16 pm

That’s interesting. Also of interest is that Cook is given praise by University of Queensland here:

John Cook is the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and the course leader for Denial101x. He is currently completing a doctorate in cognitive psychology, researching the psychology of climate change and the efficacy of inoculation against misinformation.
“In 2007, he created, a website that refutes climate misinformation with peer-reviewed science. Skeptical Science has won the 2011 Australian Museum Eureka Prize for the Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge and 2016 National Center for Science Education Friends of the Planet Award…”

His supervisor in cognitive psychology was none other than Stephan Lewandowsky!

Reply to  J.H.
September 9, 2016 2:12 am

As you say, Hoegh-Guldberg is a green activist. He has long been associated with WWF and Greenpeace.
The comparison with Flannery is apt, although Karoly could also assume that mantle, in view of the butterfly “phonology” comment.
Flannery is on record several times, as saying that CO2 reacts with seawater to create “carbolic” acid, a disinfectant, rather than the innocuous carbonic acid, a necessary part of the carbonate cycle in the oceans. It is even in one of his books from 2012. Only one letter, but what a difference that single letter could have for the survival of the planet!
Perhaps Hoegh-Guldberg could also be regarded as Australia’s equivalent of the UK’s Peter Wadhams, Arctic doomster extraordinaire.

Reply to  dennisambler
September 9, 2016 6:00 pm

as far as I can find John Cook’s only recognised degree is a Bsc. Not sure how you can jump from an undergraduate degree straight into a PhD.

Patrick MJD
September 9, 2016 12:00 am

Karoly is an alarmist nut who shouts down anyone who challenges him, esp climate change. Haven’t heard him on the ABC in a while…I try to ignore him.

September 9, 2016 12:10 am

I expect that the necessary grant request is 200 times greater than the last.

September 9, 2016 12:23 am

Sorry, stopped reading when I saw they were using BoM data.

chris moffatt
Reply to  Jack
September 9, 2016 4:05 am

I stopped reading when I saw who the authors are.

Wim Röst
September 9, 2016 1:24 am

Jim Steele explains very well in that bleaching is a perfect process of adaptation which PREVENTS extirpation.
Ask an alarmist at which temperature (for example 25,1°C, 26,3°C or 28.7°C) coral will bleach. They will not know. Simply because there is coral at water temperatures of 25,1°C, 26,3°C and 28.7°C. All local circumstances will create their own coral. Changing circumstances create changes in the exact type of coral which is a part of their survival process. Adaption is not extinction, on the contrary.
Who googles on ‘coral map’ will find a lot of maps, all demonstrating that on places with widely varying circumstances (temperature, currents, nutrients, sunlight etc.) there is coral.
There is a 2000 km2 coral field in front of Norway (yes, Norway): You can even find a coral reef within the polar circle:
There is deep water coral in seas as cold as 4°C:
You can find extensive corals in the hottest seas: the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. Temperatures locally up to 35°C. Coral survives at low temperatures and at high temperatures. It survives during Glacials, during the rapidly changing circumstances at the end of the glacials (fast rising seas, fast rising temperatures, changing currents), it survived in the the ‘warmer than now’ Holocene Optimum and in the ‘much hotter than now Eemian’ and in ‘warmer than now’ pre-glacial periods.
Bleaching is part of the adaptation process of coral. New circumstances, new coral.

richard verney
Reply to  Wim Röst
September 9, 2016 2:37 am

Good points. Coral can (and does) survive in a vast temperature range.
Whilst the Norwegian reef lies within the Arctic circle, one must bear in mind the importance of the Gulf Stream. My mother in law comes from Lofoten and it has a remarkable subpolar oceanic climate having at all times of the year an average monthly temperature above 1 degC and in the summer months 13 to 15 degC. Considering that it is located within the Arctic circle that is remarkable.
My wife spent a year there and they only went to school 3 days a week in the winter, if not they would not see daylight.
A very different life, and like all things there needs to be adaption, and life invariably finds away to adapt.

Wim Röst
Reply to  richard verney
September 9, 2016 3:45 am

Richard, I visited the Lofoten as well. It is said that my family originates from the isle of Røst at the southern tip of the Lofoten. Indeed, temperatures are higher than you might expect within the polar circle. But still I didn’t expect coral over there. You are right also that circumstances are quite different at that latitude. The missing daylight in winter requires special adaptations from the corals. In summer time I read a book outside until two o’clock AM. The coral is adapted to this peculiar light circumstances.
Instead of thinking about ‘tropical coral’ we must think about coral in all kinds of local circumstances. About a lot of underwater ‘microclimates’ with often changing circumstances (light, food, temperature, currents and so on). Coral adapts.
I have always been astonished about ‘extinction claims’ depending on a relatively small temperature change. What species do with changing circumstances, is ‘migrate’. Both plants and animals (and corals). For example, during the Holocene Optimum ‘forest advanced to or near the current arctic coastline between 9000 and 7000 yr B.P.’ Source: The tree stumps are still found in what now again is arctic tundra.
Corals have a method to adapt the locations they inhabit as well: “About three-quarters of all stony corals produce male and/or female gametes. Most of these species are broadcast spawners, releasing massive numbers of eggs and sperm into the water to distribute their offspring over a broad geographic area (Veron, 2000). The eggs and sperm join to form free-floating, or planktonic, larvae called planulae. Large numbers of planulae are produced to compensate for the many hazards, such as predators, that they encounter as they are carried by water currents. The time between planulae formation and settlement is a period of exceptionally high mortality among corals (Barnes and Hughes, 1999).” Source:
Temperature rise and CO2 rise is perfect for a raising (!) the number of species and for the quantity of wildlife that can live on Earth. More moisture helps also. Compare the number of species and the quantity of wildlife in the Sahara with the Amazonia. Or compare Antarctica and Amazonia.
What is diminishing the number of species and the quantity of wildlife is ‘cold’, a lack of CO2 and a lack of H2O. Unfortunately for alarmists all these seem to rise in this (slowly) warming world. The greenies should like CO2.
Alarmists present ‘change’ as ‘possible extinction’. It is the only thing they have and with which they can mislead not knowing normal people and badly informed politicians.

M Seward
Reply to  Wim Röst
September 9, 2016 4:13 pm

Coral bleaching may well be little more than your skin peeling after getting sunburnt. After that you have a bit more of a tan and can get on with life.
I envisage a spoof showing mass ambulance arrivals and medivac helicopters arriving at a popular beach to treat the ‘mass casualties’ of ‘deadly mass solar radiation burns’ on a typical summer’s day somewhere. Imagine the media hysteria triggered by all that free, visually compelling content and all the talking heads trying to look so serious and authoritive. (Actually I think most of them look like confused toddlers who really need to do a very big poo but that’s just me.)
Umm, Josh, when you get back from London mate…..

Reply to  Wim Röst
September 9, 2016 11:33 pm

It also amazes me that whenever a new species is discovered which, is not a rare event, it is immediately declared to be endangered. That includes those that have “become extinct” but years later found to have somehow been found reincarnated. e.g. an Australian frog or two a few years ago I recall.
The Royal Society biology letters* published a paper declaring a tiny hard-to-find snail on a remote island to be extinct;
Others requested retraction on the grounds that much of the island was not (and was difficult to) research, but the RS refused.
Then some years later the snail became reincarnated but the RS still refused to retract the original crap on the grounds of time expiry. Here is one interesting account by James Delingpole who diverts to associated matters such as the corrupt peer review process at the RS. An interesting read.

September 9, 2016 1:40 am

I am in my70s i have dived a number of times on the reef over the years the reef was healthy 50 years ago as it is now it has its up and down but it has been around for years and will continue to be around for millions s of years

Reply to  morgo
September 9, 2016 3:25 am

While I know what you mean, the present GBR is only 10,000 years old. Due to ice-age sea-level constraints, the reef has to shift location every 100 kyrs. I am sure if you go out into deeper waters, you will find evidence for the glacial maximum reefs (a sequence of eight or so reefs, covering the last million years).

September 9, 2016 2:58 am

Fortunately for the scientific process we can compare the Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast of Australia to the reefs such as Nigaloo and Ashmore on the West Coast.
For good measure we could add the reefs in the Gulf of Carpinteria.
Sorry to say that I have come across no such study of reefs on the same latitude.

Roney Long
September 9, 2016 3:29 am

About 10 percent of sedimentary rocks exposed at earths surface are limestones. These limestones are mostly accumulations of debris shed during the alive phase of a reef, however, many examples exist of reefs “frozen” in place. These reefs were either overwhelmed by choking sedimentary debris or just died and were slowly interned. This happens repeatedly throughout a billion years of the geologic record, showing that there is something very normal about a wide variety of reef behaviours, including just dieing in place. It seems to me that reef bleaching is a common (normal?) process, and again, not a useful signal against the noise of the background. I am a geologist and my handle during the CB craze was “Limestone Cowboy” thanks to Glen Campbell, which surely makes me some kind of reef expert.

Michael Carter
Reply to  Roney Long
September 10, 2016 1:35 am

Yep, but do a search: Cool/cold water carbonates. There is lots of it and it does not contain much (if any) coral. It was my MSc supervisor Cam Nelson that first bought it to the world’s attention

Reply to  Michael Carter
September 11, 2016 10:33 pm

Confirm that, Cam was my supervisor as well

September 9, 2016 5:17 am

thermal bleaching may not be caused by only a function of SST x time, but also in the rate of change
Of course, and this has been known for decades
They can host more than one zoox at a time…and do…that’s normal
If change is slow enough…which they normally do every season….one zoox will dominate over the others
If the change is too fast for that….they will expel them all…because they can’t selectively expel
It’s very simple…and common sense

Ron Clutz
September 9, 2016 6:31 am

Thanks for doing the scientific take down of bogus research on the Great Barrier Reef. There is also the untold story of on site observations showing the coral recovery since El Nino caused bleaching. Coral reef resilience does not suit the alarmist narrative.

September 9, 2016 7:24 am

It is no surprise that the Great Barrier Reef wars continue…and will continue. Like Climate Science, the GBR Wars are bound to the broader cultural and environmental madness that has captured a large percentage of academia, and thus modern scientists, who are unable to separate their personal and tribe/clan cultural politics from their science work.
These science wars are destroying the general publics faith in scientists — who are seen as serving other masters than truth seeking.

Rob Dawg
September 9, 2016 10:39 am

I suspect Australia has yet to ban sunscreen. It would be the saddest of ironies if the researchers were responsible for the bleaching by visiting the pristine reefs while slathered in the suspect chemicals.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
September 9, 2016 9:01 pm

On a human scale, the Reef is a huge feature and the visitor numbers are tiny.
Most visitors do not even see the proper Reef. Most popular is a few hours at one of the near-shore islands.
The Outer reef is a trip by amphibious aircraft or a long ride in a high speed boat, preferably a large one for comfort and safety and the sea-sick.
The chances of human impact from sunscreen, while present in theory, is quite unlikely.
Main culprits to affect remote places might be climate researchers.
Much of the Reef is zoned as off limits to mere mortals.
IMHO, the Reef is safe from man.
Even the feared sediment dumping off the mainland shore has next to no chance of coming near the Reef proper. Beside, its tons are tiny compared with (say) the tons of silt in the Burdekin River at full flood, which I have seen several times. Awesome, but natural and proven harmless by Nature itself.

September 9, 2016 11:41 am

It seems to me that corals are quite adept of ridding their species of ones that are not as developed or up to adaptation. So sad the human race has lost this ability.

Reply to  Justthinkin
September 9, 2016 4:51 pm

So sad, eh? Try focusing on the ridding of about 250 million in the last century, and perhaps that will cheer you up and give you hope, O developed one.

Reply to  JohnKnight
September 9, 2016 7:09 pm

It is relatively easy to get to the number 250 million killed in the last century. And all by socialists of one stripe or another. See the “Black Book of Communism” for a start. What is so heartbreaking is that people will still vote socialist e.g. all of Bernie’s supporters.

Reply to  Justthinkin
September 10, 2016 12:01 am

One of the things that the prophets of doom on the GBR have not mentioned (as far as know) is that there are thought to be some 600 species of hard and soft corals on the GBR, and a lot of other exotic biota. This must mean that in total there is flexibility in coexistence and symbiotic adaptation, not to mention DNA adaptation in the actual coral polyps etcetera.
Neither do they mention what species were affected or that the death of one species of coral is an opportunity for another. (There is warfare between crowded coral on video)
Quoting the GBRMPA:
“About 600 different types of coral can be found in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and all of them come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Despite …”
Various biology papers have found “new” symbiotic “algae” together with changes to their mix after stressful events that collectively have different tolerances to environmental stresses.

September 9, 2016 1:17 pm

“Calcium carbonate minima (maximum dissolution) have become less intense over the past 300 kyr, whereas there is no systematic trend in CaCO3 maxima (maximum preservation). Whatever the combination of processes that has regulated late-glacial periods of maximum CaCO3 preservation, these seem to have changed little throughout the late-Brunhes carbonate dissolution cycle. Therefore, whereas the intensity of CaCO3 dissolution during the transition into MIS 11 may have been greater than during more recent interglacial–glacial transitions, the overall sequence of events remains unchanged. During each of the late-Pleistocene glacial cycles, changes in deep-sea carbonate chemistry, as reflected by CaCO3 preservation, preceded the onset of continental glaciation. The Holocene sediment record informs us that a similar change in deep-sea carbonate chemistry has already occurred, but it does not help constrain the expected duration of the Holocene. Of course, debate about the expected duration of the Holocene may be largely academic if anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases prevents the initiation of the next ice age for another 500,000 years, as suggested by recent models (Archer and Ganopolski, 2005).”
“Dissolution of CaCO3 in equatorial Pacific sediments has intensified during the late Holocene, having now reached an intensity that is comparable to that which occurred during the onset of each of the late-Pleistocene periods of glaciation. Extrapolating from the robust relationship that has characterized at least the past 500 kyr, we conclude that the ocean’s carbonate chemistry has already made the transition that would lead into the next period of continental ice sheet growth.”
Modern CaCO3 preservation in equatorial Pacific sediments in the context of late-Pleistocene glacial cycles, R.F. Anderson, M.Q. Fleisher, Y. Lao and G. Winckler
Marine Chemistry xx (2007) xxx–xxx

Thomas Englert
Reply to  William McClenney
September 10, 2016 12:18 am

Does this study incude the global warming model output reference implying that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 could give us another 500,000 years (presumably allowing us to colonize other worlds) in order to generate additional funding, or to cheer up the reader who might be concerned about humanity’s imminent demise via glaciation if they are correct that early indications are beginning to show?
If loading the atmosphere with CO2 would give us another 500 kyr, that alone would be enough for me to favor doing it (for posterity, I’ll be long gone).

September 10, 2016 7:48 pm

“CSIRO ocean carbon research scientist Dr Bronte Tilbrook said the research has found ocean chemistry remains positive for coral growth.
Dr Tilbrook said it had also found there were strong seasonal changes, with the best coral growing conditions in summer.
Conditions were also better in the outer regions of the reef and there was more coral growth in the northern parts, he said.”
That settles it then and warmer is better for coral folks-
Ocean carbon research eh? That’s a new one for the the books.

September 10, 2016 7:48 pm

Anecdotally mass bleaching reported from the GBR in the mid-1960s
From interview with Valerie Taylor..
“In 1965 we went from one end of the reef to the other, over six months, and we found bleaching then. In the ’70s we went back and you’d never know it had happened. The coral had recovered; nature had taken care of it. I’ve seen reefs in PNG that were as white as snow and I’ve just come back from there and they’re terrific”.

September 10, 2016 7:58 pm

What really excited me most about this breakthrough ocean carbon research was ‘the research has found ocean chemistry remains positive for coral growth.’

September 11, 2016 3:59 am

Is Karoly off his medication again?

September 12, 2016 6:33 pm

Has anyone considered the possibility that bleaching might not be due to increased SSTs or to CO2 at all, but to the sulfur and nitrogen oxides that also emanate from smokestacks and tailpipes? I have seen nothing about this in the pertinent literature.

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