An Ecologist’s Plea to Dr. Terry Hughes: The Public Needs Robust Science Regards Coral Bleaching, Not Fearmongering!

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_image002Recently Dr. Terry Hughes published the paper Global Warming and Recurrent Mass Bleaching of Corals (henceforth Hughes 2017) and concluded “immediate global action to curb future warming is essential to secure a future for coral reefs.” However, his conclusions are simply not borne out by his evidence. Uncritically blaming global warming, is bad science. Organisms are only affected by local conditions, not a chimeric global average. Believing global warming accounts for everything, Hughes failed to see the critical natural factors that locally drove the Great Barrier Reef 2016 bleaching event.

Although researchers agree coral undergo thermal stress when temperatures exceed 1 to 2°C of their local summer maximum, there has been no trend in maximum summer temperature in the northern Great Barrier Reef. In Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef: A Vulnerability Assessment (2007), Smithers reported on the comparison of mean maximum sea surface temperatures for both the northern and southern Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Since 1903 the average temperature of the southern GBR warmed by 0.7°C and the northern GBR by 0.4°C. But more importantly Smithers reported the mean maximum sea surface temperature between the decades of 1910 to 1919 and 1990 to 1999 showed “a 0.6°C SST rise on the southern GBR but no change in the northern GBR”. So, without a long-term trend of increasing maximum temperatures, climate change, whether natural or anthropogenic, did not contribute to the region’s thermal stress or promote bleaching.

The southern GBR experienced the least bleaching despite a century of warming and contrasts with the northern sector’s severe bleaching and high mortality where maximum temperatures remained unchanged. This paradox contradicts Hughes’ global warming attribution. But Hughes 2017 dismissed this contradiction by creating a false dichotomy between weather and climate stating, “Arguably, southern reefs of the Great Barrier Reef would also have bleached in 2016 if wind, cloud cover and rain from ex-tropical cyclone Winston had not rescued them.” In other words, Hughes blamed the lack of bleaching in the south on weather, but the extreme bleaching in the north on global warming. But it was weather that caused the northern GBR’s extreme bleaching.

Researchers also calculated that during the global warming hiatus years between 1998 and 2013, coastal regions of the Great Barrier Reef experienced a short-term cooling trend illustrated below in Figure 1. That coastal cooling trend further contradicts Hughes’ assertion that “rising sea surface temperatures owing to global warming have triggered unprecedented mass bleaching of corals, including three pan-tropical events in 1998, 2010 and 2015/16”. The severe 2016 bleaching was not due to a rising temperature trend.

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New research details the chain of weather events that more parsimoniously explain the extreme 2016 bleaching.

1) An atmospheric hot spot over the Gulf of Carpentaria in the far north of Australia increased solar heating of its shallow waters that were made more shallow by anomalous drops in sea level (Wolanski 2017, Duke 2017).

2) In contrast to the normal westward flow of cooler Coral Sea waters across the Torres Strait into the Gulf of Carpentaria, winds forced anomalously high sea levels on the west side of the Torres Strait pushing heated Gulf of Carpentaria waters toward the anomalously low sea level on the strait’s eastern side and then onto the northern GBR. This is described in detail in The Gulf of Carpentaria Heated Torres Strait and The Northern Great Barrier Reef During the 2016 Mass Coral Bleaching Event (Wolanski 2017).

3) The small but significant sea level gradient across the Torres Strait generated a very slow flowing current so the water experienced a lengthy residence time in the shallower Torres Strait (only 5-20 meters deep) where solar heating further amplified water temperatures (Wolanski 2017).

4) In addition, regional falling sea levels coupled with extreme low tides during midday throughout the GBR further amplified water temperatures and exposed coral to hot air temperatures (Steele 2017).

Hot Events

Hughes 2017 selectively connected the dots for GBR bleaching events from 1998 to 2002 to 2016 to suggest increasing greenhouse gases were driving increased bleaching. An alternative explanation suggests that random locations of natural hot spots or Hot Events were responsible for variations of each bleaching event. As seen in Figure 1 below (from Liu 2003), although the 1998 hot spot was far more intense in terms of Degree Heat Weeks, the center of the hot spot was located to the south of the GBR, resulting in less bleaching. In contrast a weaker 2002 hot spot caused greater bleaching because it was centered over the central GBR. Due to differing hot spot locations, 42% of the GBR reefs bleached in 1998 compared to 54% in 2002 (Berkelmans 2004). And unlike 1998 and 2002, a 2016 hot event occurred in the north over the Gulf of Carpentaria triggering extreme bleaching across the northern GBR.

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Tropical sea surface temperatures are predominantly controlled by the balance between solar heating modulated by cloud cover, and evaporative cooling modulated by winds. The Indo-Pacific Warm Pool is defined as a region where solar heating maintains an average maximum temperature of 28°C or more. At that temperature, the everyday increase in the daytime temperature suffices to promote robust convection. However regions of convection undergo negative feedbacks that limit the maximum temperature. Rising convection promotes windy conditions that increase evaporation and extracts latent heat, cooling the sea surface. Furthermore, the rising moist air condenses to form increasingly thick clouds. Although these clouds trap more outgoing longwave radiation and increase the greenhouse effect, more significantly the clouds reduce solar heating and cool local sea surfaces. These negative feedbacks limit maximum temperatures under convective regions to about 30°C, which is the northern GBR’s threshold temperature for bleaching (Hoegh-Guldberg)

Counter-intuitively rising air currents from tropical convection generates hot spots where temperatures exceed 30°C hundreds to thousands of kilometers away. To maintain mass balance rising convection currents are balanced by downward air currents elsewhere, and those subsiding currents are dry, lead to less clouds and increased solar heating as well as reduced winds and less evaporative cooling. Relative to these natural dynamics, any immediate contribution from CO2 back radiation is insignificant. Due the reduced evaporative cooling and increased solar heating during a hot event, millions of square kilometers gain over 60 Watts/m2 raising surface temperatures above 30°C (Qin 2009). In contrast CO2 back radiation theoretically contributes no more than 1% of the energy to any given tropical heat event.

Researchers suggest the imbalance in the earth’s energy budget due to increased levels of CO2, globally amounts to 0.6 +/- 0.4 Watts/m2. However regionally, in the tropics any added CO2 has minimal impact. As the IPCC points out, “In the humid equatorial regions, where there is so much water vapour in the air that the greenhouse effect is [already] very large, adding a small additional amount of CO2 or water vapour has only a small direct impact on downward infrared radiation.” Furthermore, researchers suggest that over 90% of that energy is stored in the ocean; but at depths that do not affect coral bleaching. Consistent with earlier studies, Cheng 2015 determined sea surfaces down to 100 meters depth have cooled since the turn of the century. And although Hughes 2017 fears future increases in greenhouse gases and global warming will extirpate most corals, rising CO2 will have a diminishing impact. For example, in “Human Impacts On Weather And Climate” by Cotton and Pielke (2007) the heating effect of increasing CO2 concentrations from 360 ppm to 560 ppm was calculated to be just 0.09 Watts per meter squared in the tropics. So with minimal added energy from 560 ppm, CO2 will still contribute no more than 1% to any given natural hot event.

Varying locations of hot events are determined by varying locations of remote convection. As satellites have observed, tropical oceans are a mosaic of regions with rising convection currents adjacent to regions of subsiding air currents and hot spots. For example, the self-regulating Madden-Julian Oscillation (illustrated below) shifts convection and cooling regions in tandem with subsiding air and hot spots across the Indian Ocean and western equatorial Pacific every 30 to 60 days.

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On greater time scales, El Nino/La NIna events similarly force changes in cool and hot regions. As illustrated below, during La Nina-years the center of intense upward convection and heavy rainfall is centered north of Australia over the Indonesian archipelago. Simultaneously dry warm zones of subsiding air are centered over the eastern Pacific and eastern Africa.

In contrast, during an El Nino event warm water stored in the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool sloshes eastward moving the center of high convection to the central Pacific which simultaneously relocates regions of dry subsiding air and more frequent hot events to the northern Australia/Indonesia region and northern South America. Although export of warm water during an El Nino results in cooler than average water temperatures in the Coral Triangle, subsiding air currents in that region result in hot spots due to greater solar heating and less evaporative cooling. Simultaneously warm waters transported to the cooler central and eastern Pacific regions can directly raise water temperatures causing bleaching in those regions. The combination of warming dynamics is why EL Nino events induce so-called “global” bleaching events even when independent of global warming. Nonetheless, even in non-EL Nino years, random hot events will cause regional bleaching episodes.

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Falling Sea Levels

Falling regional sea levels and low tides amplify heat events. Basic physics dictates that smaller volumes of water heat up much faster than larger volumes. As discussed in the article, Falling Sea Level: The Critical Factor in 2016 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching! regional sea level around the GBR has been falling since 2010 and an El Nino event further reduces those anomalously low sea levels. In addition extreme low tides occurred during midday precisely when Hughes’s bleaching surveys were carried out, and low sea levels amplified the heating of the Gulf of Carpentaria which also caused massive mangrove die-offs (reported here and here).

Oddly Hughes 2017 not only ignored this factor completely, he dismissed it in emails to unscrupulous bloggers such as Miriam Obrien (aka Slandering Sou) and Graham Readfearn who attacked the article Falling Sea Level: The Critical Factor in 2016 Great Barrier Reef Bleaching! Those bloggers created another false dichotomy, this time between the effects of low sea levels and high temperatures. For example, Readfearn falsely stated, “Steele’s claim that rather than heat stress, the bleaching could be caused by falling sea levels.” They simply failed to grasp basic physics: lower sea levels amplify temperatures, as well as exposing coral to deadly warm air temperatures and increased solar radiation. Nonetheless Hughes supported their false dichotomy, failed to correct their misunderstanding and argued lower sea level would only affect the upper 15 mm of coral tips.

To validate airplane estimates of the areal extent of bleaching, Hughes 2017 conducted underwater surveys employing belt transects “placed on the reef crest at a depth of 2 m at each site”. However, estimates of areal extent of bleaching carried out by plane and confirmed by divers does not inform us regards the depth of bleaching or the causes of bleaching. Readfearn and Hughes falsely argued that because I pointed out Hughes’ study was “based on aerial surveys”, that I had argued there was no underwater survey. But they were flat out wrong! I argued “divers must measure the extent of tissue mortality and compare it with changes in sea level” and that measurements of bleaching percentages relative to depth was needed. I never said there was no underwater survey, only that despite that survey, “Hughes et al never carried out, or never reported, such critical measurements.”

In an interview with YaleEnvironment 360, Hughes pushed coral gloom and doom suggesting widespread bleaching made recovery extremely difficult. By focusing on an anecdotal observation of bleaching at 40 meters depth, he correctly but misleadingly argued unbleached species living at 40 meters depth and below are different from species nearer the surface, and thus cannot aid in the recovery of shallower bleached species. But this is why the lack of depth measurements is so critical. Hughes failed to report that bleaching is most often relegated to the shallowest regions, and that bleaching in shallow waters is often relegated to the upper surfaces of a colony. As shown below “mound corals” photographed around Lizard Island, where bleaching and mortality was quite extreme, only bleached on the upper halves. The bottom, shaded half of the colony still serves as a “refuge” providing new larvae to support rapid reef recovery.

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Unlike many “mound” corals where the individual polyps are relatively independent and partial mortality is more common, the branching corals in the genus Acropora have polyps that are more interconnected, so that injury to the upper colony often results in the death of an entire colony. Acropora species are fast growing weedy species that evolved during the last 2 million years to cope with rapid sea level change forced by alternating glacial and interglacial periods. They evolved fast growth at the expense of energy storage. As photographed below, the rapid colonization by Acropora coral results in dense thickets in the shallowest waters that are most vulnerable to bleaching and those bleached thickets are often highlighted in the media to dramatize a bleaching event.

Unlike Hughes 2017, other studies have more rigorously examined the effect of depth on bleaching. Bridges 2014 observed “coral mortality following a severe bleaching event [in 2010] had diminished sharply with depth. Bleaching-induced mortality of Acropora was approximately 90% at 0-2 m, 60% at 3-4 m, yet at 6-8 m there was negligible mortality. Importantly, at least two-thirds of the shallow-water (2-3 m) Acropora assemblage had a depth range that straddled the transition from high to low mortality.” Although the likelihood of a strong recovery is at least in part dependent on the depth of bleaching induced mortality, Hughes 2017 failed to report on any variations in mortality at shallow depths.

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Historical Bleaching and Reef Temperatures

Hoegh-Guldberg (1999; see his Table 6) estimated that today’s thermal stress thresholds for the Great Barrier Reef’s southern sector is 28.3°C, the central sector is 29.2°C and the northern sector was 30.0°C. These are thresholds that regional hot events have normally exceeded now and in the past. During the 1928-29 Great Barrier Reef Expedition, scientists measured sea surface temperatures in the central sector that were far warmer than what Hoegh-Guldberg believed promotes bleaching. The expedition’s chief scientist Yonge reported, “temperature of the water of the anchorage varied from a minimum of 20 °C in middle of July to a maximum of 33 °C on the afternoon of February 12th. On the reef flat during low tide about the same time the temperature in the pools reached the remarkably high figure of 36 °C – literally hot to the touch.”

It is especially interesting that scientists in the 1929 scientific expedition attributed bleached dead coral to the effects of low tide. Yonge wrote, “The corals are favoured by the fact that in the summer good low tides occur only at nights, but even during the poor day low tides in February the reef flat on Low Isles was covered with the whitened skeletons of dead corals. Though they had been exposed for only a very short time, yet the extremely high temperature, rising frequently above 35 °C, quickly killed them.” So we must question why Hughes persists in dismissing the effect of low sea level and lower tides that amplify temperatures and cause widespread mortality, in contrast to these earlier observations.

In the past researchers like Hoegh-Guldberg and Hughes have argued that widespread bleaching events were rare before he 1980s based on the lack of bleaching reports in the scientific literature. But the scientific literature suffers from several observational biases. For example, although there has been increased attention to coral reefs, increased tourism, and increased aerial surveys since 1980, there is still a lack of observed bleaching in the warm pool regions where temperature models predict bleaching should occur. This contradiction was explained as a function of island remoteness that limits observation. Likewise based on those extremely high temperatures reported by the 1929 expedition, we should expect more reports of early 20th century bleaching. But surveys in the early 1900s were rare. It was native “sea cucumber” fisherman of the GBR who were most likely to observe widespread bleaching. but they were the least likely to report it, especially due to the lack of scientific journals in their native language. Furthermore, due to the prevalence of many dead reefs, most early observers of the GBR were unlikely to see a bleaching event as unexpected or worth reporting. They were more likely to see dead reefs as just another source of limestone for cement and soil amendments.

As reported by 1930s geographers, those who were mapping the GBR in the early 1900s, were largely mapping it so others could avoid the reefs and prevent shipwrecks. Reports by the Commissioner of Fisheries for Queensland, William Saville-Kent, provided rare observations of early reef conditions pre-1900. Pertinent to sea level and bleaching today, he reported being puzzled by an observation of a healthy reef immediately adjacent to a dead reef. However, he finally determined the death of that reef was caused by its higher elevation and greater exposure to extreme low tides. Similarly, researchers have determined that about 25% of the Great Barrier’s 3000 coral reefs can be classified as “senile”, meaning they have reached average sea level and have no room to continue growing vertically. Senile reefs are most vulnerable to sea level drops that can result in mortality from heat, cold or excessive freshwater. As researchers reported in 1937, “Some [reefs] are uncovered at half tide, others at low water, others again soon after high water. Still others are always submerged. So it would be of great scientific value if, at the very least, Hughes classified bleached reefs as submerged or exposed during low tide.

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Despite the lack of pre-1980 bleaching observations, fossil reconstructions of past coral mortality events are informative. Although paleodata cannot identify mild bleaching events because coral can swiftly recover in a month or two, large scale mortality events can be identified. Yu (2012) reported that two reefs in the South China sea often experienced separate local mortality events that are likely explained by local factors or the random locations of hot spots. In association with a more positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation or an El Nino, Yu uncovered simultaneous mortality events on both reefs in 1869–1873, 1917–1920, 1957–1961, 1971, 1982–1983 and 1999–2000 AD. Such widespread mortality over the past 2 centuries is again independent of changing CO2 concentrations or global warming, suggesting widespread coral bleaching has not been limited to the past 4 decades and has been driven by natural ocean oscillations.

Recurrent Bleaching Promotes Adaptations

 

Finally, Hughes 2017 argues that if reefs have repeatedly bleached, it means coral are not adapting. But such an argument is wrong for so many reasons.

First reefs consist of several colonies of several coral species. One species in a reef may bleach one year, and then resist bleaching in the next hot event. On that same reef, another species may bleach in that second event, so that the “reef” has bleached twice, even though some species have developed resistance. Measuring the frequency of bleaching on a “reef”, instead of examining bleaching at a species level, is simply bad science that tells us nothing about coral species ability to evolve less sensitivity to a hot event. In contrast to Hughes 2017, increasing resilience has been reported by other researchers who do examine bleaching on a species level.

Furthermore researchers must examine how each species has shifted and shuffled its symbiotic algae as discussed in the article The Coral Bleaching Debate: Is Bleaching the Legacy of a Marvelous Adaptation Mechanism or A Prelude to Extirpation. As detailed in that article, researchers such as Boulotte 2016 have documented that after 2 bleaching episodes in 2 years, coral colonies increased the percentage of symbiotic algae that were more resistant to warm water bleaching. More recent studies have shown that even the most vulnerable Acropora species that Hughes classifies with the climate change “losers”, are now reported elsewhere as gaining resistance to bleaching. Curiouser and curiouser, even the thesis of a pHd student supervised by Hughes, reported that the coral species studied had evolved greater resistance to bleaching throughout recurring bleaching events.

Ecologists are trained to examine all the known factors that contribute to the complexity of an ecosystem. Ecologists know they should never blame any single factor for a major change in a biological community. Unfortunately, Hughes 2017 serves as an example of how an overzealous readiness to blame a single factor like greenhouse gases and global warming for coral bleaching can lead to very bad science. This has resulted in widespread gloom and doom such that the most gullible citizens now believe the Great Barrier Reef is dead due to global warming, or that it will be by 2030. We trust science because we believe all the factors leading to a scientific conclusion have been thoroughly vetted. But here that trust has been betrayed as the conclusions of Hughes 2017 were not thoroughly vetted. And when public realizes the Great Barrier Reef has not died, the bad science of Hughes 2017 can only lead to a further erosion of the public’s trust in science and an undeserved and increasing distrust for more diligent ecologists.

clip_image019Jim Steele is author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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59 thoughts on “An Ecologist’s Plea to Dr. Terry Hughes: The Public Needs Robust Science Regards Coral Bleaching, Not Fearmongering!

    • My thoughts exactly !
      If I was stupid enough to buy a car from that face, I would be forever crying (no motor under the hood, )

    • I think we could also get them to change their tune by explaining rapid reef recovery means that to check on reef recovery they have to go back to the same location for another scuba-diving vacation. It’s a win-win situation.

      • For all of you people<I can assure you that the"Reef"is alive and well and NOT dying.I was up there a few months ago and it was looking very healthy.These"So Called"scientists may like to tell"Us all"here why the waters around Papua New Guinea are 3 or 4 degrees warmer than Australia and still manage to survive,but in Australia"Apparently"they cannot?

    • Which explains the intensifying efforts of Hugh’s and his ilk in diverting from science and attacking President Trump in the interim.

  1. We keep pictures turned off on our comp since we are way out in the country and bandwidth is limited. However I was disappointed to discover that Hughes is not a BLEACHED blonde….

  2. Thanks again to author taking the time to regard all science and evidence and discover causality. Landscapes is a great read, and the author helps renew my faith in science.

  3. The coral can always move to the 90% of the oceans which are not quite as hot as they are now. Considering the coral only seem to grow where it is the hottest.

    • See those dots in the Persian Gulf? I read that there are places where the local water temperature reaches 40 C and there are corals that thrive in it. Apparently evolution is still working.

  4. Hawaii shallow corals have been under considerable stress for the last 2 decades. Global warming was a convenient explanation, however it has a very severe downside: there can then be nothing one can do to rectify the situation. More serious investigators went much deeper in the problem. The following appear to be immediate culprits: a disease appears to have infected many corals on the North Shore of Kauai. This is being pursued by the appropriate scientists and technicians. Severe localized damage is caused by feet, collection, and boat anchors. Some of this is being ameliorated. BTW, the damage from a single anchor in a single day may encompass 20 square yards of bed. The effect of sunscreen on coral and sea life is an ongoing study. Agricultural and golf course run off is by far the largest identifiable cause of destruction. Many, many acres of bed have been left dead. Sea walls destroy coral reefs by filling the cavities with sand transported by the aerated water left when a wave crashes against the wall. Once in, it stays in. All coral dies. And invasive sea weeds, particularly on the island of Oahu.
    In other words, it does not appear there is one cause. One oceanographer has commenced experiments to nurture and transplant coral. She uses her students as the “many hands”. Her success is stunning, she is reinvigorating a small coral bed. So there is hope.

    • Pat Child’s 11:56. Just watched a show on Tahiti where one of the resorts is also transplanting and nursing coral. The guests help.

  5. As much of the coral bleaching is associated with the ENSO, the hysterics presume global warming causes El Nino?

  6. From the dirty mouth of the Amazon, to the sun baked GBR and the deep Irish sea, corals live.

    This whole hysteria, is the most philosophically and locally bogus alarm I have ever witnessed, even more so than AGW or CAGW

  7. If one Google searches “Jim Steele” it returns every Jim Steele in the known universe except the environmentalist.

  8. Terry Hughes is a politically driven alarmist. Known for his “The GBR is Fried” report.
    Gotta admit he fights very hard to keep his seat on the taxpayer funded Gravey Train at JCU.
    Fortunately GBR knows more about Reef survival. I mean it has been surviving handsomely for thousands of years… and will continue for millennia.
    If you ever have a chance get your butt to the Great Barrier Reef. It is enormous 350,000 sq km resilient and truly a Wonder of the World. Fishing is great.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef

  9. Having nothing to do today I decided to do a little sleuthing. So I googled Dr. Terry Hughes name and discovered he was part of the Australian Research Council. Apparently this is affiliated with or part of James Cook University. More to the point, Dr. Hughes is not just a professor but, of course, a distinguished professor, and part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. You see, the ARC does not just have a Centre for Coral Reef Studies; no, it’s a Centre of ‘Excellence’ for Coral Reef Studies.

    Doesn’t it get just a bit tiresome for these entities to continuously refer to themselves in such a manner long after the rest of us have wisely abandoned calling ambitious morons such terms as; his highness, his majesty, or … his excellency!? Of course, aside from the PR bloviation it probably is, it’s not inconceivable to interpret a Centre named as a Centre of ‘Excellence’ for Coral Reef Studies as a Centre that doesn’t actually do any studies but, instead, simply exists to insure that such studies are done ‘excellently.’

    My suspicion that the latter is the case is derived from the Centre’s funding budget which is right there on their site: $28,000,000 over 7 years. Now, that may sound like a lotta moola but there’s 27-30 investigators (including Dr. Hughes) at that Centre. Divided by 7 years and 27-30 investigators that comes to about $130,000-$148,000 per each of those investigators – not a lot for both salaries and research especially since we know that those ‘distinguished’ professors are not gonna’ be content with the kind of salaries us Plebs in flyover country get.

    So, other then likely jaunts to touristy tropical beachfront locations to excellently study the limits of Margaritas and snorkeling, I’m gonna’ guess there’s no other studies done. Instead, what is probably done is that previously existing but ‘excellently’ performed, readily and publicly available (more or less) temperature records are trotted out and manipulated until they yield the answer desired. Of course, if the observed reef isn’t responding to the expectations that the investigators expected the records are probably either ‘excellently’ manipulated, or if the manipulation process is just way too transparently a manipulation, the record is simply discarded or a fancy schmancy explanation is summoned forth.

    It’s tough making a living these days. Particularly when that living requires the maintenance of the lifestyle of an elite.

    • the ARC does not just have a Centre for Coral Reef Studies; no, it’s a Centre of ‘Excellence’ for Coral Reef Studies.

      “Excellent!”
      —Montgomery Burns

    • That does not sound too bad in wages.
      The amounts spent on the GBR run into the billions.
      The sad thing is the attrition rate for trained marine biologists.
      Many graduate and end up unemployed.
      James Cook University is deeply divided on the subject of ‘global warming’ and its impact on the reef.
      Speaking in a mini exit interview to an employee who left, if one thinks that ‘the El Nino did it’, ie caused the bleaching, and that El Ninos and tides have no proven causal connection to atmospheric CO2, then you are on the’ wrong side of history’ so to speak.
      One won’t have a future in the institution, so best to quietly fold your tent and slip away.
      We in Australia just lost a good person because of this argument.

    • AU$148k is about AU$100k above the average wage in Australia. Working for a Govn’t paid university I well figure tax payers are contributing to his 19% compulsory superannuation contributions while ordinary taxpayers have 9.5% of their wage removed at source. They are on a good wage so I would not worry about them.

  10. ‘This has resulted in widespread gloom and doom such that the most gullible citizens now believe the Great Barrier Reef is dead due to global warming, or that it will be by 2030.’

    Odd. The Australian tourist board is still trying to get people to visit the dead reef.

    http://www.australia.com/en-us/places/great-barrier-reef.html

    Let me put it another way: Hughes 2017 cost Australia a billion dollars. I think capital punishment is justified.

  11. The Australian Saturday……..JCU looking at firing Prof Peter Ridd for not being alarmist enough!
    Just like they did with The late great Bob Carter.
    Good article , thank you Jim.

  12. According to The Australian newspaper (paywalled) marine geophysicist Prof Peter Ridd is reportedly under investigation at James Cook University for criticising some coral reef “research”:

    ”…“serious misconduct” and colleagues fear he could be sacked… … He was censured by JCU last June for “failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution”… …His crime was to encourage the media to question two leading reef institutions… … whether they knew that photos they had published and claimed to show the long-term collapse of reef health could be misleading and wrong.

    Prof Terry Hughes is Director of the modestly named ‘ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies’ at the same JCU university and a Laureate Fellow of the Australian Research Council.

    Peter Ridd has widely argued for a better system of quality assurance to check scientific findings affecting big public spending. E.g. the fundamental problem is that we can no longer rely on ‘the science’ or our major scientific institutions”.

  13. According to The Australian newspaper (paywalled) marine geophysicist Prof Peter Ridd is reportedly under investigation at James Cook University for criticising some coral reef “research”:

    ”…“serious misconduct” and colleagues fear he could be sacked… … He was censured by JCU last June for “failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution”… …His crime was to encourage the media to question two leading reef institutions… … whether they knew that photos they had published and claimed to show the long-term collapse of reef health could be misleading and wrong.

    Prof Terry Hughes is Director of the modestly named ‘ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies’ at the same JCU university and a Laureate Fellow of the Australian Research Council.

    Peter Ridd has widely argued for a better system of quality assurance to check scientific findings affecting big public spending. E.g. the fundamental problem is that we can no longer rely on ‘the science’ or our major scientific institutions”.

    Bob Fernley-Jones

  14. Jim, excellent article. Note also that the whole southern hemisphere is cool particularly around Australia and its still 2017.

    • Yes, thanks, Chaam, his work is good and informative. He gives the lie to the whole reefer-madness cult by solid research. Sure, I’m a Kiwi too…..

  15. Prof Terry Hughes was convener of the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) culminating at James Cook University in 2012, with a predetermined outcome.

    STEP 1) In June, three eminent scientists including Hughes gathered at Stanford*[1] and drafted the consensus.

    STEP 2) They also launched an endorsement form on their websites at COS (Centre for Ocean Solutions) and ICRS which could be actioned by the unqualified without any affiliations other than their hometown name.

    STEP 3) They also made the following request on the COS and ICRS websites:
    “To build a large base of support in preparation for the pubic launch of the statement (during the opening ceremony of the 12thInternational Coral Reef Symposium on July 9, in Cairns, Australia), please click HERE to join other scientists from around the world by adding your name to the list of endorsees.”

    STEP 4) The ICRS website published a list of almost 2,500 endorsees*[4] dated 6/July/2012 that being three days before the five-day symposium started.

    STEP 5) The consensus statement launched at the opening ceremony and media announced that over 2,000; or 2,200; or 2,400 or 2,500 scientists had endorsed the alarmism.

    STEP 6) Convener announces success*[6] of the Symposium and the return home of 2,000 “of us” to 80 countries. Also a plea to continue endorsing the consensus statement….. more than 3,000 signatures so far and we would like to keep the momentum going.

    *[1] http://www.centerforoceansolutions.org/content/support-consensus-statement-climate-change-and-coral-reefs
    *[4] http://www.icrs2012.com/List of Endorsees as at 6 July 2012.pdf
    *[6] http://www.icrs2012.com/Default.htm

    Bob Fernley-Jones

  16. Reported in the article, “Fears uni may sack marine scientist over comments on reef health, “The Australian,, 26 August 2017, “The Nation”, p.9, that Professor Peter Ridd is in trouble again for drawing attention to Hugh’s Great Barrier Reef pseudo science. James Cook University is more interested in maintaining its funding pipeline than the TRUTH !

  17. About Cotton and Pielke 2007: They show figures showing CO2 is about 1/1000 as powerful a greenhouse gas as water vapor is in the tropics, about 1/8 as powerful as water vapor in subarctic winter, and no water vapor figures to compare the CO2 figures to for subarctic summer. But they show water vapor contributing 1/5 to 1/3 as much W/m^2 in the subarctic winter as in the tropics. Also, the MODTRAN model, which shows less W/m^2 change from a given change of CO2 than IPCC says, shows much more W/m^2 change from a given change of CO2 in the tropics than Cotton & Pielke 2007 says. And, Cotton & Pielke 2007 does not show charts, equations or calculations or where I can find the calculations, as I saw in the link provided to Cotton & Pielke 2007.

  18. Guess who from the ‘ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies’ at James Cook University conducted the definitive aerial surveys of mass coral bleaching on the GBR in March 2016?

    Yep; Prof. Terry Hughes, convener of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, and James Kerry, project manager of the taskforce.

    The allegations were reported with great enthusiasm by mainstream media and others. And, again somewhat similarly in 2017, with further bleaching air-surveys elsewhere on the GBR, before tropical cyclone (hurricane) Debbie somewhat paled things.

    https://www.coralcoe.org.au/video/aerial-surveys-of-the-northern-great-barrier-reef-during-the-2016-coral-bleaching-event

  19. One approach brings bucket loads of research grants and allows those using it to have a higher ‘progressive,’ profile. The other does not.
    Good science has nothing to do with it, climate ‘scientist’ left that idea behind long ago.

  20. Keep repeating a lie often enough and people start believing it .
    This article reminds me of the story on OZ abc about the scientists who struggled to find any coral life around Somoa , again because of globull warming .
    Sheeple willingly believe this horse crap because it comes from Scientists and their trusted ABC , should be some sort of reckoning for those that knowingly deceive the public for financial advantage.

  21. As a real physicist who is used to building what the laws of physics support, and knows that statistical models are not deterministic physical science and prove no laws, etc., I don’t believe anything, except what I know and what I don’t know.

    This irresponsible and selfish waste of taxpayer’s money and his friends, on clearly pointless research, is a serious science denier. It doesn’t matter guys, its short term weather, Only a few mainly spoilt rich people care and go there anyway. The majority of the World can’t afford to. Corals come and go, expensive studies won’t change that (except maybe the effect of farming and mining on the roivers). .

    And anyone who can read an ice core already know these pseudo Scientists are going to be a laughing stock for a long ice age as the GBR rises 100 metres above sea level as that level falls, with clockwork Milankovitch regularity, and you can walk to it from the mainland for the next 80,000 years or so of the next ice age.

    The white cliffs of Queensland, anyone?

    We should be sure and record this stupidity/professional dishonesty for personal gain for posterity, so people will not be so stupid as to trust such cynical academic fraudsters while civilisation still understands science.

    Make sure the names of the grant taking propagandists for such an obviously fake science are remembered with the scorn and derision they so rightfully deserve.

    Perhaps statue to the most cynical/stupid? One outside the Opera House, staring out over the Cook River Valley where the river makes its way to the coast, along the Valley floor where the habour once was, The reaity for most of the last 1 Million years. Just saying.. And another at Cairns, looking out across the coastal plans to the white former Coral Reef of Queensland that marks the new coastline. Inscription? “Remeber XXXXX! Don’t be as Stupid as him”

  22. I would suggest that interested people look at the work done by A. Prof Bruce Fouke from U of I, Urbana, Illinois. He has, I believe done some work, in diseases in corals – he is also a distinguished lecturer for the AAPG. Worth a view!

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