This is science? Penguin huddling behavior is the new proxy for climate change

Sometimes, you just have to laugh. This is from the AGU, EoS and it was an actual funded science study, published in an applied physics journal no less. Personally, with them making the jump from weather to climate in describing weather event driven penguin behavior in this press release, it looks like emperor junk science to me.

The conclusion? “The findings agree with the well-established idea that the penguins huddle primarily for warmth and not for protection against predators…”

Newsflash: Adult emperor penguins have no predators on land, where they huddle. Only chicks are at risk from predators when they don’t huddle. What next? Penguin regurgitation rate as a proxy for local CO2 levels? Penguin poop as a proxy for Antarctic albedo?

SMH. I weep for science.

Emperor Penguins’ Huddles Change in Response to Weather

How quickly the penguins huddled when weather worsened provided clues about their feeding success and how climate change may alter the Antarctic biosphere, according to scientists.

On the frozen landscape of Antarctica, emperor penguins huddle together to shield against cold, windy, and harsh conditions. This lets the penguins share warmth and conserve energy during extended times between forages and during breeding.Now scientists have used advances in remote sensing techniques to observe the evolution of an emperor penguin huddle at Atka Bay in eastern Antarctica. Their study revealed the primary trigger that prompts the birds to huddle and reaffirmed the main purpose of the groupings.Huddle locations often lie kilometers from the nearest permanent research station amid extremely cold (−50°C) and windy (150-kilometer-per-hour) conditions. They also tend to migrate around.

66 thoughts on “This is science? Penguin huddling behavior is the new proxy for climate change

  1. Yes, we have a noticeable spike here. At this point we need to ask what the impact of all this research is on the climate and ecosystem of Antarctica. It should be better classified as ecotourism and not research.

  2. Interesting Vimeo…
    It would appear that the Cold Windy periods occur as the sun rises and dissipates at sunset.
    At least in that video, before sunrise, the flocks were small and separated but after the sunrise, the groups grew bigger and merged together during the daylight hours. Then, as the day progressed, lines of Penguins began to march away from the nesting site and as twilight fell, the flocks assumed their original 4 small separate groups.

    Either there was a Clear Day storm with strong winds blowing No Snow around or the flocking appearing in the vimeo was for some other reason. Perhaps they just like to get together and socialize during the daytime and watch the sunset together.

      • Must be because the cards and dice are made of CO2 to they are invisible. If the Penguins weren’t under the influence of the Invisible CO2 Cards and Dice, they wouldn’t make the gamble

    • As the left has already accused the rest of us, the penguin’s are just showing tribal behavior. They split into a red conservative group, a blue liberal group and a rainbow group. Soon the red group will begin making weapons, which the blue group will protest. The division will cause each group to develop into a new species. Of course the rainbow groups is already destined for extinction since they don’t reproduce at all.

      • Actually there used to be Bi-Polar bears. The South guys joined the Rainbow group so now only penguins. No diversity.

  3. Anyone who can put data on a graph … then overlay those graphs … is now a “scientist”. Thank GOD these weren’t the people who developed the polio vaccine …

    • There’s a vaccine against Polio Bears?

      Now that’s clever.

      That’ll be why there’s none in the Antarctic, the penguins are all immune.

      • They are huddling together because they heard we are going to ship the polar bears there when they run out of ice in the arctic. We are floating them down on a special plastic pontoon Griff is making.

        • The polar bear immigration plan is part of a diversity program mandated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

          This will probably end badly for the penguins, who are accused of speciesism by the MSM.

    • Thank God they aren’t the ones who did scoence behind getting our astronauts to the moon and back!

  4. How does one go about finding true “representative” samples of penguins? Is it possible that they could just be observing on a continuum of sociable to anti-social behavior within and across penguin colonies?

    • Mark from the Midwest

      No, just have them fill out a form asking “are you a representative penguin?”

      Silly Billy.

    • One of my buddies started out as a wildlife biologist. The amount of stuff he used to observe was pretty astounding. The lengths he went to so he could do his observations was also pretty astounding.

      Studying penguin huddling behavior doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      So if the penguins for some reason began to huddle at warmer temperatures, scientists would know that they likely had smaller energy reserves from food to keep them warm.

      What I see in the above quote is the idea that penguin huddling could be a proxy for fish population.

    • Oh ! COME ON !!
      GIVE THEM A BREAK ! ( or a FAIR-GO !! )
      It is JUST getting SO HARD to find a topic to study so that
      “ONE” can get a PhD with today’s student numbers !
      Until you get a PhD you are virtually unemployable these days !
      And it is somewhat better than a “Masters in Macrame ” surely ?
      Penguin Huddling is surely such a topic WORTHY of a PhD !??
      I mean to say……..they couldn’t possibly BE MOVING TO GET AWAY
      FROM ALL THE PENGUIN POO and STENCH and allow it FREEZE into
      their partner ( absent…… obtaining more food for the chick )
      can FIND THEM AGAIN could it !
      How about that !

  5. Never came close to studying penguins, but maybe the penguins are safer on the ice, necessary feeding in the water. Easier to study on the ice. From the abstract–“We approximate the apparent temperature…….As current global change is predicted to have strong detrimental effects on emperor penguins within the next decades, our approach may thus contribute towards an urgently needed long-term monitoring system for assessing colony health.”

    Hui, C. A. 1987, The porpoising of penguins: an energy-conserving behavior for respiratory ventilation. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 65:209-211.

    Is apparent temperature like the ‘Feel-like temperature?’ Suggest that they go mix with the colonies, especially in the water. Mixing physics and biology is always interesting.

  6. What next?
    Penguin wing flapping correlates with AGW catastrophist hand waving!
    Details to follow, video at 11….

  7. Wow. Something that penguins found out a very, very, very long time ago will keep them from freezing to death the Antarctic’s bitter weather and is news to these researchers? Where have they been? Europa? Uranus?

    Here’s a clue, you useless, grant money-sucking tools: Penguins have been huddling together like that for as long as they’ve occupied Antarctica. It isn’t just because it’s cold, either.

    And there’s a lot missing from your bit of Johnny-come-lately information, as follows:

    1 – Penguins rotate the huddle constantly so that the outermost birds get to the center at some point and the innermost birds spend some time on the outermost part of the huddle. This is not just to be warm, but to make sure that any one penguin gets to the center and the huddle keeps moving to keep circulation going.

    2 – Penguins found out a long, long time ago, that if they walk on their heels when the cold is at its worst, their feet won’t freeze and fall off, because the fatty portion does not touch the icy surface. They also found out a long time ago that clutching the egg laid by the female on the top side of their feet and dropping their fat tummies over it keeps the egg from freezing, allowing the embryo to gestate and then hatch.

    3 – They stoke themselves with penguin food (mostly fish) [so that] during the bad part of the Antarctic winter instead of trying to find food, because they can stay alive by burning the fat they’ve stored without replenishing any of it until the warm periods return.

    Here’s a clue for you desk-dwelling lab sci-guys: I knew these things several decades ago because McMurdo Station was a Navy base and I knew people who wintered over in the Antarctic. You are SO behind the times on this that giving you grant money was a complete waste.

    Maybe some day, grant money will be put to use on things that really matter, instead of a half-baked report on how penguins behave.

    [Edited per instructions below. Note, this action was performed in order to earn a favor from commenter Sara… said favor, obviously, being one of her mouth watering home-cooked meals for the mods. -mod]

    • Durnburnit, did not proof properly

      #3 – ‘stoke themselves with penguin food during …’ should read ‘stoke themsselves with penguin food [so that] during the Antarctic winter…’

      Sorry about that. My bad. Ten lashes with a thick German egg noodle suitable for chicken soup.

        There is ONLY a single “s” in the middle of THEMSELVES !!
        and we just KNEW what you meant anyway !

    • These modern “scientists” huddle together at conferences and around grant fountains in order to feed and breed. they dress alike and think alike and squawk alike, much like…say, a large group of birds. Size of brain is also similar but these “scientists|” are not at all flightless and tend to fly South in winter.

    • Dear Mods – Noted, thank you, and do you want fries with that?

      Here’s something that is easy to fix, lots of flavor and texture and good for you: a chopped salad.

      You need some kind of protein (e.g., ham, chicken, turkey, maybe boiled eggs), a bunch of fresh vegs (cucumber, small zucchini about 2 inches wide, color bell peppers, green onions, radishes of any kind, red onion, peas, broccoli (raw), celery, grape tomatoes) use your imagination), fresh lemon or lime or wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic salt and coarse cracked black pepper.

      You chop up or dice (to a suitable size) all veg items mentioned first, then the ham/chicken/whatever, stir and toss in the salad bowl, season with the garlic salt (or non-salt Mrs Dash if you prefer) and black pepper, drizzle on the juice of at least half of the lemon, maybe the entire lemon or lime, or several tablespoons of the wine vinegar, and follow with the EVOO. Give it a good thorough toss, plate it, add some good crusty bread with a nice spreadable cheese and your favorite beverage, and chow down. The seasoning is ALWAYS “to taste’, meaning how potent you like it.

      If that doesn’t fill you up, nothing will and it is perfect on a hot, humid summer day. You can add cold melon later on as a dessert, or a compote of kiwi fruit, nectarines, green and red grapes, and whatever berries you can find.

    • I’d like to add a note here.

      Back in the 1960s, there was an article in National Geographic about Antarctica, with a black & white photo of penguins “panting” in 45F heat in the southern summer of Antarctica. That was an unusual thing, but as was noted in the article, the heat did not last. There was also a photo of one of the scientists down there at the time throwing a glass of water into the air in the winter, which produced instant frozen mist.

      If only we could get hold of Dr. Peabody’s Wayback machine and take the current crop of desk jockeys back there, they might see that nothing down there in the land of Permanent Ice & Snow has changed since that continent drifted south and stayed there. It is probably the one thing that keeps the Earth in a currently stable rotational period.

      And now we know that there are 95(??more??) moderately active volcanoes along the rift zone that Erebus sits on, but they’re buried under the ice sheet that covers the continent. Any guesses about what will happen if they break through the ice layers????

    • Did it never occur to you, Sara, that the researchers know these things, too? You don’t need to know anyone from McMurdo Station to know what you know. I know it, too. It’s in a movie, that IMAX penguin movie, whatever it was called.

      I don’t think you quite understand the point of the research, Sara – nor do you want to.

      • I think most of us know the true reason for most of the research going on today. To get enough grants to earn a living, so anything goes towards that end.

        • Except that the vast majority of researchers are salaried, and grants go to support research, not the researchers who get them.

          There are far easier ways to earn a living than becoming a scientist (and more lucrative relative to the amount of schooling). People do it because the find it rewarding personally, not financially.

  8. …How quickly the penguins huddled when weather worsened provided clues about their feeding success and how climate change may alter the Antarctic biosphere…

    Let me guess. When it’s warm, they don’t huddle together so much. Which means they don’t get to gossip about the best fishing grounds….

    When it’s very warm, the get out their deck chairs….

  9. Huddle for protection from predators. Even if there were predators, how do these researchers see protection. Seals certainly know better than to huddle for protection against polar bears. Huddling would be a feast laid out for a predator! I find as a mining engineer-metallurgist-geologist that I have had to provide assistance more and more to biologist researchers these days. Is it only me?

    • The radio program?

      Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, WMMR in Philadelphia switched to a recorded program starting at midnight or 1AM.
      Opus, the radio program, seriously affected my sleep patterns. They played recordings, that I’ve never heard again since.
      e.g. A recording of Little Joe and Hoss riding in from the range and realizing they forgot how to get down off their horses. The recording was far more humorous than my poorly written synopsis.

      Eventually, I learned to set the tape recorder, so I could sleep, or study. A tactic that I applied to Gene Shay’s radio program at XPN for similar reasons. Not everything recorded is great, but that’s another advantage of tape editing.

      I never got used to Bloom County.’s Opus .

  10. Obviously, the emperor’s have no clothes — not even real tuxedos!

    [Sorry, I couldn’t resist!]

  11. “This is from the AGU, EoS and it was an actual funded science study,”

    Does it say who the funding sources are?

  12. As a matter of fact penguins are highly vulnerable to predators, huddling or no huddling. In fact so vulnerable that no penguins ever breed on continental shores except the smallest species that can build nest burrows (and they usually go to and from those burrows at night).

  13. By the way, I know of an even more terrifying Penguin CAGW proxy. When it gets uncomfortably warm, like 5-10 degrees centigrade, King Penguins go and find a snowbank and stand on it, literally cooling their heels (if no snowbank is handy, they will stand in a river instead).
    Could I please have a few millions to go and study the frequency of this behavior. I rather like penguins.

  14. I’m happy to learn the Penguins are smart enough to stay away from the strange creatures in their permanent camp.

    • Actually they don’t. Penguins usually completely ignore humans.

      Two examples from my own experience.

      In Australia to avoid disturbance to a penguin colony tourists were confined to a special viewing area. Unfortunately the penguins weren’t consulted, so those that had built nest burrows behind the viewing area couldn’t be bothered to go around and just waddled straight through it, dodging around the tourists’ legs.

      Same thing happened in the Punta Tombo colony in Argentina where there were problems with tourists who tramped through the roofs of the nesting burrows. A special tourist path was built, but once again the penguins wouldn’t cooperate but dug burrows in and under the path.

  15. This is science? Penguin huddling behavior is the new proxy for climate change

    What the Stick!!
    I think they’re huddled around a TV watching a hockey game.
    (Does Penn State have a hockey team? 8- )

    • It’s ‘applied physics’, but as it “jumps the shark”. Have pity though, they must be horrendously desperate for ‘papers’ to publish. Hard times, but the show must go on. They must be hoping Applied Phys doesn’t also get cancelled like Baywatch did, after the ‘jump the shark’ episode went to air.

    • Why don’t you send away for some penguin poo and find out? Or maybe you could just write a model. You could assume that the albedo is the same as for, say, iguana guano.

      I recall reading a scientist’s account of being tasked with banding an adult penguin as part of a study. Penguins, for whatever reason, avoided him, and he found it necessary to make a shoestring tackle on a large specimen, which then proceeded to drag him 40 or 50 yards across the penguin-poo-splattered ice. All the other scientists then avoided him, possibly because he had acquired a persistent aroma of dead fish from head to toe.

  16. This article was published in a journal called Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.

    Is it possible that journals of zoology turned it down because it was poor quality science?

  17. True penguin huddling story…..

    For the last 6 years of my career I taught math (don’t ask). One day there was a fire in a freight elevator. The entire school emptied onto its playgrounds. It was 10 below 0 F with a howeling wind. No coats. No boots. Standing in the middle of a soccer field.

    We all became penguins, instinctively, with each classroom forming up into huddles. This was an inner city school with tough kids that spent all of their lives avoiding being close to anything. For a half hour we jumped in place and the biggest kids naturally migrated out to shelter smaller, more poorly dressed kids in the center.

    As a warming process, it sucks. Paradoxically it warmed my heart more than my skin. Beyond some comfort threshold, the behavior is automatic and no longer f(T).

  18. And consensus climate “scientists” huddle to avoid debate, sharing data, explaining their frequent flyer points and because it is really embarrassing when every single prediction you make is not just wrong but diametrically opposite to what nature presents. If intellectctual honesty and scientific rigor were heat, then the consensus huddle is the coldest place on earth.

  19. Once again, a press release (news article) is deemed representative of the research, and scientists castigated for the words of a staff writer. And it’s complete with ridicule, of course! “Newsflash: Adult emperor penguins have no predators on land, where they huddle. Only chicks are at risk from predators when they don’t huddle.” But the ridicule is a failure. No one suggested that huddles were meant to protect the adults; it’s theoretically equally likely that they are meant to protect chicks from predators. Besides, that is not the “conclusion” reached by the research.

    I think it’s pretty interesting that animal behavior can be used as a proxy for a climatic index – at least during times when they are known to be well-fed. I’m curious how the researchers treat the interaction of the condition of the birds and the climate trigger.

  20. “Additional SPOT instruments simultaneously recorded the local wind speed, ambient temperature, solar radiation, and relative humidity.By comparing the local weather conditions to the penguins’ huddling habits, the researchers found

    – that during a typical month, ” lots of penguins huddle in Antarctica bevore cameras

    – while lots of researchers at the continents huddle bevor video screens.

  21. The purpose of much “scientific” study these days is to “prove” or at least demonstrate the “significant effects” of global warming. It’s “let’s try this”, “let’s try that”, “let’s try this other thing”. Some of them pan out and are published, others don’t and are either modified to show the desired result or thrown in the trash.

  22. As penguins huddled and trudged in a circle endlessly, chicks tumbled out from between their legs and froze… researchers sipping coffee while gazing thru binoculars from warm tents clicked counters for Science, ignoring the birds’ desperate cries for help.

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