As you know very well by now, science disinformers abound at Anthony Watts' blog wattsupwiththat.com. It's one of the reasons his blog exists. It's not so that Anthony can write stuff. He doesn't do that much any more. It's so that disinformers and science deniers can comfort science deniers that their false opinions are promoted by other people. (Other reasons include making money, panhandling for jaunts, and trying to convince his readers that he's cleverer than the really clever people.)
|Dead coral, Lizard Is. GBR. Credit: Greg Torda|
Another case in point today, when a dud ex-engineer (so he says) called Bob Fernley-Jones (Mechanical engineer retired, Melbourne Australia) made up a whole bunch of stuff about coral reefs (archived here). I'd say it was so that he could try to portray himself as being cleverer than climate scientists and coral reef experts. Instead he's a Dunning Kruger case, and a whiner.
As well as that, Bob's article shows:
- disinformers will make up stuff that they think their readers want to read
- disinformers don't think much of the intellectual capability of their readers, with good cause
- disinformers are fairly confident that their readers won't bother to do any fact-checking, again with good cause.
- Bob is sloppy and careless, with missing links and missing diagrams. Actually, it's Anthony Watts who was sloppy in this case (he also got Bob's name wrong). Bob complained in the comments about some of the missing links and diagrams.
- Bob is a messy thinker, with a summary at the end that is meaningless, incomprehensible nonsense.
- He tried on the excuse for Judith Curry quitting science. Judith quit science a while ago and took up science denial. Now she's at retirement age she's decided to formally quit her university post as well, and is apparently going to focus on getting people to work in her business. Bob tried to make out that she quit because science is dishonest, whereas it's mainly people like Bob and Judith who are dishonest.
- Bob also tried to weave his silly article around a yarn that scientists live on campus and never get out. That's obviously not true - look at all these scientists in the field, and how many of them just happen to dress like a woman :). (How does Bob think that scientists observe nature and collect data, I wonder?).
Coral bleaching and a hot Coral Sea
Bob spliced words to fabricate a quote
Here is a screenshot of the headline image for the public release in the university-partnered blog The Conversation, of a death story for coral reefs in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (‘the article’). It contained some astonishing claims, one of which (red underlined) went globally viral:There was no screenshot. Maybe he meant to put in what he called a screenshot, but wasn't, from his September article. Bob's so-called "screenshot" that wasn't, looked like this - though I added the callout:
Great Barrier Reef bleaching would be almost impossible without climate changeAnd the only mention of 175 times is in this paragraph:
We found that climate change has dramatically increased the likelihood of very hot March months like that of 2016 in the Coral Sea. We estimate that there is at least a 175 times increase in likelihood of hot March months because of the human influence on the climate.Yes, in true disinformer style, Bob had joined together two bits of different sentences and didn't even put in elipses to show what he'd done.
Now you might think that I'm making a fuss over something little. I'm not. Bob's whole article is complaining that the authors were claiming that coral bleaching is 175 times more likely. That's not what they found or what they said. What their analysis showed was that the Coral Sea surface temperature was 175 times more likely to be hot in March, because of global warming. It's not the same thing.
Bob got stuck in March
Now Bob wrote how March is normally the coolest of the three hottest months - which in the Coral Sea are January, February and March. He also wrote about what he called the "“Super El Nino” (his quotation marks, bolding and colour). What he didn't point out that the very next paragraph in the Conversation article was this:
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. Sea surface temperatures in the Coral Sea can be warmer than normal for different reasons, including changes in ocean currents (often related to La Niña events) and increased sunshine duration (generally associated with El Niño conditions).
Faker Bob fakes "Fake News"
One has to wonder why Bob is so upset that he writes a scatty, mixed up article complaining that the expert scientists didn't agree with his flawed assessment. He called the article "Fake News" - again with quotation marks.
But there was nothing fake about the article or the analysis. Bob said that "The scary 175x forecast was not based on water temperature of the narrow Continental Shelf on which the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is located, but was hastily applied to SST data for the CS, presumably because GBR data were not easily accessible at that time (but did exist). "
That's partly correct and partly wrong and very sloppy writing for an engineer (or anyone). The 175 times wasn't a forecast, it was an analysis of the likelihood of March temperatures being higher because of human-caused climate change. The authors even linked to the data and methodology underpinning their analysis. There was no claim that the sea surface temperature of the Coral Sea was identical to that in the Great Barrier Reef. I'll also point out that even though Bob himself claims that the temperature of the continental shelf was available, he didn't link to it.
Scientists talk about the recent bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef
Scientists have investigated the damage to the reef, as discussed in this video:
Recent sea surface temperatures off Queensland
If you want to see what happened to the temperature over the 13 months from March 2015 to April 2016, you'll see that March 2016 was indeed very hot. I've put together an animation showing the sea surface temperature month by month, from these maps of actual sea surface temperature (not anomalies) from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), The Earth Institute, Columbia University:
The first map is of March 2015, the last is April 2016, which was a bit cooler than the hottest month, March 2016.
Here is the map just for March 2016, so you can see how hot the water was.:
If you're wondering where the reef is, it's off the coast of Queensland which is the east coast above. Below is a map from the ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies, to show you just where the bleaching was observed in April last year. That's Papua New Guinea in the top centre, and Queensland to the left. The insert shows the section that's been blown up:
The map below was from a media release in November last year. It goes further than just the severity of bleaching, and identifies how much coral was actually dead in the different parts of the reef. The red areas have up to 83% of dead coral (average 67%, range 43% to 83%). You can see that it's the northern stretches of the reef that where the greatest damage has been, north of Cairns and Port Douglas.
The main problem isn't just the death and bleaching, it will be how often mass bleachings take place. If they continue to happen more frequently then the reef areas won't have time to recover in between bleachings.
Bob complained that scientific experts didn't agree with him
Bob had lots of other silliness scattered throughout. He complained a lot about the communications he had with Professor David Karoly, but gave not the slightest hint of what information and assistance Prof Karoly gave him (nor showed any sign of gratitude). Bob wrote:
After several months of evasions by Professor Karoly, my enquiries became futile so I approached higher levels at UniMelb and after yet more evasions a total dismissal eventuated firstly from Professor Phillips, then parroted two days later by Professor Day:Professors Phillips and Day both replied that Professor Karoly had responded and they would not be responding to him further. Which is fair enough. Pity Bob didn't let anyone know what Professor Karoly wrote to him.
Bob got his facts mixed up
Thing is, Bob seemed to think that the water temperature in January and February would have been warmer than that in March in 2016. He didn't bother checking. If he had he would have found that the hottest water was a tad furthest down the Queensland coast in February, but March was quite a bit hotter than January. As well as that, some parts of the reef would have been hotter in March than in February, particularly way up north where it was very hot in March 2016.
The main thing that causes coral bleaching as far as temperature goes, is the amount of time that temperatures exceed what the corals are used to. That's what caused the mass coral bleaching this time around.
Bob provided no evidence for his various claims. He wrote how he knew what the experts didn't, but gave no evidence that he did. Nor did he tell anyone just what it was that he was thinking. He wrote, complaining about so-called evasion:
But, their responses totally evaded the empirical facts presented to them, which multiply proved that the study had wrong foundations. This including various key graphics similar to some of those below and related Excel spreadsheets and data sources. I even suggested that their PhD student (a co-author) should validate the spreadsheets, but none of their advice makes any reference to the spreadsheets or the graphics with their elaborations. Proof of that is in the email archive; Click here to open PDF 1.He also mentioned PDF 2. There weren't any Excel spreadsheets nor any of PDF 1 or PDF 2. Nothing. Just as there wasn't any non-screenshot. As I found out, that might have been Anthony Watts' fault.
What point was Bob trying to make?
I really don't know what point Bob was trying to make. Was he disputing the fact there's been very serious coral bleaching? Was he disputing that high temperatures can cause coral bleaching? Was he disputing global warming as the cause of high temperatures? Was he disputing humans causing global warming? If he was, he'd be wrong on every count.
Bob wrote about Coral Sea temperatures and said:
[a] Long-term, the hottest month in both the CS and the GBR is February, not March. These modest February warming trends are not indicative of sudden change on the GBR due to global warming.
Bob doesn't say to what he would attribute the very rapid warming in the months of February and March if not human's burning fossil fuel:
He did say something about the high February temperature in 2004, but didn't mention that a bleaching event took place then, too. The Australian Institute of Marine Science lists bleaching events in the years 2016, 2008-2009, 2010-2011, 2005–2006, 2001–2002, and 1997–1998. Some was caused by high temperatures and some by flooding. The worst and most widespread was in 2016.
And just look at that temperature spikes in March last year and the year before, below.
Bob didn't show either of these charts. I guess he was too embarrassed.
Andrew King gave an even better illustration in his article at The Conversation, because it showed the daily temperature changes over the sea during March 2016. The rectangle on the middle right is the area that he analysed. The top right hand corner of Australia is Queensland, off the coast of which is where the Great Barrier Reef is located. Look at all the red, and see the darker blobs too:
Disinformers are serial pests of scientists
People like Bob Fernley-Jones are serial pests. They do not act in good faith when they write to scientists. Seems to me that what Bob was looking for was some ammunition to shoot down climate change facts. He didn't get any, so he had to make do with a more general rant, and a misrepresentation of a year-old article at The Conversation.
As I said earlier, it wasn't his first shot at this. He's tried it on before - with no follow-up. Some months ago he wrote a "Part A" at WUWT, but no Part B that I could find. That one was just as bad and not all that different to this latest one.
From the WUWT comments
There were lots of people making false criticisms of scientists, complaining they did the very same things that Bob and they themselves were doing - or not doing. That is, neither Bob nor the commenters providing any evidence of their various claims and showed no evidence of an attempt, let alone skill, at fact-checking or critical thinking.
J Mac provided not a scrap of evidence for this claim. (And yes, Bob Fernley-Jones really did want the article retracted from The Conversation. He's nuts - and likes the word "retracted". He probably thinks it makes him sound sciency!):
February 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm
“The authors should admit to errors and bad assumptions, and retract their article and its study with the same high level of publicity as occurred following its public release on their academic’s website The Conversation.”
Indeed, they “should admit to errors and bad assumptions….” but none of the biased ‘climate scientists’ ever do. They are selling the ‘crisis’, not honest science.
commieBob's training, if he really did attend university, didn't stick. It was wasted. He also buys into the left-brain right-brain nonsense.
February 3, 2017 at 6:06 pm (extract)AndyE quite possibly wrote this without reading Bob's article. Either that or he's a gullible dimwit, incapable of analytical or independent thought.
In university we are trained to be analytical. Reality doesn’t matter much as long as the analysis is valid. The emphasis is on left-brain activities. This leads to an atrophied right-brain.
February 3, 2017 at 6:08 pm
Just how can any person with integrity wiggle out of such damning criticism?
Eric Worrall lives down south, where there was less than 1% mortality. Remember too, he's said he doesn't care if the reef dies.
February 3, 2017 at 6:24 pm
Having just come back from a morning swim in the Coral Sea, I can assure everyone the thoroughly healthy Coral Sea is swarming with baby fish, and plentiful other signs of a healthy ecosystem.
asybot evinces fake outrage. I'm guessing he or she didn't get to university, which is okay. Lots of good and clever people don't. What's not so okay is the assumption that science illiterati are right and the experts are wrong.
February 3, 2017 at 7:07 pm
The Universities should get their funding cut until such time they retract these outrageous so called “Studies” as a matter of fact some of these “Authors” of said “Studies” should be fired!
Okay, I know I am dreaming.
tony mcleod is the only one who wondered what all the fuss was about. (The typo he referred to was where David Karoly wrote an "o" instead of an "e" - in an email.)
February 3, 2017 at 7:24 pm
Talk about a load of froth and bubble about nothing.
The most important thing I can see was that you corrected his typo.
Don’t you have anything better to do Bob?
joelobryan is still expecting global warming to stop, one of these days. (He's not a very nice person.)
February 3, 2017 at 8:28 pm
The entirety of current Climate Change paradigm cannot last, for it is built on one thing… A Big Lie.
It will crumble. When is the only real question.
You know how some deniers blame global warming on undersea volcanoes, well tadchem seems to be blaming coral bleaching on volcanoes.
February 3, 2017 at 9:13 pm
The area of the GBR most affected by ‘bleaching’ is the northern extent which is bathed by the South Equatorial Current – the very waters which exhibit ‘record high temperatures’. This current passes through the archipelagoes of Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, both of which are seismically very active and have been for many years. This fact may be easily verified by Googling “Vanuatu seismicity’ and ‘Solomon Islands seismicity’.
This seismic activity heats the water on the sea floor (google ‘hydrothermal’), which gravity (through convection and Archimedes’ Principle) lifts to the surface, warming the surface waters on their way to the GBR.
Unfortunately the extremely oversimplified models used for global oceanic and atmospheric circulation are unable to account for the stochastic nature of sea floor seismicity and vulcanism. Besides, such detailed records are not only sparse, but they would lead to a result contrary to the expectations – so nobody looks.
References and further reading
- Data and methodology re the above.
Great Barrier Reef suffered worst bleaching on record in 2016, report finds - article by Hywel Griffith at BBC News, November 2016
Coral bleaching events - list of bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef, on the website of the Australian Institute of Marine Science
From the HotWhopper archives
Some of the articles below have more information about coral bleaching (including links etc), if you're interested in reading more on the subject.
- Bob Fernley-Jones' fixation on hot Marches toward coral bleaching - September 2016
- Record-breaking hot years almost impossible without humans - and Anthony Watts' conspiracy theory - about a related work by Andrew King et al, March 2016
- The Great Barrier Reef: an unmitigated disaster - if only the Australian public knew... - June 2016
- Annual large scale coral bleaching: Eric Worrall @wattsupwiththat sez - who cares? - January 2017
- Willis Eschenbach turns on the charm for NOAA's coral watch crew - July 2015
- The catalyst for hearing problems of an engineer - about an older article from Bob Fernley-Jones, mechanical engineer retired, August 2013
- Some history that led to Judith Curry hunkering down in the NOAA conspiracy theorists' bunker - November 2015