Sunday, February 5, 2017

No honesty or diligence about #climate change or coral reef science from Bob Fernley-Jones at WUWT

Sou | 1:57 AM Go to the first of 31 comments. Add a comment
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.
Bob was writing about an article by Andrew King and colleagues, which was published at the Conversation in April last year. Bob was complaining about it for various non-reasons, and tried to weave a couple of memes into his desperate tale:
  • 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

Andrew King's article at The Conversation was about how temperatures in the Coral Sea (off the Queensland coast) were at a record high for the month. The authors did some calculations and worked out that there's about a 175 times increase in the likelihood of very hot March months in that region, "because of the human influence on the climate". Andrew King was a lead author in another paper last year, where he did similar calculations to determine the likelihood of high temperatures. I wrote about this at the time. 

Bob has had a bee in his bonnet about that article for quite some time. He had another one about it published at WUWT last September. It was at least as wrong as this week's poor effort, and repeated much of it.

Bob spliced words to fabricate a quote

Bob doesn't pay much attention to facts, nor to detail. In this week's article he wrote up top:
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:

Compare what Bob claimed was a quote, with the actual article. (I even went back to the Wayback Machine on the date of publication, to see if it had changed. It hadn't.) The words as written above are nowhere to be found. Instead there's this headline:
Great Barrier Reef bleaching would be almost impossible without climate change
And 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)
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.
AndyE quite possibly wrote this without reading Bob's article. Either that or he's a gullible dimwit, incapable of analytical or independent thought.
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

Great Barrier Reef bleaching would be almost impossible without climate change - article at The Conversation, by Andrew King, David Karoly, Mitchell Black, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, April 2016

Life and death after Great Barrier Reef bleaching - press release (with maps) from the ARC Centre of Excellence Coral Reef Studies, 29 November 2016

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.


  1. I think Anthony should apply to be head of climate change research at Trump University.

    1. I would apply, but not sure I could afford the fees

  2. Just after the GBRMPA released its report and the map shown above the One Nation pair of Malcolm Roberts and his leader had a little swim on the surface off Great Keppel Island.
    The media statement from the pair was that the GBR is pristine no evidence of any bleaching.
    Needless to say the said Malcolm was bleating about "No empirical evidence ".
    To the uneducated viewer watching this on TV it would have went down well, to me it was just dismal.
    As to the article published in WUWT i expect he got his ideas from One Nation as it would be the type of puerile drivel they put out.
    I was at a function when this program was shown and had as it happened the map printed with me so i circulated it to all with no comment by me.
    The comments from these people was "no surprise if you go to the bottom extreme of the reef complex there is little damage to be seen as it mainly effected the North and Northern Sections with tapering effects in the Central and little in the Southern areas."

  3. I have had conversations (for want of a better word) with this idiot on The Conversation on a number of occasions.

    The man is a fool - and that's being kind.

  4. Laughing at that post from tadchem. Just rubbish.
    It can be taken apart in many ways but the illistration by Andrew King suffices.

  5. Anyone else see this linked on WUWT ?

    Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data
    The Mail on Sunday can reveal a landmark paper exaggerated global warming
    It was rushed through and timed to influence the Paris agreement on climate change
    America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration broke its own rules
    The report claimed the pause in global warming never existed, but it was based on misleading, ‘unverified’ data

    RICO for NOAA GISS ?

    1. Yeah, it is a standard David Rose hit-piece. Dr Curry has been hinting about for months, and published John Bates' letter today. It takes about 5 minutes to debunk it.

    2. Yeah, yeah, yeah Anonymous. As Harry Twinotter says it takes a few minutes to debunk it. Enjoy:

      5 minute debunk to boring misinformation

    3. "The Mail on Sunday can reveal..."

      Any old pile of crap that suits its agenda.

    4. I wondered if it was via Judith Curry. Anyone who goes to David Rose to get him to trash climate science and leading scientists is pretty well guaranteed to be a climate disinformer. As for WUWT - well that's a climate conspiracy blog - 'nuff said.

      As Jammy wrote (see his link above), Zeke Hausfather came out with a solid response very promptly. I might write something, but won't be able to do it justice for another day or so.

      I can't see this getting legs - or not by anyone who counts. Lamar Smith (and other deniers/conspiracy nutters) made up their mind long ago that all the umpteen thousands of land and sea surface weather observations were 'fraudulent' - so nothing will change there. No-one of any sense takes them seriously, of course.

    5. Victor Venema has written about it too.


    6. It's going to be another test piece for Rose's claim that he always, ALWAYS!, corrects mistakes in his articles.

      Most hilarious in his puff piece is the graph that shows HADCRUT and NOAA, which, when put on the same baseline....show the same result (as Zeke also shows).

    7. More here - well, I might as well put them all together - and may have missed some:

      Victor Venema at Variable Variability: David Rose's alternative reality in the Daily Mail

      Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief: Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise

      Peter Sinclair at Climate Crocks: Much Ado about a NOAA Thing

      ATTP: Expose: David Rose does not understand baselines

      Peter Thorne at Icarus (ERSSTv4 paper co-author): On the Mail on Sunday article on Karl et al., 2015

      Gavin Schmidt on Twitter: Hilarious screw up by @DavidRoseUK and #FailOnSunday

    8. As in all pornography, the money scene is at the end:

      "His disclosures are likely to stiffen President Trump’s determination to enact his pledges to reverse his predecessor’s ‘green’ policies, and to withdraw from the Paris deal – so triggering an intense political row."

      This is a blatant orchestration for political purposes, and the scientific community must be sure to make it patently obvious that Rose, Bates, the Daily Fail and sundry associated agents are simply doing the bidding of the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

      The trouble is that the damage was done the moment that the lie was told - it had circled the planet a hundred times and taken root in the compost heaps that are the minds of the illiterati before truth had even found it's boots, let alone tied a lace.

    9. Judith Curry actually defends getting in bed with David Rose and the Daily Mail UK

      curryja | February 5, 2017 at 6:42 pm |
      David Rose is an award winning investigative journalist https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Rose_(journalist)


      What's also interesting is that Judith Curry is the ONLY climate 'scientist' (I use the word loosely) followed by the House Science Committee Twitter account. In fact there is a dearth of any scientists or science institutions followed by that Twitter account. I suspect Curry is in bed with Lamar Smith as well.


    10. Here's some more debunking links for your list Sou




    11. Over at Curry's blog, quite a few people are also debunking it and making themselves heard in the science bashing echo chamber there. Tom Peterson also posted there.


      Nick Stokes doing a great job on Curry's blog.

      Nick Stokes also posted that Anthony Watts put him on moderation when he was debunking the WUWT article on this and told him to STFU.

      From WUWT:
      Anthony Watts February 4, 2017 at 11:23 pm
      Nick, it’s time for you to just STFU

    12. Ceist, Nick Stokes has done a sterling jobs of countering the lies and misrepresentations that arise from Rose's and Bate's claims. Your efforts too are commendable and valuable.

      This is obviously a move ahead of the House Science Committee hearing to “Make the EPA Great Again” tomorrow. I hope that American scientists and scientific institutions and organisations across the country stand vociferously and steadfastly against this attempt to bastardise the public understanding of science. I posted a few weeks ago about the insipient Lysenkoism of the Trump administration (and Curry's apparent maneuverings to participate), and it seems that it is progressing full steam ahead.

      If only there really was a god that would help us.

    13. Sou, sadly the Australian, and Herald Sun (Bolt of course) have repeated the Daily Mail hitpiece.



      I've tried to comment on the Herald Sun with links to debunking articles, but it's in moderation.

      I don't have a subscription to the Australian

    14. Bernard, I think you right about the coordination of the attack re Lamar Smith's “Make the EPA Great Again” Hearing tomorrow.


      I read that 4 guests were invited. 3 by Republicans and 1 by Democrats. Democrat's guest is Rush Holt CEO of AAAS. I tweeted Rush Holt with a heads up about this attack and links to some of the debunking articles. This will probably be a focus.

    15. Ceist (and all Australians here), the News Corpse regurgitation of Rose's trash should probably be referred to Mediawatch.

      Every email sent to them to ask that it be covered will add to the chance that they will do so:


    16. I remember watching Ted Cruz's 'hearing' "Data or Dogma" and wished someone would have given Admiral Titley a head's up of what Cruz might present. I recognised Cruz used one of 'Steve Goddard's' faked graphs. Imagine if Titley had been able to call Cruz out right away for using a conspiracy blog as a 'source'?

    17. this seems pretty standard conspiracy theorist fare

      Twoofers , in the form of Architect and engineers for truth (AE911) have recently been peddling the thoughts of a former NIST employee whistle-blower - but predictably in the same way Peter Thorne points out with this character - they were never involved in the science/process/investigation - little or no understanding of any substance

      just another motivated blowhard looking for 5 mins of fame

      as with any CT - it is always just moments away from being "blown wide open" - but actually never is {yawn}

    18. "This is obviously a move ahead of the House Science Committee hearing to “Make the EPA Great Again” tomorrow."

      The House Science twitter feed has been promoting the Daily Mail article for all it's worth - 6 uncritical tweets in the last day.

    19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    20. Is it a coincidence that Lamar Smith head of the House Committee of Science has a full Hearing scheduled for Feb 7 called "Making the EPA Great Again" and was one of the first to tweet a link to the Daily Mail trash piece using it as 'confirmation' of his false claims against NOAA scientists?


      Is it also just a coincidence that Judith Curry appears to be the only 'scientist' that the House Science Committee twitter account follows?


      The Democrats were only allowed to invite one guest speaker (Repubs 3) to the "Make the EPA Great Again" hearing. They invited Rush Holt CEO of AAAS who publish the Journal "Science".

      I and hopefully others tweeted a link to Zeke's debunking article (and links to other debunking articles) to @RushHolt so he's better prepared for Lamar Smith's dishonest unethical shenannigans on Feb 7.

      Great work by Zeke Hausfather, Peter Thorne, Victor Venema, Gavin Schmidt and others... responding quickly to this unethical attack on scientists.

      Oh... and kudos too to Nick Stokes - who waded into the muck at WUWT being attacked by Watt's faithful followers and was told to STFU by Anthony Watts, then got abused by the denizens at Judith Curry's blog.


  6. Worth a read.


  7. Links to other debunking articles:

    Popular Science


    Michael Mann (currently in Australia) - Sydney Morning Herald

    Phil PLait- SyFiWire

    Climate Feedback

    1. And yet another great piece by journalists who actually do some investigation:



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