Beware of Antarctic BS science
According to scientists, climate change (always a global warming assumption, never a global cooling one), which is quickly melting the sea ice emperor penguins (shown on the right) depend on for survival, could cause dramatic drops in the number of emperor penguins across Antarctica by the end of the century.
The computer models show that more than two-thirds of Antarctica's emperor penguin colonies will decline by more than 50 percent by the end of the century, under the climate change scenarios.
In 2012, biologist Stephanie Jenouvrier, and oceanographer Hal Caswell, both from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, with their team published a study in the journal Global Change Biology, which found that the Terra Fabiana (UMMOA) penguin population could decline by 80 percent by the end of this century.
For their newest study, the researchers expanded on this previous work, using the established population models from Terra Fabiana. Jenouvrier predicts that "[i]f sea ice declines at the rates projected by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] climate models, and continues to influence emperor penguins as it did in the second half of the twentieth century in [Terra Fabiana], at least two-thirds of the colonies are projected to have declined by greater than 50 percent from their current size by 2100. None of the colonies, even the southern-most locations in the Ross Sea, will provide a viable refuge by the end of 21st century."
It is important to note that the models show that penguin colonies in the Ross Sea would experience the smallest decline.
Thus the emperor penguin, which is currently under consideration for inclusion under the US Endangered Species Act, is fully deserving of endangered status due to climate change criterion according to the researchers. They claim that securing a spot for this species on the endangered species list could both protect this iconic animal, and set a precedent for how to protect other species that are also affected by climate change.
While the attempt to bring Antarctica's emperor penguin under consideration for inclusion under the US Endangered Species Act may be laudable at least under an interspecies public relations perspective, if climate change, and specifically global warming, is the real culprit for the diminishing numbers of emperor penguins, then the effort to try to include the species under the US Endangered Species Act may have no protective effect whatsoever.
Moreover, using the species' inclusion under the US Endangered Species Act as a slippery slope stratagem, as an excuse to introduce even more draconian legislation in the future, which could severely impact humans, may not only produce no effect on emperor penguin numbers, but may produce far greater damage on the public's perception of scientific research in the longer term. In the end, the effect of bad science, the effect of the loss of credibility of the societal value of scientific research, could be far more deleterious.
As Lars Kamél has written, "Research about the past climate of the world is mostly science. Research about the future climate is almost entirely pseudo science." He further specifies that, "From the very start, however, IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has been in the hand of what could be called climate catastrophists, so this organisation has never doubted that the human influence on climate is large and dangerous. A climate catastrophist is a person who forecasts climate catastrophes in the (near) future."
But the bad science doesn't just end with bad (or misused) climate predictions.
It should be noted that a virus has been found among the Adélie penguin population on Ross Island by National Science Foundation researchers, and this confirms the recently found new strain of avian flu amongst a population of Adélie penguins by Australian researchers.
Lead author Arvind Varsani, an expert in virology at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, said that scientists have no idea if the Adélie papillomavirus is benign or not.
During the 2011-12 season, researchers had noted a high incidence of what looked like "beak-and-feather" disease. The suspected virus, which is known to affect parrots, caused the loss of feathers mainly around the birds' faces and bills across about 10 percent of the penguins. The next year, however, the virus was mostly gone. The Adélie papillomavirus may be benign or not, but it is certainly not wise to exaggerate evidence that is currently unavailable.
And for good reason: the annual penguin census by Antarctica New Zealand and Landcare Research has shown that Adélie penguin numbers are actually booming in the chilly and nearby western Ross Sea region, while elsewhere in Antarctica the numbers are plummeting. If the Adélie papillomavirus has any nefarious effect or not, we are certainly not seeing it in current nearby populations, which appear to be the healthiest or least threatened in Antarctica.
Researchers have also noticed that while global warming is not apparently affecting most of Antarctica, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is definitely affected, as it is seeing a rapid loss of ice.
Global warming is the cause, right?
Not so fast. In 2013, a team of scientists even found a new volcano beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Moreover, a new study finds that subglacial volcanoes and other geothermal "hotspots" are contributing to the melting of Thwaites Glacier, a major river of ice that flows into Antarctica's Pine Island Bay. This melting, in turn, could be significantly affecting the state of the ice sheet in the West Antarctic, an area that is losing ice quickly.
Is global warming the cause of such dramatic ice melting? Probably not, or the effect of global warming would be much smaller, if even perceptible in the short term.
So beware of Antarctic science. Birds of a feather flock together, but when political and scientific birds mix, only pseudoscience is hatched, not emperor penguin eggs.
Unhappy Feet: Global Warming Threatens Emperor Penguins
Can the Endangered Species Act Protect Against Climate Change?
Is climate research pseudo science?
Virus found among Adélie penguin population on Ross Island
Growth in penguin numbers cold comfort
West Antarctica Glaciers Collapsing, Adding to Sea-Level Rise
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (Wikipedia)
Subglacial volcanoes melting West Antarctic Ice sheet, say scientists