AIMS GBR coral findings merely opinion

Jennifer Marohasy concurs that the AIMS GBR study presents level 5 evidence (merely expert opinion) that measured decline in coral growth is due to anthropogenic global warming.

Indeed no data is presented to suggest the PH (a measure of acidity) of GBR waters has changed.

Confronted with a lack of evidence in support of this hypothesis – that ocean acidification has caused the drop in growth rates – the researchers suggest in the paper “synergistic effects of several forms of environmental stress” and implicate higher temperatures. But no data is presented in the paper to contradict the well established relationship between increasing temperature and increasing growth rates – though various confusing statements are made and it is suggested that global warming has increased the incidence of heat stress in turn reducing growth rates – while at the same time the researchers acknowledge higher growth rates in northern, warmer, GBR waters.

In a further swipe at global warming zealotry, squarely at the exaggeration of low quality of evidence, she quotes:

Marine Biologist Walter Starck has perhaps aptly described the research as part of “the proliferation of subprime research presenting low value findings as policy grade evidence” and has suggested this has “science headed in the same direction as Wall Street.”

Interestingly, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, has decided the “massive decline in the reef’s growth” will require new laws.

CSIRO and AIMS race each other to the bottom of the science quality ladder.

What can be done? I have frequently advocated the adoption of a quality of evidence rating modeled on the Oxford Evidence Scale, applied to all research with policy implications, particularly global warming. This could easily be implemented on an institution-wide (CSIRO, AIMS, etc.) basis.

The main benefits would be a quick indication of how much weight to place on a particular piece of research, and a quantitative measure of improvements in research quality over time.

In the comments section of Jennifer’s post, Walter Starck indicates the downturn may be an artifact of the statistical smoothing methodology (sound familiar?).

The purported slowing of coral growth rates on the GBR appears to be a remake of “The Hockeystick” with Splines playing the role of Principal Component Analysis. De’ath et al. offer no actual growth data in the paper or online supporting evidence. What they present are splines derived from the data. These depict a dramatic reduction in growth after 1990. During this period the GBR suffered two severe bleaching events in 1998 and 2002. Both were associated with El Niño induced extended summer calms and resultant SST spikes.

Splines are only a curve fitting tool and various different splines can be constructed to fit the same data. In this instance it is apparent that the knots chosen for construction of these particular splines are ones which result in a sharp downturn after 1990 due to the hiatus in growth from the bleaching events. This is obvious from the fact that neither the bleaching events nor the subsequent recovery appear as distinct changes in the curves but have both been smoothed into a sharp decline continuing down to the end in 2005. That the data set ends in 2005 also helps in exaggerating the decline by truncating the ongoing recovery in growth after the 2002 bleaching.

Interestingly this study comes only a few days after the report that recovery of corals from the Boxing Day tsunami has been found to be occurring much faster than expected.

It would be productive to get the raw data plotted and reanalyzed. Any takers?

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0 thoughts on “AIMS GBR coral findings merely opinion

  1. Of course it HAS to be gorebul warming. Couldn’t POSSIBLY be anything else like say, nutrients or some invasive or native species that eat them growing or….

    I believe they are recovering nicely from the bleaching incidents, but, i just had to comment on the laser precision of the study sticking to the agenda!!

  2. Of course it HAS to be gorebul warming. Couldn’t POSSIBLY be anything else like say, nutrients or some invasive or native species that eat them growing or….

    I believe they are recovering nicely from the bleaching incidents, but, i just had to comment on the laser precision of the study sticking to the agenda!!

  3. Here’s the key statement in the link:

    “Marine Biologist Walter Starck has perhaps aptly described the research as part of “the proliferation of subprime research presenting low value findings as policy grade evidence” and has suggested this has “science headed in the same direction as Wall Street.”

  4. Here’s the key statement in the link:

    “Marine Biologist Walter Starck has perhaps aptly described the research as part of “the proliferation of subprime research presenting low value findings as policy grade evidence” and has suggested this has “science headed in the same direction as Wall Street.”

  5. The key result seem to be that “The temperature effects on calcification and extension were significant for the spatial and anomaly components, but not for temporal trend.” This suggests to me that the simplest explanation is that reduced calcification occurred in some areas, due to the reduced productivity from the bleaching events, triggered by cloud (UV) and water conditions associated with ocean temperature, clarity and current state at that time. Explanations by temporal trends, such as increasing AGW or acidity would not be suggested, due to the lack of correlation with temporal trend.

  6. The key result seem to be that “The temperature effects on calcification and extension were significant for the spatial and anomaly components, but not for temporal trend.” This suggests to me that the simplest explanation is that reduced calcification occurred in some areas, due to the reduced productivity from the bleaching events, triggered by cloud (UV) and water conditions associated with ocean temperature, clarity and current state at that time. Explanations by temporal trends, such as increasing AGW or acidity would not be suggested, due to the lack of correlation with temporal trend.

  7. David

    Getting the raw data would be a start but we are not entering into another Hughes/Mann mexican standoff are we?

    I write this because of a new-found courage among scientifically literate posters at Jennifer’s blog.

  8. David

    Getting the raw data would be a start but we are not entering into another Hughes/Mann mexican standoff are we?

    I write this because of a new-found courage among scientifically literate posters at Jennifer’s blog.

  9. Louis, if the end-treatment is problematic that would be fairly decidable I think. The problem with the hockey stick is in the cherry picking of the proxies, and that is harder to prove. The focus on the justification for the claims at J’s blog is encouraging, and I get the distinct impression people are getting educated in the ways scientists lie with statistics.

  10. Louis, if the end-treatment is problematic that would be fairly decidable I think. The problem with the hockey stick is in the cherry picking of the proxies, and that is harder to prove. The focus on the justification for the claims at J’s blog is encouraging, and I get the distinct impression people are getting educated in the ways scientists lie with statistics.

  11. The inference that the sea waters of North Australia have warmed since 1990 needs to be examined. I have evidence from land adjacent to northern waters showing constancy in temperature for 40 years. Not everywhere, but in several places. Why, some even fall a little.

  12. The inference that the sea waters of North Australia have warmed since 1990 needs to be examined. I have evidence from land adjacent to northern waters showing constancy in temperature for 40 years. Not everywhere, but in several places. Why, some even fall a little.

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