Emperor Penguins in Peril from --- Computer Models
new study published in Nature Climate Change shows dramatic declines in penguin populations by 2100 from too much or too little sea ice. The results are based on computer model projections, which in turn are based on secondary computer models.In another brazen attempt to add emperor penguins to the Endangered Species list, a
Already on the "under consideration" list for inclusion in the US Endangered Species Act, the study concludes that emperor penguins may decline by up to eighty percent due to sea ice concentration (SIC). The study's lead author, Stephanie Jenouvrier, used computer model projections to reach these conclusions.
Satellite data has shown that sea ice around Antarctic has increased in size by twenty percent since imaging of the continent began in 1979. According to this study, though, too much ice requires the penguins to travel further to gather food for their chicks. Too little ice means less krill for the penguins to eat.
In either case, computer models imperil the penguin colonies if either situation occurs. Just as polar bears were added to the Endangered Species list based on computer model projections, this study is taking a page from that successful play-book to add emperor penguins to the list as well.
However, the study is based on computer model projections using predictive forecasts from the IPCC. The latest IPCC AR5 states the following trends regarding Antarctic sea ice (this is from September 2013, emphasis added):
It is very likely that the annual Antarctic sea ice extent increased at a rate of between 1.2 and 1.8% per decade between 1979 and 2012.
The IPCC AR5 states in Chapter 10 on Attribution (emphasis added):
Overall we conclude that there is low confidence in the scientific understanding of the observed increase in Antarctic sea ice extent since 1979, due to the incomplete and competing scientific explanations for the causes of change and low confidence in estimates of internal variability. …[and that] the shortness of the observed record and differences in simulated and observed variability preclude an assessment of whether or not the observed increase since 1979 is inconsistent with internal variability."
In layman's terms, this means Antarctic sea ice has been increasing since 1979 from satellite observations, and that it's too early to make any kind of assessment as to whether this will continue or abate.
The increase in Antarctic sea ice is not understood and is not simulated correctly by climate models.
According to the study (emphasis added),
We analyse global population trends of the emperor penguin…under the influence of sea ice conditions projected by coupled climate models assessed in the IPCC…with local, colony-specific, sea ice conditions projected through to the end of the twenty-first century…all populations are projected to be declining. At least two-thirds are projected to have declined by >50% from their current size.
What this means is that using computer models that even the IPCC said were not robust enough to use as predictive tools, Jenouvrier et al used another computer model to project future sea ice decline in its ongoing attempt to get an endangerment finding for the emperor penguin. Dizzy yet?
Concomitant with the publication of this study, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where Jenouvrier is a biologist, announced in a press release, "Emperor penguin populations across Antarctica finds the iconic animals in danger of dramatic declines by the end of the century due to climate change."
As Jenouvrier admits, “Our models take into account both the effects of too much and too little sea ice in the colony area.” In other words, the continent of Antarctica would have to remain in stasis (as is) for the next 100 years for their computer model projections to be remotely wrong.
“Listing the emperor penguin will provide some tools to improve fishing practices of US vessels in the Southern Ocean, and gives a potential tool to help reduce CO2 emissions in the US under the Clear Air and Clean Water Acts,” Jenouvrier said.
In science, this is known as conducting research with an outcome or result already predetermined. It appears this study is nothing more than a transparent attempt to expedite conservation efforts in Antarctica. Though a laudable goal, wrapping it up in the auspices of an actual scientific "study" and then having it published as research is not a happy feat one should be trumpeting.
updated 7/2/14 (typo)