NOAA says coral reefs are in a global warming death spiral

coral_reefWhen NOAA announced today that a global bleaching event is occurring, scientists took notice. When they wrote that it was the third-worst global coral bleaching event, headlines started blaring “devastating” and “dramatic.” But the facts about coral bleaching are usually set aside in the rush to make headlines, and when it comes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), you really do have to pay attention to what they are declaring. Especially under this current administration.

As we first reported here, NOAA announced in early July that coral reefs are dying off at an unprecedented rate, even though a recently published paper showed that these statements are more alarmist than accurate. Coral reefs can turn white when the algae that surrounds them dies off from too warm (or too cold) water, and the satellites detect that thermal stress. But the paper published in Marine Biology showed that while even though some corals appear bleached, it doesn’t mean they are dead or even dying. Why?

Conventional tracking methods (like NOAA’s 5-km Coral Reef Watch Satellite Monitoring) can’t distinguish between white and bleached (dead) colonies. The paper, by Cruz et al, showed that “although bleaching leaves the coral skeleton visible under its transparent tissue, not all white coral colonies display this feature,” which “raises the question as to whether all ‘white’-shaded colonies are indeed bleached.” To determine whether bleached coral is actually dead, Cruz et al actually sampled coral off the east coast of Brazil, and found that white corals exhibited the same lifelike features as their multi-colored cousins.

Because the white (bleached) corals were physiologically healthy when compared to dark and light-browned colonies, the paper says this would lead to the “overestimation of coral bleaching” by nearly twice as much. This overestimation is caused because satellite monitoring of coral is unable to detect between white living colonies and bleached dead colonies. In fact, surveys off the coast of Brazil showed that the “proportion of bleached and white colonies is similar, thus suggesting that current coral reef surveys may be overestimating the bleaching” by nearly twofold.

So it’s surprising to read that Mark Eakin, a NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator, told the Associated Press that, “We may be looking at losing somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 percent of the coral reefs this year. The bad news for the U.S. is we’re getting hit disproportionately just because of the pattern of the warming.” Eakin also called the bleaching a crisis, blaming it first on global warming, and then secondly on natural variability.

Any anomalous ocean warming in the Pacific can be directly linked to the enormous warm blob near Hawaii and a persistent El Niño first announced in June by NOAA. Neither of these two events have anything to do with climate change or atmospheric warming and have been studied extensively by scientists since first discovered.

“Hawaii is getting hit with the worst coral bleaching they have ever seen, right now,” Eakin said. “It’s severe. It’s extensive. And it’s on all the islands.” That’s according to satellite imagery as well as computer model forecasts. Eakin didn’t actually travel to Hawaii and investigate all the reefs around all the islands, but instead relied on their Coral Reef Watch satellite monitoring system, which the aforementioned paper indicated does a disproportionate job of indicating dead coral reef that’s still alive.

Another factor is that other bodies of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean, are showing an overall cooling trend. Even NOAA’s sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly map shows far less warming in the areas where the coral reefs are supposedly dying off. Keep in mind that in 2010, “cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death.” During that event, water temperatures dropped 12.06 degrees Fahrenheit lower than what they normally are for that time of year.

While no one disputes that warmer water, a byproduct of an El Ni√±o event, can cause some coral to die off, no one fully understands why El Ni√±os form in the first place. Based on historical marine records, El Ni√±os have been documented when people began sailing the world in earnest over 500 years ago. Plus the current Pacific warm blob has been determined to be completely unrelated to global warming and simply a consequence of natural variability. One study, by Washington’s state climatologist Nick Bond, showed how the blob has been behind the nearly five-year-long drought in California.

Even as NOAA inarticulately proclaims this die-off as the third ever [sic] global coral bleaching event, they are basing that announcement on measuring instruments that have already been proven to overestimate so-called coral bleaching twofold. They are also making this statement in lieu of the fact that they have only been monitoring coral reef bleaching since 1989, when “a relatively new ocean phenomenon called ‘coral bleaching‘ was increasingly observed in parts of the Caribbean Sea.”

Under the supervision of former Vice President Al Gore, the Coral Reef Watch Program took shape and was formally established in 1998 when President Clinton “issued an Executive Order that created the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.” Using satellite data from 1985 to the present, the program created “historical” recreations of the past, allowing NOAA to declare that this “may” be the third-largest global coral bleaching event “on record.”

Put another way, coral bleaching events have been occurring for millions of years based on marine and fossil records. Unsurprisingly, the only thing new about this bleaching event is that agencies tasked with environmental initiatives are making a lot of noise just ahead of the Paris Climate Talks, where a climate change treaty is expected to emerge. A quick visit to the NOAA’s climate reef watch website shows it devoted entirely to global warming. Unfortunately for U.S. citizens, all of this propaganda comes at taxpayer’s expense.

Previously posted at the now-defunct Examiner.com news site.

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