Sunday, December 28, 2014

Steele's penguin "climate horror story" YouTube series, Video 4a

I'm finally getting to the last of Jim Steele's YouTube "horror stories" to the Life Members of the International Electrical and Electronic Engineers'.  This time splitting it into smaller sections, with this first review going to 5:20 and me looking at Steele's claims regarding penguins and what's happening with the climate/weather around Antarctica. 

Jim Steele's talk offers us lessons in two contrasting approaches to learning.  Pay attention and you will notice that Mr. Steele constantly pushes his own conviction ahead of the information he shares.  Thus he's forced to carefully select and then manipulate his information in single-minded dedication to bolstering his sales pitch. 

I'd call Steele's approach the Lawyerly Method, where all that matters is defending one's client regardless of actual guilt or innocence.

The scientific approach on the other hand, is all about learning and assessing the "guilt or innocence" of the topic being studied.  The scientific approach remains open to new information and surprises and life long learning.  Mistakes happen along the way and are converted into valuable learning opportunities as we move forward.

Contrast that to Steele's Republican/Libertarian world where the mistakes of others are enshrined without the slightest interest in examining and understanding why the mistakes were made or what was learned - instead Jim whittles them into bludgeons for attacking all he wants to silence.  As for their own mistakes... well Jim and his crowd doesn't seem to think they make any… it's tough on the learning process.

This time, rather than interjecting my evidence as I go through the transcript, I use an appendix I've posted in a stand alone page - so both pages can be viewed side by side.  As usual Mr. Steele's words will be in courier font.

Published on Nov 3, 2014
Part 4 from Jim Steele's Presentation to the Life Members of the International Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Jim is the author of "Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist's Journey to Climate Skepticism"

Penguins, Polar Bears and Sea Ice by JIm Steele,

Part A of Video 4 - 0:00-5:20

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[1] 0:00 - "There's been several studies last couple years about the Emperor Penguin going extinct..." {launches into a too cute story about his personal fascination with their habits} 0:25 -  "... that population has giving rise to all these horror stories about them going extinct by the end of the century. "
~ ~ ~

Here Steele uses the technique of inserting misleading melodrama in order to belittle the seriousness of what is being observed. [1] 

None of the studies were screaming “extinction,” heck I couldn't even find the word used in the scientific literature.  Instead the studies are detailed reviews of a changing environment and how those changes will affect penguin colonies.

Regarding "that" population, we should be clear penguin populations are being studied along the entire Antarctic coastline, nor is this particular colony the only one feeling the effects of a rapidly changing climate regime.

The thing that strikes me about this sort of gloss over - is the shear lack of curiosity all the way around.  No interest in understanding what's behind the headlines, "dismiss and move on" as though none of the details matter -  for many of those details see appendix [1]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1:00 - "Because they're so big, they can't get up any kind of steep slope, they can only jump up a little bit, they're very clumsy.  So they nest on fast ice.  "Fast ice" is ice that's fastened to the coastline.  And that becomes real thick and that's where they breed, so the story was CO2 increases; it warms things; it melts the ice; and when ice melts, the baby chicks fall into the water and drown.  And they {no mention of who the "they" was} made allusions to this.  
[2] 1:25 - "Well... I asked the guy {who was the "guy"?}, I couldn't find any evidence of that.  I looked at satellite pictures when they {who was the "they"?} were saying this.  And the guy {who was the "guy"?} who printed that he thought the babies were falling in because the ice was breaking out early. {what "study" is Jim referring to?} I said can you give me some dates so I can correlate it with satellite stuff.  And he {who?} goes to me, well, ah, it's really hard to find this right now.  So why do you publish this when you have no information, but you're pushing this as a climate horror story"
~ ~ ~

I suggest it's a horror story to weave fiction stories about serious science!

I tried but couldn't find anything on Steele's claim about chicks falling into the sea, so I emailed Dr. Ainley and asked him about it.  He responded with the following:
"Peter, I don't know who them and they are, but I think the statement about chicks falling into the sea when the ice breaks out ultimately came from the Barbraud & Weimerskirch 2001 paper attached (1st complete paragraph on p 185). 
"Essentially, the fast ice on which the EMPE are breeding is blown out to sea prematurely with eggs, chicks and attending adults going with it. Of course the adults are unaffected. … In any case, I think the attached paper is the original source, with someone projecting some literary license to exaggerate, of the babies falling into the sea story."
~ ~ ~  
Emperor penguins and climate change 
Christophe Barbraud & Henri Weimerskirch 
NATURE | Vol 411 page 185 | MAY 10, 2001 | www.nature.com  
"Breeding success varied extensively throughout the period, and its variability has increased progressively since the 1970s (Fig. 1c). A combination of local factors has probably contributed to the high variability in breeding success. Complete or extensive breeding failures in some years resulted from early break-out of the sea-ice holding up the colony, or from prolonged blizzards during the early chick-rearing period. 
Overall breeding success was not related to SST anomalies or sea-ice extent, possibly because variation was the result of a combination of confounding factors related to sea-ice conditions or weather conditions. However, the proportion of eggs that hatched a chick was negatively related to the extent of pack ice in winter (r2 = 0.284, P = 0.02), with wider pack ice resulting in lower hatching success."
~ ~ ~

I challenge Mr. Steele to produce the study he's referring to.  
Bet he won't.  
Bet he can't.

As for the above scholarly paragraph, it shows the scientist's concern for understanding the details.  It certainly don't fit Steele's grotesque caricature of bumbling fools.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1:50 -  {abrupt cut to graph and what sounds like a spliced in section.}  "This is a graph showing how the population shown in the March of the Penguins declined between the late 60s and 80s, it wasn't obvious in the documentary, but a French research station was right next to the ice where those penguins bred, which is why it's the best studied population.{end splice} And what they did to study them is that they put flipper bands on them.  So, right when the populations started to decline is when they started flipper banding." 
[3] 2:15 - "And when you put the flipper bands on, when the birds start to molt, their wings, their flippers engorge with blood and they'd actually atrophy, it acted like a tourniquet.  So they found a number of deaths due to that.  They found some places that the flipper makes it harder to swim, harder to hunt.  But there's other things that goes with this, but if you look at, when ah, the decline sort of ended, is when they ended the flipper banding."
~ ~ ~

There are a couple things going on here.  To begin with Steele's timing does not coincide, but you'd have to look at more than a grade school graph to appreciation that.  Also this graph refers to only one population of penguins.

After that, notice that Steele is exclusively interested in talking about flipper banding as though that's the only challenge penguins deal with.  It's that magician's tactic of drawing his audience's attention away from where the real action is going down.

Even more important, what Steele's describing he learned from the very same community of experts he so freely dismisses as untrustworthy.   Steele also neglects to acknowledge that it's the scientists doing the banding that have reported these problems with banding.  Nor does he mention the vigorous debate going on within the expert community regarding penguin banding; or their efforts to better understand it's impacts and how to make penguin tracking better and safer for penguins. [3]

And worst of all, notice how Jim avoids any mention of the all important environmental changes Antarctic penguins are dealing with.  Instead carefully cherry picking and manipulating his chosen "facts" to suit his politically motivated storyline.

Jim says Penguin declines ended in 1980s, but the data doesn't agree with his claim:
Data catalog for the Palmer Station Antarctica LTER site.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2:40 -  "There's a little bit of drop after that but it sort of coincides with the French wanting to build an airway, a runway.  So they were dynamiting islands and bringing them together and that was destroying thousands of Adélie Penguin colonies and disrupting the Emperors. And so there was a lot of other issues."
~ ~ ~

Here again, the impacts of that airstrip construction are well documented and not as radical as Steele implies.  Though lamentable for the local population, they certainly don't outweigh the impacts of the environmental changes happening throughout the Antarctic.

I find it strange and appalling that his IEEE audience cares as little as Steele does about looking at the "lots of other issues" such as reviewing the geophysical observations of extreme changes being witnessed throughout Antarctica, instead satisfying themselves with an obviously contrived and painfully superficial cartoon.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[4] 2:55 - "David Ainley is a penguin expert.  In Antarctica we had a number of exchanges.  He actually apologized for this graph.  But he had this graph to show for educational purposes he wanted students, teachers to use this graph and show them how as temperature rises, penguins died." 
~ ~ ~
That graph came from on their page geared toward middle schoolers And, quite frankly if you read through that website you'll understand why I believe Steele lifted most of the penguin information he shares with the IEEE right off of this website, without even giving them credit for what he learned.  
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[5] 3:10 - "He even gives a helpful hint, he said you should ask your students what happens if temperature keeps rising.  And his little hint section said if they don't answer tell them penguins would be extinct if temperatures keep rising."
~ ~ ~

This is one of those crazy comments where I want to scream: 
FULL STOP! Can we back up a minute?  

Is Mr. Steele, actually implying that if Antarctica continues warming there won't be grave consequences for the critters and ecosystems adapted to the current frigid climate conditions?  Is he for real?  If so, I'd love to hear him explain his reasoning.

I ask Mr. Steele: How can warming such a place and scrambling age old geophysical as well as biological patterns and balances not have profoundly disruptive consequences for the existing inhabitants?  Please explain?  But, I imagine Steele will continue hiding from defending his dicey claims.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[3] 3:24 - "There's some problems with that.  Let me just say one more thing about this flipper banding.  If they didn't die from flipper banding, they were disturbed."
~ ~ ~

Look to that, he can't let go of it, then Jim doubles down conjuring up this bit of melodramatic imagery...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"What they would rather do when they have 20°, 30° below zero is they huddle together, you can make a micro climate, where you sort of conserve your energy, like a big body mass would do.  Well to flipper band them, you wrestle with this penguin and I've banded birds {Catch that? Now Steele is contriving an aura of authority in his audience's eyes, "he's banded birds" so of course his opinion means something.  But, does it? }, but you wrestle with this 70 pound penguin and he'll giving up all the energy he's trying to save, to do his fast for four months, before the lady hopefully shows up.
   The other thing with this is that they'll drive to read the brand, they brake them out into single, double, triple file so they can read the bands easier, when they'd rather be doing this."  
~ ~ ~

Why make it sound like banding happens in the middle of winter?  It does not.

In the appendix [3] I include more information on penguin banding where you can see for yourself how much attention it's received within the research community, something Steele intentionally hides from his audience in his desperate bid to make scientists appear inept.

Notice how Steele doesn't share anything about other greater threats to penguin welfare, instead tricking his audience into accepting that all penguin losses can be attributed to researchers.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[6] 4:05 - "So we now know {Because these researchers informed us!} from remote sensing is a lot of these birds, they didn't die, they just got up and they left. They said I'm tired of this, this is crazy and they been able to see penguin poop on the snow where the new colonies started."
~ ~ ~

Steele trivializes the situation and his audience has no interest in learning more about why the penguins actually are moving, or what those relocations might mean for them.  But then, one would need to have a genuine interest in learning about this situation.  Tragically, that's obviously not what this IEEE crowd is after.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
[7] 4:18 - "Well, but the worst of it was, if you looked at the data from the French weather station, there was no global warming. There was absolutely no trend, the only, what they highlighted was this spike and this is a weather spike, it's not a climate spike.  If you look at the trend, there's been no change.  But, they blamed it on global warming."
~ ~ ~

No scientist blamed that "spike" on global warming!  

Steele ignores the changing sea ice dynamics and ocean temperatures that do indicate profound global warming driven trends.

Consider, Steele's only sharing his own interpretation of station air temperatures, at the uniquely located Dumont d'Urville research station[7a].  What he has there is no station record!

Worse, not a hint about the fascinating dynamics the Ozone Hole sets up and that appears to account for much of the observed cooling, which is far less than Steele and pals would have us believe. [7d, 7e]

Most importantly, if you look at the Antarctic as a whole, there certainly are profound indicators of global warming on the land and in the ocean. [10]  

Steele choses to ignore all of that in order to allow himself to indict hard working serious researchers with slander bordering on the hysterical and paranoid - and his IEEE audience laps it up.  Now that's what I call a science horror story.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[8] 4:40 -  "I asked David, I emailed him, how do you justify this, here's his arrow, showing them going extinct,"
~ ~ ~ 

I shared Steele's quote and asked Dr. Ainley: 
Where does that "Temperature" trend line come from?

His response was:
"It's a general representation of what the temp. has been doing over the past few decades on West Coast of Antarctic Peninsula.  

"There is no specific statistical correlation implied.What is meant to be implied is that as the temp in this area has warmed, and it has by ~6C over past couple decades, the sea ice persistence has decreased and so too has the population of the sea-ice-obligate Adelie Penguin. 

"If you want the actual variable trend, then please look at the Palmer Lter Website ( for details.  It would be in one of their papers.  In fact, it is in the attached paper (their figure 2)."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~    
"...The Antarctic Peninsula is among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, having experienced a 2°C increase in the annual mean temperature and a 6°C rise in the mean winter temperature since 1950. ..."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
4:40 - Steele says: "here's the real data."
~ ~ ~

Then Steele produces a homemade graph.
The "real data"?  
I think not ! 
In fact, I have reason to believe it's another one of Steele's tricks intended to deceive the unskeptical.

To begin with Dumont d'Urville, goes by DDU, but then kids need their potty humor, don't they?  Also, real graphs have the source clearly listed. This graph has a striking resemblance to another mystery graph used in an earlier Steele "horror story."  

I'm referring to the mystery 'Yosemite National Park temperature graph' used by Steele to establish his assertion that California was not suffering from manmade global warming. [9] 

A little research proved the numbers on this WUWT/Steele graph are wrong for "Yosemite." -  For the rest of that pathetic little story, see:
"Steele's Yosemite Nat'l Park Mystery Temp Graph? W.U.W.T.?"
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

4:50 - "And, I like this guy, I think he's a great biologist. But, I say, once you get a belief and it possess your mind. {shrugs}  He says that's what I thought was happening."
~ ~ ~

What's sad is those who know the least are the most convinced of themselves.  

Steele has been shown repeated to carefully select his evidence keeping his 'take away message' global warming is a hoax foremost in mind.  It doesn't matter to him how much information he ignores.  

When someone like me confronts him with the facts, he's got no interest in defending his facts, instead he chooses to see it as a personal affront, then ignores all the questions I've raised.

Those are the hallmarks of a political operative and they have nothing to do with serious science or constructive learning!
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5:00 "You know, Mark Twain had a thing: 'a lot of people just accept things on second hand without checking it out for themselves from people who hadn't checked it out themselves either. {Well if Steele's IEEE audience had the intellectual integrity to recognize that truth, they'd be tossing this hypocrite out on his ears.}  What good science really got, we got to dig deep, but most people don't have time to do this.  So these extinction stories just fly with people, and they shouldn't."
~ ~ ~
Steele's only intention seems to be feeding the Republican/Libertarian meme that scientists should not be trusted and that the under-educated should keep the "debate" alive, even though they don't know or care for learning about the full spectrum of facts at hand.  

Notice Steele never asks his audience to ask themselves: "What if they are wrong and that educated professional full time experts really do know better?"

In reality the scientific community is made up of our brightest, most inquisitive minds, engaged in trying to understanding this world around us to the best of their abilities.  That community is full of skeptical driven individuals who are constantly checking and arguing over each other's work in a mutual endeavor to achieve the best understanding possible.

Human as it is, the bottom-line remains that it's not about 'saving-face' for scientists and serious students, it's about learning the truth of matter to the best of their abilities!  

That's something the Republican/Libertarians can't seem to grasp.  For them it's all about business, period.  They've lost sight of the bigger human reality on this here little planet that we depend on for everything, but that we have battered to hell in wanton disregard of the future's dependence on it's health and well-being.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

[10]  5:15 - " that's why I wrote the book.  So why, if I got no warming in Antarctica, if I got no warming in California, "
~ ~ ~ 

One of the things I find most disturbing about the Life Members of the International Electrical and Electronic Engineers is their complete lack of curiosity about the simplistic and incomplete smoke'n mirrors description Mr. Jim Steele has just trotted out for them.

If one could dress up Steele's talk into a business proposal, stripped of it's political/existential overtones, I'll bet not one of those intelligent folks sitting there would buy into it.

What we have here is an audience that demands to hear what they want to hear.  So they hire any joker, be he a "Lord" or a "nature trail guide" to color them their cartoon.  Thus, they can continue to self-justify laughing off what educated serious full-time professionals are trying to explain to us all.

Back to Mr. Steele, the man is totally (if not criminally) disconnected from reality for asserting that:
"got no warming in Californiatake a look at the evidence. [9]
"got no warming in Antarctica" take a look at the evidence. [10]
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