Friday, January 9, 2015

Steele's climate horror story, drowning chicks. Who says?

At Mr. Steele's Landscapes and Cycles blog (July 1, 2014) "Blinded by Beliefs: The Straight Poop on Emperor" he writes:
¶1  "Two recent press releases concerning the Emperor Penguin’s fate illustrate contrasting forces that will either advance or suppress trustworthy conservation science."
¶12  "Mark Twain again provides insight to why bad science so easily goes viral having written, 'In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from others.' And apparently scientists suffer the same second? hand folly."

I have been doing exactly that and contacting a number of the scientists Mr. Steele singles out in his YouTube 'climate science horror' series.  More times than not, it's turned out to be our Mr. Steele who is suppressing an honest, open and complete review of the available science.  

This morning I decided to go directly to Mr. Steele and request the source of one of his many questionable assertions.  Where did the claim of "chicks falling into the ocean and drowning come from?  I still haven't heard from him and since this is a public dialogue regarding his vehement public attacks on the integrity of respectable dedicated scientists, I've decided to share the following email. This text has been slightly polished, but I will be forwarding this to Steele and Director Blair after posting.


Question re your "drowning chicks" claim 
January 9, 2015

Jim Steele

John R Blair, Director of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus
Dr. Ainley

Mr. Steele,

I'm trying to track down the claim you made before the IEEE audience (and at your blog) that scientists have stated that baby penguins are falling through ice cracks and drowning.  From the video "Penguins, Polar Bears and Sea Ice by JIm Steele - Part 4 of your YouTube Presentation to the Life Members of the International Electrical and Electronic Engineers:
1:00 - ... 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 made allusions to this.  
[2]1:25 - Well... I asked the guy, I couldn't find any evidence of that.  I looked at satellite pictures when they were saying this.  And the guy who printed that he thought the babies were falling in because the ice was breaking out early. I said can you give me some dates so I can correlate it with satellite stuff.  And he 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"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You don't offer a source for that claim, nor did you respond to my public request for that information.  

But since you mentioned Dr. Ainley in your talk, I contacted him and asked him about it.
  As I related at my blog post:

"CC wrote: I tried but couldn't anything on this claim about chicks falling into the sea, so finally I emailed Dr. Ainley and asked him about it.  He responded with the following:

Dr. Ainley responded: "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." {my highlight}

Emperor penguins and climate change
Christophe Barbraud & Henri Weimerskirch
NATURE | VOL 411 page 185 | 10 MAY 2001 |

"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."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now that I'm reviewing your article on the topic "Blinded by Beliefs: The Straight Poop on Emperor" - July 1, 2014 Landscapes and Cycles - I see that you actually name Dr. Ainley as the source for your claim.

You wrote:
¶10  "So I first contacted Ainley to determine if his “drowning chicks were based on observation or theoretical beliefs. Ainley confessed his claims were based on a sentence in Barbraud’s paper that stated, “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.” The early break-out of the sea-ice holding up the colony was merely a belief consistent with global warming hypotheses."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After reading that, I contacted Dr. Ainley once again and shared your quote and asked him: "Steele is claiming you are the source of the "drowning chicks" story. 
What's he talking about?  
How would you respond to that?"

His response was {my highlight}:

"He is sadly mistaken. This item of loss of eggs and chicks owing to blizzards or early fast ice break out is from Barbraud & Weimirskirch (2001, Nature). They have not retracted that statement, but I think they must have had some basis for publishing it. And, indeed, that part of the world can be exceedingly windy (meterological instruments blown away more often than not), i.e. the wind system that keeps the polynya open off there. This B&W item is further discussed by me (us) in the attached (2005), but it is still them that are the source."

But, this brings us back to the Barbraud & Weimirskirch (2001, Nature) paper and the quote I shared above.  I looked at the rest of that paper and others and also ran various google searches, but can't find anything about "drowning penguin chicks" anywhere, except in your own words Mr. SteeleNow I read that you are explicitly stating Dr. Ainley is the source, but he says you are mistaken.   

Leaving me to wonder, what are you talking about? 

Mr. Steele, can you please share the source that you base your "drowning chicks" claim on?

Sincerely, CC

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