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« Are greens now the bad guys? | Main | EU sockpuppets »
Friday
Jul312015

Corals are survivors

The Natural History Museum has put on display a bit of fossilised coral reef discovered in what is now Wiltshire. It's a pretty thing.

The museum tells us that the fossil is 160 million years old and that some of the species included are relatives of those alive today, an observation that seems to have important implications for global warming alarmism:

The corals lived during the Late Jurassic period, at a time when carbon dioxide levels were higher than they are now, in seas that were warmer than today. This suggests they are capable of surviving in a warmer world.

Another "fragile" ecosystem turns out to be rather robust it would seem. But not so fast:

However, the current plight of corals worldwide due to changing ocean conditions suggests they may not be able to survive the current pace of climate change.

This is an odd thing to say because I thought everyone agreed that the climate has changed much faster in the past. Indeed these very corals seem to have survived the extraordinarily fast climate changes in the last glacial period, which may have been of the order of 10 degrees in a few decades. The plight of corals in the present is of course more to do with overfishing and pollution than climate change.

 

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Reader Comments (36)

The magnitude and rate of the recent increase are almost certainly unprecedented over the last 800,000 years. (BAS)

Yet we entered ice-ages & interglacials over that period, & the warming to interglacials was faster!

Jul 31, 2015 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

The waters of the Coral and Arabian seas are relatively warm.
Amazingly, these seas host magnificent coral reefs.
If the planet warms a bit (and I hope nature does it's bit), you may get some coral reefs developing in the higher latitudes.

Jul 31, 2015 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

Good observation.

Although I thought the 10°C in a few decades referred to air temperature, not the seas.
Water has a high thermal capacity.

Jul 31, 2015 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Alan the Brit notes the climate changes over the past 800,000 years which is correct to my knowledge. What those alarmists close their eyes over in this, is that they claim the CO2 content varied very little during those 6or 7 glacial/inter-glacial periods (about 280 ppm ).
Rather proves the non-correlation, non-causation of CO2 to temperature change, to even the faintest rational thinker wouldnt you conclude??

Jul 31, 2015 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

Check this analysis of the CO2 in Ice cores

Statement written for the Hearing before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Climate Change: Incorrect information on pre-industrial CO2

March 19, 2004

Statement of Prof. Zbigniew Jaworowski
Chairman, Scientific Council of Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection
Warsaw, Poland

Jul 31, 2015 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeospeculator

Coral reefs in Wiltshire? That's what I call Climate Change! :-)

Jul 31, 2015 at 5:16 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The Natural History Museum speaks for itself

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/environmental-change/climate-impacts/coral-extinction/

After the Ordovician–Silurian Extinction Event ~ 435 million years ago, which killed off the majority of marine species, corals re-appeared during the Devonian period, and, for the first time began forming extensive reef systems that include th scleractinian or ‘stony’ corals seen today. Then, 350 million years ago corals again disappeared from the geological record.

It would take almost 100 million years before corals re-appeared around 260 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period , only to fall victim to the greatest extinction event in Earth’s history, during which 96% of marine species were wiped out by reduced oxygen and elevated CO2 in the world’s oceans. the severity and duration of this coral catastrophe suggests a combination of events led to it .

Corals made a comeback, 230 million years ago, as modern-day scleractinian corals evolved in the seas around, Pangaea, However, the suprcontinent's break-up was attended by further coral extinctions They come and go throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and disappeared along with the dinsaurs in the KT extinction, and only reappeared shortly before the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum, around 55 million years ago.

The six degree Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is the most extreme recorded global warming event. Ample isotopic evidence testifes to rapid rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide are observed in the geological record, as well as rises in sea level and changes in calcite compensation depth The most likely cause of the PETM is the release of large quantities of CH4 and CO2 during the Paleocene. Coral reefs suffered heavily during this interval of warming and ocean acidification , and most disappeared.


Corals recovered around 46 million years ago, before disappearing for the last time in the Mid-Eocene period around 40 million years ago. Only around 20 million years ago did the Great Barrier Reef came into existence.

So don't take the Bish's word for what the NHM has to say- go and see for yourself.

Jul 31, 2015 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Bishop Hill

I hope I'll be corrected if the point is irrelevant to your argument!

But didn't Britain, as a result of continental drift, lie between 30 and 40 degrees North during the Jurassic Period?

Stephen Prower

Jul 31, 2015 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Prower

@ Russell:

"The six degree Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is the most extreme recorded global warming event. Ample isotopic evidence testifes to rapid rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide are observed in the geological record, as well as rises in sea level and changes in calcite compensation depth"

Yes, of course; the warming caused the rise in carbon dioxide. Has basic science been so totally forgotten?

Jul 31, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Peacock

It's an article of faith now that climate is changing faster than at any time in the past. It has to be, because this is effectively the last bastion of CAGW. Everything else is dead in the water.

Nice to know that not everyone agrees!

Jul 31, 2015 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Gus

Arthur Peacock;

Yes, basic science has been forgotten.
Only CO2 can cause warming, and when it does the oceans go acid. No proof or scientific knowledge is ever required if you are a AGW believer. sarc off/

Jul 31, 2015 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Geospeculator, thank you for that. Siple's Curve and Mann's Hockey Schtick......trying saying Siple Schtick quickly as in:
'She sells Siple Schticks on the Sea Shore'. Great party piece for warmist guests.

Down in the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch NZ, one used to be able to see fossalised tree remnants that once grew in Antarctica 12,000 years ago. Whether one still can remains uncertain. It may not be politically correct. Consider yourselves lucky that you can still get your hands on bits of fossalised corral.

http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.co.nz/2012/08/new-paper-shows-sea-temperatures-near.html

Jul 31, 2015 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

Jul 31, 2015 at 3:47 PM | M Courtney

Water does indeed have high thermal capacity but in the oceans it is also stratified. You don't have to heat up the whole of the water column to change the surface temperature by 10°C.

Corals also grow north of the arctic circle:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep-water_coral

Jul 31, 2015 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Arthur Peacok

Please read the basic science before misconstruing it as matter od cliche'.

Aug 1, 2015 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Fossil finds, like climate history can be so inconvenient.
When yr doing the Saul Alinsky thing yr hafta' shred the
record. 'This - is - UNPRECEDENTED.'

Aug 1, 2015 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013'

"Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7139797.stm

The only threat to corals come from these warm-mongers who, time and again, systematically ignore the complexities of reality and recklessly demand, not even propose but demand, drastic social and environmental engineering.

Aug 1, 2015 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Russell

Are you suggesting that anything you have written there contradicts something I have said?

Aug 1, 2015 at 8:54 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

http://web.archive.org/web/20131204215458/http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=4175&block=75

"The Holocene Epoch occupies only the last 10 000 years of geological time and is the warm interval or interglacial in which we now live.

it is now well established that the current warm period, the Holocene Epoch, is simply the latest interglacial in a long series of profound climatic fluctuations that have characterized the last 2.4 Ma.

The deep-sea sedimentary record shows that up to 50 ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ climatic oscillations have occurred within the last 2.4 Ma. Equally, the glacial and interglacial periods cannot be characterized simply as ‘cold’ or ‘warm’, respectively; the ice ages were not unbroken in their frigidity since the exceptionally cold phases (stadials) were punctuated by warmer periods (interstadials), in some cases lasting for several thousand years.

The fundamental characteristic of the Quaternary Period is therefore one of change through time and space in geomorphological processes, floras, faunas and environmental conditions, all modulated by the changing climate. The record of such changes is preserved in a variety of landforms, sediment sequences and organic remains.

It's the sun wot does it!

The abrupt onset of the late Cainozoic ice ages is, as yet, unexplained. However, the succession of ice ages (glacials) and interglacials has occurred at known frequencies, and changes in insolation (the receipt of solar radiation at the Earth’s surface and throughout its atmosphere) associated with the Earth’s orbital rhythms are now established as the principal external driving forces of the Earth’s climatic system.

The last time Britain experienced conditions similar to today was about 125 ka, when the interglacial (part of the Ipswichian Stage) lasted about 10 ka.

Unlike the flora, some elements of the Quaternary fauna have evolved. Therefore, certain glacial and interglacial periods can be characterized broadly by distinctive fossil assemblages, particularly those of large mammals.

During the last interglacial, for example, creatures such as the hippopotamus, lion and elephant were indigenous to Britain."

I think George Monbiot should consider them for "re-wilding."

Sea Level
http://web.archive.org/web/20050517085244/http://www.jncc.gov.uk/earthheritage/gcrdb/gcrblock.asp?block=22

"At the time of the last glacial maximum, some 18 000 years ago, the abstraction of water from the oceans to build the great land-based ice caps reduced global sea level to some 120–140 m below that of the present day. By the beginning of the Holocene Epoch, 10 000 years before present (BP), sea level was some 40 m below present, and as it continued to rise (the Holocene marine transgression) was within 10 m of its present stand at about 5000 years ago, and close to present level by 4000 years BP."

Not a mention of CO2 anywhere....

Aug 1, 2015 at 9:37 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

Dennisa ... I've started compiling a sceptic dictionary and so your post was a bit of a pain to read as I think I need to add the following:

Do you agree on these definitions:

Holocene: The Holocene Epoch occupies only the last 10 000 years of geological time and is the warm interval or interglacial in which we now live.

Sedimentary: Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the deposition of material at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Other main rock types are igneous (volcanic) & metamorphic (changed in some way)

The sun wot done it: A phase used in reference to a notorious headline in the British Sun claiming that they had won the election. Which in effect amounted to a claim that they had prevented the legitimate government gaining power (which one might argue is overthrowing a legitimate government or treason).

Fortunately for the Sun's owner and editor the British didn't believe their claims. However the headline is now used as a mock jest of any claim.

Quaternary : Spans from 2.588 million years ago to the present.

Aug 1, 2015 at 11:04 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

I would've thought that corals are well suited to coping with change. From Wiki- 'Corals also breed sexually by spawning: polyps of the same species release gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon.'
_These gametes in their countless millions will be spread far and wide by the high tides experienced at this time, mostly to areas that are not currently suitable for their propagation. Unlike some land creatures which can only migrate slowly and may find themselves isolated in a contracting environment, corals can be spread over thousands of miles in the space of a few years and establish new colonies in any newly viable region.

Aug 1, 2015 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Russell

as matter od cliche'

Have you taken your medication today, or are you just so anxious to educate us that you forget how to type?

It would be useful to know what 'basic science' you are referring to...

(The reliable way to get an é is to type Alt 130)

Aug 1, 2015 at 12:37 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Bloke down the pub, I've seen it written that it is actually the spawning process that is, hypothetically, at risk from the CO2 monster. Reading between the lines, I think that is because the more educated alarmists realise that coral reefs themselves are gargantuan sized buffers against the feeble pH effects of CO2 (which may well be net beneficial). The reefs were deposited over thousands to millions of years and generally won't be dissolving any faster.

Obviously not a view you will be told much in The Guardian (or wikipedia, which I regard as unsafe on this topic since William M Connolley.)


The argument about the spawning process still seems to fall down, in that calcifying organisms have mechanisms of calcite precipitation that involve local pH significantly under the control of the organism/cell itself. Carbon-based life forms have been shifting bicarbonate ions, metal ions, and CO2 around to control their own pH for a lot more than one billion years.
They know a few tricks.

Aug 1, 2015 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Andrew, in writing "that some of the species included are relatives of those alive today, an observation that seems to have important implications for global warming alarmism:... corals seem to have survived the extraordinarily fast climate changes in the last glacial period, which may have been of the order of 10 degrees in a few decades." you gloss over a dozen major coral extinctions and ignore the tens of millions of years it took corals to recover,

While you dismiss as 'alarmism' coral conservationists anxiety over antropogenic CO2 fluxes that rival or exceed past volcanic ones that induced acidification driven extinctions , the correct implication is that equal or greater Anthopocene fluxes are cause for equal or greater concern.

Try reading Paul Crutzen for a change , and please stop confusing the abrupt Younger Dryas temperature spike- a palynological proxy for air temperature with the isotopic SST record from corals.

Aug 1, 2015 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

vvussell "...try reading Paul Crutzen"

If anyone would like to make their own assessment of double standards, they should google

rabett russell richard doll

If you have time to spare, rather more educational about ethics in science, and also proof of some considered logic at Eli's.

It is not every day I doff my hat to a rabbit, or his contributors.

Aug 1, 2015 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Some corals are survivors. Most not. Interestingly they apparently survive high pCO2 by becoming not corals, that is they lose their shells, which they rebuild when exposed to lower pCO2. So if you want coral reefs without coral, feel free.

http://iod.ucsd.edu/courses/sio278/documents/fine_tchernov_07_coral_decalcification_science.pdf

Aug 1, 2015 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

@Russell

> ... antropogenic CO2 fluxes that rival or exceed past volcanic ones that induced acidification driven extinctions

I will take some convincing that slightly reduced alkalinity is "induced acidification" ( I regard that as unwarranted alarmism, deliberately scarifying the masses), but is there a pH below which coral extinction is assured, or is species-dependent ?

Aug 2, 2015 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterianl8888

Looks like nothing, Eli. So they found some corals that they could decalcify, but not kill, at pH 7.3 to 7.6 in what looks a poor simulation of physiological relevance. I note they also didn't actually specify how they lowered the pH. Some unscrupulous researchers in this field decide to use hydrochloric acid instead to make their life easier.

Aug 2, 2015 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Bish: Your statement about extraordinary rapid climate change (10 degC in several decades) may be misleading. As I expected, link you provided refers only to Greenland and their was nothing "global" about these sudden warming events. They don't show up in Antarctic ice cores, for example. Mean global changes in surface temperature during the ice ages were about half of those recorded by polar ice cores and changes in the tropics were modestly less than average.

"During the last glacial period, Greenland experienced a sequence of very fast warmings (see Fig. 5 overleaf). The temperature increased by more than 10°C within 40 years."

Picking one spot (Greenland) were rapid climate change in the past has been detected is somewhat akin to saying the warming of 1? degC per decade currently ongoing on the Antarctic Peninsula is typical of current climate change. And Greenland sits adjacent to a large and potential variable ocean current that transports more heat around the planet than any other. Look at any view of sea ice from the North Pole and the influence of heat being transported northward through the Atlantic is immediately apparent.

As best I can tell, overall warming in the 20th-century and the rate of global warming in the late 20th-century haven't been dramatically exceeded anytime during the Holocene. And the rate of global cooling and warming while entering and leaving ice ages (which takes millennia) is unlikely to be higher. For the most part, however, we lack the time resolution in proxy records of temperature change to make confident statements about these subjects.

Respectfully, Frank

Aug 2, 2015 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Russell: Thanks for the link to information at coral. I knew that that had live through periods with higher CO2 and temperature. The next step would be to plot the history of abundance of coral (number of species, area, extinctions) on the same graph as CO2 and temperature. Then we might have some idea whether these two factors actually played a role in the loss of coral. Since such a graph has not been widely publicized, I am skeptical it would show that a cause and effect relationship exists. The background rate of extinction of species that don't rely on CaCO3 would be another valuable piece of information.

Aug 2, 2015 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Aug 1, 2015 at 11:04 AM | MikeHaseler

I must confess some puzzlement with your response to my comment. I presented some information from a reliable source, which I believe puts some perspective on the current hysteria based on short term climatic changes. I may be allowed a little humour in referring to the sun perhaps, as there is a strong argument along those lines, which the AGW protagonists dismiss. Your reference to the Sun newspaper I find bizarre and totally out of context.

I don't regard myself as a "sceptic", more a non-believer. "Nonbelievers say that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas".

Aug 2, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

Apropos of the above, I just popped over to NTZ and lo and behold, it seems "it is the sun wot does it".

http://notrickszone.com/100-papers-sun-drives-climate/#sthash.GeuKFm7G.dpbs

Aug 2, 2015 at 10:41 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

For we sun worshippers, I'm glad to see an extra layer of irony added to the phrase: 'It's the sun wot dunnit'. Our prayers and offerings are even more delicious, and most likely, more appreciated.

Hey, Daddio, make that Type O.
=======================

Aug 2, 2015 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Russel


"Then, 350 million years ago corals again disappeared from the geological record. It would take almost 100 million years before corals re-appeared around 260 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period".

I don't care if this is from the NHM website - it is rubbish! Corals persisted right through the Carboniferous and Permian and into the Triassic before then flourishing continuously up to the present day.


http://www.paleosoc.org/Corals.pdf

Aug 2, 2015 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeospeculator

Wow look at that. On top of all the other things that Andrew Montford (an accountant by trade) knows more about than the people who actually do it for a living, as well as all branches of climate science, and polar bears (a new branch Montford has recently become more expert in than the people who study them professionally), we can now add the study of coral.

Remember, whatever the subject, Montford knows more about it that the people who specialise in it, and the answer is either that there's no warming, or there is warming and things will be fine, or what he's really saying, is let's keep burning those scrummy fossil fuels.

Also worth noting of course, is that Andrew Montford absolutely refuses to answer any questions at all about his funding for pushing the denial/pro-fossil fuels message, despite having previously accepted money from the highly suspect GWPF in the past.

Aug 2, 2015 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

in above comment Russel states -

"While you dismiss as 'alarmism' coral conservationists anxiety over antropogenic CO2 fluxes that rival or exceed past volcanic ones that induced acidification driven extinctions , the correct implication is that equal or greater Anthopocene fluxes are cause for equal or greater concern."

then Frank asks -

"Russell: Thanks for the link to information at coral. I knew that that had live through periods with higher CO2 and temperature. The next step would be to plot the history of abundance of coral (number of species, area, extinctions) on the same graph as CO2 and temperature. Then we might have some idea whether these two factors actually played a role in the loss of coral. Since such a graph has not been widely publicized, I am skeptical it would show that a cause and effect relationship exists. The background rate of extinction of species that don't rely on CaCO3 would be another valuable piece of information."

then Russell says - i'll get back to you ASAP on that (just kidding Russ)

Aug 3, 2015 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterdfhunter

Those coral skeletons do look surprisingly the same as current favia sp., euphyllia sp. and possibly cataphyllia sp.

Aug 3, 2015 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterStreetcred

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