[Coral-List] Good News from Australia

Douglas Fenner dfenner at blueskynet.as
Mon Jan 12 03:36:41 EST 2009

Gene and others,
     No one seems to have responded to the points made in the newspaper
article in Australia about Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.
     I don't know what Ove did or did not say, but to judge from the
statements you quote from the newspaper article, it looks to me like they
were put together to make it look like Ove made predictions that were
contradicted by what the reef did.  As I read the statements carefully, it
looks a lot less damning than a quick read by the general public might
     I'll take it at the newspaper writer's word that Ove made the statement
in 1999 that the GBR was under pressure from global warming, and the corals
had turned white.  Currently, there are corals in pools in American Samoa
that have turned white, and I think they're under pressure from global
warming too.  I think that's a perfectly reasonable conclusion when you know
the white is from bleaching due to hot water, and not from predators eating
them or disease or something else.
     You relate that the newspaper author said that Ove later admitted the
corals had made a "surprising" recovery.  Well, Acropora here in pools in
American Samoa bleach every summer now, and the first summer I saw them
bleach, believe me, I didn't know whether they would survive or not.  The
science of the prediction of damage to corals from high temperatures has
made significant progress since 1999, I would bet (Alan Strong and Mark
Eakin- any progress?), so I'm not too sure that it is totally damning that
someone back then would be surprised if some bleached corals recovered.  As
we all know now, sometimes bleached corals recover, and sometimes they
don't, which may be partly due to how hot the water is,  how long it stays
hot, how still it is, how much sun or cloud there is, how clear the water
is, and a number of other factors, many of which we normally haven't had
good predictions for on small spatial scales, and we are probably not very
good at combining these factors to make an accurate prediction yet.  Fact
is, when they're bleached, they are stressed.  I had no way of predicting,
but this summer our corals had the bad luck to have a fair number get pushed
over that fine line and die (I think it may have been a lack of wind driven
circulation- I haven't heard that anyone predicted we would have 4 weeks of
the calmest weather in 5 years, so how could I predict coral deaths?).
Previous summers they didn't die.  The fact they didn't in a previous summer
is not evidence that they weren't severely stressed, or that it wasn't due
to global warming.  So what's the terrible conclusion from the accusations
so far??  Being surprised corals didn't die??  Perhaps the newspaper writer
would like to try his hand at doing better.  Hardly proves that global
warming is all a big hoax and coral bleaching is actually very benign.
    According to the newspaper writer, a similar thing happened in 2006, Ove
saying that 30-40% of the corals could die within a month.  Again, according
to the writer, Ove is said to have admitted that there was minimal impact.
Sounds like Ove's prediction was literally true.  They could have died, but
they didn't.  Ove could have said "the corals will definately die, I'm 100%
sure."  But he didn't according to the author.  I guess if a weather
forecaster says it may rain tomorrow, and it doesn't, that means meteorology
is all wrong, it's not science at all, and no one should pay any attention
to that forecaster any more.  If Ove had replaced "could" with "50% chance
of dying" would we say he was wrong if they didn't die??
    I notice a pattern here, and I notice that the newspaper writer does not
refer to the years when heavy bleaching occurred on the GBR and masses of
corals did die.  From the newspaper article you could easily conclude that
bleaching and global warming are highly overblown and not a problem at all.
No reference to 16% of the world's coral killed in 1998 due to bleaching.
    And the writer alleges that in 2007, Ove said that temperature changes
of the kind caused by global warming were again bleaching the reef.  But the
Global Coral Reef Network says that there had been no big damage to the reef
in the last 4 years.  How are those contradictory???  Coral can bleach, and
recover, and there can be no big lasting damage to the reef.  They are not
contradictory statements, yet the newspaper author states them like
obviously Ove has no idea what he's talking about, making predictions that
don't pan out, there is obviously no global warming going on and no damage
to the GBR.  The author did not claim that Ove said that there was massive
damage to the reef (which would have been contridicted by the GCRMN report)-
I presume that by damage we're talking about coral dying, but the author
seems to prefer the much more vague term damage.
    Then to cap it off, the author reports a single long-time diver who's
seen no damage!!  Hey, that's great, all that coral that died in 1998 and
2002 that was documented on the GBR, never happened!!!  Wonderful!!  Clue:
the GBR is called "Great" not because it is wonderful, but because it is
Enormous (great meaning large).  It is trivially easy to dive some place on
the GBR where a bleaching event is not having an effect.  Because the reef
is so large, even if 50% of the reefs are badly bleached and millions of
corals die, many reefs may not be bleached at all at the same time.  Believe
me, there are plenty of divers who did see the bleaching and death, and lots
of photos to prove it.  Once again, the implications don't follow from the
inuendo that the newspaper author is trying to make.  The logic is faulty.
     Sorry, but the issues of global climate change and coral bleaching are
too important to leave this without a response, too many people might think
that because no one responds to it, the newspaper article's allegations are
true and the people who say it's not true have no reply for the allegations
in the article.
      My comments are directed entirely at the article, not at Gene Shinn,
who I respect highly and makes lots of great contributions.  It's good to
bring these things up, the discussions are good.
-Doug Fenner

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gene Shinn" <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 3:28 AM
Subject: [Coral-List] Good News from Australia

> Good News from the Melbourne Australia Herald Sun. "PROFESSOR Ove
> Hoegh-Guldberg, of
> <javascript:void(window.open('http://www.uq.edu.au/','','resizable=no,location=no,menubar=no,scrollbars=no,status=no,toolbar=no,fullscreen=no,dependent=no'))>Queensland
> University, is Australia's most quoted reef expert.
> He's advised business, green and government groups, and won our rich
> Eureka Prize for scares about our reef. He's chaired a $20 million
> global warming study of the World Bank.
> In 1999, Hoegh-Guldberg warned that the Great Barrier Reef was under
> pressure from global warming, and much of it had turned white.
> In fact, he later admitted the reef had made a "surprising" recovery.
> In 2006, he warned high temperatures meant "between 30 and 40 per
> cent of coral on Queensland's great Barrier Reef could die within a
> month".
> In fact, he later admitted this bleaching had "a minimal impact".
> In 2007, he warned that temperature changes of the kind caused by
> global warming were again bleaching the reef.
> In fact, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network last week said
> there had been no big damage to the reef caused by climate change in
> the four years since its last report, and veteran diver Ben Cropp
> said this week that in 50 years he'd seen none at all."  Gene
> -- 
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> Marine Science Center (room 204)
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 
> -----------------------------------
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