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#21663 - 05/18/07 06:02 PM "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming
RicS Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/26/06
Posts: 310
Loc: Sydney, Australia
Canaries in the Coal Mine Warnings of Global Warming

Samwik raised this issue in “Issues with Global Land Surface Temp Trends” but in the spirit of seeing of we can get threads to follow single issue I’ve started this thread to address the points raised.

It is Samwik’s contention, and he certainly is not alone, that there are a great many indicators of serious global warming, even if there is some argument about the actual amounts. Since I have a problem with the current data actually showing any warming “trend” at all since 1980 I do not think that the actual amounts in global temperature variation are in any way a minor part of this discussion but that is a different point to the “Canaries in the Coal Mine”.

Samwik provides a couple of examples. These include coral reefs, glaciers. I could add in a few more such as the melting sea ice in the Artic region, the Greenland melt, the loss of ice in the Antarctic, the increase in tornadoes in the US, the increase in number and intensities of hurricanes, cyclones or typhoons depending on what they are caused locally.

Without going into any great detail on any of these I would suggest to Samwik that just because something when added together with a great many other apparent changes seem to point towards a common change does not mean that individually or even that ANY of the items actually demonstrate the change that is being touted as occurring. The real trouble with the “Canaries in the Coal Mine” supposition to the global warming debate is that nothing that is used to suggest that they are actually the equivalent of canaries actually has been reasonably established. In other words not only has it not been shown that the canaries are dying because of poisonous gases, to push the analogy, it hasn’t even been shown that the canaries are actually dying!

Coral reefs are touted very often because the destruction to coral reefs is very visible, the evidence that it is widespread but is more recent in nature than say a cycle that occurs regularly over several centuries, seem to be there. But any expert in coral reefs will actually tell you that, while they may blame global warming for some of the reefs’ ills, the main culprits are such things as changes to agricultural usage of the coastal areas and especially the estuary and river systems that flush into the coral reef areas plus of course pollution, the transfer of foreign species in ballast water and as attachments to ships, and things that just seem to occur naturally from time to time. Coral reefs seem to be extremely robust in nature and survive massive changes in their environment. They have managed to hang on despite massive changes in sea levels, in water salinity and temperatures during the changes between glaciation and interglacial periods. However, the visible effects of what humans have been doing around coral reefs especially in the second half of the 20th Century sure makes for wonderful film and photos that can then be presented as “proof” of global warming. There could be an overall global cooling just as there was for almost 40 years from the 40s until the 1970s but the coral reef problems would still be there and will only get worse until environmental protections actually start to occur to the areas that affect coral reefs. Changes are already occurring such as the changes in fishing system, the phasing out of reef dynamiting by local populations, the stricter enforcement of pollution in reef areas and reef regeneration has occurred in many parts. But pointing to photos of healthier reefs than they were 30 years ago is not the point to any of the aguments relating to either humans being big bad polluters or global warming.

Next, we have glaciers. This one really is a complete furphy when it comes to being any “proof” relating to global warming. There is clear evidence that major glaciers have retreated much more in this Epoch than their current levels and that they expended again, only to retreat again starting about 250 years ago. The ones that are really trotted out to be the proofs to global warming such as the African sub tropical glaciers are the result of regional climate change that probably occurred due to land use changes but certainly occurred well before the Industrial Revolution. If between 40% and 80% of the glacier in these regions were lost before the beginning of the 20th Century, really what does that have to do with anything to do with either global warming or CO2, since neither were an issue when these glaciers really started to shrink in a big way. Glacier data gets misrepresented, often blatantly. Greenpeace managed to get egg of their face by running a campaign concerning a South American glacier that had retreated vast distances but managed to neglect in their campaign that there were six glaciers feeding into the same lake and only one, the one they were using in the campaign, was retreating.

But glaciers are a very poor “Canary” since we are in an Interglacial period, meaning that the period consists of the planat mostly being free of glaciers with those that remain being remnant glaciers. Given enough time in an interglacial period and the vast majority of glaciers will disappear. Since this Interglacial period has been rather long at a bit over 11,000 years, the disappearance of glaciers is not something that really should be unexpected and there does not seem to be good evidence that glacier retreat has accelerated dramatically in the relevant periods.

Pick a “canary” proof of global warming and pretty much all of them have much more mundane explanations that do not help support the global warming argument at all. But, hey, feel free to list ones you think cannot be refuted and we might be able to look at the specific evidence.



Regards


Richard
_________________________
Sane=fits in. Unreasonable=world needs to fit to him. All Progress requires unreasonableness

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#21694 - 05/19/07 07:47 AM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: RicS]
samwik Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
Aha! smile

I'll be right back (relatively).

Thanks Richard,

~SAM
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21696 - 05/19/07 09:18 AM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: RicS]
samwik Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
Hiya Richard,

Let me give you a quick response, at least. I've been having several trains of thought related to your excellent post.

Overall, I think I totally agree with your specifics. Maybe that's too strong; but they are great points. The warming thing is something else, as you say.

What strikes me as I read through these lists, are that so many of the effects are caused by humans.

"...the main culprits are such things as changes to agricultural usage of the coastal areas and especially the estuary and river systems that flush into the coral reef areas plus of course pollution, the transfer of foreign species in ballast water and as attachments to ships, and things that just seem to occur naturally from time to time." -R.

[Retreats of] "African sub tropical glaciers are the result of regional climate change that probably occurred due to land use changes but certainly occurred well before the Industrial Revolution." -R.

These are LULC (land use/land cover) changes that alter the climate (among other human caused changes that alter the climate/biome).

What about the mass extinction scenario being put forth to describe the current state of the biome? Most of this is also related to human LULC effects.

As for the effects/trends which you describe (rightly) as natural, I agree that reefs will find a niche somewhere, someday, after being wiped out here and now, or by the "massive changes in sea levels, in water salinity and temperatures during the changes between glaciation and interglacial periods;" but reefs (like glaciers) don't rebuild themselves overnight.

So do we just let these changes happen, or do we try to undo or repair things?
Whether the changes are manmade or natural, how do we adapt?


So maybe there's hope?
"Changes are already occurring such as the changes in fishing system, the phasing out of reef dynamiting by local populations, the stricter enforcement of pollution in reef areas and reef regeneration has occurred in many parts." -R.

I hope to write more later on the particulars of reefs, glaciers, etc., but for now I'd be interested in hearing what you think about the "current mass extinction" scenario.

Thanks Richard,

G'day ya later, wink

~SA
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21697 - 05/19/07 10:58 AM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: samwik]
RicS Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/26/06
Posts: 310
Loc: Sydney, Australia
G'day Sam,

Mass extinctions huh. Needs a new thread methinks. But it is something that does deserve a thread on its own and is one of the most complex of all of the arguments being put forward.

To stay with this thread however, I do agree that man has caused harm to the planet, sometimes in quite severe ways and that things can and should be done to reduce the damage or reverse it. It is clear for instance that man first immigrated to North America and had no idea how to manage large animals and so wiped them from the face of the earth (bit of overlap into species extinction there) but once they seemed to learn that they had had such an effect then species extinction in North America then seemed to stop completely until the advancement west of White settlers. A 10,000 period of reasonable harmony isn't that bad even if it started after a huge amount of extinctions.

Once agriculture was "invented" the world was going to change. It seems to me that trick is getting the land use to be of benefit to man without being a huge detriment to the future of the land or to other inhabitants of the planet. The emphasis of climate change, imho, often completely obscures some of the very real problems being faced.


Richard
_________________________
Sane=fits in. Unreasonable=world needs to fit to him. All Progress requires unreasonableness

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#21700 - 05/19/07 06:29 PM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: RicS]
Wolfman Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 264
Loc: Pago Pago, American Samoa
So Ric needs more "Canaries" to die before he admits Global Warming is caused by us, is that what this thread is all about?

We have neighbors living on an island group to the North West of us that would like to have a word with Ric, I'm sure. The people of Tuvalu are seeing, up close and personal, the effects of the rising sea. Their ancestors have lived there for 1,500 years. It's a series of coral atolls, very fertile, plenty of fish and so on. But, starting in the mid-70's, the tides have started getting higher and higher. Taro plots have been made infertile by the salt water. People have lost their homes and have had to shift to higher ground. They are a God fearing bunch. like most Polynesians. But no way they feel that the rising sea is the work of God.

Anybody else have any more "Canaries" for Ric?

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#21702 - 05/19/07 08:04 PM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: Wolfman]
samwik Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
Hiya Wolfman,

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0108062.html
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2000 est.): $12.2 million; per capita $1,100. Real growth rate: 3%. Inflation: 5%. Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 0%. Agriculture: coconuts; fish. Labor force: 7,000 (2001 est.); people make a living mainly through exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls and from wages sent home by those working abroad (mostly workers in the phosphate industry and sailors). Industries: fishing, tourism, copra. Natural resource: fish. Exports: $1 million f.o.b. (2004 est.): copra, fish. Imports: $31 million c.i.f. (2004 est.): food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods.

I saw a news story on Tuvalu a few months ago. Unfortunately I don't think it's a good example of "sea-level rise." It didn't sound like a very fertile place (although they are 98% Congregationalist -re: "They are a God fearing bunch.").

I was struck by how highly subsidized and very unsustainable the place sounded.

I was googling "isostatic and seamount," and "phosphate workers and Tuvalu."

I came across this stuff:
http://www.geol.sc.edu/agl/abstracts/freymueller1abstract.htm
"Using data from 77 well-constrained seamounts, we have constructed isostatic compensation maps for several seamount groups in the Central and Western Pacific. Important regional groupings in the compensation values are readily visible. The regional groupings suggest that the seamounts in each group had similar tectonic origins. The Hawaiian - Emperor chain, the Caroline Islands and the Magellan seamounts are uncompensated, suggesting a mid- plate hotspot origin. The Musicians seamounts, Mid-Pacific Mountains and Marshall Islands are highly compensated, suggesting a near ridge-crest origin, although the Marshall Islands display some complexities."

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2006/2005JB004071.shtml
"Subtracting the topographic effects of surface loading by the ridges and seamounts from the observed topography reveals that the ridges are built on broad bands of anomalously elevated seafloor."

...and regardless of whether the island may be sinking...

http://www.spc.int/coastfish/Sections/Community/nauru.htm

"Inland fisheries

Nauru has no freshwater streams or other bodies of freshwater, apart from one or two springs, and thus no freshwater fisheries.

Aquaculture

A brackish-water lagoon located near the centre of the island, and several other small brackish ponds, have been used to farm milkfish. Tilapia, which are not eaten by Nauruans, were introduced to these ponds in the mid-1960s. The tilapia have constrained milkfish productivity and efforts are currently under way to eradicate them from the ponds."

"Nauru's national revenues are expected to decline substantially in the near future due to the depletion of the island’s reserves of phosphate. In recognition of the economic potential of the nation’s tuna resources, the government is exploring the feasibility of establishing a domestic, commercial tuna fishery. Although Nauru's tuna resources are considered to be abundant, increased domestic production is constrained by the restriction in the size of fishing craft that can be used due to the lack of a harbour. To address this problem the Government of Nauru is presently planning to widen and deepen the small boat channel on the east side of the island. This development would serve the dual purpose of providing a launching and retrieval point for fishing craft up to 11 m in length, and enabling improved cargo discharge when the western channel is unworkable due to adverse winds.

Investigation is also under way into the design of offshore fishing craft which could be launched and retrieved using lifting equipment already in place at the small boat harbour and currently used for launching cargo barges. A further option under consideration is the mooring of fishing vessels at the mooring buoys presently used by large cargo vessels.

It is hoped that improved ocean access will foster the development of a local tuna longline fishing fleet which will increase landings for domestic consumption and perhaps exports, which could be carried to overseas markets by Nauru's national airline. A small fish market, to be located adjacent the south-eastern channel and equipped with ice-making equipment and cold storage, is also under development."

Wolfman, I don't recall the post; but do you remember me exhorting you to protect your local seamounts as they may be the only food source in the future? I was kinda joking at the time; but now I'm not so sure even they will survive.

I suppose if things have gotten that bad, people won't be in a position to exploit such remote resources at that point; so seamount ecosystems should be safe in the long term.

wink
~Samwik
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21720 - 05/20/07 02:52 PM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: samwik]
RicS Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 03/26/06
Posts: 310
Loc: Sydney, Australia
G'day Wolfman,

Haven't time to read the posts in full yet but will in the next day. One point about the Pacific Islands is that there is NO PROOF of sea level rise. There is proof of island subsidence. That is the norm for most Pacific islands. There is evidence - the Marshall Islands are prime examples - of removal of ground water causing loss of land height. But there is currently no evidence that the Pacific sea level has changed very much at all since the Admiralty has kept records of the region.

This is a very bad example of a "Canary" as it is one that really has little proof but it is a very emotive point. Mr Gore used this very point showing photos of Pacific Islands being swamped.

What we were discussing is the "abundance" of evidence rather than purely the temperature readings of global warming and just how reliable that evidence is. Does it qualify as an early warning system just as the Canaries are meant to do or does it just demonstrate that Canaries can and do die from many causes even in coal mines. My contention being made was there really isn't all that much evidence at all that would fit the Canary analogy. Emotive points don't prove anything but I'd be very happy for you to present any evidence of sea level rises specifically relating to Tuvalu. Have you actually been to Tuvalu by the way? The one thing I would not charactirise the place as is fertile. Coral atols generally have extremely poor soils. Your example is so close to sea level that it is inundated by salt water several times a year and is scoured by cyclones fairly regularly. Their problems certainly didn't start in the 70s. Its really strange but I have a particular interest in environmental issues of the Pacific in the region you live. I was a consultant for a major environmental group there a while back and visited the area frequently. I also picked up a very nasty parasite that lives just in Samoa because the country did not even have the sense to work out that putting their sewerage works upstream of their water supply might not be the best of ideas. What I found was a bunch of dedicated environmentalists trying to work on a very practical level with governments that were often antagonistic towards them unless they were offered funds, natives that were happy to dynamite reefs and kill animals that were very close to extinct unless you could come up with an economic reason for them to stop. And not one that involved that eventually there would be no fish. It had to be an immediate benefit.

If I remember rightly a bunch of Pacific nations are currently attempting to sue for damages for Global Warming. So they have managed to completely stuff up their little patches of paradises, often with the huge support of fundamentalist churches, have governments that make even Fiji look democratic and when the land is totally stuffed they have now found a convenient scapegoat. Now that is a very political and biased opinion but since you live in the Pacific, you must recognise some truth in what I have written.


Regards


Richard
_________________________
Sane=fits in. Unreasonable=world needs to fit to him. All Progress requires unreasonableness

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#21725 - 05/20/07 06:44 PM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: RicS]
Wolfman Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 264
Loc: Pago Pago, American Samoa
I've not been to Tuvalu, but I have spent some time on Coral Atolls in the Cooks and in Tonga. They are extremely lush and they can grow things there (peanuts, watermelons) that don't grow in Samoa.
Minds immeasurably superior to mine remain convinced that the sea is rising, not so much from fresh water inundation from the Polar Caps, but from the expansion of seawater as it warms. So you reckon that it's just coincidence that Tuvalu has started sinking just as Global Warming is becoming a Hot Topic?
As for the suggestion that Pacific Islanders are detatched from Nature, I couldn't agree more. I don't know what it is, but they resent anyone, especially "Outsiders", who suggests that they could be doing a lot more to assist themselves. The resentment reaches into every aspect of life. I come home and admonish my partner for preparing a "feast" of Lamb Flaps (imported from N-Zed, BTW) for the family, and she gives me that You-Don't-Know-Everything look. Yet close to 1/2 of the elderly persons down here suffer from diabetes! And your anecdote about the worm that you picked up? Same thing. Was it Trichinella, by any chance? I never touch locally raised pork...and I get the same snide look as with the mutton.

This attitude is prevalent in Africa too. I remember being told by Hotel staff and Taxi Drivers over there that "Aids doesn't exist, it's a big lie perpetuated by thr US." What do you do with people like that? Some 34 years ago I spent three weeks in the Yasawas, an isolated group of Islands NW of Viti Levu. It was the closest thisg to "Paradise" of anywhere I've ever been. I read "Shogun" and "Lord of the Rings" there. I "tamed" a wild Moray Eel- he'd follow me when I went spear-fishing. I've never been back, but I see where they, too, have become a "Hot Travel Destination". I doubt that I'd WANT to go back now. The old European image of "The Noble Savage", of village people living "in Harmony with Nature", is a myth. Biologists find Sea Turtles that have starved to death - with their stomaches full of plastic shopping bags labelled from Supermarkets in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga!!

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#21726 - 05/20/07 07:43 PM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: Wolfman]
samwik Offline
Megastar

Registered: 10/10/06
Posts: 1164
Loc: Colorado
Y'know, in terms of sea level rise, there are variations in the surface of the oceans which dwarf the actual rise due to expansion, increasing runoff/melt, etc.

I was amazed to learn that, much as water swirling in a bowl will rise up higher around the edges (centrifugal force?),the polar currents create a similar effect. Unbroken ice-cover attenuates the effect, but as ice is breaking up more and retreating, the Arctic Ocean is getting more "bowl shaped." Hence the dramatic problems up there already.
I think the currents actually speed up as ice cover is reduced, which then contributes to redistribution of the overall ice cover, hence the increase of sea ice in some areas?

It occurs to me that ENSO similarily raises and lowers the actual height of the ocean surface over wide areas of the Pacific. Local or regional currents changing direction, speed, and or temperature would also produce noticable effects that are larger than global changes.

I can think of a slight parallel with glaciers here, but let's save that canary for another post.

So, would changing ocean currents qualify as a canary?

~SA
_________________________
Pyrolysis creates reduced carbon! ...Time for the next step in our evolutionary symbiosis with fire.

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#21727 - 05/20/07 08:28 PM Re: "Canary in the Coal Mine" Pointing to Warming [Re: samwik]
Wolfman Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 264
Loc: Pago Pago, American Samoa
I was just outside doing a bit of gardening. Here, south of the Equator, we are approaching our Winter Solstice - the Poinsettias are turning red! I noticed a neighbor outside, a guy from Rotuma. I remember that, about 2 1/2 years ago, he took his wife and kids back to Rotuma to see his mother "one last time". The trip from Suva takes three and a half days on a rickety old freighter, Jack London would have loved it. I just now asked him about how Rotuma had changed since he left to study Refrigeration in Suva as a young man. He said the Copra sheds have all fallen into disrepair, nobody wants to invest in Rotuma...because the sea is rising. No prompting from me, those were his exact words.

Now, if anything, Rotuma is even MORE inconsequential than Tuvalu is. But, who cares about a few canaries, anyway, hey, Ric?

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