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The coral see

15 May 2019 | Science Notes

Instead of the impact of climate on corals it’s time, thanks to some Australian scientists, for the impact of corals on climate. Well, on climate data. Specifically, they’ve used coral cores, which date back centuries, to try to determine the pattern of El Niño events going back 400 years. It’s useful because we know that El Niños influence temperature in the short run. But it was very difficult to separate signal from noise because it was so hard to get at the long run. Now we have a whole new problem: Figuring out what’s changing the pattern of El Niños. Nice when science isn’t settled, isn’t it?

The results of the study are somewhat ambiguous. And not least because complex methods of interpreting data are themselves open to scrutiny and revision. But if they are reading the coral cores right “’We are seeing more El Niños forming in the central Pacific Ocean in recent decades, which is unusual across the past 400 years,’ said lead author Dr Mandy Freund. ‘There are even some early hints that the much stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños, like those that occurred in 1997/98 and 2015/16 may be growing in intensity.’”

So we’ve had unusual weather lately because we’ve had unusual ocean currents. But are these currents the consequence of something humans did? Or have they created the impression that our actions have altered the weather in ways that are in fact largely natural in origin, whether some complex process that operates on complex cycles lasting centuries has produced complex changes in complex ocean currents that, in turn, impact the complex temperature record for complex natural reasons?

Gad. It’s almost as though the science was complicated. But no. CO2 is the “control knob” on global temperature and there’s nothing else to see. Unless you look.

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