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Or your coral gets it

25 Mar 2020 | Science Notes

Among the 1950s-drive-in-horror-style warnings routine on the topic of climate, we’re told corals are as fragile as they are beautiful and if the seas warm, well, bye bye to that magic garden under the sea. “Reefs under siege: Oceans could lose all their coral by 2100” warns one NBC email teaser (the actual story has the almost equally lurid headline “Earth's coral reefs could be gone by 2100, research finds”.) And apparently “scientists are interested in these submarine crannies because they sit on the front lines of oceanic climate change.” So presumably if they go, we go. Except they’re not going. The giveaway is that the “Reefs under siege” piece is full of that weaselly “could have” language. And the big fat scientific thumb on the scale.

The subhead says “The bleak outlook forecasts that warming oceans and rising seas could have a devastating impact on ocean ecosystems” but the text allows that Renee Setter of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa projected changes to coral reefs “based on projections of sea surface temperature, ocean acidification, wave energy, pollution and fishing practices. They found that by 2100, few to zero suitable habitats for corals are likely to remain.”

So if we dump a ton of pollution into the sea and overfish, the coral reefs will suffer and we’ll blame it all on climate change. Give us a break. If you have an internet connection you can readily discover that corals first flourished roughly way back when, long before the dinosaurs. And that everybody agrees that for most of the past 435 million years the planet was a lot warmer than it is today. Life being what it is, namely the prelude to death, horn corals bit the reef early in the Triassic anyway. But nature abhors a vacuum so others rushed in including the “stony” or “hard” Scleractinia corals that appeared in the Triassic perhaps 230 million years ago and took a big hit at the KT boundary (the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous that even got some 49 out of 67 Scleractinia genera) but have been going strong ever since through things like the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum when “warmer oceans and rising seas” spelled party time for corals and much else.

It’s a strange feature of climate alarmism that it praises the extraordinary dynamism of nature and the wonderful resilience of evolution then depicts living things as being as brittle as spun glass. But in another coral-related story, the University of Illinois boasts that a study relying on “citizen scientists” found that corals in the Turks and Caicos resisted and rebounded from a global coral bleaching event from 2014-17 so quickly that “Some corals appeared healthier in 2017 than they were in 2014.” The story of course blamed the bleaching on global warming, saying Coral bleaching is a common response to extreme heat stress, and global coral-bleaching events are becoming more frequent as the oceans warm. The 2014-17 bleaching event occurred as record-breaking sea-surface temperatures pushed some corals past their physiological limits.” Though evidently not others. For instance the Great Barrier Reef, rumours of whose demise were greatly exaggeratedin the active voice. (And while we’re at it, since every year is the hottest ever, why did the bleaching event end in 2017?)

Interestingly, the “front line of climate change” story said exploration of “Gardens and graveyards” of coral in hidden canyons off Australia’s southern coast had revealed that the situation is complex. The spot is rich in nutrients because it’s where the “Antarctic convergence” brings cold water coming north from Antarctica into contact with warmer water. And with water from Antarctica warming (faster than the global average, we dare guess) it seems corals will soon be in warm water and will die unless they don’t. Which they aren’t yet, be it noted. Instead they’re flourishing although for some reason they don’t live forever unlike… unlike…

“During their latest expedition, the crew of the [R/V or research vessel] Falkor learned that these canyons are bustling with life deep underwater. Each spot hosted lush gardens of coral, rich with marine life and bursting with color. However, each canyon (especially Leeuwin) also contained extensive pockets of dead and fossilized coral. According to the researchers, these corals bear the record of both recent, anthropogenic ocean warming, as well as longer-term changes to the world's climate. It's not clear yet what killed the coral in a given canyon, but researchers will begin answering that question as soon as Falkor returns to land.”

No no. Don’t tell us. Let us guess.

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