12 Apr 2010, 7:20pm
Oceanic studies Salmon science
by admin

Dead Zone Dire Report

The impending doom attributed to “dead zones” on the Oregon’s continental shelf is the latest “climate change” scare-mongering in the Dead Tree Press.

Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world’s oceans. They are natural deep sea oceanographic phenomena caused by a lack of mixing with surface waters. Dead zones have been present, it is assumed, ever since oceans formed on this planet a few billion years ago.

Some researchers, notably Jane Lubchenco, current Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), claim that dead zones are growing due to global warming [here, here]. However, oceanographic models have failed miserably in predicting dead zones, which have appeared to have shrunk in the last few years [here], contrary to model predictions.

But the scare-mongering won’t go away. The science is settled, except for the fact that it isn’t.

What follows is the latest dead zone dire report from the Dead Tree Press, with some commentary interspersed (thank you Steve for your contributions). Your comments are cordially invited, too.

Growing low-oxygen ocean zones worry scientists

By Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers,April 10, 2010 [here]

WASHINGTON — Lower levels of oxygen in the Earth’s oceans, particularly off the Pacific Northwest coast, could be a sign of a fundamental shift linked to climate change, scientists say.

In some spots off Washington state and Oregon, the almost complete absence of oxygen has left piles of Dungeness crab carcasses littering the ocean floor, killed off 25-year-old sea stars, crippled colonies of sea anemones and produced mats of potentially noxious bacteria that thrive in such conditions.

Areas of hypoxia, or low oxygen, have long existed in the deep ocean. But these areas — in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans — appear to be spreading, covering more square miles, creeping toward the surface and in some places, such as the Pacific Northwest, encroaching on the continental shelf within sight of the coastline.

No, actually they have been shrinking since the shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) two years ago.

“The depletion of oxygen levels in all three oceans is striking,” said Gregory Johnson, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle.

In some spots, such as off the Southern California coast, oxygen levels have dropped roughly 20 percent over the past 25 years. Elsewhere, scientists say, oxygen levels might have declined by one-third over 50 years.

Speculation, not consistent with the latest evidence.

“The real surprise is how this has become the new norm,” said Jack Barth, an oceanography professor at Oregon State University. “We are seeing it year after year.”

There is no evidence at all that this is anything other than a natural and cyclical process which this year, like others, produced near record harvest of large healthy Dungeness crabs in the same area as the seasonal dead zone.

Barth and others say the changes are consistent with current climate-change models. Previous studies have found that the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Climate change models are notoriously unskillful. The dead zones are shrinking, which is exactly what the climate models say shouldn’t happen. But then, the climate models have been wrong for at least the last 15 years. The predictions of atmospheric temperature increase and dead zone increase have both been wrong — but that correlation of goof-ups is not evidence of causation.

As ocean temperatures rise, the warmer water on the surface acts as a cap, which interferes with the natural circulation that normally allows deeper waters that are already oxygen-depleted to reach the surface. It’s on the surface where ocean waters are recharged with oxygen from the air.

And yet deep water upwelling has increased since the PDO shift. There is no “cap”.

Commonly, ocean “dead zones” have been linked to agricultural runoff and other pollution coming down major rivers such as the Mississippi or the Columbia. But scientists now say that some of these areas, including those off the Northwest, apparently are linked to broader changes in ocean oxygen levels.

The Pacific waters off Washington and Oregon face a double whammy as a result of ocean circulation.

Scientists have long known of a natural low-oxygen zone perched in the deeper water off the Northwest’s continental shelf.

During the summer, northerly winds aided by the Earth’s rotation drive surface water away from the shore. This action sucks oxygen-poor water to the surface in a process called upwelling.

Climate change or no, the Earth continues to rotate. Upwelling and oceanic currents are the natural result of our spinning planet.

Though the water that is pulled up from the depths is poor in oxygen, it’s rich in nutrients, which fertilize phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms form the bottom of one of the richest ocean food chains in the world. As they die, however, they sink and start to decay, a process that depletes the oxygen levels even more.

The upwelling creates dead zones, but it also feeds one of the richest ocean food chains in the world. Salmon depend (ultimately) on upwelled nutrients. Thanks to the PDO shift, salmon returns are at record levels.

Southerly winds reverse the process in what’s known as down-welling.

Changes in the wind and ocean circulation since 2002 have disrupted what had been a delicate balance between upwelling and down-welling. Scientists now are discovering expanding low-oxygen zones near shore.

This is a baseless fabrication. There is no evidence showing there has been any change whatsoever.

“It is consistent with models of global warming, but the time frame is too short to know whether it is a trend or a weather phenomenon,” Johnson said.

Bets are hedged. There’s nothing “consistent” and no evidence for any link. OSU’s 5-year, $9 million NAS grant study found no link to AGW. It’s not something they like to admit. They also could not establish any historic record to determine if the zones are new, bigger or lasting longer.

This is all circus science used to pursue funding.

Others were quicker to link the lower oxygen levels to global warming rather than to such weather phenomena as El Nino or the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a shift in the weather that occurs every 20 to 30 years in the northern oceans.

“It’s a large disturbance in the ecosystem that could have huge biological changes,” said Steve Bograd, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Southern California.

Yep. The PDO shift is a large disturbance. Micro global temperature changes over the last 100 years, which are poorly documented (hide the decline), represent a minor disturbance, or possibly no disturbance at all.

Scientists are unsure how low oxygen levels will affect the ocean ecosystem.

Uncertainty is huge. Please fund us because what we don’t know is enormous. The old funding is used up, and we found nothing. Ergo, give us more money.

Bottom-dwelling species and some fish could be at greater risk. Some species, such as jellyfish, will like the lower-oxygen water. Jumbo squid, usually found off Mexico and Central America, can survive as oxygen levels decrease and now are found as far north as Alaska.

Whoops. Apparently the impending catastrophe isn’t one.

“It’s like an experiment,” Chan said. “We are pulling some things out of the food web, and we will have to see what happens. But if you pull enough things out, it could have a real impact.”

It’s like an experiment with no controls, poor understanding of the causative factors, and no agreement on what the outcomes are, either. We can’t measure the inputs or the outputs; we don’t even know what those might be.

It’s more akin to a financial experiment. What happens when we drain the Treasury for speculative science that cannot determine what the heck the scientists are studying? Complete economic collapse? It’s a real possibility. Nearly $100 billion has been spent from 1998 through 2009 studying global warming [here] with no definitive or useful knowledge gain.

That’s a pretty penny wasted. The U.S. economy is now slipping into a dead zone. Could it be that the financial experiment in funding circus science is a colossal failure?



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