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Silliest climate paper ever?

In what looks to be one of the silliest climate papers known to man, researchers at the University of St Andrews are claiming that the 0.1°C warming in ocean temperatures that is alleged to have been caused by human activity has caused whales to migrate one month earlier than they did 30 years ago.

A long-term study conducted between 1984 and 2010, now published in scientific journal PLoS-ONE, has documented for the first time how whales have adapted to increases in sea surface temperature over recent decades.

The research, conducted with Canadian research body the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, has found that over the 27-year period the whales arrived at feeding grounds on average one day earlier each year, suggesting a remarkable ability to react to small fluctuations in sea temperature.

Remarkable indeed. But not so remarkable as the idea that anyone would take this nonsense seriously.

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Reader Comments (121)

Does that mean if we get 1.2 degrees the whales will - like Eric Idle who had to "get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before [he] went to bed" - need to finish their migration before they can start it?

Apr 15, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterigsy

This is old stuff - 15 years ago BBC Scotland was predicting the demise of fish suppers.

Thursday, 20 July, 2000,

"Fish and chips under threat"

This week, same story, again, from BBC, but Daily Mail promises the Scottish people dolphin suppers!

13 April 2015

"Warmer seas 'will change British diet'"

14 April 2015

"Is climate change making Scotland a dolphin paradise? Sightings off the West Coast have doubled in just a decade"

Apr 15, 2015 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

Don't provoke them to come up with even sillier ones. The prostituting of science is embarrassing enough without goading them to new depths.

Apr 15, 2015 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

It seems to be quite a typical thing in today's post-modern science. I guess the paper would even be an adequate paper if the name would have been just "Changes in the patterns of migration of whales in the last 30 years". But it would not be sensational, so the attribution to climate brings financing, grants and and publication and fame. Just as I saw a few years ago a paper called "The influence of climate change to the Estonian swamp vegetation". It was quite an OK paper about the changes in the vegetation, but there was absolutely nothing abut climate in there, no study of attribution. So a correct name for the paper should have just been "Changes in the Estonian swamp vegetatiopn in the last 20 years". But surely without climate there would have been no financing. The climate part is like the obligatory references to the latest party congress materials and Lenin in all branches of scientific research in the Soviet Union.

Apr 15, 2015 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterSven

In another 330 years they will be migrating at precisely the same time that they were at the start of the study period - according to my logic (which I consider to be a damned sight better than their logic).

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

Cap'n Ahab searched the seas,
Hot wroth with wrath he froth the waves
In search of doom windward and lee.
Catastrophe, from humans save.

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Has anyone studied the migration patterns of climate scientists, and other researchers, towards available funding streams?

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Welcome to the wonderful world of open access publishing where, so long as you can pay, you can publish any old rubbish. Commentators here have been scathing about peer review, but I bet any peer-reviewed journal would have rejected this kind of stuff. One of the side benefits of open access, which its screaming hysterical fan-base (psychologically similar to the climate worriers actually) did not anticipate, is that it would make even more plain how useless, pointless and taxpayers money wasting were so many academics. Its not their research outputs that demonstrate their value to us, quite the contrary. Even if the Conservatives have not got the balls to argue that Blair's thought-up-in-a-second BIG IDEA, that 50% of schoolleavers should go to university, is tosh, could they not quietly change the bottom three quarters of them into teaching-only establishments, with half the staff and at half the cost to us, the taxpayers?

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered Commenterbill

It's worse than we thought.

Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet. And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Have they even measured .1C of warming in the oceans?

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

97% of science researchers consider climate science funding easy money.

97% of people involved in allocating research funding, know that their employers will be happy to spend 100% of it trying to find any link between man made CO2 and absolutely anything at all. After all, they would not want all the previous billions to have been wasted.

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

[Snip - venting]

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTunbridge

"Has anyone studied the migration patterns of climate scientists, and other researchers, towards available funding streams?

Apr 15, 2015 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered Commenter Golf Charlie"

Judith Curry had a post last month on the role of Big Players:

based on an very interesting paper on the topic.

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPethefin

@MikeN: My thoughts too. Did they actually measure this 1/10th°C increase in temperature, or did they just ask the whales what they thought in a survey, & 97% of them said yes they could tell it was an increase so they decided to go the day before instead?

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

"Remarkable indeed. But not so remarkable as the idea that anyone would take this nonsense seriously."

No doubt paid for with public funds!!

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

The science part of this study is the measurement of changes in migration timing, they should have left it at that, the rest is speculative flights of fancy that should have been left out. Peer reviewers at reputable journals are meant to strip out unjustified speculation, but that is now probably a bit too last-century.

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Maybe they just got rid of leap years..... Whales not known for sending cards.

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveK

As a graduate of St. Andrews (single hons geology 1989), I am ashamed.

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterImranCan

I have a holiday home on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We get humpback whales migrating past our shores to breed in the Golfo Dulce area near the Panama border (and the killer whales that follow them). They then head back to the far north. They must experience at least a 20 deg C variation in sea surface temperatures on their migration, so I find it somewhat improbable that a 0.1 deg variation in temperature would have any influence.

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter W

Probably not the very worst scientific paper of this decade, but not far off.

Apr 15, 2015 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Re: Mikky

> Peer reviewers at reputable journals are meant to strip out unjustified speculation,

I suspect that the reverse is often true.

Apr 15, 2015 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

It sounds quite reasonable to me.

Only last spring I was talking to the house martins who share the house with me. They told me that they recognised that 2014 was going to be the hottest ever - not because they read the science reports because, obviously, they can't read, but because they had calculated the global average surface temperature anomaly themselves.

As it was warm they decided to leave Africa on the Wednesday rather than leave it to the weekend.

Apr 15, 2015 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

The truly amazing conclusion was that more research (money) was needed.

So many budding scientists are leaving an unfortunate legacy, the credibility of science has passed a tipping point, but those 'in the know' have not noticed. Presumably their interests have been concentrated on funding, rather than the bigger picture.

Apr 15, 2015 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

If the whales continue to arrive one day earlier each year then after a while they will be arriving later than they do today. In another 365 days the whales will arrive on exactly the same day that they do this year.

Is there a flaw in this argument? Possibly. I admit I have not taken leap years into account.

Apr 15, 2015 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

there again back in the 1950s when the arctic sea lanes were open for 8 months of the year and it was so much warmer, because of the migration of cod to more northern waters, the Greelanders turned from seal hunting to cod fishing. Other fish which migrated farther north due to the warming were haddock, halibut' and herring- ( no nothing to do with My Fair Lady)

Apr 15, 2015 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard

Research shows that diners now ate at McDonalds earlier than 25 years ago.

The cause was disputed. Some claimed it was due to Global Warming; others were sure it was because they introduced Breakfasts.

Apr 15, 2015 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Could be true, due to the AMO, in which case the pattern should reverse over the next few years.

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

And here is something similar -

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek

I did not read the paper. Anybody know how they linked the wales' migration pattern to sea temperature? Is there a causal link suggested instead of only a correlation?

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

Maybe the whales were put off migrating because they didn't like getting harpooned. Then as the bans came in they started getting bolder again. 'Go on, you go first' , 'no , you. go on, it's safe'

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

I wonder what would have happened to the whales in 1922?

October 10 1922 the American consul at Bergen Norway, submitted the following report the State Department, Washington, D.C.

"The Arctic seems to be warming up. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers who sail the seas about Spitzbergen and the eastern Arctic, all point to a radical change in climatic conditions, and hitherto unheard-of high temperatures in that part of the earth's surface.

Ice conditions were exceptional. In fact, so little ice has never before been noted. The expedition all but established a record, sailing as far north as 8l deg 29' in ice-free water. This is the farthest north ever reached with modern oceanographic apparatus."

It looks as if Dr Hoel found Kevin Trenberth's missing heat, before it ever got lost:

"Dr. Hoel reports that he made a section of the Gulf Stream at 81 deg north latitude and took soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters. These show the Gulf Stream very warm, and it could be traced as a surface current till beyond the 81st parallel. The warmth of the waters makes it probable that the favorable ice conditions will continue for some time.

In connection with Dr Hoel's report, it is of interest to note the unusually warm summer in Arctic Norway and the observations of Capt. Martin Ingebrigtsen, who has sailed the eastern Arctic for 54 years past. He says that he first noted warmer conditions in 1915, that since that time it has steadily gotten warmer, and that to-day the Arctic of that region is not recognizable as the same region of 1865 to 1917.

Many any old landmarks are so changed as to be unrecognisable. Where formerly great masses of ice were found there are now often moraines, accumulations of earth and stones. At many points where glaciers formerly extended far into the sea they have entirely disappeared.

The change in temperature, says Captain Ingebrigtsen, has also brought about great change in the flora and fauna of the Arctic, This summer he sought for white fish in Spitzbergen waters, (Svalbard). Formerly great shoals of them were found there. This year he saw none, although he visited all the old fishing grounds.

There were few seal in Spitzbergen waters this year, the catch being far under the average. This, however, did not surprise the captain. He pointed out that formerly the waters about Spitzbergen held an even summer temperature of about 3 Celsius, this year recorded temperatures up to 15°, and last winter the ocean did not freeze over even on the north coast of Spitzbergen.

With the disappearance of white fish and seal has come other life in these waters. This year herring in great shoals were found along the west coast of Spitzbergen, all the way from the fry to the veritable great herring. Shoals of smelt were also met with."

The current temperature in Alert, Nunavut, Canada, at a similar latitude to that of Dr Hoel's expedition, is minus 20 degrees C.

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:49 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

I didn't read the paper. I wonder how they controlled to eliminate the conclusion that scientists studying whales get better at detecting them by 1 day a year?

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered Commentertimheyes

Could it be that wherever the whales have come from, they are getting fed up with all the whale botherers, who keep turning up earlier and earlier each year.

Killing whales may be wrong, but bothering whales, for scientific research is a nice little earner for Greenpeace.

I fully appreciate that the scientists who have carried out this work may not have been out whale bothering. In fact most if not all of them may never have seen a whale. But minor details should not interfere with research funding, and funding research.

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

What is worse, it seems that the North Sea is to become too hot for haddock.

Marine biologist at Exeter University, Stephen Simpson, said: “The flat fish are really in trouble.

“Unless they can change their habitat and diet in the next 20 or 30 years, or adapt to 2 degrees more warming – which is a big ask – then they will decline.”
I get the feeling that they are getting desperate in their goals of whipping up climate hysteria, with everyone running around, screaming: “The sky is falling world is going to burn! Save us! Set up a world government and save us!”

Then, in one leap…

Apr 15, 2015 at 5:55 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent, if it was not for global warming, the haddock would not have become a flat fish.

Apr 15, 2015 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Grants the size of whales.

Apr 15, 2015 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

0.1°C warming , hilarious given that they no where near the ability or range of data to make scientifically meaningful measurement of 'warming in ocean temperatures '

Of course I do not really expect those working in climate 'science' is get anywhere close to standards expected in any other others , and they never disappoint me on that front.

Apr 15, 2015 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

I assume that with the whale hunting moratorium, whale numbers have increased and migration patterns changed.. The increase of the Southern Right Whale means that I have seen two pods, male and female, feeding off the Cape in March when the experts tell me females are only supposed to arrive to give birth in July with the males joining in spring. Should I be worried?

Apr 15, 2015 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterLjh

ssat, give it a few years and..

"Wails as loud as unemployed climate scientists"

Apr 15, 2015 at 6:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

I think it's safe to say that the idea that plaice are so temperature sensitive is a complete load of horse hockey. Mrs S's son regularly catches them from the Thames down by Dartford Creek (decent-sized ones too). The temperatures in the estruarial part of the Thames have got to be warmer (and fluctuate more) than those in offshore waters.

Apr 15, 2015 at 6:49 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Ljh Should you be bothered?

Possibly not, but if you have noticed, expect whale botherers to have noticed aswell.

Whale botherers are known to change their patterns of behaviour, and migrations, to match those of their prey.

Unfortunately, your chance of getting grant funding for stating the bloomin' obvious, are not good, unless you are a climate scientist., or have delusions in pschyco analysis, in which case, refer to Lewandowsky for funding details.

Apr 15, 2015 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

Because of warmer temperature in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off Nova Scotia the winter sea ice there has been strongly decreasing in the past 30 years or so. This accounts for the difference in migration patterns and oh yes, about that 0.1 C change. . . As Eli wrote to Uncle Steve

IT was a wild and stormy night on the West Coast of
Scotland. This, however, is immaterial to the present
story, as the scene is not laid in the West of Scotland.
For the matter of that the weather was just as bad on the
East Coast of Ireland.

But the scene of this narrative is laid in the South of
England and takes place in and around Knotacentinum Towers
(pronounced as if written Nosham Taws), the seat of Lord
Knotacent (pronounced as if written Nosh).

But it is not necessary to pronounce either of these names
in reading them.


Do try harder, even a bunny could spot the pea before it got dropped off the table.

Apr 15, 2015 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

So humans 'caused' the 0.1C (what's the error on that?) 'warming' in that specific region?

And then there's Ecologist and Insta Ecologist, making some jokes on Twitter about flowers blooming early.

That's anthropogenic global warming for you - blooming flowers and migrating whales.

Apr 15, 2015 at 7:47 PM | Registered Commentershub

Half an hour ago I formed the Worldwide Trust for the Protection of Herpetofauna.
My forthcoming paper will prove conclusively that Toad tadpoles are hatching a month earlier EVERY year, due to Climate Change.
We have now reached the point where this year's tadpoles are actually next year's !

Apr 15, 2015 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered Commentertoad

Just out of interest, did anyone here actually read the paper? Both the post and the comments would seem to indicate that noone has bothered, but I find it hard to believe that our host would call something nonsense without actually reading it first (okay, that's not quite true - it wouldn't really surprise me in the slightest). On the other hand, that our host can post Murry Salby's latest presentation without comment, while choosing to call this paper nonsense, might indicate an inability to actually tell what is nonsense and what isn't.

Apr 15, 2015 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Toad: Good luck in your new venture.

Actually, most European amphibians have the ability to over-winter in their larval stage, if faced with unsuitable conditions to metamorphose. We live 800m up in the Welsh Borders, when I was checking the ponds today I found several gilled newt larvae, despite the fact that the adults haven't even started breeding yet.

It seems that amphibians are even more climate savvy and climate resilient than the green blob.

Apr 15, 2015 at 8:20 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Oh dear ATTP, you fail to see the pattern, Richard Dawkins attacks religion and the religious prove him right by attacking him back rather than defending religion. The Bish attacks crap science and nobody defends it, they just attack him and his readers.

Apr 15, 2015 at 8:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Let’s think: a study of whale migration (interesting, perhaps, in its own right) leaps to a cosy, right-on conclusion, considering its lack of investigation into the cause, compared with a talk about the apparent disparity between linear increase CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and the exponential rise in human emissions. Which gets the most ridicule from aTTP? Why, the one which most conforms to his own preconceptions, of course… erm… NOT!

Apr 15, 2015 at 8:42 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent


The Bish attacks crap science and nobody defends it

Not quite, didn't you read Eli's comment?

The Bish attacks crap science and nobody defends it, they just attack him and his readers.

Attack him and his readers? That seems a bit melodramatic? But seriously, if the Bish keeps saying and promoting silly things, what else does he expect? If he doesn't like people pointing out the silly things he says and promotes, he should just stop doing it (well, or ban them, I guess). This isn't even all that complicated.

Apr 15, 2015 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Whale meet again,
Don't know where,
Don't know when,
But I know whale meet again some Sunny Day,

Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds, far away.
0.1 degrees warm,
Mean a month's alarm,
'Til we swim up North.

So will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long, (i wont be long)
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go
I was singing this song.

Apr 15, 2015 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

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