Skip to content

Emperor Penguins In Peril From Computer Models

Thomas Richard, Climate Change Dispatch

Scientists use dodgy computer model to project future sea ice decline in its ongoing attempt to get an endangerment finding for the emperor penguin. In the meantim, Antarctica sea ice has increased by twenty percent since 1979.

In another brazen attempt to add emperor penguins to the Endangered Species list, a new study published in Nature Climate Change shows dramatic declines in penguin populations by 2100 from too much or too little sea ice. The results are based on computer model projections, which in turn are based on secondary computer models.

Already on the “under consideration” list for inclusion in the US Endangered Species Act, the study concludes that emperor penguins may decline by up to eighty percent due to sea ice concentration (SIC). The study’s lead author, Stephanie Jenouvrier, used computer model projections to reach these conclusions.

Satellite data has shown that Antarctica has increased in size by twenty percent since imaging of the continent began in 1979. According to this study, though, too much ice requires the penguins to travel further to gather food for their chicks. Too little ice means less krill for the penguins to eat.

In either case, computer models imperil the penguin colonies if either situation occurs. Just as polar bears were added to the Endangered Species list based on computer model projections, this study is taking a page from that successful play-book to add emperor penguins to the list as well.

However, the study is based on computer model projections using predictive forecasts from the IPCC. The latest IPCC AR5 states the following trends regarding Antarctic sea ice (this is from September 2013, emphasis added):

It is very likely that the annual Antarctic sea ice extent increased at a rate of between 1.2 and 1.8% per decade between 1979 and 2012.

The IPCC AR5 states in Chapter 10 on Attribution (emphasis added):

Overall we conclude that there is low confidence in the scientific understanding of the observed increase in Antarctic sea ice extent since 1979due to the incomplete and competing scientific explanations for the causes of change and low confidence in estimates of internal variability. …[and that] the shortness of the observed record and differences in simulated and observed variability preclude an assessment of whether or not the observed increase since 1979 is inconsistent with internal variability.”

In layman’s terms, this means Antarctic sea ice has been increasing since 1979 from satellite observations, and that it’s too early to make any kind of assessment as to whether this will continue or abate.

Full story