Impact of climate change on pelagic birding

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Impact of climate change on pelagic birding
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2012 21:30:30 +1000
Why do you say that a 1.5 to 2C change over 100 years is tiny, Martin? I would have thought a temperature change of that magnitude is quite significant.

Anyhow, the article in question is available at

The abstract is as follows:

"Enhanced warming over the global subtropical western boundary currents
• Lixin Wu, • Wenju Cai, • Liping Zhang, • Hisashi Nakamura, • Axel Timmermann, • Terry Joyce,• Michael J. McPhaden, • Michael Alexander, • Bo Qiu, • Martin Visbeck, • Ping Chang • & Benjamin Giese
Nature Climate Change (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1353Received 06 May 2011 Accepted 30 November 2011 Published online 29 January 2012

Subtropical western boundary currents are warm, fast-flowing currents that form on the western side of ocean basins. They carry warm tropical water to the mid-latitudes and vent large amounts of heat and moisture to the atmosphere along their paths, affecting atmospheric jet streams and mid-latitude storms, as well as ocean carbon uptake1, 2, 3, 4. The possibility that these highly energetic currents might change under greenhouse-gas forcing has raised significant concerns5, 6, 7, but detecting such changes is challenging owing to limited observations. Here, using reconstructed sea surface temperature datasets and century-long ocean and atmosphere reanalysis products, we find that the post-1900 surface ocean warming rate over the path of these currents is two to three times faster than the global mean surface ocean warming rate. The accelerated warming is associated with a synchronous poleward shift and/or intensification of global subtropical western boundary currents in conjunction with a systematic change in winds over both hemispheres. This enhanced warming may reduce the ability of the oceans to absorb anthropogenic carbon dioxide over these regions. However, uncertainties in detection and attribution of these warming trends remain, pointing to a need for a long-term monitoring network of the global western boundary currents and their extensions."

The point remains that a lot of pelagic birding occurs along the East Australian Current and a 2C warming may have a significant impact on marine activity off SE Australia.

Regards, Laurie.

On 31/01/2012, at 8:52 PM, Martin Wigginton wrote:

Yes, I agree with Laurie that we should welcome any study that seeks to obtain REAL data. With such tiny differences in ocean temperatures, it might be difficult to detect impacts on bird distributions. Nevertheless, real data is the stuff that counts.

But flawed studies such as Wenju Cai's ocean 'hot-spots' give the game away when they state:

“Detecting these changes has been hindered by limited observations but with a combination of multi-national ocean watch systems and computer simulations we have been able to reconstruct an ocean history…”

We should view with considerable scepticism studies such as these which rely so heavily on computer modelling to reach what is clearly a pre-determined conclusion.

See also

*All outgoing mails scanned by Norton Anti-Virus 2011

-----Original Message----- From: Laurie Knight
Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 7:58 AM
To: Birding Aus
Subject: [Birding-Aus] Impact of climate change on pelagic birding

There are some interesting articles reporting rapidly rising
temperatures in key ocean currents - scientists compared "five ocean
currents that run along the east coasts of Africa, Japan, the USA,
Brazil and Australia" and "that over the past century the water in the
currents has warmed two to three times faster than the rest of the
world's oceans." <

These temperature changes will affect the distribution of marine life
and I suspect are likely to impinge on the distributions of pelagic
bird species.  It would be an interesting exercise to overlay species
sightings with sea temperatures and to see how bird distributions
change over time.

Perhaps a thesis topic for someone ...

Regards, Laurie.

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