Scientists believe they have discovered proof that global warming has altered Tasmania’s marine environment. So begins one of today’s stories at ABC Online, that continues …
A group of biologists from the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute has found a shallow reef extensively covered by coral at the Kent Group Marine Protected Area near Flinders Island off the north-east of Tasmania.
Coral reefs only survive in warmer waters and are usually found in tropical areas such as Queensland.
The senior biologist who discovered the reef, Neville Barrett, believes it is evidence that rising water temperatures are having an impact on the marine environment.
John McLean has responded with a letter to the Editor of ABC Online. The letter begins with a comment about “sloppy journalism at its worst” and then makes the following 7 points:
1. Data from the UK’s Climate Research Unit shows that Southern Hemisphere
temperatures are less than 0.4 degrees C above their 1961-90
average. WARMING IS LARGELY A NORTHERN HEMISPHERE PHENOMENON (despite
carbon dioxide being relatively even in both hemispheres – but that’s
2. Data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows that both Tasmania and
Victoria were warmer than the 1961-90 average in 1999 (by about 0.5
degrees) but annual average temperatures have steadily declined since
then. In 2004 Tasmania’s average temperature was 0.25 degrees below that
long term average and Victoria’s just 0.07 degrees above their average.
3. Data from the US NOAA shows that sea surface temperatures in Bass
Strait have been close to normal save for a short period about January 2003
when warmer waters (caused by El Nino conditions in the Pacific a few
months earlier) made their way down the east coast of Australia.
4. The report INCORRECTLY stated “Coral reefs only survive in warmer
waters and are usually found in tropical areas such as Queensland.” The
report would have been closer to the mark had it said that “SHALLOW WATER
coral reefs have only been found…” because deeper water coral reefs have
been found in many places. In the 1990s, Norwegian scientists discovered a
14-kilometer-long, 30-meter-high coral reef on the Sula Ridge–an ocean
ridge off the western coast of Norway-at a depth of 250 meters. Also in the
1990s, a French-led team discovered coral gardens thriving at 600 meters
below the surface on seafloor mounds off the coast of Ireland. Since then,
researchers throughout the world have documented a 35-kilometer reef off
Norway, coral growths atop mounds off Scotland’s coast, an area of growth
covering 100 square kilometers off Nova Scotia, and colonies along Alaska’s
5. Your report failed to mention the types of coral found in these reefs
and whether these were typical of shallow or deep water reefs. Given that
reefs exist at both depths, i sthere any good reason why reefs could not
exist at intermediate depths? I don’t know and your reporter clearly
didn’t bother to ask any of Australia’s most knowledgeable experts at James
Cook University in Townsville.
6. Your report failed to mention the estimated age of this coral
reef. Coral grows slowly and if this reef is more than 50 years old you
can forget about recent in Australia’s temperature having anything to do
with this formation.
7. Your report failed to mention if the region had been properly surveyed
in the past. For all we know there may be extensive coral reefs across
Bass Strait as remnants of the last Ice Age when sea levels were much lower.
Thanks John for taking the time to put the extremely naive reporting in some context. My guess is the journalist just copied from a press release – from honest scientists at a reputable research institute?
John’s website is at
(The 7 points as detailed above were edited, mostly shortened and sharpened, at about 2.10pm on 17th July – following request from John.)