LATE last year academic Stephen Williams, from James Cook University, reported that a rare species of white possum was possibly extinct and that this was likely the first recorded mammalian extinction due to global warming. Not surprisingly his claims attracted much media interest.
Now Professor Williams has rediscovered the white possum and the media is reporting “Extinct possum back from the dead”.
This morning I tried to phone the Professor to get more information and temperature records. The phone went to message back, and there was a reassuring message letting me know he wasn’t far away. I then sent the following detailed email and got the following reply a little while later: “I will be away in the field until 7th April with limited email access.”
I think the questions in my email to Professor Williams are relevant and hopefully he can answer them on his return.
I am writing concerning recent media reports about your work on ‘white’ possums in North Queensland. In particular it is claimed:
1. He said the species could not cope with extended periods of temperatures over 27 degrees.
2.”Over the last 50 years, the number of days where you get that temperature has been steadily increasing, to the point that in 2005 there were 27 consecutive days where the temperature went above that threshold,” he said.
These quotes are from a story by Evan Schwarten for New Ltd here: http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25251692-13762,00.html .
I was wondering on what basis you have made the above claims. In particular is there some information on :
1. The species biology and temperature, published papers for example,
2. What specific temperature data set shows consecutive days above 27C, and is this data publicly available, and
3. What data set you relied upon to make the statement that temperatures have been steadily increasing?
I tried to phone you this morning and left a message.
Kind regards, Jennifer Marohasy
UPDATE, APRIL 5, 2007
The temperature data is a: “Combination of modelling and empirical data. We use daily interpolated layers, calibrated using 2 years of extremely detailed climate data from our own stations in 25 locations including on the site in question. After calibration the modelled layers predicted daily temperatures with only a 2% error. All this is current and new research that is unpublished at this stage.”
For more information see the text of the email from Professor Williams just posted as a comment in the thread.
1. ‘Extinct’ possum back from the dead, By Evan Schwarten, AAP, March 27, 2009 http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25251692-13762,00.html
2. White Possum Probably Not Extinct from Global Warming by Jennifer Marohasy, December 11, 2008 http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2008/12/white-possum-probably-not-extinct-from-global-warming/
Comment from Ian Mott at the thread suggesting Cyclone Larry may have impacted the Possum: The Carbine Tablelands are only 150km from Innisfail. And as the winds were recorded as being in the order of 240km/hour at epicentre then we can safely assume that the winds at 150km radius and at altitude, were at least in the order of 180+km/hr. In fact, See http://www.bom.gov.au/weather/qld/cyclone/tc_larry/ which advises that the top of Bellenden Ker Tower (1450m) recorded wind speed of 294km/hr against only 113km/hr at nearby Mareeba. The Carbine peaks are at altitudes of 1200m to 1320m so any suggestion that they did not cop a real hiding in TC Larry is pure bunkum.
3.“Poster child for climate change” – you be the judge
December 10th, 2008 by Warwick Hughes http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=188