I guess the most surprising thing about this article is that it is a good example of the global warming agenda in the news media. The article says, “a significant link between warmer water ”” either from the El Nino weather phenomenon or global warming and reduced production of phytoplankton of the world’s oceans”. There is agreement that there is a significant link with El Nino. The link to global warming is much more difficult link to prove and later in the article they say so. “Other oceanographers agree with the El Nino link but said that with only a decade of data it is harder to make global warming connections.” You can see the emphasis of the article is on the catastrophic effects of global warming and downplaying the problems with linking this data to predictions on global warming.
It is interesting to compare this article with the recent research that is analyzing whether the oceans have gotten warmer or cooler from 1999 to 2005. The research from an extensive array of buoy data indicates that the trend line for water temperature has been flat at almost all latitudes except for the highest latitudes. The temperature data from the buoys is contrary to the satellite data used in this article. From a scientific viewpoint the conflicting temperature data is the more interesting problem since satellite data is at the source of a wide range of global predictions.
Despite the problems with the water temperature data, my major problem with the article is that El Nino is a short term cyclical climate change with well known ramifications on global weather patterns. The time of this study coincides with a peak in the hurricane cycle. Since phytoplankton turn sunlight into food I wonder about the impact of weather effects such as cloud cover and storms on phytoplankton generation. It would not be the first time that someone noticed that sunlight and storms affected crop production. If the recent research on water temperature using buoys is correct then factors other than temperature must be influencing phytoplankton production. I am also uncomfortable with using the color of the seas as seen from satellite photos to determine phytoplankton production estimates. Retrofitting the buoys with the ability to measure phytoplankton density would be a natural solution. Considering the facts that were presented in the article and the problems with many of the climate models, I feel like I am being asked to make a leap in faith judgement that the effects of El Nino are a good predictor of the long term effects of increased global temperature. To me at least, the scientists appear to be comparing apples and oranges. There are too many variables in play other than temperature. I think that there is still more ink in the pen on this subject.