On March 21, the ’science’ blogger Anthony Watts actually published the following headline story and lede:

Canadian Harp Seals In New England (“prediction” of cooling?)


Yes, Watts is suggesting that Canadian Harp Seals are psychic, or, technically, have developed precognition — although a bizarre form of precognition whereby they incorrectly predict the future based on discredited scientific theories.  You’d think that would have been selected against by evolution.  But I digress.

No, the WattsUpWithThat post isn’t an attempt at humor (at least not intentionally), as the rest of the post (and the comments) make clear.  Amazingly, the post has been up for 10 days!  Until Watts takes it down, I think we can safely ignore any criticisms he offers of others.

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The piece continues by excerpting The Boston Channel this way:

Small numbers of juvenile harp seals are typically found each winter stranded along the coast of the northeastern United States. But this year, well over 100 adult harp seals – not juveniles – have been spotted … In some areas they’re reporting three times the normal number of sightings … we’ve had four sightings of adult harp seals in North Carolina, which we’ve never had before. We typically don’t see them that far south. …

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For now, there is no clear explanation for why more seals are showing up in U.S. waters, said Gordon Waring, who heads the seal program at NOAA’s fisheries science center in Woods Hole, Mass.

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They could be making their way south because of climatic conditions or perhaps in search of food, Waring said.

“These animals are known to wander a lot,” Waring said. “Whether they’re following food down or whatever, we don’t really have a good understanding of it.”

Garron said she and the seal organizations will look at environmental trends, such as water temperatures, to see if it’s influencing the harp seal range.

Regardless of the reason, biologists are taking notice, Doughty said.

WUWT omits the part of the article where we learn that “the number of harp seals found in the northwest Atlantic” is “9 million.”  But no matter.  If even a hundred harp seals have precognition, that is reason enough to call the Fringe Division and Special Agents Scully and Mulder of the X-Files.

The WUWT post simply ends this way:


So the hundred precognitive harp seals not only know that genuine climate science is wrong — see NASA’s James Hansen: “One sure bet is that this decade will be the warmest” on record.  They have apparently also been reading WUWT.  Too bad they haven’t read the actual science at SkepticalScience, which thoroughly debunks Svensmark.

Here are various comments at WUWT on this erudite post:

  • The thought that the humble Harp Seal has a better ability to predict future climate changes than the combined “intelligence” of all the worlds Climate Scientists and their GCM’s with gazillions of mega-bytes of processing power, is one that I find absolutely freaking hilarious. Please let it be true.  Oh! The humility!
  • Interesting story. Wonder how this will be spun by warmers?
  • Given the concatenation of the cooling phases of the oceanic oscillations, the curious Cheshire Cat Sunspots, and the apparent weakness of CO2 as a warming agent, global cooling over the near to medium term is a lot more likely than global warming. Bet on it.
  • It appears that Harp seals are smarter the Climate Scientists and their computers.

Actually the whole comment set is funnier than anything Dave Barry could conceive.  One commenter quotes the post and writes:

  • >>”…through the complex processes of evolution and natural selection, may have developed an ability to sense coming changes.”<<   “This is basicly incorrect. Creature do not ‘develop’ the ability to survive, natural selection simple kills the ones that were not born with the ability to survive. It is this critical point that answers the question ‘How did the xxx develop yyy?’. The answer is: It did not, the ones born without yyy died out, only the xxx’s with yyy are left.  Species do not ‘develop’ to survive, they develop IF they survive.  (sorry, it just irks me when people mix this up, I think it is a critical point in understanding natural selection )

The post author, Ira Glickstein, however disagrees and doubles down on his pre-cognition theory:

Harp Seals have survived for many millions of years, which includes many, many warming and cooling cycles. During that long period, their range has extended and contracted repeatedly, with many being killed in the process. The ones who survived and reproduced have evolved many traits and combinations of traits, at both individual and group levels. Therefore, I think it is responsible when I say they “… may have developed an ability to sense coming changes.”

So it is “responsible” to say that harp seals may have developed inaccurate pre-cognition (or at least the ability to read websites that ignore physics and embrace pseudo-science).  Or at least 100 out of 9 million have.  The cutting edge ones.  Mutations, perhaps.

My favorite comment is :

  • With an as yet undetermined appendage Ira writes:  “Animals like the Harp Seal have experienced many millions of years of climatic change and, through the complex processes of evolution and natural selection, may have developed an ability to sense coming changes.”  Once you buy into the narrative that random mutation and natural selection turned some ancient bacteria into a Harp Seal it’s pretty easy to believe the same process could give it the ability to predict the climate years in advance, huh?  Stupid is as stupid does.

You have to read it a couple of times to really appreciate it — wearing head vises, of course.  Oops, I suppose I should have mentioned that first.

For the record, I checked with Dr. Peter Ewins, Senior Officer for Arctic Species at WWF-Canada.  He writes:

This year, as seems to be increasingly the case these days, anomalously low sea-ice conditions are occurring on Canada’s east coast in the late winter.   The sea-ice is historically the stable platform where harp seals have their pups at this tim
e of year.  The rapid declines in sea-ice coverage, associated with rapid climate change, clearly leave the harp seals with a major problem.

It’s pretty clear that the dispersal of a small portion of the harp seal breeding/adult population (6-10 Million animals currently I believe) is totally associated with anomalous low sea-ice conditions off Labrador-Newfoundland-Gulf of the St Lawrence.  100 animals is really a small number compared to the overall population size.

Darn.  I was hoping to track down the seals and see if they could tell me who was going to win the World Series.

Bottom Line:  At WUWT, it’s April Fool’s every day.