The Mythical Tuvalu Pineapple

Fri, 2010-03-12 14:03Mitchell Anderson
Mitchell Anderson's picture

The Mythical Tuvalu Pineapple

First there were sunspots. Then cosmic rays. Now comes the latest “proof” being trotted out by the climate denial crowd… pineapples.

Swedish Scientist Nils-Axel Morner is claiming that sea levels in the island nation of Tuvalu are not rising there, or anywhere else. Why?

According to memo submitted by Morner to the Britsh House of Lords, “the truth seems to be that a Japanese pineapple industry had subtracted too much freshwater by that forcing saltwater to invade the subsurface.”

To recap, sea is not rising- the land in Tuvalu is instead sinking due to inept irrigation by Japanese pineapple companies and local farmers who want to cover up their blunder. This is apparently proof that the largest peer-reviewed exercise in scientific history is in the measured words of Morner, the “greatest lie ever told”.

There’s one small problem with this line of thought. There have never been pineapple plantations on Tuvalu. This tasty tropical fruit cannot wipe away decades of peer-reviewed scientific research since it was never grown on the tiny South Pacific islands.

Tuvalu is so low-lying that residents cannot reliably exact even drinking water from the ground, let alone irrigation water. The country is also a coral atoll with very poor soil and supports virtually no agriculture. Bromeliads like the pineapple prefer light volcanic soils.

Tuvalu is also minuscule, covering only 26 square kilometers. Out of 80 countries that export Pineapples, the smallest exporting country (just 4,000 tons exported annually) is Wallis and Futuna Islands. They have a combined landmass slightly larger than Washington DC, which is still 1,500% larger than Tuvalu.

And how does Morner explain that the country is in the process of planning for a mass evacuation as the nation disappears under the waves?

He seems to be implying that Tuvalu residents (and their government) are a bunch of insurance fraudsters, seeking to conceal bad irrigation in order to keep the big UN climate bucks flowing in.

All this irrefutably “proved” by the mythical Tuvalu pineapple. Too bad it doesn’t exist.

Previous Comments

It’s existed in his mind for some time, apparently. Here’s a 2007 interview:

http://www.mitosyfraudes.org/Calen7/MornerEng.html

And a blogger who also wondered where the pineapple story came from:

http://hot-topic.co.nz/tuvalu-sunk-by-pineapples/

But still, you have to like a fellow who fixes a graph he doesn’t like by simply tipping it to make the lines flatter.

CIA factbook (to Sept 2009) lists major crops and products “coconuts; fish”
http://www.indexmundi.com/tuvalu/agriculture_products.html

Encyclopedia of the nations (date unknown; 2008 or earlier?)

“…Agriculture, in the form of the production of copra, also provides the nation’s only true export…”

and

“…The main crops include copra, taro (a large tuber), bananas, and sugarcane…”

http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/economies/Asia-and-the-Pacific/Tuvalu-AGRICULTURE.html

(According to google, copra is the dried meat of the coconut.)

To find out I downloaded a NetCDF file from http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_data_cmar.html (CSIRO is the Australian Commonweath Science and Research Organization). I used the Topex/Poseidon/Jason satellite data uncorrected for seasonal trends or barometer. I picked the grid cell 8 degrees south latitude and 179 degrees east longitude (but tried a few surrounding also).

Like a lot of climate data the overall trend since 1993 is increasing. However, also like a lot of climate data the trend since 2002 is decreasing, the 179/8 grid cell has a declining sea level trend of -3.4 mm/year in the 96 months between January 2002 and December 2009.

So in a period of record increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, sea level actually declined in this area. Which is probably why you haven’t read headlines about Tuvalu sinking beneath the waves lately.

I’m wondering what is up with the graph in figure5 of his report - did he actually twist it sideways to hide the trend or something?

MA: “sea is not rising- the land in Tuvalu is instead sinking due to inept irrigation by Japanese pineapple companies and local farmers who want to cover up their blunder. This is apparently proof that the largest peer-reviewed exercise in scientific history is in the measured words of Morner, the “greatest lie ever told”.

Bit of a blunder yourself, there, Mitchell. You’ve misunderstood. Nobody is claiming the land is “sinking” because of a “blunder”. Here’s how it works: a coral island is porous, like a sponge. In our context, that is, excluding earthquakes and such, it doesn’t move up or down, more or less as you’d expect. But because it’s porous, it contains groundwater. Mostly seawater - obviously - but also fresh water that falls as rain and percolates into the ground. Because it’s not an open body of water, but instead contained in the coral / sandstone “sponge”, and because it’s less dense than seawater, this fresh water forms a “lens” with a definite boundary above the seawater, so that you can dig a well and abstract fresh water from several meters below sea level. That, if you like, is the “state of nature”.

But what happens if you start to pump out fresh groundwater faster than it can rain back in? Remember, there’s no other source of fresh water. Why, the freshwater lens grows smaller, and the fresh-salt boundary rises. When it gets as high as the bottom of the well, you’re pumping salt water. This would happen even if sea-level were rapidly falling, say with the onset of a new Ice Age. It has almost nothing to do with sea-level changes, and whether or not they’re happening.

None of this is opinion or guesswork. It’s solid ordinary hydrological engineering knowhow. Brit colonial administrators in the Pacific a century ago knew all about it. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen here, it also provides the basis for a convenient untruth amongst the AGW congregation.

MA: “There’s one small problem with this line of thought. There have never been pineapple plantations on Tuvalu. This tasty tropical fruit cannot wipe away decades of peer-reviewed scientific research since it was never grown on the tiny South Pacific islands.”

Never? That’s an incautious hostage to fortune, asserting a negative. If Prof. Morner gets to hear of you, you might just get shot out of your saddle, with the name and location of the pineapple farm. Google Earth’s view of Vaitupu (one of the islands) reveals plantations of palms (oil or coconut, couldn’t say). Where you can grow palms, you can grow pineapples.

MA: “Tuvalu is so low-lying that residents cannot reliably exact even drinking water from the ground, let alone irrigation water.”

That may be because the fresh-water lens has been depleted, just as Morner says. And you do know that Tuvalu is not a single island, but a collection of islands and atolls, right?

MA: “And how does Morner explain that the country is in the process of planning for a mass evacuation as the nation disappears under the waves? He seems to be implying that Tuvalu residents (and their government) are a bunch of insurance fraudsters, seeking to conceal bad irrigation in order to keep the big UN climate bucks flowing in.”

Well he is, obviously. He’s just too polite, or too politic, to say so out loud.

(Note to moderators - not for publication) I’m aware from past attempts to post comments here that “denier” (heh) posts are not particularly warmly welcomed, and tend to find their way down the memory hole. Nevertheless, MA’s article is very shaky, and needs to be countered. I have kept the polemic down, and stuck to the facts; so I trust you will find the courage and the good sense to publish my comment.

The notion that rising sea level due to ice melt constitutes a grave danger to the inhabitants of Tuvalu is typical of the irrational and unscientific fear mongering that goes on in the name of climate science. The ocean rises at a rate of 1 or 2mm per year. But every century or so a tsunami or hurricane comes by that wipes out low lying populations. And of course the atoll inhabitants have no where to go.

While the populations of mountain islands typically refect the makeup of the original colonizers, the populations of coral islands suffer a rapid rate of turnover, and do not fit neat geographic distribution patterns. And so many low islands remain uninhabited, either having never been colonized, or having been wiped out and never recolonized.

This is how its has worked for two or three millenia since ocean islanders have dispersed into the Pacific. There has probably been no significant correlation between sea level rise and island population turnover, while the rare catastrophic events play a significant role in determining the ethnic makeup of low lying island inhabitants.

True, the lowlanders are doomed, and not by climate change but by the infrequent catastrophes that are as certain as they are unpredictable. The incessant appeal of advocates of warming doom to the threat of rising seas is only one of many practices that sink all credibility of their dogma in the eyes of critical thinkers.

Another is their nearly total lack of historical perspective. In Hellenistic times a high proportion of Greek thinkers of renown haled from North Africa–many even from Cyrenaica–now in Libya, accurately indicating the respective populations of Europe and North Africa. North Africa was densely populated. Leptis Magna supplied not only the wheat for the Roman dole but one of Rome’s emperors as well, Septimius Severus. Only two Romans were famous for preaching a flat earth: both were North Africans. Climate has been changing constantly and drastically–the Sahara has been advancing even in historic times. The Mediterranean coast between the Nile and Tunis had less than a million inhabitants in 1900–probably a percent or two of its Bronze Age population. Timbuctu was a thriving center of learning 600 years ago, and while its decline began when Portuguese trading ships replaced the camel caravans, global warming finished it off.

I could go on and on, but the point is, the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming farce flourishes only in a climate of general ignorance and scientific incompetence. What does it matter that glaciers are melting if they have been steadily melting since the Little Ice Age? It is apparent from Capt. Cook’s observations that in 1778 there were no polar bears in the Arctic Circle–the ice was 100 feet thick. But you will never find such perspective in any of the popular or scientific publications of either dire or balanced attitude. There is not a competent scholar or scientist on the planet who worries about global warming. It is the most outlandish farce that has ever been perpetrated on the citizens of the world, and it is good news to hear they are growing ever more skeptical. Advocates of climate catastrophe are the most ignorant and blind guides on the planet. –AGF

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