Swiss Daily, German Scientist Slam Reporting U of Exeter Antarctic Findings… “An Abuse Of Science”!

A commentary appearing here at the Swiss Baseler Zeitung (BAZ) slams a recently published British paper on moss growth in Antarctica that gave the impression the south polar continent was greening up due to climate change.

The BAZ writes that the paper is an example of “how today science is manipulated and used for political purposes“.

A team of scientists led by Dr. Matt Amesbury of the University of Exeter issued a press release claiming that Antarctica was “greening due to climate change.”

German language media outlets like Spiegel wasted no time in blaring out the dramatic news, giving unwitting readers the impression that the entire continent was rapidly losing all its ice and becoming vegetated. However, upon closer examination that “greening” of the South Pole is actually some moss growing near the very tip of the Antarctic peninsula, 65° south latitude!

The whole affair is a complete intentional public deception. It’s since become another classic example of scientists and media ruining the reputation of science over the long term for the sake of short-term climate hype and attention grabbing.

The BAZ calls the whole media handling “an abuse of science”.

The Basel, Switzerland-based Swiss daily writes that professor Fritz Vahrenholt decided to examine how the results of the British study morphed into spectacular reports of a “greening” Antarctica in the media. According to Vahrenholt,, and entire series of errors was committed by the scientists.

The first major error the media made was making the three tiny islands located near the tip of the Antarctic peninsula where the study took place look as if they were talking about all of Antarctica.

The BaZ:

Vahrenholt said that would be like making an increase in fires on a British island into the headline: ‘Europe is burning!'”

The second mistake, the German professor points out, is the media claim that the area of study did not suddenly turn green and that there’s been moss and plants on the islands “for hundreds of years” already.

Cooling since 2000

Another deceptive claim made is that the area has been warming, but the study examined the temperatures over periods ranging from 1950 to 2000. “Why not use the temperature data up to the present?” Vahrenholt asks. Looking at the complete temperature chart provided by the BaZ and Vahrenholt, one finds that summers in the the area of study have in fact been COOLING since before 2000!

Average summer temperature value of the three stations used between 1978 and 2016, with 20-year smoothing. Chart: Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt/BaZ.

Vahrenholt tells the BaZ that it’s clear why the study stopped at the year 2000: because that endpoint was purposely selected to produce the greatest rate of warming. And depending on which datasets are examined: “from 1999 to 2014 the Antarctic Peninsula even cooled at half a degree per decade”. Something that the British study simply left out.

Highly exaggerated climate models

The British University of Exeter scientists also identified other factors other than temperature impacting the growth of moss, but these were sloppily handled in the reporting of the results to the public. What was left was the preposterous impression of a greening Antarctic continent.

Vahrenholt also points out that the climate models for the Antarctic Peninsula have been massively over-projecting the warming, and that it in fact growing only at a tiny fraction of what was predicted.

The BaZ commentary concludes:

Amesbury and his team from the University of Exeter indeed did not tell lies, but important scientific data and relationships were left out so that their study would fit the scientific trend and prejudice of journalists.”

25 responses to “Swiss Daily, German Scientist Slam Reporting U of Exeter Antarctic Findings… “An Abuse Of Science”!”

  1. Swiss Daily, German Scientist Slam Reporting of Antarctic Moss Findings… 'An Abuse Of Science' | Principia Scientific International

    […] Read more at No Tricks Zone […]

  2. Reasonable Skeptic

    This is what happens all the time. One photo on an emaciated Polar bear and the species is on the brink.

    How can people be so stupid.

    1. Newminster

      The answer to that question is that we are all stupid about something. Most of us are stupid about lots of things and the more “things” there are to know about the more “stupid”we get!

      So we rely on people who (allegedly) know what they are talking about to tell us the truth because in we take care not deliberately to mislead those we know are “stupid” about our area of expertise.

      Unfortunately when what is driving you is your next grant application, or your ego, or “saving the planet” and when “spin” is more important than facts you get this situation.

  3. Green Sand

    A simple explanation:-

    University of Exeter = UK Met Office

    1. AndyG55

      U.Ex. actually BOAST to having more “people” in the IPCC than any other university. !

      The amount of TROUGH SWILLING is enormous !!

      U.Ex would probably go bankrupt if it weren’t for climate troughing grants.

  4. AndyG55

    “also identified other factors other than temperature impacting the growth of moss”

    You know, like CO2 !!!

    1. yonason (from my cell phone)

      LOL – Yes. Their Rube Goldberg ‘increased temps caused by CO2 make plants grow bigger’ completely ignores the fact that CO2 is sufficient to do the job on its own. I think you’re the first I have seen to draw attention to that inconvenient fact.

  5. John F. Hultquist

    From 2014:
    Moss frozen on an Antarctic island for more than 1,500 years was brought back to life in a British laboratory, researchers report.

    How did moss grow 1,500 years ago, well before the industrial revolution?
    If Earth did not die then, why should it die now?

    Can we cound frozen moss as a carbon sink?

  6. Mike Spilligan

    …and all supported by mainstream media which enthusiastically goes along with any narrative which may produce dramatic headlines, all without any checking of the geography or chronology.

  7. Kurt in Switzerland

    Keep up the good work, Pierre.

    Frankly, just highlighting such biased press releases in support of the Climate Scare meme ought to eventually cause enough head-scratching to bring the movement to bankruptcy, if not completely lose credibility with the general public. Unfortunately, the Mainstream Media are still lapping up the Warmist scare stories.

    Individuals like Vahrenholt are doing a public service. But the bias out of Exeter is nothing new or unique, it is in fact rampant.

    Kurt in Switzerland

    P.S. Basler Zeitung, not Baseler Zeitung.

  8. Bitter&twisted

    I’ve been at Rothera base with British Antarctic Survey in the 1990s.
    This is on the peninsula, but mainland.
    There was moss, lichens and even 2 species of flowering plant.
    Sounds like the “experts” at Exeter need some lessons in Antarctic ecology.
    Glad to help!

    1. Ian W

      I think that they are well aware of Antarctic ecology, but their actual expertise is in propaganda and media studies: expertise that is more valued in climate ‘science’ than knowledge of meteorology.

    2. yonason

      Sounds fascinating. If you have any good links on that or related material on the Antarctic that might be otherwise hard to find, please share. Thanks in advance.

  9. Les Francis

    Area of Antarctica = 14 million Square Kilometers


    almost twice the size of the USA Lower 48
    almost twice the size of the continent of Australia
    almost three times the size of the European Union
    Almost 40% larger than the Sahara desert


    A few barrels of oil leftover from some expeditions is going to contaminate the whole of Antarctica.
    A large city sized iceberg calving off is the end of a continent.
    A few sightings of Lichen is going to green an entire continent.
    An 100 year old expeditionary hut must be removed so it doesn’t spoil the pristine environment of a whole continent.
    A few weather stations across a massive continent indicates the ambient temperature.

    Let’s get some perspective here.

  10. Les Francis

    There’s an area in the Antarctic which is completely devoid of snow and ice. There are dead animals there perfectly preserved – thousands of years old. An aircraft crashed there 50 years ago. The wreckage looks like it happened yesterday.

    1. Bitter&twisted

      Yes they are called the Dry Valleys.
      So cold and dry that snow sublimes directly to gas before it reaches the ground and glaciers coming down from the mountains do the same. There has been no liquid water for at least 2 million years.
      It has been described as the “closest place to Mars on Earth”

  11. Martin Smith

    Can’t speak for the German press, but the reports I’ve seen seem reasonable if you read beyond the headlines. As for the three ‘mistakes’, they report 1, that the area studied is 0.6% of the total; 2, the cores show an increase in production rather than the sudden appearance of moss; 3, the complete temperature data for 1950 – time of study is given. It is the author who has cherry picked the data.

    Please see original article at

    1. Albert Stienstra

      The report you link to is entitled “Widespread Biological Response to Rapid Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula”. That’s enough to vindicate the Swiss author from the BAZ.

  12. Martin Smith

    Please read beyond the title.

  13. Martin Smith

    To clarify, the author was criticising media reports of the original paper for making out that the whole of Antarctica was greening. As for the paper itself, as the study was of the peninsula I guess that’s the area they are alluding to in the title. It’s hardly hysterical…

    1. Kenneth Richard

      Actually, the Antarctic Peninsula has been cooling since 1999.

      Oliva et al., 2017
      However, a recent analysis (Turner et al., 2016) has shown that the regionally stacked temperature record for the last three decades has shifted from a warming trend of 0.32 °C/decade during 1979–1997 to a cooling trend of − 0.47 °C/decade during 1999–2014. … This recent cooling has already impacted the cryosphere in the northern AP [Antarctic Peninsula], including slow-down of glacier recession, a shift to surface mass gains of the peripheral glacier and a thinning of the active layer of permafrost in northern AP islands.

  14. Martin Smith

    On the whole temperatures are rising, records are being broken. But that is not really the subject of the paper.

    1. yonason
  15. Fredar

    Wait, greening is a totally bad thing now? I guess if humans cause greening it’s bad. If nature causes greening it’s good. If humans cause disasters it’s unnatural. If nature causes disasters it’s natural. There is a small problem though, which is that nature created humans too. What a mess.

  16. Joz Jonlin

    Perhaps I missed something in the academic paper. Reading it, it appears to be covering temperatures up to 2012. Also, the paper does state that very recent growth rates of moss and microbial populations may have been slower, possibly from a lack of moisture or a reversal in the direction of temperature change in some parts of the year. So, the paper doesn’t completely ignore decreasing temperatures, although you could say it’s been highly glossed over by the phrase, “reversal in the direction of temperature change in some parts of the year.”

    As a larger criticism, this paper is misrepresenting these islands as Antarctica proper. The popular media had a field day with this as a confirmation of anthropogenic global warming as they spoke and wrote about Antarctica greening. They never once mention the study had nothing to do with the actual continent, but islands around the continent. Additionally, popular media never revealed that moss growth has been a long term phenomenon at the sample locations. A lie by omission is still a lie.

    The study really is interesting in and of itself, but it adds nothing substantive to the climate change debate while only providing confirmation bias to those who believe we’re destroying the Earth with Co2 emissions.

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