Penguins are Cooling the Air!

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A recent study found “Emperor penguin body surfaces cool below air temperature.” The authors claim that the penguins’ plumage radiates heat which results in their surface temperature cooling below the ambient air temperature.

Obviously, we need more penguins to radiate excessive heat into space.

emperor penguin

Perhaps the increase of the Antarctic’s ice cover in the last few years is the result of the (unexpected) increase in the number of emperor penguins? (You may remember that global warming, pardon me, I mean climate change was supposed to have them nearly wiped out by now). What else can we deduce from this study?

The Study

University of Glasgow scientist DJ McCafferty and five coworkers used thermal imaging photography to study the emperor penguins breeding colony of Pointe Geologie, in Terre Adelie, Antarctica, from 4 June to 29 June 2008. The results were recently reported in the journal Biology Letters. Using a thermal imaging camera they measured the body, head, flippers and feet temperatures of penguins from a distance of about 10 m. In a subsequent radio interview with CBC, McCafferty mentioned that they had taken “hundreds of images,” however their published data are for 40 observations on individual penguins only.

Authors’ Findings

For the 40 recordings published, the mean body (trunk) surface, air and ice temperatures were -21.9, -17.6 and -29.1 °C, respectively. Hence the mean air temperature was warmer than the penguins’ body temperature mean by approximately 4 °C.

What may really surprise you though is that these scientists did not bother to actually measure the air temperature at the colony’s location. They used temperature recordings at the Dumont d’Urville research station (66° 39’ 45’’ S, 140° 00’ 05’E), a distance of approximately 2 km away and a formula to calculate from those records the air temperature at the penguins.

Authors’ Conclusions

The penguins’ most outer surfaces of the body were colder than surrounding sub-zero air owing to radiative cooling. In these conditions, the feather surface will paradoxically gain heat by convection from surrounding air.” The laws of physics, of course, dictate the corollary, namely that the penguins’ surface cools the air.

My Conclusions

Either the world needs more penguins to cool the global warming (hysteria) or scientists who – with the same thermal imaging setup – actually measure the air temperature close to the penguins as well.

Or maybe the world needs fewer scientists spending their time measuring things of little or no merit.