Making Hay of sea level rise estimates

People send me stuff. You may recall this story from last week that raised a number of eyebrows due to the claims made within it by author William Hay. Dave Burton decided to take him to task. So far no response.

From: David Burton
To: William W. Hay
Cc: Ted Carmichael; Anthony Watts
Sent: Sun, November 4, 2012 6:25:15 AM
Subject: Re: Could Estimates of the Rate of Future Sea-Level Rise Be Too Low?

Hello, Dr. Hay,

I hope you’re enjoying the “Old North State!” Did you receive my previous email (below, w/ one typographical correction)?

Warmest regards,
Dave Burton

On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 5:55 AM, David Burton  wrote:

Dear Dr. Hay,The abstract of your Sunday, 11/4/2012 presentation, “Could Estimates of the Rate of Future Sea-Level Rise Be Too Low?” has attracted considerable attention at WUWT:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/11/01/why-seas-are-rising-ahead-of-predictions

Perhaps you’d like to weigh in there.

The 2nd sentence of your abstract is the most startling for its inconsistency with the measurements with which I’m familiar:

“Current sea-level rise measurements track or exceed the maximum rate of rise proposed by the IPCC and suggest a rise of 1 meter or more by the end of the century.”

One meter of sea-level rise over the next 87.2 years would be an average rate of of 11.5 mm/year. But actual sea-level measurements show that it is rising at a tiny fraction of that rate, and measurements at most locations show no sign of acceleration in the last 80+ years.

This is one of the longest and most complete records of sea-level in the world, and it fortuitously happens to be at a location where there is little or no PGR:


The lack of acceleration in rate of sea-level rise is obvious.  So why do you say that these current measurements suggest an average rate of eight times that for the next 87 years??

A few other things in your abstract also puzzled me:

“…changes in the volume of the ocean basins… can be neglected for projections of sea-level change over the next few centuries.”

The main contributor to changes in the volume of the ocean basins is thought to be GIA: the presumed sinking of the ocean floor due to the addition of meltwater from ice sheets circa 10K years ago.  But GIA accounts for over 1/3 of the often-claimed 1.8 mm/year average rate of coastal sea-level rise (from tide gauges) over the last 100 years. That hardly seems negligible. Also, a 0.3 mm/yr GIA “fudge factor” to account for presumed post-glacial sinking of the ocean floor is usually added to satellite-measured rates of sea-level rise when they are reported.  If “sea level” means the level of the surface of the sea, then adding that adjustment to measured numbers yields a quantity which can no longer be truthfully called “sea level,” but the addition inflates reported satellite-measured sea-level rise by more than 10%, so I don’t think that’s negligible.

Perhaps you meant, “changes in the volume of the ocean basins due to factors other than GIA?”

“…the location of atmospheric high and low pressure systems… [can not] be neglected for projections of sea-level change over the next few centuries.”

Is that a typographical error?  Weather systems do move water around, but only over relatively short time time spans.  For century-scale time-spans, that factor can be neglected.

“The Greenland ice sheet is melting, and the Antarctic beginning to melt, both at increasing rates.”

This seems to be based on outdated information. The latest ICEsat measurements indicate that Antarctica is gaining ice mass.

“The rise of ocean temperature has a major effect roughly equal to the input of glacial meltwaters”

Do you realize that sea-surface temperature changes do not affect coastal sea-level at all? (That’s one of the ways in which coastal tide gauge measurements differ from satellite altimeter measurements, and one of the reasons that it is always a mistake to conflate the two.) Gravity balances mass, not volume, so when ocean surface waters warm or cool, the resulting density changes have only local effects, rising or sinking in place, like icebergs.  Only if there are density changes in the ocean depths can it affect coastal sea-levels, and no such changes are thus far in evidence.

Warmest regards,

Dave Burton

webmaster

www.sealevel.info

About these ads
This entry was posted in Alarmism, Sea level and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Making Hay of sea level rise estimates

  1. Sparks says:

    BREAKING NEWS

    Has anyone seen this video yet. It’s awesome just like me.

  2. Kev-in-Uk says:

    At least Dave Burton is on the case, and rightly asking the correct questions. I can’t remember which thread(s), but myself and others have pointed out the many different ways SLR can be affected. Currently, AFAIK, there is no method of being able to ascertain the various numerous other effects on SLR in isolation – and hence they are all largely estimates and thus ‘fudge factors’ when applied in any corrections! In short the SLR data, is no better than the Global temperature data – i.e. its a ‘man-made’ calculation of a metric that has been largely guessed and fudged/averaged/twisted and tortured to ‘give’ up some results. The funny thing is, that having a SLR rate change, based on an ill-defined and largely immeasurable metric – is a flight of fancy, all based on the simple fact that ALL the ‘other’ effects (other than AGW) are largely static/fixed or estimated! Of course, using any of this to produce alarmist cr*p, is acceptable – but only to the alarmists. It’s rather sad, really.

  3. sophocles says:

    There’s the paper by Wenzel & Schroter “Reconstruction of regional mean sea level anomalies from tide gauges using neural networks”, Journal of Geophysical Research, VOL. 115, C08013, 15 PP., 2010, which states:
    “The global mean sea level for the period January 1900 to December 2006 is estimated to rise at
    a rate of 1.56 ± 0.25 mm/yr which is reasonably consistent with earlier estimates, but we do not find significant acceleration …”

    And a paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews (Oct 2012) “Post-glacial sea-level changes around the Australian margin: a review” by Lewisa et al. shows sea levels around Australia were about 1 to 2.5 meters *higher* than the present 7000 years ago during the Holocene Thermal Maximum.

    Translation: since the Holocene Optimum, sea levels have fallen and the current rate of rise is approx 1.6 mm per year which is about 160mm per century. Perhaps Dr. Hay would like to answer these, too.

  4. pat says:

    sydney morning herald’s Carbon Economy Editor gets an exclusive interview with a well-known former UN CAGW man, now with KPMG, and together they want to SCARE and SHOCK you as many times as they can possibly cram into a single article:

    7 Nov: SMH: Peter Hannam, Carbon Economy Editor:: Former UN official says climate report will shock nations into action
    THE next United Nations climate report will ”scare the wits out of everyone” and should provide the impetus needed for the world to finally sign an agreement to tackle global warming, the former head of the UN negotiations said.
    Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief during the 2009 Copenhagen climate change talks, said his conversations with scientists working on the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested the findings would be shocking.
    “That report is going to scare the wits out of everyone,” Mr de Boer said in the only scheduled interview of his visit to Australia. “I’m confident those scientific findings will create new political momentum.”…
    Mr de Boer, who is now special global advisor on climate change for KPMG, said the best prospect may be for nations to settle on targets that they write into their national laws, rather than a binding international deal…
    He said superstorm Sandy may spur more Americans, and people elsewhere, to consider the risks of climate change, but warned: “It’s a bit like being shocked into stopping smoking when you’ve been told you’ve got terminal cancer.”
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/former-un-official-says-climate-report-will-shock-nations-into-action-20121106-28w5c.html

    Wikipedia: Yvo de Boer
    In 2011, he was appointed to chair the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change.
    Alongside his work for KPMG, de Boer is currently Professional Fellow at the University of Maastricht and is a certified mediator. He is a Member of the Board of the Centre for Clean Air Policy, a Council Member of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (and co-chair of the taskforce on Climate and Energy), a member of the Green Growth Leaders, a member of the Capital Markets Climate Initiative steering group (established by UK Climate Minister Greg Barker), a Board Member of the Carbon Markets International Association, a member of the International Advisory Group of the Rotterdam Climate Initiative, as well as a Board member of the Carbon Markets International Association. Mr. de Boer received a knighthood from her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands in 2009 and the Dutch Climate Award in 2010…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yvo_de_Boer

  5. P. Solar says:

    An excellent and well informed message. It will be interesting to see what Will Hay will say.

    “Warmest regards,” Clever , IF he replies I guess he signs off “Warmist regards. ;)

  6. P. Solar says:

    Here is a graph from a recent paper by Jevrejava based on tide gauges (red dots are mine)
    http://i40.tinypic.com/nx3q1.png

    As always, if we are interested in rate of change it’s much more informative to look at rate of change than the time series.

    Joining all the peaks, troughs and mid-points show very clearly what is happening. The steady, gentle acceleration of the last 300y ended before the turn of the century and is now decelerating. (ie rate of change is lessening)

    They’re data does not go beyond 2000 so it would be good to see an up date of this method the the current rate will be a bit under the 2 mm/year mark which is close to the other studies noted by sophocles above.

  7. Dave’s last point is spot on. Satellite charts show that the estimated 3mm or so global rise is occurring, by and large, where the tide gauges aren’t – in other words away from continental coastlines. Only gauges in the western Pacific and W and NW Australia show any large rises and recent accelerations, where SSTs have increased markedly. Where SSTs have cooled, for example the western seaboard of the US, levels have dropped over recent decades. Satellite charts confirm that that the much-reported Sallenger et. al. “north-east hotspot” is a myth. If you torture the data enough, it will always confess and produce a hockey-stick.

    If gauge data is used to show pre-satellite rates of rise, then that should also be used to show recent rates. If there are rate changes globally, they will show it, and in the main, they don’t. Comparing current satellite data with previous gauge data is comparing apples and oranges.

  8. Henry Galt says:

    Good luck with that.

    I would bet good money his response will be along the lines…

    “My impermeable shield of carbon dioxide will deflect your floppy arrows of mere data.”

    .
    (Great rebuttal BTW)

  9. P. Solar says:

    MostlyHarmless says: “Satellite charts show that the estimated 3mm or so global rise is occurring, by and large, where the tide gauges aren’t”

    Well this is just what was predicted by global warming models: the water will pile up in the middle of the oceans where we can not measure it accurately. Then, at the end of the 21st century it will reach a tipping point and spread out across the globe causing massive flooding (especially on the U.S. east coast).

    MILLIONS WILL DIE ! We must do something now!

  10. Alan the Brit says:

    Oh dear, Mr de Boer does seem to have his grubby little mits in all sorts of pies, does he not? Curious how each UNIPCC report has to be scarier than the previous one, it’s worse than we thought sort of thing. Either scientists are getting better grips on Climate Change, or they were useless at it previously, which suggests the reports were not much good before, but still where are the benefits of Global Warming, it can’t all be bad that is impossible!

  11. GIA does not affect oceanic crust much but continental crust, which supported the glaciers during the last ice age, is. This crust will be subject to a rise with ice melt due to the IA and will affect the, much larger, oceanic crust surrounding that continental crust. This process takes thousands of years to complete. Oceanic crust is cooling, from 1200C, away from spreading centers which is why seas get deeper as distance from the center increases.
    Sea level will rise due to thermal expansion, ice sheet melt and river sedimentation. All river sediment ends up eventually on the sea floor displacing water. We must recognize the difference between water and land movement as they can be confused and blame only on rising sea levels brought firing alarmist concerns.

  12. AllanM says:

    I thought that Will Hay FRAS was an English comedian and amateur astronomer (also an engineer before turning to the stage).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Hay

    But then this was William T Hay. Sounds like a much better scientist than William W., though.

  13. Peter Miller says:

    I think this guy Hay needs a little sympathy as he is clearly rambling, he is curator of a museum and obviously a little past his sell-by date.

    The University of Chicago says his last research paper was published 5 years ago.

    He has also been involved in some kind of controversy over divine intervention in the oceans, as supposedly recorded in the Koran.

  14. Sea level will rise due to thermal expansion, ice sheet melt and river sedimentation. All river sediment ends up eventually on the sea floor displacing water.

    Say, does the U. of Colo. deduct this sedimentation increase from its GIA? If not, why not?

  15. philincalifornia says:

    Roger Knights says:
    November 7, 2012 at 5:05 am
    Sea level will rise due to thermal expansion, ice sheet melt and river sedimentation. All river sediment ends up eventually on the sea floor displacing water.

    Say, does the U. of Colo. deduct this sedimentation increase from its GIA? If not, why not?
    —————————–

    …… and to be further consistent in their buffoonery, shouldn’t they also subtract glacial meltwater effects ??

  16. mpainter says:

    This website does science a real service by focusing the spotlight on persons like Wm. Hay of the U. of Colo., who deliberately fabricates and then instructs his charges that his fabrications are the truth. Seldom is seen in science such fabrication as that seen in the sea level monitoring at the U. of Colo. The science community traditionally had no means to catalogue such egregiousness as represented by Hay. Here, at this website, is provided the means to expose such scientists and to publicly identify and censure them, and this needs to be done. It is unfortunate that such a necessity be put upon us, but we have no other means to defend against those in public institutions who fancy themselves as loyal guerillas of the Cause and whose chief tactic is to bend truth and fabricate.

  17. Birdieshooter says:

    Roger Knights says:
    November 7, 2012 at 5:05 am…….Say, does the U. of Colo. deduct this sedimentation increase from its GIA? If not, why not?

    I dont know the answer to that question but it seems I remember seeing an adjustment to their rate of sea level rise based on expansion of the ocean basin. And I would add that some studies have looked at the amount of groundwater depletion running into the oceans.

  18. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    “All river sediment ends up eventually on the sea floor displacing water.”

    Is it being suggested that the sediment in suspension is not affecting the sea level until it settles to the sea floor? Good grief!

    I really appreciated the clarification about the satellite altimetry and the tides. We see from time to time the surface of the planet shown with depressions here and there and local gravity variations. Are these related and are they related to sea water temperature? Water is quite expansive. For example, in the El Nino detection zone off S America, does the sea level go measurably up and down when the waters are warm or cool? I understand the depth and therefore the volume involved is quite large. It puts an interesting dash of spice into the matter.

  19. Steve Keohane says:

    Crispin in Waterloo says:November 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

    “All river sediment ends up eventually on the sea floor displacing water.”

    I also have a problem with that statement. If the water in the oceans depresses the seafloor, what does sediment do which weighs more than water? This all sounds like the discernment of angels on the head of a pin, that is, nothing of significance.

  20. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    Forgive me for beating this drum again, but using GPS systems and CORS stations we can already measure plate motions with a high degree of accuracy in both the horizontal and vertical direction. While a single GPS “observation” (measurement) may only be accurate within a meter or so, the precision and accuracy increases with the length of time of the “observation. Fixed-in-place CORS stations “observe” the satellites (receive their signals) 24/7/365 at a rate of between 1 to 30 seconds. This makes their known locations extremely precise and accurate. If/when any given station moves the slightest bit, the amount of motion can be measured. Here is an interactive map showing the rates of crustal movement at different CORS stations around the world:

    http://sideshow.jpl.nasa.gov/post/series.html

    Once the rate of vertical movement of a coastal station has been determined, it can be used to correct data from nearby tide gauges to give a nearly absolute rate of sea level rise for that area. This has already been done (to a limited degree) by Woppelmann, et al. 2009:

    http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2010/02/09/gps-aids-in-sea-level-rise-debate/

    The current rate of sea level rise was measured to be 1.6 to 1.8 mm/yr. This is reproducible, empirical data. More CORS stations and more GPS satellites are scheduled to come into service in the near future. Here is a summary of current and near future satellite positioning systems:

    US – GPS: 24 satellites
    Russia – GLONASS: 24 satellites
    Europe – GALILEO: 27 satellites
    China – COMPASS: 35 satellites
    India – Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System: 7 satellites

    It won’t take long for a worldwide network of CORS stations taking measurements every few seconds (from 100+ satellites) to nail down the absolute rate(s) of sea level rise. I fear Dr. Hay’s attempt to jump on the Global Warming bandwagon will be a career ending blunder. Unlike other climastrologists, his prediction will easily be proven wrong in just a few short years, well within his lifetime.

  21. Kev-in-Uk says:

    re: the sediment in water issue. From a physical geology perspective – the mere fact that sediment is comprised of ‘material’ and thus has a physical mass and volume – automatically means that it must displace water from the water body it enters. Now, obviously, the rate of erosion of the land, and the rate of sediment entering into the sea is largely unknowable (in real terms, though I’ve no doubt someone will have ‘estimated’ it somewhere!) but I’d guess it is rather tiny compared to the actual water volume of the seas. Nevertheless, it is yet another factor that needs to be considered as part of the SLR problem. Along with all the other possible SLR ‘input’ effects, anyone trying to pin down AGW as a major source of SLR (and thus to justify AGW) – is simply mad IMHO.

  22. I read Hay’s abstract when it first came out. My reaction then and now is the same. Mostly BS that should be ignored.

  23. Billy Liar says:

    Crispin in Waterloo says:
    November 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

    does the sea level go measurably up and down when the waters are warm or cool?

    http://mclean.ch/climate/Sea_Level_Tuvalu.htm

    Spot the El Niños!

  24. daveburton says:

    Billy, it’s not water temperature that’s affecting sea level at Tuvalu, it’s air pressure. High air surface air pressure in the western Pacific (e.g., Tuvalu) is a characteristic of El Niño conditions. Note that sea level falls, rather than rises, at Tuvalu during El Niño (warm water) conditions.

  25. Billy Liar says:

    daveburton says:
    November 7, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    OK, it’s indirect – high air pressure – stable atmosphere – no clouds – warm sea – 1mb>1013mb =1cm sea level depression.

    Like your website BTW.

  26. Steve Keohane says:
    November 7, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Crispin in Waterloo says:November 7, 2012 at 7:16 am

    “All river sediment ends up eventually on the sea floor displacing water.”

    I also have a problem with that statement. If the water in the oceans depresses the seafloor, what does sediment do which weighs more than water?

    It’s not the weight of the extra water. here’s what the U. og Colo. says:

    GIA is not caused by current glacier melt, but by the rebound of the Earth from the several kilometer thick ice sheets that covered much of North America and Europe around 20,000 years ago. Mantle material is still moving from under the oceans into previously glaciated regions on land. The effect is that currently some land surfaces are rising and some ocean bottoms are falling relative to the center of the Earth

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    I think it also important to note that the ocean floor is very thin compared to the width of it and that it is under tremendous pressures from expansion mid ocean and subduction / compression at the edges. This means it tends to buckle.

    During the quake in Indonesia ( 9 ish) that cause a massive tsunami, that part of the crust moved up about 9 feet (IIRC). Similarly, the tsunami that hit Japan was from a big jump in crustal height during that quake.

    On longer time scales, whole masses of land are shoved up, or fall back below the surface. Pretty much all of New Zealand, for example. Look in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and you find sharks teeth and sea shells. Or how about the Grand Canyon?

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/where-did-the-grand-canyon-go/

    It went into a large trench about 9 MILES deep in the ocean, filling it.

    There are very huge changes in the contour of the ocean bottoms happening all the time. Some very slow, some very fast. It is an error to assume that they all just average out somehow.

    In Florida on the Keys I was on the ‘beach’ of a park. Then it hit me. The coral that made the key was a couple of FEET above the water line. In the not too distant past, it MUST have been below water level. Coral does not form above water.

    Similarly, we have a Roman Port that is now a long ways from the Sea:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/ostia-antica-and-sea-level/

    and similar places from the U.K. to Turkey (where an ancient port was recently found under a city…)

    The simple fact is that the surface of the earth is dynamic and unless you have complete shape and depth data on the entire ocean bottom AND accurate data for all the land, it isn’t possible to say why the ocean rises or falls. A 10 mile thick sheet that’s 2000 miles long can easily flex in the middle when being squashed from the ends. And it does.

  28. daveburton says:

    Peter Miller wrote, “this guy Hay… has also been involved in some kind of controversy over divine intervention in the oceans, as supposedly recorded in the Koran,” and piquied my curiosity.

    I wondered what Peter was talking about. (I wish WUWT supported some sort of “private reply” or email feature!) So I googled for it.

    It turns out that in 1983 & 1984, the GSA (them again!) hooked up Dr. Hay with some Saudis and Pakistanis, who interviewed him under false pretenses, recorded him on video camera, and tricked him into saying things which, when edited to remove the context, appeared to be a non-Muslim scientist confirming that scientific wisdom in the Koran must have been divinely inspired. Here’s a 2011 video of Dr. Hay (by now pushing 80yo) being interviewed about the episode:

  29. daveburton says:

    sophocles wrote, “There’s the paper by Wenzel & Schroter “Reconstruction of regional mean sea level anomalies from tide gauges using neural networks”, Journal of Geophysical Research, VOL. 115, C08013, 15 PP., 2010, which states:
    “The global mean sea level for the period January 1900 to December 2006 is estimated to rise at a rate of 1.56 ± 0.25 mm/yr which is reasonably consistent with earlier estimates, but we do not find significant acceleration …”

    I have links to that (44 page!) paper and many others on my sealevel.info web site. Click on “papers.” That paper is in the “Sea-level rise acceleration?” section.

Comments are closed.