Archibald on sea level rise and solar cycles

Guest post by David Archibald

Anthony’s post of the Jason data reminded me that I had produced this graph:


It is derived from a post on Climate Audit of Holgate’s rate of change of sea level rise over the 20th century.

The saw tooth pattern reminded someone of the solar cycles and he overlaid it.  I had the graph redrawn.  The correlation is striking.  The reason the Earth came out of the Little Ice Age is because we had a more active Sun, more active than at any time for the previous 8,000 years.  Holgate determined that 70% of the sea level rise of the 20th century was due to thermal expansion of the oceans and the rest due to melting glaciers.  Now that the Sun has become less active, that will work in reverse.

Craig Loehle’s recent paper derived that the oceans post 2003 lost one third of the heat they had gained from 1990 to 2003.  Although the maximum amplitude of Solar Cycle 23 was in 2000, maximum activity was in 2003.  While we are mentioning solar activity, the Oulu neutron count is still climbing.


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Graeme Rodaughan

The obvious interpretation is that the rate of sea level rise is driving the strength of the Solar Cycle.
And as we all know that man made emissions of CO2 are driving an acceleration of rises in sea level, it follows (of necessity)…
That therefore as man made emissions of CO2 increase, the sea level rise will accelerate, and the Solar cycle will strengthen over this century.
Such logic is irrefutable – I know this because I thought it.
I’m astounded that people have not realised before now that man made emissions of CO2 directly impact on the Sun.
This obviously implies that as we institute CAP & TRADE, we will be able to limit man made emissions of CO2, Shrink the Oceans and Cool the Sun.
Who would have guessed at our Power, and our Responsibility – We are not only custodians of the Earth, – but also the Sun.

Ozzie John

This article is in good timing with the release of the March NOAA Solar Cycle Values.
10.7 CM radio flux now shows a downward trend along with SSN close to 0. The AP values showed a very small rise, but are still near historical lows.
It certainly does look more like a grand minimum as every blank day passes !

Graeme Rodaughan

Quiet Sun -> Slowing Sea level Rise
The Quiet Sun is of greater concern than man made emissions of CO2
Says it all.

That’s a fascinating correlation. Why hasn’t anyone ever noticed this obvious thing? To answer for myself, this is the first time I am seeing the annual sea level rise data.

Needless to say, the graph bears no relationship with the Jason graph…
Apart from the confusing terminology: ‘rate of change’. Just say ‘change’.
And solar activity did not peak in 2003. Geomagnetic activity did, and was also high in 1974 [big coronal holes = high solar wind speed].

anna v

I am dubious about this. mm changes before satellites seem a claim not defensible. In 1950 there is a complete miss.
After 1967 there are three cycles, and these interchange leading between sea level and sun. That is a problem for causation. One would need a lot more cycles to call it not fortuitous.
It is possible that there is about an 11 year ocean sub cycle that depends on the morphology of ocean and lands and by coincidence is similar to the sun cycle.


There seems to be some correlation here here between the rate of sea level change and solar activity, but there is a gap in information regarding the solar portion of the graphed information. What is the scale and what is being measured?
The concept that higher solar activity corresponds to higher ocean temperatures that corresponds to volumetric increases sounds plausible, but where’s the corresponding information regarding the temperature etc.?


Rate of change (sea level) in mm/yr versus solar cycle frequency/length humm… So the sea level is constantly rising and this is in sync with solar cycles. Without confounding earth factors PDO/ENSO, volcanoes ect., the correlation could be closer to 1. So we could deduce that SST rises and falls with solar activity (water expands/contracts) . The AGW’s will of course say sea level is constantly rising due to AGW and that this graph therefore is not relevant. The thing is that I have noticed sea levels rising anywhere since I was a child 1950’s (that is at the beach, at cities, resorts ect..) Has anyone here?


RE: previous: have NOT noticed…

John Silver

Seems like when the curves correlate there is global heating (1960 – 2000) and when they don’t correlate there is cooling ( 1940s, 2000+?)
Just an eyeball theory.

Fluffy Clouds (Tim L)

Just a thought but, with higher sun activity it would seem as we have fewer clouds and get less rain.
Now there is less rain we have fewer ponds, and lower lake levels.
stay with me for the punch line……
less lake and pond water means less CO2 adsorption in these waters.
no ponds no CO2 eating algae. could explain the lagging co2 verses heat.
David Archibald? Anthony? Steve?
the lake levels here have not been this low from the 40s and some of the ponds are dry.

spangled drongo
This is a mid-tide mark carved in a cliff face in Tasmania in 1841.
I have heard that recent testing places it as much as 8 inches above MT.
Does any know anything about it?

Fluffy Clouds (Tim L)

oh ya and would raise sea levels slightly


LS said:
“Apart from the confusing terminology: ‘rate of change’. Just say ‘change’.”
But these two are very different. “Change” implies deviation from normal.
Even though the rate of change seems to be periodic and matched to solar cycles, the actual level (or change) can be generally increasing or decreasing (if the rate is on average more positive or negative).
The correlation would be lost if you just look at the level, not the rate of change for sea level.
Calculus 1. Functions and their derivatives…

spangled drongo

“The thing is that I have [not] noticed sea levels rising anywhere since I was a child 1950’s (that is at the beach, at cities, resorts ect..) Has anyone here?”
vg, same here. I built a jetty in 1963 and the king tides still come up to the same bolt-heads.
It’s a bit like that Roman landing site at the mouth of the River Stour in Kent around 40 AD. It’s now 2 miles inland.
The sea may not have gone down but it sure hasn’t risen much either!

Ozzie John (21:47:34) :
10.7 CM radio flux now shows a downward trend along with SSN close to 0. The AP values showed a very small rise, but are still near historical lows.
Sigh. The NOAA F10.7 flux is as observed at the Earth and is not what the Sun puts out. The rise/drop the last 12 months simply shows the variation of the distance to the Sun. The F10.7 radio flux has been rising since Nov-Dec of last year: [the pink curve].


From the data I have seen, and what has actually happened over the past 3 years, I would give D. Archibald 7/7 and the rest (won’t mention names), 1/7. I admire his ability to make cold dry statements which have turned out to be 100% correct (to date). I wonder if his prediction for a -.4C earth temp Satellite anomaly for 2009 will turn out to be correct LOL


Some hard core evidence for D Archibalds statements made quite some time ago and now corroborated to this date (check it yourselves)
1. Solar cycle length
2. Cosmic ray increase (quite striking indeed)
Hathaways predictions were completely off the scale

Can anyone suggest why rate of sea-level rise and the solar cycle are related? Me neither.

Claude Harvey

Surely no one believes thermal expansion of the oceans would so quickly respond to changes in solar activity. That’s a pretty big heat sink out there. I’d be more inclined to believe solar activity might have an effect on the instruments used to MEASURE sea level.

John F. Hultquist

How quickly can the world-ocean respond to heating/cooling of the magnitude generated by a more/less active Sun?
The first SC min. (1915?) is out of phase with the SLC =sea level change.
1935 has SC down, SLC rising.
1970 SLC peaks before SC
1980 SC and SLC peak simultaneously
late 80s SLC follows SC down, OK
1990 has a noticeable time lag of SLC peaking after SC peak
Conclusion: This idea needs more work.

Bill D

Tim L.
Lakes and ponds are burying a very small amount of their total productivity with most algae either being consumed by animals or degraded by bacteria. Unlike oceans, which are an important sink for CO2, most lakes are strongly affected by dissolved organic carbon (DOC) that enters from the watershed. In the last 10-20 years, scientists have been surprised to learn how many lakes are “net heterotrophic” meaning that total respiration exceedes total photosynthesis. Extreme cases are brown stained lakes in lakes with acid soils, where humic matter from the surrounding forest may dominate total energy flow. In any case, many lakes are super saturated with CO2 and are releasing it to the atmosphere. This is especially at northern latitudes. Check Google Scholar under “balance of respiration and photosynthesis in lakes.” Also try “lakes and net heterotrophy.” Quite a few articles should be available as PDFs without subscription. If you only want articles that are free, include PDF in your search.

Kum Dollison

I agree with Anna. Half the time the Ocean level change is Leading the Solar Cycle change. Maybe, something else from the Sun?

Paul R

vg (21:54:39) :
The thing is that I have not noticed sea levels rising anywhere since I was a child 1950’s (that is at the beach, at cities, resorts ect..) Has anyone here?
Well they are measuring in Millimeters so I think you would have to measure this on the shore of a nation that still uses Imperial measurment to see any increase. 😐


I suspect there is less here than meets the eye.
As Anna V and others have noted there are problems. The agreement didn’t work from roughly 1940-1955. Or before 1920.
And who can have faith in sea level measurements of this precision over a hundred years? Even if the data is accurate the sea level cycle seems longer than the solar cycles.
Moreover, nothing is shown after 2000. Yet that is the period where we have the very best measurements.
Even so, as I recall the sea level rise has now been small for three years and sunspots have also been low as Cycle 24 refuses to leave the starting gate. So maybe the graph would work after 2000 too.

David Archibald

The original graph from CA is here:
and the CA post is here:
Yes Lubos, it is an obvious thing and something that you would expect to see. It would be a quick and easy paper for anyone interested.
The less perfect correlation on Solar Cycle 22 was due to the eruption of Mt Pinataubo in 1991, which even affected the power output from solar panels in the Mojave Desert.


OT… but Skeptics should ONLY stick to ONE argument and that is that Human produced CO2 causes warming. Everything else (ie land use ect) is debatable. Refer to Joanne’s Skeptic Handbook.


RE previous that site is actually debunking her but it has a link to her booklet. It interesting to see their arguments in any case LOL

David Archibald

Leif Svalgaard (21:52:10) :
Ah, Dr Svalgaard. For the last six months Oulu neutron monitor has been rising at 12 counts/minute/month on average. It remains on target for my prediction of 6,900 in July 2010.


“Fluffy Clouds”
I would expect overall the climate to become dryer as the oceans cool. Reduced evaporation will mean less moisture in the atmosphere. We still don’t have a grip on what the climate looked like over most of North America during the LIA because it was so sparsely populated by people who could record anything.
Also, climates can change locally. A cooling ocean would mean changes in jet stream and persistent pressure gradients that can change weather patterns over an area. What might have been a dry area in warmer times may become wetter as the storms now track through that area. Or areas that were wet may become dry. But I would expect to see overall global precipitation to increase with warmer temperatures and decrease with cooler temperatures.
Watch for a return of droughts in Africa and expect Ethiopia to be back in the news soon.


first “there’s an obvious correlation” is not really a good scientific measure of the correlation coefficient – it should be done (if it hasn’t been yet). I can already see many regions with opposing trends.
second, the solar cycle seems to be in phase with the changes in the RATE of increase, but why in the world is this rate always positive, i.e. why is there an underlying positive trend?

Les Francis

Pardon for a simple question.

D. Archibald
The reason the Earth came out of the Little Ice Age is because we had a more active Sun, more active than at any time for the previous 8,000 years.

How can we be sure that the sun is more active now than in the last 8000 years? We have been hearing about the medieval warm period and the Roman empire era warm period. How does your statement fit in with this?
I keep on noticing that Dr. Svalgaard seems to have a position that solar activity has historically been more or less than same.


less lake and pond water means less CO2 adsorption in these waters.
A reduction of a few mm or cm wouldn’t a noticeable difference. There is plenty of open water for absorbing CO2.

Chris H

What if the sea is rising at a (roughly) constant 2mm/year (i.e. a straight line), and solar activity cycle is just causing a +/-2mm cycle to be overlaid on top of it? That sounds as (if not more) plausible than solar activity directly causing sea level rises!
Also, I would like to know the source of the sea level data. If this data is from just one place (or a few), it could just be that sea levels are being raised there (and lowered elsewhere). Not sure how solar activity would do that, but then I’m not sure how solar would impact sea level (without global air temperature varying in the same way).

Stephen Wilde

I would expect the timing and scale of any oceanic response to changes in solar input of energy to be affected by the current net state of all the combined ocean oscillations at the time. I would not expect to see a precise correlation.
The rate of absorption or emission of energy by the oceans over multidecadal time periods will affect the response to changes in solar energy input both as regards timing and scale.
Subject to verification the chart shown by David is a good starting point for further investigation.
The precise mechanisms which change the ocean emissivity/absorption properties over time needs fuller investigation such as that being conducted by Bob Tisdale and others.
The precise mechanisms which then create climate effects in the air also need fuller investigation and Erl Happ with his colleague and others are doing useful work on that.
All of us need to consider the ‘chicken and egg’ aspect. Personally I feel that the right sequence as far as climate events in the air are concerned is as follows:
Ocean energy absorption/emissivity changes over multidecadal time periods are the primary cause of climate changes observed over human lifetimes.
Behind that are gradual cumulative, if small, solar changes over several centuries.
I suspect that movements within the Oceans are primarily caused by density differentials combined with the Earth’s rotation and variable friction effects on the underlying sea floor and continental shelves but changes in solar energy input would have effects first on the water densities and then on the circulatory flows.
As regards the air I suspect that the ocean surface temperatures drive everything else because of the overwhelming scale of their influence and the high sensitivity of the responses in the air. I am supportive of but as yet unconvinced by the cosmic ray aspect because it would be minor as compared to the effect of ocean surface temperature changes but I am open to persuasion as evidence comes in.
I see a suggestion from Erl Happ and Svensmark that the cosmic ray induced changes in the air would be the primary driver of temperature changes in the air but I disagree with that at present. Hence the ‘chicken and egg’ point that needs to be resolved.

Nir Shaviv has published this same comparison in JGR 2008.
However, I must point out that the decadal varibility in a few tide-gauges does most likely not represent anything global. On decadal scales shifts in local weather patterns will dominate over the global signal. Further, like Anna V, I do not find the correlation impresssive. All i can see from the series is that they both seem to have a spectral peak at decadal periods. But notice how the relative phase relationship is consistently slipping – like the wavelength of the sea level rate is slightly longer than that of solar cycle.
Ofcourse changes in the radiation balance (TSI, GHGs, volcanic and other aerosols) must have some impact on sea level. However, you would have to invoke some extremely powerful feedbacks to explain the huge variability in the above figure from TSI variations alone. Feedbacks that presumably also should work for aerosols & GHGs.

Lindsay H

I would like to see the graphs plotted to 2009 rather than 2000. Would this be possibe .
Its an interesting co -relation.

This looks like a stick-and-carrot job. The big carrot is the undeniable correlation. And the big stick (apart from the usual human reluctance to consider new parameters) is the areas of apparent non-correlation. Well, there’s got to be an explanation. The correlation will not just disappear because of the non-correlation areas.
This looks worthy of Svensmark. He too had to explain some serious areas of anomaly (as well as cope with Damon and Laut’s nonsense and the hostility of Bolin etc) but he has been coming out trumps, both theory-wise and practice-wise, with improvements that strengthen the hypothesis, as well as the ability to answer shoddy detractors, AFAICT.
This is interesting!

Dear David, I completely agree with your excitement and publishability of such results etc.
The sea level rise seems to show the cycle which the normal global mean temperature series don’t. While I agree that the volcanos (and perhaps the El Nino 1998 that may have delayed the maximum of the sea level rise, too) have an impact, I feel that it is less visible in the sea level data than the HadCRUT3-like data.
In this sense, the sea levels look “deeper” to the climatic system, beyond the visible meteorological phenomena on the surface. The mean temperature reconstructed from the sea levels could be more accurate a measurement of the external drivers of the temperature – a better way to filter out the local atmospheric phenomena.
Of course, all these things are falsifiable. The correlation may completely break down or revert in the next 20 years, in which case I would believe it was a coincidence. But I do expect this phenomenon to be visible in some data so I won’t leave the hypothesis before it is falsified.

Dan B

This is a mid-tide mark carved in a cliff face in Tasmania in 1841.
I have heard that recent testing places it as much as 8 inches above MT.
Does any know anything about it
Yes there is a mark, however, there is an ongoing argument regarding the time and exact date it was created. It does sit well above todays “MT”, due to the ongoing debate, it is impossible to use it as a reliable measuring tool.


I don’t see a particular correlation there, TBH. The leading edge would suggest that as often as not a rise in sea-level causes a change in solar output, along with the end of WW2 🙂

Really glad to have seen the information you are presenting here. And the calibre of the comments is fantastic. I have added your site to my own blogroll. I trust that is OK.

dennis ward

This all just goes to show how easy you can make graphs give you the evidence you want to find.
I’d like to know how the earth’s sea level change affects the sun’s output as the graph often eems to indicate.

Lindsay H

If we overlaid PDO and AMO into the graphs it might give some causation for the linkage between solar cycles and Seal Level Rise.
Another factor could be Solar Winds which effect the earths Daily Rotation rate slowing it with high solar winds the reverse with low, causing the 57km bulge at the equator to minutely change.
We still know little about the deep ocean temperature changes, and the rate of transfer across the thermocline.
even at the equator the deep ocean temperature is only about 5 deg C.
if only the top 200 m of ocean is heated an extra .1 or .2 deg then the coefficient of expansion of aprox .0021 then at most expansion will be about .5mm per year
this paper by Wigley is interesting
and rates the thermal expansion from 1880 to 1980 at 2 to 5 cm
Nasa gives
an interesting map of regional variations to sea level change
The interesting co-relation deserves further study.

David Archibald

Les Francis (23:12:57) :
A good little summary of the Solanki paper is here:
Otherwise just Google search “Solanki active Sun 8000 years”

Ron de Haan

vg (22:56:04) :
OT… but Skeptics should ONLY stick to ONE argument and that is that Human produced CO2 causes warming. Everything else (ie land use ect) is debatable. Refer to Joanne’s Skeptic Handbook.
Are you proposing that we shut down our brains like the warmists who make AGW responsible for everything that is happening in the world?

Stephen Wilde

When there is more solar energfy in the oceans the water expands. When there is less such energy then the water contracts.
There is a constant flow of energy from sun, into oceans and then from oceans to air and then to space.
There is a small solar variability over centuries but much larger ocean induced variations in the flow over shorter multidecadal time scales.
When there is an El Nino the energy flow from ocean to air is accelerated and the air warms faster than energy is flowing from air to space. The equatorial high pressure systems expand and the jet streams shift poleward. There is eventually a faster emission of energy from air to space which stops the process continuing but at a new equilibrium involving altered jet stream positions. The oceans contract unless there is an even higher solar input such as that from 1975 to 2000 when the oceans actually expanded despite the persistent powerful positive PDO.
When there is a La Nina the energy flow from ocean to air is decreased and the air cools because the energy flow from air to space continues and a deficit develops. The equatorial high pressure systems contract and the jet streams shift equatorward. There is eventually a slower emission of energy from air to space which stops the process continuing but at a new equilibrium involving altered jet stream positions. The oceans would normally expand unless the solar input is reduced enough at the same time to prevent that expansion. That may be the position we are in today.
In reality there is a constant switching between the two modes with the scale and timing of the changes being induced by changes in the oceanic energy absorption/emissivity characteristics.
On human lifetime scale it is those oceanic changes which control all the climate changes we observe.
If extra human CO2 has an effect the air circulation deals with it in the same way that it deals with oceanic energy emission variations.
It just shifts the air circulation patterns an infinitesimal distance to maintain the background energy flow by maintaining the link between sea surface and surface air temperatures.
That is not currently a mainstream theory but it is mine and I believe it to be correct on the basis of logic and observations.
Note that PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) appears to shift from warming to cooling and back over a complete cycle of about 60 years (6 solar cycles of 11 years or, if one prefers, 3 solar cycles of 22 years). It is the interplay of the two sets of cycles that explain all observed global temperature shifts in the historical records and the partial correlation seen in David’s chart.
There can be El Nino events during a negative PDO and La Nina during a positive PDO but what matters is the netted out energy characteristics of the oceans during each phase. The situation is complicated further by the presence of similar oscillations in each ocean which introduces time lags and amplification and suppression effects.

Can you supply a link to the data, and describe what exactly is measured, and by what method? (or just email it to me?) Also need a 2nd Y axis scale for solar describing what solar measurement is used. It would be interesting to continue whatever was measured to 2009, or maybe use different solar indicators.
I’d like to take a look at it. There might be other factors that explain the leading / lagging effects. Raw / unsmoothed is best for me if you have it, or the entire analysis so I can see how you did this. Sounds like others are interested too. Thanks.


Could it be possible that we are seeing two affects with one common cause ?
I recall reading an article about sunspot cycles being driven by gravitational forces of celestial bodies, in particular Jupiter. Wouldn’t sea levels be affected by the gravity of other planets in the same way as tides are driven by the moon ?
Just a thought.

Stephen Wilde: You wrote, “The precise mechanisms which change the ocean emissivity/absorption properties over time needs fuller investigation such as that being conducted by Bob Tisdale and others.”
Thanks for the honorable mention but “ocean emissivity/absorption properties over time” are beyond my capabilities. Additionally, an investigation longer than a decade or two would required long-term cloud cover data, and that’s the weak link in all climate studies.