Global Sea Level Updated at UC – still flattening

There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when Dr. Roger Pielke mentioned a couple of weeks ago in a response to Real Climate that “Sea level has actually flattened since 2006”.

Today the University of Colorado updated their sea level graph after months of no updates. Note it says 2009_rel3 in lower left.

Click for larger image

Source here.  Here is the next oldest graph from UC that Pielke Sr. was looking at.

The newest one also looks “flat” to me since 2006, maybe even a slight downtrend since 2006. Let the wailing and gnashing begin anew.

Here is the text file of sea level data for anyone that wants to plot it themselves. In fact I did myself and my graph is below, with no smoothing or trend lines.

Click for a larger image

Click for a larger image

Here’s what UC says about the graph. They also provide an interactive wizard to look at specific areas.

Since August 1992 the satellite altimeters have been measuring sea level on a global basis with unprecedented accuracy. The TOPEX/POSEIDON (T/P) satellite mission provided observations of sea level change from 1992 until 2005. Jason-1, launched in late 2001 as the successor to T/P, continues this record by providing an estimate of global mean sea level every 10 days with an uncertainty of 3-4 mm. The latest mean sea level time series and maps of regional sea level change can be found on this site. Concurrent tide gauge calibrations are used to estimate altimeter drift. Sea level measurements for specific locations can be obtained from our Interactive Wizard.


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How fast do you suppose it will drop now that the data modelers are going crazy dropping Fire Engine Red dots everywhere?

UK Sceptic

This is definately something to watch. I hope that UC update on a more regular basis. The second graph, cleared of all that clutter, certainly seems to indicate a levelling off. The new data is shaping up to be yet another large nail in the AGW coffin. Shame on the politicians who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the reality of accumulating empirical evidence.


Mean sea level is the best metric we have of whether the Earth’s climate is warming or cooling and it is not subject to ‘weather noise’. While there is some contribution from gain or loss of ice, it is primarily a measure of ocean heat content.
A flat trend means the Earth’s climate isn’t gaining heat, ie the climate isn’t warming.
My interpretation is that the oceans have now reached equilibrium with whatever changes occured in the 20th century. Further, the SST data (heat release from the oceans) indicates to me that we will see falling sea levels in the future due to cooling oceans.

“Worse than WE thought”.
THEY were right.


The NASA climate change site has updated it’s sea level graph, with the latest figure of 22mm at June 09, but it does not match the graph on the Univ of Colorado site that it notes as the source.
The NASA site has left the banner headine saying 3.4mm/yr, but the trend line they show looks more like 2.7mm/yr.

This data is confirmed by actual measurements done through the GLOSS network of stations. Calculations for the last 9 years of data, from stations referenced in Douglas et al. (1997) show a sharp decline in the last 3 years!
The United States is an interesting example. The stations show the biggest worldwide downward trends, especially Honolulu, La Jolla and San Diego stations. By the other hand, the Pacific around Indonesia seems to be getting the biggest rises.
So while Gore et al are trying to pass the catastrophic idea of a global sea level rise, one has to remain calm, as it’s going up in some places, and actually going down in others.


Stop looking at the data! Look at the TREND LINE! That’s why we put it there!
This is showing some of the standard tools for making factual data appear to represent something other than what it does. The trend line, the extra data points hovering around like a swarm of insects, and the general clutter confusing the portion of the data they want you to not notice.
Dishonesty is becoming the new face of science.

UK Sceptic

Meanwhile, a satirical taste of how AGW inspired energy policies might shape the future of the UK:
PS Ed Miliband is Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He’s the idiot who rammed the EU driven Carbon Credits and Sequestration Bill (Cap and Trade) through parliament while even bigger idiots accepted it without bothering to actually look at what they were voting on let alone ask the electorate (the people who will actually foot the bill) what they thought about it.


How many years/months smoothing are they using on that trend line? Looks like only two points in the last two years are above the “trend”.


By the other hand, the Pacific around Indonesia seems to be getting the biggest rises.
In the late 1990s there were massive peat fires in Indonesia. Thick haze covered much of SE Asia for weeks at a time. I lived in Singapore at this time and I can tell you that sunlight was dramatically reduced. It was like dusk all day.
Since then the region has returned to normal sunlight conditions and this likely explains the sea level rise over the last 10 years.
Which means the sea level rises around Indonesia due to local events are probably masking a global fall in sea levels.


Good stuff. Just a slight note of caution. The graph in Pielke’s article is the ‘seasonal signals removed’ version, the graph at the top of the thread is the ‘raw’ data.
Sea level rise is driven by solar input to the oceans. The sun’s output has been below the level where the oceans gain net energy for a few years now.
Since ocean heat content is not really affected by the atmosphere much, we need to revisit ideas about the sun having been responsible for GW.
Scafetta’s presentation at the EPA archive is a good summary, whichever side of the ACRIMonious debate on TSI calibration you land on.$file/scafetta-epa-2009.pdf

Dave Wendt

A commenter to Dr. Pielke’s post linked to this paper on calibration error in the sat. altimetry record,
A new assessment of the error budget of global mean sea level rate estimated by satellite altimetry over 1993–2008
M. Ablain1, A. Cazenave2, G. Valladeau1, and S. Guinehut1
1CLS, Ramonville Saint-Agne, France
2LEGOS, OMP, Toulouse, France
Abstract. A new error budget assessment of the global Mean Sea Level (MSL) determined by TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 altimeter satellites between January 1993 and June 2008 is presented using last altimeter standards. We discuss all potential errors affecting the calculation of the global MSL rate. We also compare altimetry-based sea level with tide gauge measurements over the altimetric period. Applying a statistical approach, this allows us to provide a realistic error budget of the MSL rise measured by satellite altimetry. These new calculations highlight a reduction in the rate of sea level rise since 2005, by ~2 mm/yr. This represents a 60% reduction compared to the 3.3 mm/yr sea level rise (glacial isostatic adjustment correction applied) measured between 1993 and 2005. Since November 2005, MSL is accurately measured by a single satellite, Jason-1. However the error analysis performed here indicates that the recent reduction in MSL rate is real.
The result of their reanalysis stated in their conclusion is a trend of 3.11+/-0.6mm/yr for the whole period and they also state that the 1mm/yr trend of the last 3 years can’t be attributed to altimeter drift error. Evidently the lads at UC aren’t buying it yet, or maybe they just missed it


If it’s going up in some place and going down in others, it means the sea levels are NOT rising but staying put. It also means some continents are rising and others are falling.
Aren’t they supposed to be checking the landmass elevations with lasers?
I still can’t tell by going down to the beach I visited 50 years ago that anything has changed.


“Sea level rise is driven by solar input to the oceans.”
Plus of course ice melt and changes in land storage. I’ve been concentrating on ocean heat content and forgot to mention that.

Dodgy Geezer

I think I have the answer to this apparent flattening. We can all see that this is a hugely dangerous trend – otherwise why would the graph be in red? What I think is happening is that the sea has risen rapidly, and is now pouring into low-lying places like the Netherlands, the Dead Sea and the Sahel depression.
That would explain why there is a temporary lull in the graph, but it will soon begin to rise again, and we only have 100 months to stop it!
People may claim that there are no reports of flooding in low lying areas, but they are just deniers and are not published in approved peer-reviewed texts, so we won’t listen to them….


Does anyone know where I can download data on greenland ice melt rates?

That’s scary, a 3.2mm/year rise in sea level. How will mankind ever adapt to a 12½in. rise in the next hundred years?

Philip_B (00:23:12) :Mean sea level is the best metric we have of whether the Earth’s climate is warming or cooling and it is not subject to ‘weather noise’.
Definitely, with one proviso. It seems reasonable to me to consider that, even in stable temperatures, sea level will rise overall, for four reasons (a) ongoing very-slow rebound from the last glaciation (land effects with local pluses and minuses) (b) accumulation of silt from rivers (c) accumulation of dust in rain from aerosols, volcanoes, the cosmos, land surfaces, etc (d) ongoing calcification, using newly released / dissolved Ca++ and CO2.
Has anyone estimated any such “base” rise?

Dave Wendt

Earlier in the week I posted a link on the Tips and Notes thread to another paper I came across related the contribution of geothermal heating to the oceanic heat budget in general and circulation patterns in particular
To my layman’s eye read this seems to indicate that the geothermal component has been and probably still is little understood, generally neglected and underestimated in considerations of oceanic heat flux. But, since this was the result I was hoping to find, I’m looking for some feedback from someone with more specific expertise to confirm or deny my gut reaction. Since I didn’t get any bites on the other thread, I thought I’d cast my bait out here and see if I could get a rise.

Pierre Gosselin

We’re having the 2nd hottest year of the instrumental record, ice is melting “faster than ever expected”, the ocean waters are warming up, etc., yet the oceans are not rising.
So I wonder who is telling us the truth, Hansen or reality?

Pierre Gosselin

Eyeballing since 2005, I see an increase trend of about 5 mm, i.e. 100 mm by 2100.
There was a similar, though shorter, plateau from 1997 to 2000. I wonder if we will get another jump coming soon.
I doubt La Nina’s and El Ninos play a role as these are more to do with surface temps and are probaly minor when compared with the entire ocean volume.


Anthony: Completely off topic but something you might want to have a look at:


Malcolm (00:28:28)
Nasa data is highly subject to whim:) Love the global temps chart. They managed to smooth out any high temps till the last few years… we need those hottest on record news stories doncha know?
“The time series shows the combined global land and marine surface temperature record from 1850 to 2007.” Thats a pretty neat trick. I dont know the exact date temps of marine surface started, but Im pretty sure it wasn’t 1850.. do I smell a model.. why yes I do..

Joe Miner

I can understand new data changing the past of the smoothed curve, but why has new data move the actual past data points? If you look at the start of the Jason data points they have been moved higher in the rel_3 graph. Is one of the graphs with the seasonal signals removed and the other one doesn’t have that adjustment?

Joe Miner

I have that backwards, the rel_3 graph has them lower.


Dodgy Geezer (01:44:59) :
I think I have the answer to this apparent flattening.
I have an answer for it: It has changed enough for the 2 billion people in the world who routinely visit the ocean to notice anything unusual.
What’s really going flat is this “catastrophic ocean rise” cake.
The real panic will begin when the ships can’t get into the locks at the Panama & Suez due to dropping oceans.
It won’t be seawater spray that hits the fan.

The most funny thing is, that on the places which are going to be flooded soon (at least in newspapers) – Maldives, Venezia, Netherlands or Bangladesh – is the change rate close to zero.
Flattening trend means thermal expansion has finished as the SST begun to dive in 2003, and polar ice does not comply with scientific consensus as well.
Anyone studied the Moerner´s claim, that satellite measurements were artificially given a trend as some tide gauge showed, since there was no trend at all?

A bit off-topic, Anthony. Saw a refreshing article by David Evans who said the long term climate trend suggests that ‘once the effects of the little ice age have finally passed, the temperature will get back to where it was in he medieval warm period.’
Evans is a bright fellow and he may be correct in thinking we are on the upside of natural warming, with some distance to travel. Nevertheless, I remain convinced we are on the downside and heading towards a Wolf minimum. Apart from that he was spot on.

Carl Chapman

The believers ignore that graph. They look at the “inverse barometer applied” version, which has a mistake in it.
I’ve pointed that out to the University of Colorado.
An AGW believer in Australia sent me a graph from the Colorado Uni, showing the sea levels still rising. I checked their graph, which I’ve referred to before and found it shows the sea levels are falling.
I worked out that they have a graph that adjusts for global barometer readings. But their website says:
“The inverted barometer does not have much apparent effect on the global mean sea level because the ocean as a whole is not compressible.”
Their website also gives the adjustment factor:
Inverted Barometer = -9.948*(1013.3 – global_average_pressure)
9.948 mm per millibar is 9.948 metres per bar, which is the height of water supported by one atmosphere pressure.
That’s correct for local adjustments, and it accounts for storm surges. If the pressure is high in one area, the water is pushed away from there. The sea level falls where the pressure is high, and rises somewhere else where the pressure is lower and the water moved to.
It can’t apply globally. The water has to go somewhere. The only global effect is from compression of the water, which I worked out to be 0.2mm per millibar, or 1/50th of what they used.
Their adjusted graph is wrong, but it’s what the warmists are using. I’ve sent emails to the staff at the Uni. Would you check this please.
It destroys the argument, which is still being used, that sea levels are rising.
This is the site with the formula and explanations:
This is the site with the unadjusted graph:
This is the site with the adjusted graph:
Please investigate this.

Dave in Delaware

Charting the slope using 5 year running data tells quite a story.
For the first 5 years of data, the slope is about 3.4 mm/yr increase.
Current slope, using the most recent 5 years of data = 1.6 mm/yr.
The trend in slope is clearly downward since 2002.
Data from University of Colorado, Inverted barometer not applied.
The calculation drops off the oldest data point as a new point is added, maintaining 5 years of data in the slope calculation. Data is plotted at the end date for the calculation.
Note that there does appear to be an affect from ENSO when the data is plotted this way. The largest slope (almost 5 mm/yr) is from the post 1997 La Nina to the 2002 El Nino. It looks to me like the 5 peaks since 2002 could be ENSO oscillations.

Bill D

The current flattening looks a lot like the 92-96 flattening.

Dave in Delaware

Update on my post about 5 yr running slope –
Blue line is the Data from University of Colorado, Inverted barometer not applied (scale on left axis).
Red line is my calculation of 5 year running slope, mm/yr (right axis)
Peaks since 2002 should be 4 not 5.
sorry if the chart is not the best, I am new at posting a chart link.


Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. And Hillary apologizes for the bad ol’ USA making it happen. .


I better stop throwing stones in the ocean.

Lindsay H

Do the satelites monitoring mean sea level also monitor tectonic plate shift for land masses. some of the plates are sinking at rates of 2-3 mm per year others are rising by similar amounts. This will have an effect on Mean Sea levels.
Ive been looking for data from ARGO bouys of deep ocean sea temps below the thermocline, have they noted any change in the years of operation.
Given that the average Temp of the total ocean mass is probably near 5-7 deg c, the changes in sst have minimal effect on total ocean heat, ergo little effect on mean sea level.
With an average depth of 4000m water with coefficient of .00021, a 0. 1deg increase for the total ocean will raise sea levels 84 mm aprox.
changes in the top 200 + m of the sea are a small part of any change.
to change total ocean temp .1 deg means heating 1.30 billion cubic Km of water, need a big bunsen burner for that. !!

The paper below on ocean heat goes with the discussion. Over 80% of global heat is stored in the ocean, when the ocean cools, as shown by the argo buoys, the ocean volume contracts and lowers. The sea level change is mostly a measurement of ocean heat!
where can I find pre-Argo temp graphics?
Even Hansen in a 2005 paper wrote that ocean heat is a robust metric for AGW. “Confirmation of the planetary energy imbalance,” they maintained, “can be obtained by measuring the heat content of the ocean, which must be the principal reservoir for excess energy”.
The paper states that there is a consensus that ocean heat(sea level) is the best metric to measure global warming, however we are measuring and discussing global surface or troposphere temperature which does not store the heat and is not a long term metric! Water stores heat, not air or land.


Shame you didn’t annotate this with the comedy ‘FLAT’ label again.
Come on guys, this is just a repeat of your last nonsense. Noise. Signal. Trend.

Chris Wright

@ UK Sceptic (01:13:31)
Unfortunately we in the UK appear to be governed by idiots, and that includes our MP’s. As Christopher Booker reported, when Parliament almost unanimously voted to pass the Climate Bill last October, just one MP (Peter Lilley) asked what it would cost. There was no answer from the government. They didn’t have a clue. So our Parliament voted for this monstrosity without knowing what it would cost the taxpayer.
Booker reported that the government quietly slipped out the figure a few weeks ago: it was somewhat over 400 billion pounds, obviously a trifling sum if you’re determined to save the planet. A cynic might believe that the government might be understating the costs somewhat.
A cynic might be right. A few days ago the Daily Telegraph (which is strongly pro-AGW) printed a report in the financial section. According to a study by Inenco, the UK’s largest energy consultancy, the cost of de-carbonising our economy will be – wait for it – 1.2 trillion pounds ( about 2 trillion dollars – if I’m correct that’s 2000000000000 dollars).
I could almost weep at the sheer lunacy of it. Even if AGW were true it would still be lunacy, because it would reduce the global temperature by a tiny amount, maybe a thousandth of a degree or even less. And it was nodded through Parliament without knowing how much it would cost. Quite possibly this dwarfs the cost to this country of the Second World War. But this nonsense will achieve precisely nothing. Unfortunately the Conservatives are also deluded, so a change of government won’t help.


(slightly off topic discussion about the JPL NASA sea level graphs on their Global Climate Change, Key Indicators page)
Malcolm (00:28:28) : “The NASA climate change site has updated it’s sea level graph….. ”
Very strange graphs. The captions don’t seem to match up with the data plotted. As you note, the 1993 to present endpoint-to-endpoint line they drew seems to be more like 2.7mm/yr rather than the 3.4mm caption.
The historical graph doesn’t match the caption either. The caption says 2mm/year, but it looks like it is closer to 1.5 mm over the whole period, or 1.7mm from 1900 to 1990. Strange. Looks like just some sloppy work, since this error makes recent changes less alarming compared to the historical changes.
I used the feedback form to send an inquiry to the site manager.

Jack Green

Why do you have to draw a 60 day smoothed fit. Why not use a polynomial or a log normal fit? Mother nature orders things in a lognormal way. I’ll download and do a log normal fit and see what that shows. It is clear however that the last 2 years obviously showing a change in trend.


Between 1998 and 2000 there was a lull, then it spiked up again until 2006. 2006 to present there has been a lull but I’m seeing signs of an uptick again.
Guess we’ll have to wait and see if we continue to stay flat or if a rise will occur. Or we can just do as Gore does and ignore the facts and present the worst case scenario (in this case the rise for the rest of the century will be equivalent to the rise from 2000 to 2001).


Plus or minus POINT 4 mm error band? Can they really measure the pitching heaving surface of the ocean slopping around with tides and full of ships and whales making waves, with wind driven waves and storm surges to a 4/10 mm accuracy?
Somehow this just sounds really suspicious to me…
BTW, in Hawaii the Big Island is growing while the older islands erode and subside. California coastal is still having uplift from subduction. Just how do they sort out “sea level rise” from “land subsides”? So far, every place that has had claimed “sea level rise” has looked to me like a case of subsidence (like those Pacific Islands…) There are ancient Roman docks that are well above water level, and in Turkey, an entire bay is now a housing subdivision (and has been for a few hundred years…). I also saw a place in Greece that was a harbor and is now a chunk of land.
The earth surface can change by more than a mm or 2 a year (sometimes it rises or falls by feet in seconds… as faults let loose). The notion that sea level changes can be entirely attributed to heating / cooling ignores the dynamic nature of the sea bottom and shores.
(Yes, it really bugs me when folks have “unprecedented accuracy” that looks one heck of a lot like dancing in the land of False Precision…)
It looks to me a whole lot more like “nothing much is happening” than it does like we’ve had a lot of sea level rise (that has suddenly stopped). I’d like to know exactly what kind of fudging was done to “calibrate” things before I’d believe the “rise”.


Has anyone ever estimated the impact that deep wells may be having on sea level? The water table has been pumped down by tens of feet in some areas

Patrick Davis

Well, I will say this, if you dig through very old Royal Naval (UK) maritime records, hundres of years old, you will see there is *NO* sea level rise of any significance. These records are now lock from public view, which is a shame. Not sure when that happened.
The whole south coast of England, an old naval nation after all it was ships in “Great Britain’s” time which made it a “suprepower”, and all the records show no significant change in sea levels. Hundreds of years of measurements, not just 30 years of “data”.


As Al Gore stated last week, Cap&Tax is the first step toward Global Governance. In other words, cap&Trade will become the worlds first global tax system, with the UN being the governing body utilizing the revenues. Finally the truth comes out. How is Obama in favour of this? Why did I vote for him, I forget.

Mike Monce

Thanks for posting the second graph without the “trendline”. I would fail any of my students in the intro physics course lab if they turned in a graph like the first one with the standard “hit the key for the Excel trendline”. While one could make an argument that there is a more or less linear trend up to about 2006, the data obviously tips over at that point. However, the oscillations are important also: note the “hill” in 1998.
CU is my alma mater. I have trouble understanding how that institution publishes such a graph that is really an embarrassment with that stupid trendline.


The battle of Thermopylae was fought by the sea in 480 BC. The sea is a long way away now.

Tom in Florida

CO2 is the sole cause of global warming, global warming is the sole cause of global sea level rise and the Sun god Ra rides across the sky everyday.
The science is settled.


Its interesting that the curve doesn’t match say the UAH lower tropospheric temperature record, but “low pass filters” it. There doesn’t seem to be much sign of the 11 year solar cycle, as its dominant characteristic is the trend line.
I think we need another 40 years of data to make some definite inferences.

Mike Bryant

Dishonesty is becoming the new face of science.- Code Tech
You can leave out the the word “becoming” and be more accurate.
The NASA “Key Indicators” graphs are jokes filled with mistakes, misleading graph construction, and spin. The punchline is, “The public is too stupid to realize it.”
The graphs here are for our childrens edification, put together by NASA PR people with a political agenda.
The temperature graph was not updated until I complained in May, then instead of using the actual temperature (derived from GISS I suppose), The new year was labeled ‘2008-tenth warmest year on record’… no mention of record drop…
I am apalled…