Contradictory Studies – IPCC Struggling to Pinpoint Rising Sea Levels

https://i1.wp.com/www.spiegel.de/static/sys/v9/spiegelonline_logo.png?w=700

Story submitted by WUWT reader Mark B

…the estimates currently differ by almost five meters (16.5 feet).

The United Nations’ forecast of how quickly global sea levels will rise this century is vital in determining how much money might be needed to combat the phenomenon. But predictions by researchers vary wildly, and the attempt to find consensus has become fractious.

It is a number which will ultimately establish how billions in taxpayer money will be spent — and it is one which is the subject of heated debate, both among politicians and scientists.

When the next report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is issued in two years, it will include a forecast for how high the world’s oceans might rise by 2100. With 146 million people in the world currently living less than one meter above sea level, the forecast will be vital in determining how much money governments must spend on measures to protect people from the rising waters and to resettle those in the most acute danger.

Eighteen scientists from 10 countries are involved in the task, and their first step is to determine which of the myriad studies relating to climate change’s effect on ocean levels to consider. In the end, they are to establish a possible range, with the maximum being the most decisive — and most contested — number. Even more challenging, the estimates currently differ by almost five meters (16.5 feet).

Story:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,774706,00.html

 

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47 thoughts on “Contradictory Studies – IPCC Struggling to Pinpoint Rising Sea Levels

  1. I wonder if Nils Axel Morner will be one of the experts from the ten countries? I hope he is otherwise I would think that the panel would be somewhat bogus.

  2. Call me a cynic and a pessimist, but I think there is little chance that it will NOT be bogus.

  3. If they are having trouble getting a handle on the fact that sea levels have been remarkably stable, I am sure Green Peace can lend them their crack team of scientists to assist.

  4. It’s going to be really hard to pin this down……
    …what with the sea floor sinking and all
    /snark


  5. “… With 146 million people in the world currently living less than one meter above sea level, the forecast will be vital in determining how much money governments must spend on measures to protect people from the rising waters and to resettle those in the most acute danger. …”

    What a colossal waste of time and money. It is not as though we will wake one morning to find that sea levels have risen a meter over yesterday’s level.
    A much better use of the money would be to establish a better tsunami warning system for low lying countries/populations.

  6. They should construct two wheels based on whether or not we deal with the “climate crisis”. Obviously, the one based on little or no measures to control “carbon” would have the higher, more catastrophic Hansen-esque range of 5 meters by the end of the century. Then, they could take turns spinning the two wheels, with averages taken for each. Voila, climate science at its best.

  7. Notice there really isn’t a question of if levels are rising but instead of exactly how much?
    @ F Ross – if you lived in a low lying coastal area you’d care. A lot. It isn’t like you can simply pick up whole cities and move them by 2100 easily. Even if you don’t personally live in a low lying costal area you should care becuase these will likely be systemic costs that we’ll all have to contribute to.

  8. Bystander says:
    July 16, 2011 at 10:44 am
    Notice there really isn’t a question of if levels are rising but instead of exactly how much?
    @ F Ross – if you lived in a low lying coastal area you’d care. A lot. It isn’t like you can simply pick up whole cities and move them by 2100 easily. Even if you don’t personally live in a low lying costal area you should care becuase these will likely be systemic costs that we’ll all have to contribute to.

    Well put. Whether due to CAGW, cosmic rays, or the sun burpping, the pragmatic questions are: if, how much, and by when? I am sure the Dutch care a lot if it’s going to be 1 foot or 10 feet and if it’s going to be 2030 or 2300. When you’re up to your you-know-what in alligators, do you care who flooded the swamp?

  9. @ Bystander – The last time I was in Florida It seemed like there was a distinct lack of builders worried about the rising sea.
    Of course I live in Indiana, so no derect worries from me about sea level rise. I just have to watch out for the Millions of climate refugies that will be heading my way by 2010. err, I mean 2020.
    (sarc)

  10. The entire premise is bogus. The UN has no responsibility whatsoever to move people that live in places that will already be flooded by moderate typhoons or moderate floods. They either move themselves or they might die. That is pretty much their choice either way. There is no accelerated rise in sea levels. Therefore any paranoid fantasies of doom to the contrary are just children’s games of “what if” and boogeyman propaganda stories for sheep.

  11. “It is a number which will ultimately establish how billions in taxpayer money will be spent — and it is one which is the subject of heated debate, both among politicians and scientists.”
    The magic number will be one sufficiently high to cause concern, yet not so high as to create alarm and a “what’s the use, we’re doomed” feeling among the populace. Because, ultimately, $billions in further “climate research”, “green jobs”, “green energy”, and careers based on climate hocus pocus are at stake, so it’s critical to get it right.

  12. Concern about sea-level rise – or, in London, anyway, land-level falling. A return to isostatic equilibrium, I gather, means that the island of Great Britain [mainland England, Scotland & Wales (in strict alphabetic order, naturally)] is rising in the North, and sinking a little in the south. The Thames Barrier [opened in 1984] will probably only provide protection for London until the latter part of this century. but that’s the South East sinking, in part, at least.
    Now, I’m looking for help: how do you tell a climate refugee from an economic refugee?
    And – will our Masters in Brussels redefine the requirements, so we may not turn away a climate refugee?

  13. The IPCC’s focus is narrow: They assume that sea levels cannot possibly fall.
    They have a 50% chance of being wrong before they even start.

  14. The article does not mention the data provided by the University of Colorado at Boulder showing satellite derived global sea level rise rates starting downward about the year 2002. This data is unequivocal in demonstrating that the rate of sea level rise is not accelerating as claimed by climate alarmists but that sea level rise is clearly declining. Not good news for the alarmists.

  15. I would like to know the exact procedures used to estimate that 146 million people live under 1 m above sea level. I would also like to know whether this includes people living in inland depressions (say, around the Dead Sea in Palestine) and in polder areas such as coastal Guyana or Netherlands (where defenses already exist, generally exceeding high-tide level by a generous margin).
    Another interesting question I’d like to know about is the slope of those low-lying coastal areas. Suppose a very flat coastal area with 1% slope (which is a very low slope). This means that the coast is 1 m above sea level at 100 m from the high-tide coastline, and 2 m if you are 200 m inland.
    There are indeed areas that flat, e.g. mangrove and swamp areas in Florida or some parts of Central America’s Atlantic coasts, e.g. Honduras or Belize, and also some areas near the mouth of large ricers such as the Amazon. I have seen some large beaches in Brazil that seem to be that flat, although most are steeper. All in all, it seems to me that they are not so many, and they are not heavily populated. There are, indeed, some historic places (such as Venice) where a sea level rise of 1 m may cause damage, and some cities (like New Orleans) that could do with better levees as painfully seen with Katrina; but we are not talking hurricanes or tsunamis here, only normal sea levels (which is what sea-level climate-related projections mostly deal with).
    I would also like to see those projections envisaging large rises in sea level. Most of SLR is thermal expansion of water under higher water temperature, and this cannot be that much in view of existing temperature projections. Melting land ice can contribute more, but the most catastrophic models do not envisage nothing much for the next 100 years (Ridley et al, for instance, cited in AR4 in this regard, and working on the ASSUMPTION that Greenland Ice Sheet may gradually melt completely, project a complete melting in around 3000 years, causing an average addition of about 30 cm per century to the sea over those 3000 years, with a MAXIMUM rate of 55 cm/century at some point along the way, and much less than average in this century or the next few ones.
    Now, it has to be acknowledged that a dramatically rising sea level is one of the scariest parts of possible changes in global climate, and thus a bit of exaggeration about its magnitude and speed is the least one may expect, since it would be advanced with the noble purpose of getting the message across,just to wake Humankind up from its slumber, even if the figures do not exactly add up.


  16. Bystander says:
    July 16, 2011 at 10:44 am
    @ F Ross – if you lived in a low lying coastal area you’d care. A lot. It isn’t like you can simply pick up whole cities and move them by 2100 easily.
    D. J. Hawkins says:
    July 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I have lived in the same community [which incidentally does have low lying beach frontage] for the last 67 years and have observed no changes in sea level even though I pass through that area on an almost daily basis. If sea level rise were ever to be a real problem here I’m sure that the owners of the many expensive motels/hotels in the beach area would long ago have demanded some sort of barrier to be erected. And …building in the beach area continues apace.
    Storm surge is a horse of a different color, but to me the projected sea level rise is just that: “projected.”

  17. It looks to me like the warmist circus falls apart without their master orchestrator, the late Dr. Stephen Schneider. I don’t think this cacophony would have occured under his watch.

  18. Bystander says:
    July 16, 2011 at 10:44 am
    “Notice there really isn’t a question of if levels are rising but instead of exactly how much?”
    A prognosis of falling sea levels has no chance of attracting any funding so it’s useless for today’s government scientists and will only be explored by self funded amateurs.

  19. Adaptation is what people have done for over 80,000 years. Mitigation is what governments force us to do.

  20. Estimates of sea level rise by 2100 currently differ by almost five meters (16.5 feet)? Is that between Al Gore’s and the high end of everyone else’s estimates?
    While Googling about Al’s Inconvenient “20 foot” figure, I found this 2008 piece which highlights how quickly the “overwhelmingly settled scientific consensus” has altered:
    Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ says sea levels could rise up to 20 feet. Is this true?
    Asks Steve from Florida


    Although he doesn’t give a clear time frame for the 20-foot sea level rise, Gore’s statement seems to contradict several recent reports, including one published in 2008, that predict much smaller rises during this century.
    Scientists say that the two main causes of rising sea levels are water expanding as it warms, known as thermal expansion, and melting land-based ice, such as ice from Antarctica and Greenland.
    In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change, an organization composed of scientists and policy makers around the world who monitor human-caused climate change, estimated that sea levels would rise 0.18 to 0.6 meters (0.59 to 2.0 feet) over the next 100 years. The IPCC based this prediction primarily on how much the ocean waters are expected to warm and expand.
    The panel also factored in the ice melting from Greenland and Antarctica based on how much these bodies have melted in recent years—from 1993 to 2003. But the estimates do not account for any changes in the speed of the weakened ice that flows from the glaciers into the ocean—either from melting ice or iceberg break-off, which may happen in the future. The IPCC acknowledged the limitations of their projections and said that sea level rise could be higher if the ice sheets break down more rapidly.
    The IPCC did not include changes in ice flow because these types of changes are not very well understood. However, a study published this year in the journal Science attempts to set an upper limit on sea level rise by 2100.
    “We have estimated limits on sea level rise during the next century by considering simple constraints on glacier and ice sheet motion,” says Joel Harper, an author of this study and a glacier expert at the University of Montana in Missoula. “Our work suggests that a 0.8-meter [2.6 feet] sea level rise is plausible, two-meter [6.5 feet] is only possible under extreme conditions, and more than two-meter is unlikely,” he says.
    To make their calculations, the researchers took into account the rate of ice flow from Greenland, Antarctica, and glaciers and ice caps from other parts of the world. They took current values of glacial ice-flow speeds and adjusted the values based on changes that they think could reasonably occur in the future, such as accelerated ice flow from certain glaciers. They then used these modified values to come up with low, medium and high estimates of future sea-level rise.
    The researchers also determined that Greenland’s glaciers—specifically, the ones with outlets under water—would have to move about 40 times faster than they do now to achieve a rise of two meters over the next 100 years. And this increased ice-flow speed would need to start immediately and continue for the rest of the 21st century.
    “Even by assuming vastly accelerated rates of discharge, the glaciers can’t surge fast enough to meet the required sea-level rise targets [of two to five meters] within a hundred years,” says Vivien Gornitz, a geologist at Columbia University, who was not involved in this study.

    From the abstract:

    We consider glaciological conditions required for large sea-level rise to occur by 2100 and conclude that increases in excess of 2 meters are physically untenable. We find that a total sea-level rise of about 2 meters by 2100 could occur under physically possible glaciological conditions but only if all variables are quickly accelerated to extremely high limits. More plausible but still accelerated conditions lead to total sea-level rise by 2100 of about 0.8 meter.

    Gore’s docudrama: 20 ft “in the near future”
    IPCC 2007: 0.18 to 0.6 meters (0.59 to 2.0 feet) over the next 100 years.
    2008 paper: 0.8 meter by 2100 plausible, >2m “physically untenable.”
    Now, in the Spiegel Online piece:

    NASA climate researcher James Hansen, for example, warns in a paper published this month that sea levels could rise by five meters in the next 90 years — nine times higher than the maximum cited in the last IPCC report. He insists that he has found indications that sea levels in the future could rise by as much as five centimeters per year.
    Hansen, say some climatologists, is risking his reputation with such an extreme forecast. Three years ago, researchers found that a rise of over two meters per century is impossible because so much ice simply can’t melt in such a short time. Furthermore, current measurements show a rise of just three millimeters per year.

    The surprising part? Hansen still has a reputation to risk.

    An additional recent study, written by Jim Houston from the Engineer Research Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi and Bob Dean from the University of Florida in Gainsville for the Journal of Coastal Research, argues that sea levels have risen steadily for the last 100 years — and that there has been no acceleration at all in recent years.
    A reply was not long in coming. In the current issue of the Journal of Coastal Research, Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research argues that Houston and Dean only included sea level calculations beginning in the 1930s. He says that if one chooses a year from the previous century, an accelerated rise can be seen.

    Got that? It’s a problem to look at the period with the great “unprecedented” CO2 and temperature rises, you must start from when CO2 and temperatures (and the amount of purported “CO2 greenhouse effect”) were lower to see an accelerated rise now. Gee, does it have to be a year from the 1800’s? Don’t we have the proxy data to start from the beginning of this interglacial? Wouldn’t that show a spectacular current accelerated rise in sea level?
    In 2008 the science said: At worst it’ll be less than a meter by 2100, Greenland and Antarctica can’t melt fast enough to contribute to anything more.
    Not alarming enough. Research funding and schemes for UN-led Global “Carbon-based Unit” Control are at risk. Therefore…
    Now Climate Science™ says: Could be five meters by 2100!
    Resistance is futile! You will allow your economic distinctivenesses to be eliminated and you shall be assimilated into the Collective! The alternative is Extinction!

  21. Why don’t those 146 million people just MOVE then?
    With, say, 10 decades to do it, they could, for example, move (on average) 20 meters a year to remain dry. That’s only 5.5 cms a day.
    I could manage that.

  22. in 100 years from now they will still be down by the sea side debating is it 1mm or 2mm rise

  23. rbateman says:
    July 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm
    Does anyone know of a plan-of-action should sea levels drop precipitously?
    The most obvious question to me would be who owns all that new property now? Does the person who owns a beach front lot suddenly become the owner of the dry land in front of his home that was once part of the ocean?

  24. rbateman says:
    July 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm
    “Does anyone know of a plan-of-action should sea levels drop precipitously?”
    Well, yes, be the first to get to the choice spots such as the coasts of Europe and the Mediterranean. You can find huge archaeological treasures that were covered as recently as 2600 years ago. And you will have no competition from the Warmista or those deluded by them.

  25. After over 30 years of global warming what has happened to the rate of sea level rise. I’m sure it’s in the pipeline. :O)

  26. I don’t get it.
    Why should I have to pay for some rich connected guy living in a $20 M mansion on the beach in
    Florida. Ya got 80 years….move ahole!

  27. Just some quick math here…146 million people below 1 meter….population by 2100 about 9 billion….I get:
    98.4% of all people will be completely unaffected by rising sea levels.
    The rest have about 100 years to decide what to do.

  28. I am not sure if WUWT is aware of this one, but the US Fish Wildlife Service is currently trying to restrict access to selected beaches along the entire US West Coast to protect the Western Snowy Plover as an endangered species. To make matters worse, they are using unspecified sea level rise to steal even more beach areas. As part of the proposed regulations, the Agency has written ‘with time, we anticipate that the lower portions of this unit will be inundated with sea level rise associated with climate change’. Nothing could be further from the truth. I put in my 2 cents worth in a detailed comment at:
    http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2010-0070-0127
    The tide gauges along the US West Coast are just starting to show a decrease in sea level. This is confirmed in the Pacific Sea Level Trend Satellite Map, which shows the increase in Pacific sea level over the Pacific Warm Pool and a decrease along the US West Coast. Even the ocean basin averages are deceiving.
    http://www.aviso.oceanobs.com/en/news/ocean-indicators/mean-sea-level/products-images/index.html
    We will see if these crooks actually bother to read the comments they asked for. They are supposed to use the ‘best scientific and commercial data available’, which excludes the IPCC reports and related propaganda. The EPA ignored the comments that they received on CO2 endangerment. Will Fish and Wildlife be any different?

  29. @ F Ross – if you lived in a low lying coastal area you’d care. A lot. It isn’t like you can simply pick up whole cities and move them by 2100 easily. Even if you don’t personally live in a low lying costal area you should care becuase these will likely be systemic costs that we’ll all have to contribute to.

    This is rubbish. The coastal dwellers around the world have moved upslope 120 meters in the last 25,000 years and in some cases even abandoned their island homes and did not require one government dollar to do so. And it isn’t even like we don’t have recent experience with mass flooding causing permanent dislocations.
    http://www.clui.org/lotl/v28/b.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_theory
    New Orleans has been steadily sinking for ever. It should have been allowed to sink out of sight but people are resilient (perhaps to the point to stupidity) and find work-arounds, so there today, unbelievably, sits New Orleans yet, still sinking.
    And then there’s all the glacial lakes that have come and gone with hellish fury, leaving behind such metropolises as Portland, Spokane, and Salt Lake City. Sea level change does not happen on these short time scales and so will not be even approximately as hellish. And sea level has never been constant, in any event. Don’t pretend it can be made constant.
    People are resilient, as mentioned. Or at least they were before the government teat became mandatory for everything we do.

  30. The real concern is how high is Al Gore’s beach house above sea level. I assume he will be one of the first refugees requiring government assistance to move his house to higher land.

  31. I found this article on my own yesterday and read it (should have sent it to Anthony then!)
    My take on it was this:
    So, scientific consensus? Where is the consensus? They don’t got no scientific consensus!
    But the serious-er thing is that it says they are going to select from “myriad studies.” That selection process doesn’t say they are going to merge the studies, but “…which of the myriad studies relating to climate change’s effect on ocean levels to consider.”
    That clearly says they will eliminate some of them. But ALL of them are peer-reviewed REAL SCIENTIFIC PAPERS. I can imagine the fury of those excluded.
    Snarc:
    It reeks of the Council of Nicea, where they decided which “holy scriptures” were “good enough” to put in this new thing that eventually was called the Bible. That was the Council at which St. Valentine punched out Arius in order to shut him the heck up. Arius’ followers were deemed to be deniers – oops!, I mean heretics – and none of their holy scriptures made it into the final consensus tome. Does it matter that the whole thing was really a put up by Emperor Constantine to quell the incessant quibbling among Christian sects?
    So, at the Council of Sea Level Change will be decided, not by measurements, but by compromise and politics, what will be the Councilensus about sea level, to assess going forth what is to be preached among the heathens and Gentiles. Yea, thus sayeth the Lord…
    All they will need is a burning bush and a few tablets, and the destruction of a few statues of Baal. And perhaps the sacrifice of a few fatted calves might be nice, too. Just to keep the Pharisees from getting out of hand. . . eos [end of snarc]


  32. dp says:
    July 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    It would appear that you are directing your comment at me when, in actuality the italicized portion of your post was a comment made by “Bystander says: July 16, 2011 at 10:44 am” which WAS directed at me.
    I am in basic agreement with the rest of your post in regard to sea level rise. Please see my previous posts above.
    If I have misunderstood your intent and meaning, my apologies.

  33. “On the other, sea level measurements have yet to prove any meaningful rise though there is agreement that they are, on global average, rising.”
    ======================
    Did anybody catch this stupid nonsensical statement?
    What the hell are they saying? Must be lost in translation I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  34. Michael [July 16, 2011 at 8:17 pm] says:
    “John Birch was right”

    About what? Rising Sea Levels?

  35. The outstanding statement in the article was that 125K years ago the temperature was 2C warmer and the oceans were 6 metres deeper. This gives rise to a couple of questions that would seem to disprove the basic concept of AGW. 1. Why was it hotter in the last interglacial by 2C? 2. How can one gauge the ocean height on a high and dry reef when around 1mm every 20 years of rising land mass would give you six metres. The question of why it was hotter is damning as we are now close to the end game in our interglacial and those 2C degrees would be a bonus. Though it has been postulated that a warming burst is noted as the end game of an interglacial that ends in tears and ice.

  36. Maybe the report should not only describe the range of predicted results, but should include a methodology to rank them on the basis of when they can be discarded if not supported by future observations of sea level rise. i.e. If the observed rise in sea level in year X is less than Y, then predictive studies 1 through 3 can be discarded as unsupported. Likewise, if the observed rise in sea level in year X is greater than Y then studies 48 though 50 can be discarded.
    The results, and comparison of the assumptions and techniques used on each group of studies, should prove useful and educational.

  37. Blade;
    No, watermelons.
    Which implies, just about everything.
    _______
    What’s the list and ranking of the current alarmist scares? At random partial sample:
    Runaway warming.
    Wild and destructive weather.
    Ocean rise.
    Ocean acidification.
    Ocean overheating.
    Unpredictable climate flip-outs.
    Loss of arable land.
    Excess population, in raging migrations looking for food and mobile phones.
    Warmistas, please provide your ranked lists, and maybe we can develop a threat consensus!

  38. Things need to be put in perspective. If true, 146 million people out of approximately 10 or so billion which would be 1.46% of the world population. Most likely this would be a lot less as these are people who aren’t even born yet. There would be plenty of time for the market to make the appropriate adjustments. Unless of course you’re speaking of rich people who live near the coast. Now, that’s a different matter. Most are going to live for ever (in their own mind) and sea level rises would effect their retirement. That’d be terrible.

  39. Doesn’t the concept of sea live rise depend on the belief that the continents are fixed and immovable? We know this not to be true. Wouldn’t continental drift and other factors such as earthquakes, tidal and other erosion, additional magma seeping from vents need to be considered in determining whether there is really any rise at all? and how many factors cause this. Is sea level rise really linear? Must another idiotic unscientific hockey stick be refuted?
    The concept of sea level rise from an assumed reference point seems as bogus as an optimal termpature for the earth.

  40. savethesharks says:
    July 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm
    What they are saying, Chris, is that the amount of sea-level rise they can detect is trivial and easily drowned (pun intended) out by the noise of every other factor involved.
    Anthropogenic Untaxed Activity causes catastrophic sea-level rise/fall, which is to say that no matter what direction the sea-levels go, a non-existant phenomenon is to blame, not the uselessness of the models that were created solely to enable a revenue stream.

  41. I feel sorry for the IPCC. They are looking for a second tidal gauge in the world that is showing an increase, besides the one in Hong Kong Harbor that is registering an increase (actually it is measuring the sinking geology it sits on), so they can input these two data streams into their worthless, ever-wrong, computer projections.

  42. “With 146 million people in the world currently living less than one meter above sea level…”
    i.e. 146million people live close to the beach where they can go fishing daily. Move those people inland until they are 15m above the sea and you sure are going to piss them off.

  43. Obie says:
    July 16, 2011 at 9:30 am
    I wonder if Nils Axel Morner will be one of the experts from the ten countries? I hope he is otherwise I would think that the panel would be somewhat bogus.
    No need to wonder. The answer is “Not no, but HELL NO!” He will be barred from this panel the same way respected and renowned polar bear expert Dr. Mitchell Taylor was barred from a meeting of the Polar Bear Specialist Group (set up under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission) in 2009:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5664069/Polar-bear-expert-barred-by-global-warmists.html
    Of course this panel will be bogus. Because contrarian views are “not helpful”, only ‘consensus’ views will be allowed.

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