The Marshall Islands and their Sea Level Changes

A short comment by Nils-Axel Mörner

UPDATE: See the follow up post here: The Most Important Sea Level Graph

This is the sea level graph (from Kwajalein) recently being circulated and claimed to show an alarming acceleration of a proposed general sea level rise.

Yes, this curve rises fairly rapidly from 1990 to 2012. But for what reason and with what regional message?

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This is a sea level graph (from Majuro) and is shows a general sea level stability from 1992 to 2010.

No traces of any acceleration!

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(Note from Anthony: see more on Majuro here: http://www.gloss-sealevel.org/publications/documents/pacificcountryreport_mi.pdf )

It looks like Kwajalein is affected by a local subsidence induced by building construction (or some sea level “correction” in order to have it going up).

The Majuro records, for sure, contradicts and acceleration claim; even a general “rise”.

In conclusion, don’t “hang your hat” on the Kwajalein graph. Look around and observe!

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Sean

A rising tide doe not lift all boats after all.

GlynnMhor

Subsidence in places like New Orleans and Venice has been attributed to pumping out fresh water. How much have these islanders been pumping relative to the size of their freshwater lens?

Sweet Old Bob

So,another “figures don’t lie but liars figure”?

Crispin in Waterloo

And what exactly explains the 0.22 metre changes in a single year?
For answers refer to the wonderful work of Bob Tisdale. Rule out winds before ruling in subsidence.

JohnWho

These aren’t the rise you’re looking for.
move along.
🙂
Are there hills on the ocean’s surface that are getting higher?
When the land level drops, does the sea level rise there relative to everywhere else?
I suspect some alarmists will answer “yes” to both questions.

Lance Wallace

Kwajalein was the home for many years of a sizable contingent of workers from Lincoln Labs and perhaps other denizens of the military-industrial complex. They were working on ABMs and occasionally, I think, (probably classified), there was a shoot targeted near Kwajalein with an attempt to bring down the missile. There were schools, libraries, etc built, no doubt wells dug, etc. So depending on how the sea-level rise was measured, perhaps it is more of a ground-level subsidence due to extensive building.

Paul Marko

New Orleans and Venice were both built on deltas. Both are subsiding due to sediment compaction and crustal loading. Isostatic balance and rate of compaction will determine their future. Unless Kwajalein has artesian wells, the water gradient is normal hydrostatic and not supporting the overburden. Pumping out the water will have no effect on the surface elevation.

Latitude
Latitude

JohnWho says:
July 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm
Are there hills on the ocean’s surface that are getting higher?
===
yes, some places have had a positive anomaly since day one…
according to that, the tropical indo-pacific is now almost 2 feet higher than the rest of the ocean….
Disney is in negotiations to buy it and make it a water park…………
If that doesn’t work out, they are buying that deep valley off Maine….
LOL

Resourceguy

It looks like another data revision effort is about to begin–on anything that contradicts.

LexingtonGreen

I am not an expert in these matters, but this site for NOAA data only goes up to 2001. http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/station_info.shtml?stn=1820000+Kwajalein,+Marshall+Islands

steven

Hank Johnson (D) Ga. wants to know if any Marines have been moved to Kwajalein from Guam!

Roger Andrews

“This is a sea level graph (from Majuro) and i(t) shows a general sea level stability from 1992 to 2010.”
Extend the graph to 2013 and it shows a clear upward trend:
http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/rlr.monthly.plots/1838_high.png

Auto

Oooooh!
Some of ‘our’ ships [we manage them – they’re expensive; we don’t own them!] are registered in Majuro, MI.
If Majuro sinks, will they be able to carry more cargo – or less – before their load line is submerged?
Auto

You should compare Kwajalein to the POPOVA (BELYI OSTROV) station at the tip of the Yamal Peninsula because sea level, tree rings and temperature change should all correlate.
http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/rlr.monthly.plots/653_high.png

cedarhill

Lance Wallace @ July 31, 2013 at 1:59 pm ”
Kwaj has a long history of missile support including tracking downrange radars for launches from Vandenberg and has had many gov contractors from RCA, Pan Am. Lincoln Lab folks likely did the software work on the telemetry (as in C-band radars). They monitored the MIRVs and things as the down range site for the West Coast. It was the West Coast equivalent to what is now the East Coast’s 45th Space Wing (as in Cape Canaveral). For what it’s doing today, see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan_Ballistic_Missile_Defense_Test_Site
If you note the time line, the “rise” corresponds to the Navy and Air Force development. It likely is “just like the Maldives” as described in a recent article (on this site if I recall correctly). It’s more believable Kwaj is sinking by US Government work than the Pacific Ocean deciding to selectively rising around the Marshalls.

Justthinkin

Maybe it’s that missing heat expanding the water around the Marshalls?

Kwajalein is a seamount atoll. An atoll formed on top of an extinct volcano. You can think of the volcano as a big pile of rubble that settles over time, lowering the surface of the atoll.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seamount

Roger Andrews (July 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm) “Extend the graph to 2013 and it shows a clear upward trend”
Just like this graph shows a clear downward trend over that same short interval: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/mei/ts.gif

G P Hanner

Kwajalein Atoll is also the terminal point of a US missile test range. I imagine that there is a lot of construction there.

Robertv

I salute Nils-Axel Mörner one of the many great scientist fighting Global stupidity.

TimTheToolMan

Scepticism alarm bells should ring loudly on anyone who sees an accelerated sea level rise in one location alone. How anyone could point to that and think and say “global warming” is truely beyond me.

scarletmacaw

GlynnMhor says:
July 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Subsidence in places like New Orleans and Venice has been attributed to pumping out fresh water. How much have these islanders been pumping relative to the size of their freshwater lens?

The US military and civilians on the island of Kwajalein use stored rainwater as their water source. The island is pretty well built up, I doubt there has been much additional construction this century. If there is an explanation for the sea level change it is probably due to a shift in the prevailing winds. Another possibility is that the local currents have been disrupted when the Marshallese on the neighboring island of Ebeye filled in the shalllows in the process of connecting two smaller islands to Ebeye.

And what exactly explains the 0.22 metre changes in a single year?
Earthquakes and Tectonic movement.

jackmorrow

If too many people rush over there to measure and speculate , the island could be in danger of tipping over. HA!

BostonGuy

“Kwajalein is a seamount atoll.”
Actually Kwaj is a coral reef – not a seamount. There might have been a central volcano millenia ago, but it is long gone, the coral reef around it remains. Kwaj has an average elevation of 6 feet above sea level. I would be skeptical of the data presented above – where is the sensor? Kwajalein is a ring of dozens and dozens of islands, some tiny, some large, some with 1000s of people, some with none. There is still a lot of military activity there – I would doubt that the place is sinking. Coral reefs tend to adjust their height with respect to sea levels, so it will remain at around 6 feet above sea level regardless of the sea level.

Robert Clemenzi

BostonGuy says:

so it will remain at around 6 feet above sea level regardless of the sea level.

Try again – coral does not grow above the water. Which brings up an interesting question – How old is the coral?

TimTheToolMan says:
July 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm
Scepticism alarm bells should ring loudly on anyone who sees an accelerated sea level rise in one location alone. How anyone could point to that and think and say “global warming” is truely beyond me.

It is those “hills” in the water Tim.
I’m tellin’ you, the CAGW folks see them everywhere.
True tale:
I and a CAGW believer where at the ocean the other day, and there was a Jim floating peacefully in the water. I handed Jim a cinder block and the “believer” said, “Look, there’s proof of Global Warming – the water is rising over Jim’s head!”
Can’t fight their impeccable logic.
LOL

That’s what I meant by a seamount atoll, a coral reef on top of an extinct volcano seamount. Given it is supposedly the largest coral atoll in the world, it will be old.
Coral reefs tend to adjust their height with respect to sea levels, so it will remain at around 6 feet above sea level regardless of the sea level.
Yes, but over vastly different timescales. Settling of a volcano will occur in short periods, as short as a few seconds in the case of a undersea landslide. Whereas coral islands adjust to sea level changes over hundreds of years.
Volcano settling is often caused by earthquakes. There was a big quake in the Solomon Islands 2007 that seems to correspond with the spike up.

Kwajalein is in the Western Pacific, an area of significant sea level rise as measured by satellites since 1992. The satellite measurements are independent of local settling of the adjacent land.

Gregory F. Lane

In Florida…and beyond I would surmise, the Army Corps (at least that is the theory at the local level) decided to change sea level designations from NGVD (National Geodetic Vertical Datum) to NAVD (North American Vertical Datum)…in 2004.
I have never really questioned the change until now. The sea level rose, across the board, anywhere from 8″-12″. We in the Construction industry were never given much of an explanation, and we were inundated with so many code changes…we never thought to question this change. Sea level just was “adjusted”…we complied. It is still thus!
It makes me wonder the viability, and the source of such a massive change…and the timing. I was not a skeptical individual at the time…but I am now. anybody hep to this?
See: http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showtopic=74865

Other_Andy

@Eli
“The satellite measurements are independent of local settling of the adjacent land.”
Pretty picture.
Being a skeptic, I would like to see some data.
No glacial isostatic adjustment?

JimF

Philip Bradley says:
July 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm: “…Kwajalein is a seamount atoll. An atoll formed on top of an extinct volcano. You can think of the volcano as a big pile of rubble that settles over time, lowering the surface of the atoll….” It is better to think of it as a cooling pile of (mostly) basalt that grows denser with time, and subsides back into the asthenosphere. It stays high while warm, but once the hotspot moves on, it is fated to sink below the waves. I suggest something else is at work here, or at least compounding the issue, like $$$.

davidmhoffer

Eli Rabett says:
July 31, 2013 at 7:23 pm
Kwajalein is in the Western Pacific, an area of significant sea level rise as measured by satellites since 1992.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Nice try Eli. Why does the graphic end in 2008? We got 20 years of data but let’s skip the last 25% of it? Also, could you explain those areas in the southern hemisphere which are showing spots of +5 cm immediately adjacent to spots of -5 cm? How does that work?

Streetcred

Robert Clemenzi says: July 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm
“BostonGuy says: so it will remain at around 6 feet above sea level regardless of the sea level.”
Try again – coral does not grow above the water.

Beg to differ, I grow coral … my system mimics tidal gains and losses … the coral grows out of the water at the low ‘tide’ and right to the surface on the ‘high’ tide.

JimF

Interestingly, Kwajalein appears to lie within the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool. There appears to be about 20 cm of sea level fluctuation* in the hottest part of this body of hot water (highest in La Nina times, lowest at the end of an El Nino?). It would be interesting to check sea level readings in islands inside and outside the IPWP to see what is going on. There could be a sea level decrease in some of those along the equatorial zone, but far east of the IWFP.
* http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/regsatprod/ipwp/sh_ts.php

JimF

If my surmise above is correct, that the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool is swelling, then we could be in for another big El Nino when the equatorial winds stop blowing.

It is better to think of it as a cooling pile of (mostly) basalt that grows denser with time, and subsides back into the asthenosphere. It stays high while warm, but once the hotspot moves on, it is fated to sink below the waves.
True, but I was explaining how sudden subsidence could occur. Earthquakes are known to cause rapid subsidence of land volcanoes, but I don’t believe it has been documented for undersea volcanoes.

Robert Clemenzi says:
July 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm

BostonGuy says:
so it will remain at around 6 feet above sea level regardless of the sea level.
Try again – coral does not grow above the water. Which brings up an interesting question – How old is the coral?

Coral “sand” can be lifted above the sea level much as barrier island sand is lifted above high tide. In coral’s case, Willis Eschenbach give credit to Parrot fish for making coral sand. Please reread http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/13/why-the-parrotfish-should-be-the-national-bird/

JDN

@Nils: What happened in 1998? Both graphs show a drop in sea level. If there are a lot of stroms with high waves, are the instruments being fooled? Can they be fooled by a lack of storms?

Robert Clemenzi

Streetcred says:
July 31, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Beg to differ, I grow coral … my system mimics tidal gains and losses … the coral grows out of the water at the low ‘tide’ and right to the surface on the ‘high’ tide.

Ric Werme says:

Coral “sand” can be lifted above the sea level much as barrier island sand is lifted above high tide.

So — are you both saying that, under a building, the coral will continue to grow and push the buildings even higher above sea level?
I agree that a typhoon could create dunes from the coral sand, but I don’t think that coral is going to grow above the high tide level.

Here is an interesting picture of plate boundaries, earthquakes, and sea mounts.
Kwajalein is not near a plate boundary. It is almost halfway from the northern tip of Australia (2233 miles) and the Hawaian Islands.(2532 miles).
http://geology.uprm.edu/Morelock/1_image/platebd.jpg
Kwajalein is about 1140 miles from the plate boundary to the south, 1200 miles to the boundary to the SW near Papua NG, and 1400 miles to the Marianas Trench to the WNW.
Majuro (shown in the Figure 7 plot near the end of the article, showing no sea level change), is 300 miles SE of Kwajalein.

Janice Moore

None of this proves much, just interesting (I hope) background information:
re: water supply in Kwajalein — U.S. Air Force to the rescue (Feb. 2009)

Big Storm batters Kwajalein (2004)

University of Hawaii assumes sea level rise is cause of Majuro flooding (2012)

***********************************************
Hey, OT, but, wasn’t that dufus woman who thinks cold weather proves human CO2 causes global warming, interviewed in Germany in June, 2013 video, from The Marshall Islands? Brought over to parrot the party line, apparently.

Other_Andy

“Hey, OT, but, wasn’t that dufus woman who thinks cold weather proves human CO2 causes global warming, interviewed in Germany in June, 2013 video, from The Marshall Islands?”
No, she was from Rarotonga (The Cook Islands).

Jonathan

Since I like to hear arguments for opposing views, can you please comment on the reaction to this post by tamino, http://tamino.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/observe-closely/ ? Specifically, why did you only use a subset of the data for Majuro for your analysis, while using a much longer time period for Kwajalein? Also, the comparison of those data sets might be easier to make, visually, if you could plot the data for Majuro and Kwajalein in the same plot, or at least at the same scale. But I understand that it can be some extra work to replot the data.
Also, the pdf linked as “a note from Anthony” is a report from 2002. I think I found the equivalent report for 2010, if someone is interested, http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60025/IDO60025.2010.pdf .

stimpy

Updated tide gauge data for Marshall Islands (to 2010):
http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60025/IDO60025.2010.pdf
To get closer to an “absolute” sea level trend, the tide gauge data have estimates of vertical land movement and reverse barometric effect accounted for. This is based on the SEAFRAME gauge at Majuro. It is just one site in a large archipelago and there will be variation in the rates from site to site within the Marshalls. And yes the atolls’ morphology is the result of seamount subsidence over millions of years with a coral fringe growing around a volcanic island upward at approximately the rate of subsidence (Darwin suggested this mode of formation). So yes at the core of the atoll, at some depth, is a basaltic seamount. For a future atoll see Bora Bora
http://mw2.google.com/mw-panoramio/photos/medium/9439.jpg

JDN asks “What happened in 1998?”
Super El Nino.

Jonathan

Out of interest I downloaded the data for Majuro ( http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/1838.php ) and calculated the slope from 1993-2010 using linear regression, and got it to 3.9 mm/year, with 95% confidence interval of 2.0-5.8mm/year. (The latter calculated using bootstrap sampling, resampling residuals; resampling cases yielded almost the same values. I just learned how to do those error estimates, so please correct me if they’re wrong.)
3.9 mm/year sounds quite large to me (and it’s quite a bit larger than the slope in your figure for Kwajalein). What I try to say is that the way you visualize your plots, such as scaling, can give you the wrong impression of rates. I think this is especially the case when there is much noise in the data. Can you comment on this simple analysis? If I am not mistaken in my calculation, it doesn’t seem like the sea level at Majuro “shows a general […] stability”, and also there does actually seem to be a “general “rise””, at least not compared to the rate of sea level change for Kwajalein in your first plot.
I didn’t try to calculate anything for the acceleration, since I’m not sure how to do that correctly, yet, so I can’t comment about that.

Robert Clemenzi says:
July 31, 2013 at 10:41 pm

So — are you both saying that, under a building, the coral will continue to grow and push the buildings even higher above sea level?
I agree that a typhoon could create dunes from the coral sand, but I don’t think that coral is going to grow above the high tide level.

Of course not. I haven’t been to an atoll, so I have to rely on my childhood summers on Long Beach Island and assume that processes are similar.
Parrot fish munch on coral and create sand. Coral groes back, apparently to the mean high tide level. Mild wave action and tides bring coral sand out of the water and maintain the ring of sand around the lagoon, seamount, what have you. Wind blows the sand around, vegetation traps sand that blows into it. That’s one reason why dune grass is so important in dune restoration efforts. Bigger storms brings waves that reach that sand with enough force to move it away. On LBI my grandparent’s house was destroyed in a storm that breached the island in three places.
If you build on an atoll in the Pacific, you’ve likely built on a seamount on top of dead coral and sand, and the seamount will be gradually sinking into the seafloor. I’d expect problems with dunes around the building and greater risk of flooding during storms.
Like on coastal barrier islands, permanent buildings are a risky investment.

Chris Schoneveld

Robert Clemenzi says:
So — are you both saying that, under a building, the coral will continue to grow and push the buildings even higher above sea level?
Robert is right. Upward growth of coral atolls easily keeps pace with sealevel rise, but fixed infra-structures won’t. Hence permanent habitation with buildings etc. is not sustainable on these islands, irrespective of whether sealevel rise is man induced or natural. Most commenters, even Willis, seem to forget that.