On NASA's recent sea level claim: "Science Isn’t Broken" (Except when it is)

Guest post by David Middleton

From Five Thirty Eight Science…

If you follow the headlines, your confidence in science may have taken a hit lately.

Peer review? More like self-review. An investigation in November uncovered a scam in which researchers were rubber-stamping their own work, circumventing peer review at five high-profile publishers.

Scientific journals? Not exactly a badge of legitimacy, given that the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology recently accepted for publication a paper titled “Get Me Off Your (Fracking) Mailing List,” whose text was nothing more than those seven words, repeated over and over for 10 pages. Two other journals allowed an engineer posing as Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel to publish a paper, “Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.”

Revolutionary findings? Possibly fabricated. In May, a couple of University of California, Berkeley, grad students discovered irregularities in Michael LaCour’s influential paper suggesting that an in-person conversation with a gay person could change how people felt about same-sex marriage. The journal Science retracted the paper shortly after, when LaCour’s co-author could find no record of the data.

Taken together, headlines like these might suggest that science is a shady enterprise that spits out a bunch of dressed-up nonsense…



While there are a lot of problems with the peer-review process and a population explosion of journals which will readily publish abject bullschist, I think the bigger, more serious scientific breakdown, as it pertains to the public, is in the science journalism and press releases. Most people never read the abstracts of the papers, much less the actual papers.

Here’s an example…

Green Business | Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:10pm EDT Related: ENVIRONMENT

Global sea levels climbed 3 inches since 1992, NASA research shows


Sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly 3 inches (8 cm) since 1992, the result of warming waters and melting ice, a panel of NASA scientists said on Wednesday.

In 2013, a United Nations panel predicted sea levels would rise from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) by the end of the century. The new research shows that sea level rise most likely will be at the high end of that range, said University of Colorado geophysicist Steve Nerem.

Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Nerem said.



And, here is the original press release from NASA, and the dramatic graphic that went with it:



And the quote from that press release that the media is latching onto, and spinning:

“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of the Sea Level Change Team. “But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.”

First, the unbroken science…


Nerem, R. S., D. Chambers, C. Choe, and G. T. Mitchum. “Estimating Mean Sea Level Change from the TOPEX and Jason Altimeter Missions.” Marine Geodesy 33, no. 1 supp 1 (2010): 435.

Dr. Nerem’s science does support 3 inches of sea level rise since 1992.

Now for the broken science…

In 2013, a United Nations panel predicted sea levels would rise from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meters) by the end of the century. The new research shows that sea level rise most likely will be at the high end of that range, said University of Colorado geophysicist Steve Nerem.

Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Nerem said.

Sea level has been rising at a rate of about 3 mm per year since the Jason/Topex missions started flying.

The IPCC says that sea level will rise by 300 to 900 mm by the end of this century. Dr. Nerem says that his work indicates that the sea level rise will be at the high end of that range. Since we are 15 years into this century with about 45 mm of sea level rise “in the bank,” sea level would have to rise by 855 mm over the next 85 years to hit the high end. That is 10 mm per year. This caused sea level to rise by ~10 mm/yr for about 10,000 years…


The animation above is of the end-Pleistocene deglaciation (AKA Holocene Transgression)…


All of the sea level rise since 1700 AD is circled at the right hand side of the graph.

The only way sea level rise could approach the high end of the IPCC range is if it exponentially accelerates…


The rate from 2081-2100 would have to average 20 mm per year, twice that of the Holocene Transgression. This is only possible in bad science fiction movies.

Broken science, part deux…

Sea levels are rising faster than they did 50 years ago…

They are rising faster than they were 50 years ago. However, they are rising at the same rate that they were 80, 70 and 60 years ago…


There is nothing abnormal about sea level rising by 3 inches over a 23-yr period.  Nor is a 3 mm/yr sea level rise over a multi-decade period unusual.  There is simply no anomaly requiring an explanation.  The claim that the 3 inches if sea level rise from 1992-2015 is inline with 3 feet of sea level rise in the 21st century is patently false and demonstrably disprovable.  The accurate statement that sea level is rising faster now than it was 50 years ago is cherry-picking of the highest order.  Warning that “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” is the scientific equivalent of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater because you constructed a model which predicts that the projection system will burst into flames if it malfunctions at some point in the future.

UPDATE: Somehow, comments were turned off on this post, even though they are enabled by default. The problem has since been corrected. – Apologies – Anthony Watts

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August 28, 2015 3:00 pm

Fabulous essay. Thanks to David Middleton.
Climate “science” is just full of such bad science. I don’t know if I will live to see it cleaned up.

August 28, 2015 3:14 pm

Forgive me if I’m wrong but didn’t the raw satellite data show a lower rate of SLR before the more recent adjustments?
And you can go to Co2 Science and find heaps of recent PR tide gauge studies that show just 1.5mm to 2 mm SLR. So who is correct?

Reply to  Neville
August 28, 2015 3:27 pm

Sorry I should explain the 1.5 to 2mm above. I mean per annum and that translates to just 128mm to 170mm by 2100 and that’s just 5 to 7 inches by the end of this century. So using some of the recent tide gauge studies you have to ask, where is the impact from increased co2 emissions post 1950?
And all of their climate models show Antarctica is negative for SLR until at least 2300. So where is this melt water to come from I wonder ?

Reply to  Neville
August 30, 2015 3:59 pm

They support this rate of increase as well ( project 3.5cm to 36.8cm b 2100. Risk of 84cm less than 1 in 20).

The attribution of SLR to CO2 is crazy. Surface heat retention over open oceans is negligible . Surface heat retention by water vapor vastly dominates. The added contribution of MMGHG would be so small as to be unmeasurable .

Reply to  Neville
August 28, 2015 3:32 pm

The satellite data includes the GIA adjustment. This assumes the land is also rising, so the net sea level rise relative to land would need to subtract out the GIA adjustment. This is actually the more appropriate value to use, the GIA corrected one is simply for alarmism IMHO. Subtract out GIA, then the satellite data agrees reasonably well with the tide gauges.

Reply to  Alcheson
August 28, 2015 3:48 pm

Well… kinda.
There are several components to sea level:
1. 0.3 mm GIA (also known as CGSLR) which only affects satellites
2. Land subsidence due to mineral and ground water extraction, and ice sheet melting (mostly just impacts satellites).
3. Steric sea level rise (ocean warming)
4. Sea level rise due to ice sheets and ground water.
The steric sea level rise is about 1 mm/Y or about 1/2 the real sea level rise.
About 0.7-0.9 mm is due to ice sheets, ground water etc. The satellite sea level rise is twice this since the sea level rise is the difference between the sea rise and the land rise. The land rise is negative.
Sea level rise tidal gauge of 1.9 after adding 0.9 to 1.0 for land sinking and 0.3 for “virtual sea level rise” = 32 mm from satellite. Oil and gas extraction causes land subsidence so the land sinking exceeds the sea rising from material transfer.

Reply to  Alcheson
August 28, 2015 3:59 pm

But what about comparison of tide gauges pre 1950 and post 1950? Let’s leave the satellites out of this for the sake of argument.

Reply to  Alcheson
August 28, 2015 8:15 pm

Neville, I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.

subductive lank
Reply to  Alcheson
August 28, 2015 9:48 pm

And of course there is the old bogeyman tectonic movement. Much of our ocean crust will be subducted along coastlines at a rate of several millimetres per year. This means that faulting and tectonic uplift will always have a major input on local sea levels.
Put a marker on the rock to measure tide levels and you can bet your bottom dollar the marker itself will move over time.

Reply to  Alcheson
August 29, 2015 2:16 am

@subductive… Should we go all in to start a ‘Journal of Anthropogenic Climate Tectonics’ and put out a call for papers? You can do the road show and I’ll write the script that does evaluations and peer reviews. That $150 to publish figure sounds reasonable for a Quarterly. We’ll be ahead of the curve if we set up at conferences with the tie-in campaign “Exploring the Connection Between Fracking and Sea Level Rise” to attract both petroleum and alarmism grant stock. Then ride the biodiversity frontier with leading questions like “Does Rising CO2 Threaten Mid-Atlantic Ridge Extremophile Communities?” The bowels of the Earth have long been perceived to be distant from the slights of Man. It is time to end this insulation and bring the peril of humanity way down where the sun don’t shine. Put an oil derrick on that popular “Subduction leads to Orogeny” T-shirt. /SARC

Mike Bromley the Kurd
Reply to  Alcheson
August 29, 2015 4:08 am

PA says:
“It seems obvious that Topex should calibrate against tide gauges that have little measurable vertical displacement but that isn’t what they do. They apparently compare against a reference geode that includes a lot of sinking land far from the ocean”
I think you mean “Geoid”. A reference geode would result in a catastrophic mixing of metaphors. Perhaps that’s been the problem all along.
With respect to O&G extraction causing enough subsidence to be globally significant (or even regionally), that is indeed a fine example of picking the fly sh*t out of the black pepper. As is the immeasurable thermal expansion. Sea level rises. It falls.
As Subductive Lank says, there is more measurable RELATIVE sea level than there is actual. Talk about muddying the waters. Never mind, though, it’s fun to model this stuff and wail about real estate values in 2115 A.D.

Reply to  Alcheson
August 29, 2015 7:44 am

Mike Bromley the Kurd August 29, 2015 at 4:08 am
I think you mean “Geoid”. A reference geode would result in a catastrophic mixing of metaphors. Perhaps that’s been the problem all along.
With respect to O&G extraction causing enough subsidence to be globally significant (or even regionally), that is indeed a fine example of picking the fly sh*t out of the black pepper. As is the immeasurable thermal expansion. Sea level rises. It falls.
As Subductive Lank says, there is more measurable RELATIVE sea level than there is actual. Talk about muddying the waters. Never mind, though, it’s fun to model this stuff and wail about real estate values in 2115 A.D.

Yeah, I meant geiod.
Oil consumption alone is about 4.6 GT per year. If we take all the things people drag out of the ground it probably makes a 0.1 mm/Y contribution to land sinking. After all an open pit coal mine by definition lowers the surface level of the earth.
The ground water situation is interesting 600 GT of groundwater is used every year. The effect on sea level is said to be around 0.5 mm/year. 360 GT of water raises the sea level 1 mm, Dam building is claimed to offset most of the pumping.
The ice melting question is interesting. 0.4 to 1.0 mm/y could be due to ice cube loss.
One would think that there would be accurate numbers for all of this. Apparently not. The GRACE measurements would be of the change in mass – so they would be more accurate (the land surface isn’t a reference as I understand it). So if the tidal gauges and GRACE are on the same page – the Jason/Topex measurements don’t deal with land subsidence correctly and should be fixed.
Since this has been a known problem for literally decades it is obvious NASA knows that they are measuring the sea level wrong and they are doing it deliberately. The addition of a 0.3 mm/yr “GIA” correction in 2011 because the sea level wasn’t rising fast enough is just icing on the cake.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2015 8:37 pm

What the GRACE analysis indicated is that 1.1 mm/Y of land fall (as I interpret it) was contributing to the sea level rise.
It seems obvious that Topex should calibrate against tide gauges that have little measurable vertical displacement but that isn’t what they do. They apparently compare against a reference geode that includes a lot of sinking land far from the ocean.

August 28, 2015 3:22 pm

Is this what you mean by bull schist?

Steve Case
August 28, 2015 3:26 pm

Follow the link above where Dr. Steve Nerem and others try to explain why the rate of sea level rise is not accelerating. That link is a few years now, but if you download the current data from the CU website it still comes up negative today.

August 28, 2015 3:36 pm

Figures don’t Lie, but Liars Figure

Reply to  markl
August 28, 2015 5:38 pm

That seems to be the credo of the progressive greens.

August 28, 2015 3:53 pm

Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:

If you worry about global warming, climate change, or increasing carbon dioxide levels in general, what is it you worry about?
Is it sea level rise?
Please read this. Please pay special attention to the period starting about 14,000 years ago. The ice sheets from the last ice age melted during that period (of over 10,000 years) of warming, and the rate of sea level rise was under a half-inch per year the entire time.
There isn’t that much ice now. There is no general temperature increase right now. Ice simply cannot melt like that now.
From an engineering standpoint, it is impossible for sea level to rise by three feet in the next 85 years. So, please don’t believe the hype.
Sea level has been rising at about the same rate since the dawn of civilization. If humans have caused it, there is no turning back, since we are talking all of history. The fact is, humans are not responsible for the rise of the sea. It does it all on its own.
Humans are responsible for taking care of each other, and the proven way to do that is with power and fuel, fossil fuel and nuclear fission. Fighting these is tantamount to fighting your brethren and condemning them to suffering, slavery, and death.

James at 48
Reply to  Lonnie E. Schubert
August 31, 2015 1:07 pm

My wall of worry is decline of sea level. By the time we realize it is occurring (and this is a question of when, not if, it is after all inevitable in the long run) it will be too late to mitigate many of the horrific impacts.

Bill Illis
August 28, 2015 4:07 pm

The tide gauges provide different figures.
Sonel.org has been maintaining a database of tide gauge sea level changes for stations which have been co-located with a GPS vertical uplift/subsidence monitoring stations. This is the most accurate measurement considering that the land is uplifting as much 12.7 mm/year at a station in Iceland and sinking as much as 8 mm/year at Grand Isle near New Orleans.
From 1900-2011, the average sea level rise from tide gauges (corrected for local vertical land movements measured by GPS stations which have a continuous record for at least 3 years) has been 1.42 mm/year.
From 1960-2011, the average corrected sea level rise from the tide gauges is 1.68 mm/year.
From 1982-2011, the average corrected sea level rise from the tide gauges is 1.99 mm/year.
They don’t provide 1993 to 2015 data as at least 30 years of data is required to provide a reliable record.

Reply to  David Middleton
August 28, 2015 8:13 pm

You might also investigate groundwater usage trends in southern Florida, particularly withdrawals from the Biscayne Aquifer (which in 2010 exceeded 700 million gallons per day).
Groundwater pumping is not the sole reason sea water invades the freshwater aquifer — for example, urban/suburban development and agriculture divert surface sources of aquifer recharge. Yet almost every news article refers to sea level rise as the culprit.

spangled drongo
Reply to  David Middleton
August 29, 2015 1:04 am

Thanks David. Where I live, in a tectonically stable part of the world, the sea levels in recent years are ~ 9 inches [225 mm] lower than they were 70 years ago based on very accurate, still existing benchmarks of good-weather [normal BP] king tides.

spangled drongo
Reply to  David Middleton
August 29, 2015 2:06 am

I should add that SLR is really about the highest fine weather SLs not some dubious mean.

August 28, 2015 4:09 pm

An American nickel coin is just under 2 mm in thickness. So at an average of 3 mm per year increase of sea level, what does that mean? – in two years, the sea level rises by the thickness of three American nickel coins. Lord help us, we are all going to drown!

August 28, 2015 4:13 pm

Looking at the graph of the longer term data, the sea level climbed pre 1960 and then leveled off. Compare that to the NOAA temp data here and you can see the temps plateaued in the 1940’s. So if we assume the two are related, are we seeing a 20-25yr lag from the time the temps stopped climbing till the sea level stops? So we could expect to see the sea level rate flatten in about 5-10 years? Just a thought. Of course any flattening of the rate must be corrected, mustn’t it? /sarc

Frank Kotler
August 28, 2015 4:15 pm

“Sea level rises pretty slowly, you know.”… or so Dr. Nerem advised our host…

Lady Gaiagaia
August 28, 2015 4:15 pm

Sea level has frequently been higher than now during the Holocene, let alone during the previous interglacial, the Eemian.
Not only during the Holocene Optimum, over 5000 years ago, but during the Minoan, Roman and Medieval Warm Periods. Here are data from Hawaii for the Minoan:
Sea level higher than present 3500 years ago on the
northern main Hawaiian Islands
Eric E. Grossman and Charles H. Fletcher, III
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
University of Hawaii, 1680 East-West Road,Honolulu,Hawaii 96822
New data from an emerged coastal bench and associated fossil beach on
Kapapa Island (Oahu),Hawaii, preserve a detailed history of middle to late
Holocene sea level. These include 29 new calibrated radiocarbon ages and elevations
indicating mean sea level reached a maximum position of 2.00 ± 0.35
m ca. 3500 yr B.P. These results correlate with additional evidence from Hawaii
and other Pacific islands and provide constraints on Oahu’s long-term uplift
rate (0.03-0.07 mm/yr), previously based solely on Pleistocene age shorelines.
Our sea-level reconstruction is consistent with geophysical model predictions
of Earth’s geoid response to the last deglaciation and with observations of
increased Antarctic ice volume during the late Holocene.

Lady Gaiagaia
Reply to  Lady Gaiagaia
August 28, 2015 4:22 pm

I should add that soil radionuclides show that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, repository of most of the fresh water on the planet, quit retreating over 3000 years ago.
Earth is in the inexorable decline back toward the next glacial episode. Our puny ability to retard this catastrophic process by adding CO2 to the air cannot proceed furiously enough to head off this disaster. Even if we dug and pumped up and burned as much fossil fuel as we could. Regrettably.

James at 48
Reply to  Lady Gaiagaia
August 31, 2015 1:08 pm

Correct. And billions will die.

August 28, 2015 4:17 pm

This ‘Sea Level’ nonsense has gone too far.
Watch this 3 minute Video that states that ‘Scientists’ can measure ‘Sea Level’ to the nearest Metre, and then consider what other ‘Scientists’ start bragging about, measuring to the Millimetre.
It’s absurd.

August 28, 2015 5:21 pm

There is no value in commenters agreeing with each other on this blog. Sooner or later someone has to take the originating public servant to court, otherwise this will go on for ever.

Lady Gaiagaia
Reply to  hillrj
August 28, 2015 5:38 pm

In my experience, commenters on this blog often vehemently disagree with each other.

Reply to  hillrj
August 28, 2015 5:49 pm

If you feel that taking civil servants to court is so vital, why don’t you do it?

Reply to  MarkW
August 30, 2015 12:15 am

I dont live in the same country as the alleged miscreant.

Reply to  hillrj
August 29, 2015 9:08 am

Good luck finding an unbiased honest judge with an accompanying science background other than political. Otherwise you are correct; there is no shortage of talk and a void of action.

Reply to  hillrj
August 29, 2015 9:49 am

You are more likely able to get some serious rabble rousing done in congress by writing letters to editors and concresspeople about the disaster at the EPA because the EPA has stepped on enough “little guy” toes for the public to understand that there is an agency that needs to be reined in. Take a look at the comments streaming in the news reports that EPA is going to enforce it’s new water purity rules not withstanding a court order put those rules in abeyance in 17 states. EPA has zero friends in agriculture or even among “hobby” ranchers.

Curious George
August 28, 2015 5:28 pm

Satellite measurements of the sea level change strike me as an extremely difficult undertaking. The sea surface is far from smooth, waves can be many meters high, how do you measure an average rise of 1-3 mm per year? The NASA website explains how it is done, but it looks like – we are measuring this, and it must be an average sea level, because we say so. Magic. I applaud them for trying but I would highly appreciate an analysis of underlying uncertainties.

Reply to  Curious George
August 29, 2015 4:13 pm

I once saw a radar map of the oceans surface taken by satellite. It showed a reverse of the underlying ocean bottom. The deeper the ocean, the bigger the bump in the ocean surface due to gravity. The Pacific Ocean is some 6′ higher than the Atlantic Ocean at the Panama Canal. Any surface radar will show underwater reefs as well as a chart.
At any given spot the ocean surface varies by the minute due to water and air temperature, Barometric pressure at the site and off shore and by wind direction and strength and let’s not forget tidal forces from the Sun, Moon and Jupiter.
Figuring actual sea level, what ever that is, to the mm would seem impossible. Course I’m sure there is a “model” for that, that’s completely accurate – right?

August 28, 2015 5:33 pm

Nils-Axel Mörner has long claimed that the satellite record overstates sea level rise, and that the actual rise rate is most likely 0.0 to 0.7 mm/year per a report in 2012. Much of the claimed rise is from adjustments added (he says he was told this) because the data was too flat and everyone knew it should be 2.3 mm/year. I’ve never found satisfactory confirmation about that, it may just be another thing we need to watch.
Before and after adjustments:
All from discussion and links at http://joannenova.com.au/2012/12/are-sea-levels-rising-nils-axel-morner-documents-a-decided-lack-of-rising-seas/

August 28, 2015 5:50 pm

One of the problems of linking to an offsite image is that you never know what might happen to it. It might disappear. It might be replaced by an uncomplimentary photo when the host finds out his site is swamped by WUWT world. For graphs with an x-axis in years, it might confirm your claim – or it might not.
Check out http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/31/the-marshall-islands-and-their-sea-level-changes/#comment-1376914 which reads:

Roger Andrews
July 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm
“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:

[Images get displayed full size in block quotes, this is the image in that comment. Yay WordPress.]
The (not so) clear upward trend has turned into a clear downward trend over the last couple of years now that the graph reaches into 2014.

James at 48
Reply to  Ric Werme
September 1, 2015 8:57 am

Can’t squeeze much more juice out of this lemon. Most of the melt has already happened and these are simply the little trickles at the end. Then comes the re-growth of the continental ice.

James at 48
Reply to  James at 48
September 1, 2015 9:00 am

I liken the glacials and interglacials to a very crude oscillator, one that has lots of phase distortion and inconsistent frequency. Nonetheless there is a definite frequency notch and this is not white noise.

August 28, 2015 6:09 pm

One simple argument against sea level alarmism: the existence of atolls.
Atolls are islands made up of coral. Coral grows under water. How did it end up several [meters] above water?

Reply to  manny
August 28, 2015 6:10 pm

Meters, not meyers

Reply to  manny
August 28, 2015 6:29 pm

A lot of atolls are on seamounts, old volcanoes. Those are slowly sinking into the sea floor, so not only does the coral (coral sand, actually) have to deal with sea level changes, it has to deal with local subsidence over millions of years.
From http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/31/the-marshall-islands-and-their-sea-level-changes/#comment-1377319

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 gives credit to Parrot fish for making coral sand. Please reread http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/13/why-the-parrotfish-should-be-the-national-bird/

August 28, 2015 6:25 pm

Listen and watch Nils himself on the subject at ICCC-9 in Las Vegas in 2014. This video does not have the Q&A, Nils went somewhat more into satellite data then.
His 2014 estimate of the probable sea level change to 2100 is -10cm to +20cm, i.e. +5 ± 15 cm.

Reply to  Ric Werme
August 28, 2015 6:46 pm

IOW zip change compared to the previous century. BIG SURPRISE NOT.

August 28, 2015 7:02 pm

The ice in Hudson Bay didn’t all melt this year. So, I guess it’s a new ice age for us. Problem solved.

Reply to  JDN
August 28, 2015 7:56 pm


The ice in Hudson Bay didn’t all melt this year. So, I guess it’s a new ice age for us. Problem solved.

Well, it’s not quite 0.0. but it’s not far from 0.0 today.
That from Cryosphere’s plots. http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere
But, the minimum arctic sea ice levels are only 1-1/2 to 2 weeks away this year. Not much more time to melt away completely.
technically, the arctic sea ice increased (very slightly!) from 20 August’s area of 3.394 Mkm^2 to 27 August’s 3.543 Mkm^2 ….
But if the minimum this year was back on 20 August, a lot of people have some real explaining to do!

Grey Lensman
August 28, 2015 7:29 pm

Tautology ” exponential acceleration”, needs to be fixed as every watermelon believe a rising straight line shows “acceleration”

Reply to  David Middleton
August 29, 2015 7:31 am

Actually, I believe it should be “grows exponentially” rather than “exponentially accelerates”.

August 28, 2015 8:12 pm

I’ll go with Nils-Axel Mörner (the real expert by my book) who believes the SLR is more like 1mm/year. He has based his studies on years of studying DATA. Even if it goes up to 3mm/year, that would be an increase of 10″ by 2100. Big deal…

August 28, 2015 9:16 pm

Thanks, David. I was going to write up the NASA sea level nonsense, but you’ve done it much better that I would have.

jim whiting
August 29, 2015 12:56 am

So, what’s wrong with this scenario?
1. Well, for one thing it’s allegedly produced by scientists who are perceived to be smart, and seems horrifyingly stupid. Something wrong with that.
2. If ocean levels have risen by 3″ in 23 years then, if nothing changes, it will have risen 3 feet in 276 years. That’s the math.
3. There’s something wrong with saying that it “seems likely” that ocean levels will rise and follow that with “it’s too late to do anything” about it. So…if it happens, it will have been inevitable?
4. Ocean level rise is chained to global warming. Yes, 120,000 years ago, sea level was 6 meters higher. It was warmer then, in this current Ice Age.
5. Linear extrapolation of global warming is crippled by the pause in global warming for the last 18 years.
6. The necessary link of CO2 to global warming is crippled by the pause in global warming for the last 18 years, despite the inexorable rise in atmospheric CO2.
7. Since 1950, human CO2 emissions have quintupled (5x) and CO2 concentration has increased from 300 to 400 ppm and 50% of that has come from evolution of CO2 from the warmer oceans. Native Source of CO2 is about 150 gigatons/year and Human CO2 is about 5 gtons/yr.
8. Since 1950, plant growth including crops has increased by about 30%. As this continues, it demands increased use of CO2 and may result, at current rates of CO2 production, in the stabilization of CO2 at 450 ppm or so by mid-century, far from the doubling needed to raise concern.
9. All historical records show that increases in atmospheric CO2 follow increases in global temperature by 800 years or more. There is no logical error titled Ante hoc ergo propter hoc. It’s not even wrong.
10. This scenario doesn’t rise to the level of hypothesis, much less theory, and it is certainly not a prognosis unless produced by a charlatan or quack. It is much more like scary mumbo jumbo used by witchdoctors to manipulate their audience.
11. Feynman said “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with the data, it’s wrong.” Ah, then, shall we throw back the curtain? What a sad ending.

August 29, 2015 1:13 am

I thought that the plot of global sea level to 2013 reminded me of another plot on the ref pages , namely the ocean heat content . In the global sealevel plot there are 3 phases :
1: a steady rise to approx 1960
2. approx 1960 – 1985 a “pause”, a much reduced rate of increase
3 from about 1985 a resumed steady rise, of approx same rate of increase as previously , pre 1960
Now if you look at the ocean heat content plot on the WUWT ref page , the current steady rise in ocean heat content starts at about 1985 , preceded by , IMO, a suggestion of a pause from 1960 – 1985 , albeit obscured by the cyclical changes in the heat content .
Naively , perhaps , one might think that such a correlation is expected , the problem being to explain the pause between 1960 and 1985 , when we know that CO2 was increasing during that period , (if you think that CO2 is the driver).
Was there a significant change in solar irradiance during that 1960 – 1985 “pause”?

August 29, 2015 1:55 am

John Daly (1943-2004) wrote a good article about sea level and radar altimetry problems in 2001.
Excellent read.
TOPEX-Poseidon Radar Altimetry:
Averaging the Averages
(You may also want to take a look at http://www.john-daly.com )

August 29, 2015 3:20 am
William Astley
August 29, 2015 7:27 am

Excellent summary. The following is more support.
There are two fundamental problems with ocean level ‘rise’.
1. Ocean level ‘rise’ is a fundamental pillar that is being used to push the cult of CAGW’s madness in the climate wars. When the Envisat satellite data showed the ocean level was falling, the solution was to just change the data without explanation.
2. The ocean level rise prior to the recent fall cannot be explained based on mass balance and/or thermal expansion. Something caused the oceans to expand tidal gauges do not support any increase in ocean volume .
The something that caused the mid ocean to expand is now reversing. This is a real paradox. The warmists do not include a breakdown of the estimated physical reasons for the 3.2 mm/year sea level ‘rise’ as that would force them to acknowledge a ocean level rise of 3.2 mm/year is physically impossible based on:
1) There has been almost no change in the rotation of the earth. Due to conservation of angular momentum – fundamental physics, not a theory – an increased in ocean mass will cause the earth to rotate at a slower speed. The earth’s rotational speed has not changed. There is therefore almost no increase in ocean mass.
2) Supporting fact 1, is fact 2, mass balance – the maximum possible estimated (fudged on the high side) melting of the Greenland Ice sheet (there has been almost no change in the Antarctic ice sheet) and the maximum possible melting of mountain glaciers gives a maximum rate of increase of 0.5 mm/yr.
3) Tidal gauges give a maximum increase of 0.5mm/yr not 1.5 mm/yr to 2.0 mm/yr.
4) The ocean rise occurred too early and is too smooth. i.e. There is no correlation in temperature rise and rate of change of ocean level.
5) Peer reviewed papers support the above assertions.

Twentieth century sea level: An enigma
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change attributes about 6 cm/century to melting and other eustatic processes, leaving a residual of 12 cm of 20th century rise to be accounted for. The Levitus compilation has virtually foreclosed the attribution of the residual rise to ocean warming (notwithstanding our ignorance of the abyssal and Southern Oceans): the historic rise started too early, has too linear a trend, and is too large. Melting of polar ice sheets at the upper limit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates could close the gap, but severe limits are imposed by the observed perturbations in Earth rotation. Among possible resolutions of the enigma are: a substantial reduction from traditional estimates (including ours) of 1.5–2 mm/y global sea level rise; a substantial increase in the estimates of 20th century ocean heat storage; and a substantial change in the interpretation of the astronomic record.

Envisat’s satellite failure
Note, the Greenland Ice sheet mass increased this year by 200Gt. The planet has started to cool.
Current Surface Mass Budget of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Mass and volume contributions to twentieth-century global sea level rise
The rate of twentieth-century global sea level rise and its causes are the subjects of intense controversy1–7. Most direct estimates from tide gauges give 1.5–2.0 mm/yr, whereas indirect estimates based on the two processes responsible for global sea level rise, namely mass and volume change, fall far below this range. Estimates of the volume increase due to ocean warming give a rate of about 0.5mmyr21 (ref. 8) and the rate due to mass increase, primarily from the melting of continental ice, is thought to be even smaller. Therefore, either the tide gauge estimates are too high, as has been suggested recently6, or one (or both) of the mass and volume estimates is too low.

August 29, 2015 8:59 am

Of all the people who read this blog, and those that live in a harbor, which harbor is in real danger crisis, emergency, jeopardy, menace, peril, pitfall, risk, or threat of sea level rise? Keep in mind some areas of coast line is sinking while others are rising.

August 29, 2015 9:13 am

NASA prediction:
“Solar cycle 24, due to peak in 2010 or 2011 “looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago,” says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. He and colleague Robert Wilson presented this conclusion last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.”
…enough said.

John Moore
August 29, 2015 10:22 am

I had a correspondence with the UK’s Ordnance Survey just a few years ago on this subject; they avoided an answer to the question of “is the sea rising?” but said that their maps of Great Britain, which are acknowledged to be the most detailed and accurate in the world — take all their spot heights from the mean sea level at Newlyn harbour in the far South West as recorded 1920.

August 29, 2015 1:58 pm

great post! Clear, straight forward, to the point. Excellent job David. Maybe you should do the writing for that attorney who is documenting the green corruption at the EPA!

August 29, 2015 3:18 pm

In my city, the local government is tagging all properties that will be inundated in 100 years.
It appears that this includes about 18,000 properties.
The council is assuming a 1 metre rise in the 100 years.
Its a pity they cant read the IPCC.
13.3.3 Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets
“Observations indicate that the Greenland contribution to GMSL (Global mean sea level ) has very likely increased from 0.09 [–0.02 to 0.20] mm yr–1 for 1992–2001 to 0.59 [0.43 to 0.76] mm yr–1 for 2002–2011 (Section 4.4.3, Figure 13.4). The average rate of the Antarctica contribution to sea level rise likely increased from 0.08 [–0.10 to 0.27] mm yr–1 for 1992–2001 to 0.40 [0.20 to 0.61] mm yr–1 for 2002–2011 (Section 4.4.3). For the budget period 1993–2010, the combined contribution of the ice sheets is 0.60 [0.42 to 0.78] mm yr–1. For comparison, the AR4’s assessment for the period 1993–2003 was 0.21 ± 0.07 mm yr–1 for Greenland and 0.21 ± 0.35 mm yr–1 for Antarctica.
Here is a protesters website. http://www.ccru.co.nz/
Good luck to them
Here is the report the Council relies on https://thedemiseofchristchurch.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/effectsofsealevelriseforchristchurchcity.pdf

James at 48
Reply to  rogerthesurf
August 31, 2015 7:51 pm

When the real issue is, what will happen when sea level starts to drop (which it will)? Imagine all our flooded river valley estuaries and embayments, drained, turned into drying mud flats. Many excellent natural harbors lost. Our seagoing advanced civilization is a direct result of the interglacial moment. Once that moment expires, chaos and death will ensue.

August 29, 2015 4:23 pm

Sea level is probably affected most by Subterranean movement of the sea bed.
The crust of the ‘Earth’ is constantly moving,a fact that the ‘Crimastrologists’ conveniently overlook or ‘duck’.

August 29, 2015 5:09 pm

I live on a swamp tidal esturary. The tides are the same as they were when I was born in 1980. I am fine living here for the rest of my life. I heard enough about sea level and Im not concerned. That is all.

August 30, 2015 12:24 am

OSTM/Jason-2 Products Handbook
…2.3.1. Accuracy of Sea-level Measurements
Generally speaking OSTM/Jason-2 has been specified based on the Jason-1 state of the art,
including improvements in payload technology, data processing and algorithms or ancillary data
(e.g: precise orbit determination and meteorological model accuracy). The sea-surface height shall be provided with a globally averaged RMS accuracy of 3.4 cm (1 sigma), or better, assuming 1 second averages.

August 30, 2015 11:10 am

Neville, tide guage data shows about 18 mm / year sea level rise whereas the graph David Middleton uses has had a “Global isostatic adjustment” made. This added 14 mm / year to the amount that tide guages would suggest.
See eg Houston Dean 2011 J Coastal Res.27: 409-417
(This is not a criticism of the post – just an answer to your comment)

August 31, 2015 9:52 pm

Isostacy is weird. The Himalayas are climbing over the biggest gravity hole on the planet.comment image
The weight of the water in a “transgression” serves both to buoy the continents from the increased weight over the ocean basins and to depress the continents as weight over continental shelves (in the case of ice ages) and weight of inland seas in the normal earth condition. A glacial/interglacial transition really stretches the concept of transgression.
During the last glacial maximum the weight of the ice locally increased the continental subsidence from reduced weight in the ocean basins. You have to think of it like a waterbed.

Nicholas J. Harding
September 1, 2015 10:52 am

Just how many BTUs are needed to melt all the ice to make all the flooding? And where does that heat come from if not the Sun?

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