Claim: Extreme Pacific sea level events to double in future

From the UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT MANOA:

sea-level-extremes

xtreme low sea levels occurred during August in parts of the western Pacific associated with the ongoing strong El Niño. Data from AVISO satellite measurements. CREDIT Widlansky, et al. (2015)

Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps. Now they may also see much more frequent extreme interannual sea level swings. The culprit is a projected behavioral change of the El Niño phenomenon and its characteristic Pacific wind response, according to recent computer modeling experiments and tide-gauge analysis by scientists Matthew Widlansky and Axel Timmermann at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and their colleague Wenju Cai at CSIRO in Australia.

During El Niño, warm water and high sea levels shift eastward, leaving in their wake low sea levels in the western Pacific. Scientists have already shown that this east-west seesaw is often followed six months to a year later by a similar north-south sea level seesaw with water levels dropping by up to one foot (30 cm) in the Southern Hemisphere. Such sea level drops expose shallow marine ecosystems in South Pacific Islands, causing massive coral die-offs with a foul smelling tide called taimasa (pronounced [kai’ ma’sa]) by Samoans.

The team of scientists recently asked, how will future greenhouse warming affect the El Niño sea level seesaws? The scientist used state-of-the-art climate models, which accounted for increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, together with simulations of the observed climate and tide-gauge records to verify the model results. They determined that projected climate change will enhance El Niño-related sea level extremes. By the end of this century the experiments show that the intensified wind impacts of strong El Niño and La Niña events are likely to double the frequency of extreme sea level occurrences, especially in the tropical southwestern Pacific.

“From our previous work, we know that toward the end of a very strong El Niño event, the tide-gauge measurements around Guam quickly return to normal reflecting the east-west seesaw, but those near Samoa continue to drop as a result of the lagging north-south seesaw,” explains Widlansky. “During these strong events, the summer rainband over Samoa, called the South Pacific Convergence Zone, shifts toward the equator and alters the trade winds and ocean currents which in turn change the sea level.”

“The next logical step in our work was to understand how future changes in winds, projected by most climate models, will impact the interannual swings in sea level,” recalls Timmermann. “We noted a trend in greater variability and were surprised at first to find not only more frequent and prolonged drops in sea level, but also more frequent high sea level events. This will further increase the risk of coastal inundations.”

“Our results are consistent with previous findings that showed the atmospheric effects of both El Niño and La Niña are likely to become stronger and more common in a future warmer climate,” explains Cai.

“The possibility of more frequent flooding in some areas and sea level drops in others would have severe consequences for the vulnerable coastlines of Pacific islands,” says Widlansky.

The authors hope that better predictability of not only rising sea levels, but also the sea level fluctuations examined in this study, will aid Pacific Island communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change as well as shorter-term climate events such as the ongoing 2015 El Niño.

###

Advertisements

81 thoughts on “Claim: Extreme Pacific sea level events to double in future

  1. As the late Yogi Berra might have said: I don’t believe in predictions, especially when they’re about the future.

  2. Hmmm, I thought model projection wasn’t prediction. I also thought models did a lousy job of projecting El Nino’s. So what was the point of this paper and article?

    • As recent events show quite clearly, current climate science is entirely incapable of “predicting” El Niño with any degree of accuracy, more than a month or so into the future at most. The current state of El Niño and “the Blob” were not predicted at all… they expected an El Niño last year, which did not appear, and the Blob was entirely unexpected.
      So I’d like to know how they took known-failed climate models, and used those to achieve “better predictability” of an unpredictable event, when by their own claims climate models don’t predict.

      • Predict often enough and eventually you get something right. One thing right is all that the media needs in order to triumph the verification of global warming. They ignore all the false predictions. Have you ever heard the media scream about a false prediction?
        It’s sort of like the old joke about the stock market scammer who sent out a million e-mails — half predicting a stock would rise and half predicting it would fall. Next month the half million he sent the right prediction to he divided in half and sent half of them predictions that a stock would rise and the other half that the stock would fall. So on for twelve months. At the end of twelve months he had a small group of followers who thought he was god.
        Just sweep the bad stuff under the carpet. Never mention it. Shush. Shhhhh.
        Eugene WR Gallun

    • Hmmm, I thought model projection wasn’t prediction. I also thought models did a lousy job of projecting El Nino’s. So what was the point of this paper and article?

      Predicting El Niño is totally different game from predicting how often they appear.
      These guys are not predicting El Niños but trying to figure how often they cause major nino + king tide events. They say ‘now they may also see much more frequent extreme interannual sea level swings.’ I used to thought the sea level is rising couple of millimetres a year, but obviously I was wrong. What you see there is very random up down pattern with cyclical components. I don’t want to be cynical, but the more often an extreme comes, the less extreme is actually is. But they did a good headline, anyway.
      This is all about finding a problem to find a grant, to get publications, to get into high impact journals. Since the atolls rise with the sea level, they won’t disappear at large – but of course it is an annoyance or even danger when the king tide comes every decade with a higher sea level with respect to the stone level.
      My suggestion is, like with all global warming scares, is to build insurances. Move money from those who don’t see the expected economic growth related to warming (say, fusion power, or orange business in North Carolina, the investors to name it) to those who suffer from sea level rise that exceeds market expectations. I know this is a little bit complicated, but you can think of some derivatives as an insurance.

      • It actually is not a bad ploy to say two things at once! That’s the way I read it, as if you had only partially edited from “I thought” to “I used to think”! Be happy!

  3. “The authors hope that better predictability of not only rising sea levels, but also the sea level fluctuations examined in this study, will aid Pacific Island communities in adapting to the impacts of climate change as well as shorter-term climate events such as the ongoing 2015 El Niño.”
    >>> I don’t get the point how the communities do adapt to the ongoin El Nino…

    • Since according to the publication, “Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps”, I wonder how they are “adapting” right now. What are they actually doing or trying to do? Anything at all? What PRESENT hardships are they suffering which can be solidly linked to CAGW?

      • They’re having to spend money to promote the idea that they are victims. Adaptation=getting money from the rest of us.

      • Michael, you adapt by storing some fresh water and food, preferably to a boat, so that when the tide goes, you don’t need to drink yellow water to survive.
        I mean really, how can you be so *beep*? If a flood hits your neighbours, you will gladly help them out. But when these islanders talk about adaptation (and not mitigation by you), you just tell them they are greedy. God. Walk a mile in their wet boots and come back.

      • Hugs, since the whole oceans rising thing has yet to cause any problems and there is no evidence it ever will. Take your “bleep” and shove where the “bleep” don’t shine.

  4. Since sea level is rising now more slowly than for most of the past 165 years or so, why won’t islanders be able to adapt? The rise is slow enough for the coral reefs to keep up with it, anyway.

    • Since sea level is rising now more slowly than for most of the past 165 years or so, why won’t islanders be able to adapt?

      How did you define ‘now’? Because there are lots of hearsay from say, 2009-2010, that sea levels are ‘now’ doing something while in the long run, they are very steadily rising.
      They are able to adapt. But these Pacific territories are poor, and will be poor because there is not much possible economic activity there. With so little population, there is no possibility to high education. There is not much to sell (well Nauru has something). The distance to big cities is quieting. It is very difficult to get any investments to such places. Greenpeace has money, but it definitely is not going to spend it to make better life for islanders – on the contrary, the worse it is there, the more money they can collect.

      • Since sea level rate of rise has been more or less constant for the last 100 years, how is their situation materially different than 50 or 100 years ago? How are they less able to adapt today than their grandparents? And finally, not to be too ruthless, how is it any of our concern? We (first world) didn’t cause this “problem”, why should we pay for it?

  5. “”The scientist used state-of-the-art climate models, which accounted for increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, together with simulations of the observed climate and tide-gauge records to verify the model results.””
    GIGO.

    • They verified the “state-of-the-art” climate model results using simulations (e.g., models) of “observed climate and tide-gauge records”. One model to verify another. Rubbish (to be polite). Why couldn’t they use actual observed climate and tide-gauge results?

      • They are “what if’ing” to show one possible imperilment of allowing natural climate behavior while conveniently ignoring another. Imagine the headlines when the Cordilleran ice sheet begins to grow again. Someone at the Vatican or the whitehouse where there dwells all the world’s expertise in climate management will claim an innocent off-by-one math error that changed the sign of the net forcings and there is a really big problem that will require trillions of dollars to help clean dead fish from the soon-to-be exposed shoals of Oceana.

  6. When a group of people has been so consistently wrong about so many similar things, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone would pay attention to their latest doomsday prediction. Seriously…I could sit on my couch in my underwear, drinking beer and crank these things out…with the same likelihood of being right.
    So…why do they listen? MONEY.

  7. Model based BS from top to bottom.,sadly the closer with get to Paris the more of these we will get. As there are a lot off people in climate ‘scince ‘ very worried indeed that the gravy train may come off the tracks.

  8. “together with simulations of the observed climate and tide-gauge records to verify the model results.”
    Oh my! Simulations to verify the model results.
    They need to get out in the sun more often.

    • Actually basing something on a roll of the bones may be more reliable, since that method would presumably give a correct result by random chance now and then. Which would be a notable improvement over these modeled results we are constantly being assailed with.
      .

  9. “By the end of this century the experiments show that the intensified wind impacts of strong El Niño and La Niña events are likely to double the frequency of extreme sea level occurrences, especially in the tropical southwestern Pacific.”
    Experiments???
    Ian M

  10. “The authors hope that better predictability of not only rising sea levels, but also the sea level fluctuations examined in this study, will aid with the funding of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.”
    A clear link to CAGW will also cause an increase in research grants.

  11. The fact that the Somoans have a word for it might be a clue that it has happened in the past with some frequency. And they are using the models (not clear which scenario), to argue for increased temps to drive increased frequency – did they give a baseline? Any evidence on what natural variation drove that baseline? Any clear evidence the baseline changes with more CO2?
    Call me when they do some science.
    Taylor

  12. The authors explain that in essence, it is a mass of the ocean water that shifts in two orthogonal directions: W-to-E and S-to-N and refer to this as two types of the seesaw motions. The other term they use is “the sea water swings”. This descriptions strongly suggest that the phenomenon is similar to water sloshing in a basin. The sloshing is in two orthogonal directions and results in changes of the water level at any particular location. Apparently, the sloshing period is long, of the order of a year or more. That is not surprising given the huge size of the Pacific Ocean basin. If this analogy is correct, then the periodicity (frequency) of the sloshing depend only on the gravity and the basin geometry just as the natural frequency of a pendulum depends on the length of its string (long string=long period). In presence of constant gravity and fixed geometry of the basin the sloshing frequency of the two seesaw motions will remain constant and cannot be changed by any other factors whether related to any warming or not. This is elementary and can easily be observed in a bathtub. Sometimes a seemingly complex phenomenon may have a simple interpretation.

    • If you add additional waves to your bathtub, the interaction of the waves will increase or decrease the maximum height of each wave depending on exact circumstances/timing. Increasing the frequency of E-W and N-S seesaw effects could result in a damping effect that reduces amplitudes for max-min tide gauge measurements over time.
      Obviously, the details matter and we have a poor grasp of many of the details.

      • They are claiming that the winds will do it. When the trade winds blow consistently, those winds move the surface water around the Pacific basin. So the “researchers” tried to use the climate models to project how the winds will blow and then tried to use those projected winds to again project where the water will go. They have no clue, of course, but made several model runs, called them “experiments,” and then decided that they knew for sure what would happen 100 years from now. That little CO2 molecule sure is a powerful bugger.
        Well, not exactly “knew for sure” what would happen. They keep using the terms “may” and “might.” The only science in this effort was the first chart, which shows that the sea level is definitely not rising in the western tropical Pacific Ocean. That is a the headline. So the researchers had to find a new scare term, just like the term “climate change” was coined when the globe stopped warming. “Extreme sea level change” works, since that way actual low sea levels can be said to be caused by projected high sea levels.
        Often it says right in the solicitation for grants from many US government agencies that approval is more likely if the work is somehow related to the effects of global warming. So their abstract is simply responding to the deliverables that were created to meet the grant writing instructions, even though their results don’t.

  13. So the first thing I did was look up how big those ‘huge’ Enso swings of Guam tide guages were. Curious, because I was born on Guam. Answer, 20-30 cm. and Guam continues to do just fine, an US territory unsinkable western Pacific aircraft carrier. I call BS.

    • Soooooo the high tides could be a foot higher from time to time. Isn’t that happening now? Like every month? I would think Islanders figured that out a few thousand years ago and built accordingly. The grunion certainly worked it out.

    • Guam? Remember when Congressman Hank Johnson was very concerned that if we put too much military materiel on Guam it might tip over?

    • ristvanSeptember 26, 2015 at 3:51 pm
      So the first thing I did was look up how big those ‘huge’ Enso swings of Guam tide guages were. Curious, because I was born on Guam. Answer, 20-30 cm. and Guam continues to do just fine, an US territory unsinkable western Pacific aircraft carrier. I call BS.

      Back in 2008, the Wilkins ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula collapsed. I thought at the time that it was due to mechanical stress rising from some ‘bathtub’ sloshing in Pacific (as it took several weeks to rise and fall). The nearest tide gauge is Rothera, 67°34’S 68°07’W, some 180 nm up the peninsula. Daily readings, the vertical lines are 10 days.
      http://www.rockyhigh66.org/stuff/rothera_antarctica_tide.png
      Starting 22 May, with a reading of +28 cm, it drops to -17 cm in only 3 days, then rising 53 cm by 31 May. A drop to -8 cm on 11 June, then a 42 cm rise to +34 cm on 17 June, when it began a drop and pause on 22 June. Allowing a couple days for the slosh to reach Wilkins, this coincides nicely with the crunch and washout of the ice shelf starting 22 June.
      https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/wilkins_shelf_anim.gif?w=720

  14. The unfortunate thing now a days after IPCC born,is non-meteorology backgroud groups are making unscientific statements attributing to the so-called global warming related impacts. If they would have a meteorology background or read those old meteorology books, then they would know the basic general circulation patterns over different parts of the ocean in different seasons and would have interpreted them scientifically. The present publication is one classical example that shows the importance of meteorological science knowledge. The journals before publishing papers from global warming groups, they must send for review to people who have training in meteorology & Oceanography sciences. This will reduce the wasteful papers appearing in journals.
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  15. Dialing for Dollars!
    “Janis Joplin sings about the show in the song “Mercedes Benz’.”
    “Oh Lord … won’t you buy me … a color … TV?
    Dialing ,,, for Dollars … is trying … to find me.
    I wait for delivery … each day … until three,
    So oh Lord … won’t you buy me … a color … TV?”
    Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialing_for_Dollars
    and well … I remember.

  16. What hope is there for the USA when people like Hank Johnson can get elected? Was he given a breathalyser test after this performance? If so, how much past the legal limit for driving was he?
    Should there not be intelligence tests and tests of elementary physics (at least up to third grade) for Congressmen who wish to sit on committees? And breathalyser tests before they speak?

  17. So the anthropogenic portion of CO2, along with its fudged water vapor amplification factor, can cause the trade wind to blow harder? Or hold them back longer? Have they done the math on how much energy it takes to blow a hard wind strong enough to move water clear across the Pacific? My back of the envelope calculations just don’t come to that conclusion. Because of the pressure gradient difference, the trades at the surface can blow steady around 12 to 18 knots (multiply by 1.15 to get miles per hour). Think of the energy needed to increase that wind. Now calculated the amount of energy available from just the anthropogenic portion of CO2 plus its amplification factor to change the pressure gradients (low to high or high to low difference) needed to increase that wind.
    Taint there.
    http://globalsailingweather.com/trades.php

  18. “We noted a trend in greater variability and were surprised at first to find not only more frequent and prolonged drops in sea level, but also more frequent high sea level events. This will further increase the risk of coastal inundations.”
    It is astounding to my mind that this quote is a reference to a phenomenon which was discovered in the output of a computer program.
    Well done idiots – for NOTING a trend which was created by a computer program.
    But, has it not occurred to these people that they should possibly be validating that trend by comparison with the real world. The one that exists outside of an unvalidated computer program.
    Are these people now slightly confused about which world is more real?
    When they say that they noted a trend and were surprised – it sounds as though they must be talking about a real trend in the real world.
    But what they noted and what they were surprised by was all happening inside a computer.
    Maybe these guys are trapped inside the matrix.
    But there is an alternative interpretation:
    “The purpose of our work was to draw on the delusional scaremongering and attention grabbing, but unvalidated predictions of others and then to extend these to generate more scaremongering and attention grabbing and equally unvalidated predictions of our own. We have done this by convincing ourselves that we all live in a big computer. We noted that delusional scaremongerers have recently been receiving all the big buck projects and grants and we thought that by pulling the same sort of stunt, we could maybe grab a piece of the pie. Thanks for all the money”.

    • P.S. Apart from my dismissive negativity, I do also have a positive and helpful suggestion.
      It may be wise for us to first develop a hypothesis and then validate that hypothesis via empirical testing before using that hypothesis to generate an entire world of further beliefs and predictions.
      It should be remembered that the output of computers is still only a part of the process of developing a testable hypothesis. Running the program is not equivalent to testing the hypothesis.
      We should not allow ourselves to be duped into assuming that because the “result” came out of the mysterious world inside a computer that it possesses an intrinsic reality, already.
      Looking at the output computer program is not the time for surprise or discovery.
      Discovery is what happens when the hypothesis is tested and found to show reliable correspondence with measurable phenomenon in the real objective universe (outside of the computer).
      Just a suggestion, going forward.
      I don’t know if I could ever see that idea being adopted.

      • Surely you jest in using empirical testing in a discussion of climate projection and climate models. We must listen and believe. If we listen and believe no further proof is required.

  19. Let’s see how Tuvalu is “struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps”. Data is to August inst, trend line (red) is 25-point Loess.
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-KQW4eL0g0Vk/Vge9gIJui9I/AAAAAAAACbk/F3DDhQsrhK4/s1000-Ic42/Tuvalu_15066_image001.gif
    Darwin is already seeing the effect of the current El Niño. Sea level there is currently (August) about the same as 20 years ago.
    https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-Na9-pr7XOCE/Vge90pOEhMI/AAAAAAAACb4/sEaQHlUzj_Q/s1000-Ic42/Darwin_4898_image001.gif

  20. If a phenomenon occurs frequently enough to have its own name, then I submit there’s nothing unusual going on. Note to the authors: unless you have 100% reliable pre-cogs floating in sensory deprivation tanks, somewhere, then you ought to describe something likely to happen in the future with “could be,” “should be” or “will be,” depending on how certain you are. But something that has not happened never “is.”

  21. state-of-the-art climate models, which accounted for increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, together with simulations of the observed climate and tide-gauge records to verify the model results.

    Am I missing something here – what exactly are simulations of observed events? Is it like when an actor on a green screen stage simulates seeing a dinosaur or space creature?
    Also interesting the Freudian slip of climate models “accounted for”, instead of “showing the results of”. “Accounted for” implies intent, the models were intended to show a certain result from increased greenhouse gas.

  22. I’m so glad they used the state-of-the-art climate models, not the old crappy ones – you know, the ones that couldn’t preject their way out of a paper bag.

  23. On top of the risk of the purported CAGW rise in sea level due to CO2 emissions, there are other agents to consider, such as tsunamis and storm surges occasioned by cyclones/typhoons/hurricanes.

  24. Let’s see now: Sea level in the Pacific sloshes up and down up about a foot a year in response to El Nino, and several feet twice daily in response to the moon (and sun), but current global SLR of perhaps 1 inch per decade is a catastrophe.

  25. ” Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise ”
    They are doing so by building more resorts and airport runways.
    This is the logical solution to sea level rise. 😉

  26. Another (boring) paper on ‘Sea Level’, so I will post the (boring to some) link to a short video of the complexities of determining what real ‘Sea Level’,realy Is.

    Now after watching this,what honest scientist can stand up and proclaim that they can state ‘Sea Level’ to the millimetre.
    Climatology=Climastrology=laughfing stock of Science.

  27. Such sea level drops expose shallow marine ecosystems in South Pacific Islands, causing massive coral die-offs with a foul smelling tide called taimasa
    ==============
    if sea levels are rising, how can a sea level drop expose corals? they would have long ago been killed off when the sea levels were lower.

    • Now ferd, we have to assume that all coral on the planet was perfectly healthy before the vermin of humanity began belching out gasses which have erased all natural climate cycles (and common sense) and sent us into the unprecedented global (fiscal and ideological) catastrophe known as “the war on climate”.

  28. El Nino was predicted for last year and nothing materialized. So why would I give any creditbility to end-of-century pedictions/projections ?

  29. Intertidal zone nerd here. I know the finer points of pickleweed and cord grass. So, as anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of this stuff knows, these communities are hypersensitive to mean high tide lines as well as the reach of the king tides. The profiles are very flat and a few inches of sea level increase moves the interfaces for the flora noticeably. Some of my marshes have been witnessed by yours truly going on 50 years (my earliest reliable memories of the marshes are around age 3-1/2 or 4). So, I am reporting no detectable changes for nearly 1/2 century. Caveat – this is SF Bay. This not a sinking tectonic platform at one of the world’s passive margins, and we are beyond the reach of isostatic glacial rebound. YMMV.

Comments are closed.