Note: our previous post today covered the ridiculous claims from National Geographic about sea-level rise in Atlantic City. This article from 2012 is fascinating and it tells the story of one Cyril Galvin, who found a problem with his local tide gauge figures in Atlantic City.
By Willie Soon and Nils-Axel Mörner
There is much concern over rising sea level and disappearing coastline. But how are such changes really measured?
Satellites can measure tiny changes in sea level referenced to a known baseline. But those measurements have only been available since 1993. Two other methods used for changes occurring over 100+ years are tide-gauges and United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) efforts in computer modeling.
A tide gauge monitors water level changes in relation to a local reference height. They are simple devices, not too different from a ping-pong ball floating in a tube. Tide gauge data are available for over 1750 stations around the world and are the longest time series available. In the case of Delaware, records go back to the early 20th century, while in places like Amsterdam, Holland, they go back to the late 17th century.
How reliable are such data?
At Atlantic City, for example, coastal engineer Dr. Cyril Galvin says the tide gauge data may be too sensitive to local and regional activities that aren’t ultimately related to “natural” changes in sea level, including any that might be related to greenhouse gas- induced global warming.
In examining sea level changes for 100-years or more from U.S. eastern seaboard stations, Dr. Galvin could not find any acceleration in sea level rise. University of Florida Professor Robert Dean and Army Corps of Engineers expert Dr. James Houston have independently reached this same conclusion.
While examining tide gauge records from Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, Dr. Galvin discovered a remarkable effect apparently caused by spectators who came to watch horse- diving between 1929-1978. From old photographs, it was estimated that there must have been about 4000 spectators who would come to watch. Given that this crowd probably weighed about 150 tons, the pier was subject to significant loading and unloading cycles.
The initial 1912-1928 data showed sea-level rising at a rate of 0.12 inches per year. The rate tripled around 1929 when the horses began diving. When the shows were suspended from 1945-1953, sea level fell at a rate of 0.06 in/yr. When the diving resumed, the sea level rose again at a rate of 0.16 in/yr.
Such clear documentation of the direct influence of local weight loading and unloading activities on tide-gauge reading should add a big note of caution in interpreting and connecting tide gauge data series with man-made greenhouse gas global warming phenomenon.
Next, model projections of rapid sea level rise and acceleration caused by global warming, as proposed by the IPCC’s coming Fifth Assessment Report, should also be held in check.
The first bit of bad news for the IPCC is that scientists have always been uncomfortable in predicting climates 20, 50 to 100-years in the future because they know that climate models are simply not up to the task. Such long-term climate forecasting is more the result of political pressure.
The major problems of simulating variations and changes in ice sheets have been known for a long time now. The key issue is the accurate representation of topography. In the Fifth Assessment Report’s climate models, the representation of the Greenland Ice Sheet, for example, is clearly deficient. Without the correct accounting of the valleys and hills in the ice sheet, melted ice quickly drains off the ice sheet and is counted as a net loss of ice mass.
But in the real world of bumps and valleys in ice surfaces, refreezing can quickly occur when cold temperatures return. This is why Swiss Federal Institute of Technology scientists long ago concluded that it may even be possible for both the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets to gain ice mass under the doubled atmospheric CO2 scenario if improved climate models are used.
In an eagerly anticipated in-press paper in the Journal of Climate, a group of scientists from British Antarctic Survey documented how all the 18 computer climate models that are used in the Fifth Assessment Report failed in the simple task of simulating the annual cycle and trends in the Antarctic sea ice extent. The authors found that majority of the climate models have too small a sea ice extent at minimum in February while several of the models have less than two thirds of the observed values at September maximum.
Even more devastating news is that the observed Antarctic sea ice extent over the past 30-years is showing an increasing trend while most climate models produce decreasing sea ice extent. Such an obvious discrepancy from observed reality should once again cast rapid sea level change scenarios in the Fifth Assessment Report under strong suspicion, and render them void for use in public policy.
Not surprisingly, objective sea level research should be based on observational facts in nature itself and not on computer models.
The message is clear. When it comes to sea level, any reliance on IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report assessment is misplaced. Study of current and ancient climate tell us that climate model predictions of rapid acceleration in global and regional sea levels are simple scaremongering. Prudent policy-making should be based on objective science rather than fear.
Willie Soon is an independent scientist and Nils-Axel Mörner is a sea level expert at Stockholm University with over 500 publications on that topic under his 40+ years scientific career.