Atlantic City Sea Level, Diving Horses, and Modeling of Ice Sheet Changes

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.

Postcard of Diving Horse at Steel Pier Atlantic City

Postcard of Diving Horse at Steel Pier Atlantic City

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.


51 thoughts on “Atlantic City Sea Level, Diving Horses, and Modeling of Ice Sheet Changes

  1. I can understand why Nils-Axel Mörner is looking at this, the sea level at Stockholm has been falling for years

    Same for where I am Helsinki at 2.33mm\y since before 1870.

    With tide gauge records like that no wonder they switched to satellites, there is pretty much hardly any sea level rises with good tide gauge record, 1.14mm and I think on a global average 1.14mm is going to be below the margin of error.

    ATTP wants to take models over observations and the arctic models failure is a perfect example of such ludicrous thinking, some actually believe these models are producing “data”.

    I guess it’s Turtles all the way down

    • The sea-level in Stockholm (and Helsinki) isn’t really sinking. It is the land that is still rising after the inland ice melted about 12,000 years ago. It’s the same in e. g. eastern Canada.
      On the other hand the “fore-bulge” that formed outside the ice-cap is now sinking back as the material slowly flows back into the depression below the former ice cap. So, Yes, Atlantic City is sinking a teeny little bit.
      If you are familiar with coastal geomorphology it is easy to see on a map whether a coast is rising or sinking. On the US east coast the part north of Cape Cod is rising, and the part south of it is sinking.

    • Just remember that from a ball bearing ball, point of view; 10 microinches P-P roughness on a one inch diameter, supposedly spherical ball, is one part in 100,000.

      That converts on earth to a p-p sea level roughness of 127.33 meters

      Yes 1.14 mm is below the margin of error.


      • Actually the sea-level varies by about 31 kilometers between the poles and the equator since the Earth is an oblate spheroid, and even if you correct for that sea-level in different areas varies by a couple of hundred meters due to variations in the gravity field (and a large number of other factors)

      • “sea-level in different areas varies by a couple of hundred meters due to variations in the gravity field”

    • Projecting the PSMSL data only a few hundred years shows that Stockholm will soon be no longer a seaport! Of course we have to ignore glacial rebound but what the heck!

    • The fall is to counter the land rise after the last ice age. Isostatic adjustment at work.

  2. It’s funny, as soon as models are mentioned, I get a pit in my stomach.

    • 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.

      Not sure I believe that the ice sheets even know about the models, let alone follow them so slavishly.

  3. You ultimately can’t hide from reality and the AGW folks are starting to run out of tricks.

    As long as the average temperature of deep space hovers around absolute zero, the Earth is going to trying to match it, so the battle between the photons coming inbound from the Sun and photons heading outbound is always present. The past has shown ample evidence of warming and cooling cycles and as we enter a cooling period, it’s just going to get colder and you can only hide it to a point.

    Will be fun though just watching what these people come up with next.

    • It is mostly the effective top of the atmosphere (around the 350-400 millibar level) that has temperature keeping a balance between incoming and outgoing radiation. Increase of greenhouse gases causes this level to slightly gain altitude, and causes the lapse rate to generally increase where it is less than the adiabatic rate. If albedo changes such as due to change of snow and ice cover, then the radiation balance changes and equilibrium is restored by a change of temperature.

  4. What happens where the coastline is constantly moving? The Pacific Ocean on the California coast is in a subduction zone. Los Angeles in moving north by a couple of centimeters per year. How is this taken into account when you are trying to estimate sea levels to a few millimeters?

    • It’s not a problem that it moves sideways. However the land is almost invariably moving up or down as well. In modern tide gauges this can be compensated for by a co-located GPS station since GPS measures position relative to the Earth’s center of gravity.

      • GPS has a resolution measures in meters. How can it detect up and down movements of a centimeter?

      • Walt D. Differential GPS has accuracy to mm. Google. We use it now on my remote Wisconsin farm for precision planting/fertilizing/weeding/cropping. Fancy expensive machinery. Worth the money.

      • Ristvan

        Most DGPS on farming is accurate to “within a couple inches” unless you have a reference base station for higher accuracy. The base station is just a portable signal station, most surveyors no seem to use the same system. They rate it as “<inch" with the station.

  5. Funny thing, large groups of people on a structure constructed on “lose ground” (as opposed to bedrock) cause it to sink, who knew…

    Reminds me of the story about the Pentagon, a large concrete mass constructed on swamp land.

    Of course it started slowly sinking immediately after it was built.

    At one point they decided to “shore it up” and slow the sinking by pumping concrete under the foundations.

    Sounds like a great solution…. Except… now it is heavier and it is sinking even faster….

    Can you say “unintended consequences” boys and girls ? I knew you could.

    Great analysis. Anybody know what happened to the horses ? A water polo retirement village perhaps ?

    Cheers, KevinK.

    • Supposedly the horses all survived and did just fine, even enjoyed that insane activity. Blows my mind, and I used to be a 3-Day rider which with the retrospect of age was equally nuts. (BTW, if my horse walks into the pond, the water displaced by his fat round self makes the water level rise. Just sayin’). ;-)

  6. Lets do a Gedanken Experiment. Get a bowl 75% full of water, then pour a glass of water into the bowl, pouring it by one side. Does the water pile up on that side making it higher that the average water level in the bowl? Not going to happen. So how do these people think that one section of the Ocean basin has a higher average water level than the entire basin?

    • Its a little more complicated on Earth by gravitational anomalies, but basically yup. Water seeks its own level. Always did, always will. That sloshing sound you heard was warmunist belief implosion. Watermelons when either expolding or imploding (more difficult, but not impossible) sound like that.

      • Yeah I know about Seiche Basins from my Ocean Engineering class many years ago. But I’m fairly sure that the Atlantic Ocean isn’t one. And that is a periodic phenomena that should average out over time.

        Tides in general would cause levels to vary at different points along any particular coastline and hydrography of a particular point along a coast can cause large variations like the Bay of Fundy. But that is another case of restricted flow.

        As for the Suez and other like situations, you are restricting flow. If you connect two swimming pools with a straw it would be no surprise that the pools could be at different levels. I believe that is a concern about a sea level canal between the Pacific (which is higher IIRC) and the Atlantic. Connecting the two would transport a lot of Pacific life into the Caribbean.

    • So why is the water level different on either end of the Suez and Panama canals? Surely impossible using your over-simplified model.

      • I am a “Zonian” and I went to school, (elementary-college), in the Canal Zone during the time that the American administration was in control of the Panama Canal. It is well known that the difference of potential water levels between the Pacific entrance and the Caribbean entrance to the canal is near 27 feet.

        The builders of the “New Locks”, soon to have their first test transit, had to build a special size lock on the “Pacific side” to accommodate and dissipate this water in their new high tech water saving lock system. Watch “Panama Canal: Post Panamax” on You tube. Note @ 27:25 and 40:17

        The question of what would have happened if the original builders of the canal had cut straight through without locks was something that was talked about.when I lived in Panama. No one knows if the pacific would have flowed northwest for years or if the land itself would have collapsed and closed this breach.

        Yes, the Caribbean entrance to the canal is farther west than the Pacific entrance. Reality is often stranger than we think and there is nothing wrong with this.

    • The effect of meltwater from grounded ice on sea-level is more complex than you might expect.

      If grounded ice melts and the meltwater finds its way into the ocean, of course it raises average global sea-level. But it also slightly changes the mass distribution on the Earth’s surface, which changes local gravity fields, which changes the distribution of water in the oceans, and has uneven regional effects on sea-level.

      Suppose, for example, that a substantial amount of ice were to melt from the Greenland Ice Sheet, and run into the ocean. The gravitational attraction by which the ice sheet attracts the surrounding ocean would be reduced, which would cause the ocean to recede in the vicinity of Greenland. It has been calculated by people who presumably know what they’re talking about that in the vicinity of Greenland (and apparently as far away as parts of Europe) this effect would exceed the rise in sea-level due to water added to the ocean, so that sea-level at Greenland and the surrounding region would actually fall, rather than rise, as the ice sheet melted.

      But that water which flows away from Greenland would also add to sea-level elsewhere, causing sea-level elsewhere around the globe to rise a bit faster than you would expect from a simple calculation from the amount of water added to the ocean.

      Here’s a short video from Boston University’s Maureen Raymo, explaining it.

      Additionally, the weight of the Greenland ice sheet on the ground beneath would be reduced, so the ground would then slowly rebound upward (“post-glacial rebound“), which would cause the sea-level at Greenland to continue to fall (or to rise at a reduced rate) for thousands of years into the future. That rebound (PGR) would, in turn, also change the gravity field, and thus the water distribution in the oceans, which would presumably reduce the rate of local sea-level fall near Greenland.

      Harvard’s Jerry Mitrovica explained it in greater detail here (at 13:41), after he unfortunately spent 13&half; minutes bludgeoning straw men, and just before he erroneously conflated tide gauge and satellite data. (Unfortunately, the video’s owners [the National Academy of Sciences] are censoring commentary on YouTube: they fake-approved but “ghosted” (hid) my comments. Sneaky! So I posted a critique on my web site, instead.)

  7. I have a story in queue elsewhere but will share the draft here:

    National Geographic and the Maine Warden Service team up in its latest misadventure: Confiscate an old ladies peaches and veggies. This is both sad and hilarious.

    Maine Warden Service disputes story on Allagash raid

    The service defends its undercover investigation into fish and game law violations, which rattled residents of the northern Maine town as film crews captured the action for TV’s ‘North Woods Law.’

    The newspaper’s six-month investigation detailed allegations that game wardens padded evidence, provided alcohol to people who were being investigated and invented events that did not occur during the two-year investigation.

    The warden service rejected assertions in the story that it had not complied with its obligations under the Freedom of Access Act, saying it had produced 232 documents in response to the reporter’s requests for information.

    The newspaper did receive some of the materials it sought. A copy of the policy produced for the newspaper was 16 pages long, of which 15 pages were almost entirely blacked out.

    As part of its response, the warden service also disputed some of the statements by Hope Kelly, 64 of Allagash, whom agents tried to prosecute for possessing illegal game. The charges were dropped, but the woman said wardens seized multiple jars of canned vegetables and peaches from her home during the raid and failed to return most of them.

    “At no point did the Warden Service seize peaches,” the service said.

    Kelly refuted that claim, saying the wardens took 110 jars of vegetables and peaches, and later returned 33 jars of vegetables. An evidence photo taken by the wardens and included in the newspaper’s story clearly shows a jar of peaches.


    Newspaper counters Warden Service’s criticism of ‘North Woods lawless’

    Active links here:

  8. With the bowl of water you find yourself in something of an equilibrium condition. The water settles to the same level. In the much bigger system the water doesn’t settle to an equilibrium level. There’s a fair number of forces acting on the water in such a large basin. Consider that you could boil water in one part of a frozen lake. Under equilibrium conditions, you’d have to raise the T of the whole lake to boil water, but under dramatically non-equilibrium conditions you could take a torch to ice in one part of the lake, produce steam, have water present in 3 phases, and be nowhere near the triple point. You can also show pretty easily with an excel spreadsheet that it is possible to increase the average T of planet earth while simultaneously decreasing the radiant emission. Average T and average emission both scale to surface area. Because the T varies all over the surface (non-equilibrium) and average T uses T scaled by area but emission uses T^4 scaled by area, it is pretty easy within a several degree total change in average global T to show that the emission can go either up or down depending on the relative areas used for the various temperatures. Non-equilibrium conditions can mess with small changes (relative to the total) pretty quickly. For water levels you’re talking about a small change relative to ocean depth. For the emission example you’re talking about a small T change relative to 288K (roughly).

  9. Atlantic City is sinking by about 1.5 mm/year according to the two GPS stations nearby which have been in operation long enough to see the signal.

    The tide gauge is measuring about 4.0 mm/year of sea level rise, so the actual rate of actual sea level rise approximates 2.5 mm/year.

    • So in a linear world:

      o in 2,500 years water will rise 20 feet
      o during that time, Atlantic City will subside 12 feet
      o at least one of the casinos will be entering/leaving/re-entering bankruptcy

    • I thought that some subsidence on the east coast was due to tectonic plate subsidence caused by melting inland glaciers after the last ice age. Where is that occuring?

  10. “It seems to me to be evident that the position of a shoreline at any time and place is determined by an exceedingly complicated equation….Shaler, Evidences as to change of sea level, 1895. Bulletin of the Geological Society of America.

  11. Since there hasn’t been a global warming trend in 20 years, despite 30% of all manmade CO2 emissions since 1750 being made over just the last 20 years, Warmunists must flog other remaining dead horses (ocean pH, Arctic sea ice extents and Sea Level Rise (SLR)) to keep the CAGW myth alive…

    Unfortunately, tide-gauge measurements show SLR has been constant at around 6 INCHES per CENTURY since 1800, regardless of CO2 atmospheric levels… DRATS!!!….

    To “fix” this yawn-inducing SLR reality, Warmunists tweak CAGW models to spit out 1~3 meters of SLR by 2100; predictions that won’t be validated until long after the Warmunists have retired and living in their beach-front house in Florida….

    And so it goes, until it doesn’t…

  12. The problem with tide guages is that they are built on the local soils that are indigenous to the area. I have observed this as a structural engineer that foundations have a tendency to sink into sands….may rise or fall in plastic soils. May rise or fall in over consolidated clays. Remain relatively stable on rock. The tide guage is a foundation like any other structure and subject to these movement. Trouble is there is no way to determine how much the the soils actually moved. I’ve seen differential movements in foundations of up to 24 inches across a small distance like 40 feet. Even tide guage data can’t be trusted

  13. “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”

    Sea ice does not contribute to sea level. Melting glaciers do.

    A new NASA study says that an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation that began 10,000 years ago is currently adding enough ice to the continent to outweigh the increased losses from its thinning glaciers.

    The research challenges the conclusions of other studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 2013 report, which says that Antarctica is overall losing land ice.

    According to the new analysis of satellite data, the Antarctic ice sheet showed a net gain of 112 billion tons of ice a year from 1992 to 2001. That net gain slowed to 82 billion tons of ice per year between 2003 and 2008.

    “The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away,” Zwally said.

  14. Here in Annapolis, MD, there is growing concern over increasing nuisance flooding after heavy rains. So far we have not experienced any flooding, in spite of the weeks of rainy weather we have had. Often the shops near the city dock have to be protected from flooding with sandbags. The city and the boat school, which is located at the mouth of the Severn River, are coordinating efforts to do something about it. Of course, there is the hysteria about sea level rise due to AGW, but the whole area is over large aquifers. Years ago there was concern about sea water intrusion as the aquifers were depleted. They are the primary source of potable water. I get my water from a deep well. The public water systems are getting their supply from the aquifers, too. The problem may be due to collapsing aquifers.

    When I was attending the boat school from 1965-1969, we had to contend with the “diggers and fillers,” as the Academy dug deep holes (the diggers) and then used pile drivers to stabilize the soil (the fillers) so they could construct new academic buildings closer to the River. Over the years, some of those buildings have experienced flooding during rainy periods.

  15. If anyone would care to discover the WIDER facts behind this then …..

    If we look at tide gauge data for Atlantic City from:
    We see that there was indeed a brief slowdown from 1945 through 1953 after a rapid rise from 1929 through 1944:

    What might have caused such a fluctuation? Could it be the weight of the massive crowd, spurred on by immense horsepower? If so, the crowd must have been even bigger than those old photographs suggest, because their impact was felt far beyond the confines of Atlantic City. The same pattern is evident in tide gauge data from Charleston, South Carolina:

    It’s also visible at Key West, Florida:

    You can see it at Pensacola, Florida:

    Hell, you can even note the same pattern all the way to Galveston, Texas!

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