Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
NOAA has updated its extensive U.S. coastal tide gauge data measurement records (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_us.htm) to include data through year 2015. These measurements include tide gauge data coastal locations for 25 West Coast, Gulf Coast and East Coast states along the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. In addition 7 Pacific island groups and 6 Atlantic island groups also have coastal location tide gauge data measurements updated as well.
In all more than 200 coastal locations are included in these measurements with more than 100 of these coastal locations with recorded data periods in excess of 50 years in duration. None of these updated NOAA tide gauge measurement data records show coastal location sea level rise acceleration occurring anywhere on the U.S. coasts or Pacific or Atlantic island groups.
In June of 1988 testimony was provided before Congress by various scientists, including NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, claiming that man made greenhouse gas emissions were responsible for increasing global temperatures with the the New York Times reporting (http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html?pagewanted=all ) “Global Warming Has Begun, Experts Tells Senate”.
The Times article noted that “The rise in global temperature is predicted to cause a thermal expansion of the oceans and to melt glaciers and polar ice, thus causing sea levels to rise by one to four feet by the middle of the next century. Scientists have already detected a slight rise in sea levels.”
Its now been 28 years since the conjecture of these early sea level rise climate alarmist claims was presented to Congress. However the latest updated NOAA coastal tide gauge measurement data shows locations likely to experience only inches of sea level rise by mid century (not one to four feet as climate alarmists speculated to Congress in 1998) with that increase consistent with long standing and unchanging rates of sea level rise measured at these coastal locations. The longest NOAA tide gauge data record is at the Battery, New York with a 160 year long measurement period. This location along with all other U.S. coastal locations show no sea level rise acceleration.
Climate alarmists continue to try and mislead the public by claiming that the Statue of Liberty is in “imminent jeopardy” because of rising sea levels but the unchanging rate of sea level rise present at the Battery would require more than 20,000 years to cover the base (https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/20/national-geographics-junk-science-how-long-will-it-take-for-sea-level-rise-to-reach-midway-up-the-statue-of-liberty/). That time period hardly qualifies as “imminent jeopardy”.
Additionally NOAA performs 95% confidence interval analysis of each location to determine if there are significant changes in the tide gauge measurement trends over time.
NOAA analysis of these 95% confidence interval ranges is stated as “Although the mean trend may change from year to year, there is no statistically significant difference between the calculated trends if their 95% confidence intervals overlap. Therefore, the most recent calculated trend is not necessarily more accurate than the previous trends; it is merely a little more precise. If several recent years have anomalously high or low water levels, the values may actually move slightly away from the true long-term linear trend”.
The 95% confidence interval analysis demonstrates that the linear sea level rise trend is stable and unchanging. This 95% confidence interval analysis is available for all NOAA tide gauge coastal location measurements.
In a May 15, 2016 Rutgers University graduation address President Obama told the assembled gathering (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/05/15/remarks-president-commencement-address-rutgers-state-university-new) that “in politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what your talking about.”
Yet Obama had told the country in his Democratic nomination acceptance speech on June 3, 2008 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/03/obamas-nomination-victory_n_105028.html) that we would be able to look back upon his nomination and tell our children that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”.
Besides the monumental hubris of this statement it is apparent that President Obama was ignorant of the fact that the oceans have been rising for thousands of years since the end of the last ice age.
The rates of ocean sea level change have varied significantly over this time period with more recent studies showing greater detail of ocean sea level change information over about the last two hundred years. These changes in ocean sea level have occurred as a result of natural climate events as clearly shown in information (slide #36) from a recent presentation (https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/spe-curry-final.pdf) by Dr. Judith Curry regarding global climate science issues.
Additionally it is apparent that President Obama was ignorant of the fact that based on more than 100 NOAA long time period measured coastal tide gauge data records coastal locations were shown not to be experiencing acceleration of sea level rise.
President Obama has made numerous claims of coastal sea level rise acceleration at various U.S. locations but none of these claims is supported by NOAA tide gauge measurement data (
Perhaps President Obama might be interested in the latest coastal sea level rise tide gauge measurement data from Washington D.C. where he has resided for the last 8 years and for Honolulu, Hawaii where he was born.
NOAA tide gauge data shows the 91 year long Washington D. C. coastal location measurement period with an unchanging 1 foot per century rate of increase and the 110 year long Honolulu, Hawaii coastal location measurement period with an unchanging 5.5 inches per century rate of increase. President Obama’s claims of accelerating coastal sea level rise threatening U.S. locations is based on ignorance. As the President has said “It’s not cool to not know what your talking about.”
President Obama is not alone in being ignorant about ocean and coastal sea level rise concepts, information and data.
Climate alarmist media often carry scientifically flawed stories alleging impending coastal sea level rise catastrophe supposedly being driven by man made CO2 emissions. These flawed news reports many times reflect information provided the by Obama Administration national climate assessment effort through the report “Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment” (http://cpo.noaa.gov/sites/cpo/Reports/2012/NOAA_SLR_r3.pdf).
This report presents various scenarios claiming that global mean sea level rise by 2100 will range between 8 inches to 6.6 feet. The mid range of the scenarios is about 3 feet of global mean sea level rise by the year 2100.
The alleged purpose of the report is to “help” local cities and communities “plan” for future sea level rise that could impact their locations. The report contains the following huge qualifications and limitations regarding the validity and applicability of these scenarios at specific local coastal cities and communities:
- “Scenarios do not predict future changes, but describe future potential conditions in a manner that supports decision-making under conditions of uncertainty”.
- “Probabilistic projections of future conditions are another form of scenarios not used in this report because this method remains an area of active research. No widely accepted method is currently available for producing probabilistic projections of sea level rise at actionable scales”.
- “Thus, specific probabilities or likelihoods are not assigned to individual scenarios in this report, and none of these scenarios should be used in isolation”.
- “None of these scenarios should be used in isolation, and experts and coastal managers should factor in locally and regionally specific information on climatic, physical, ecological, and biological processes and on the culture and economy of coastal communities.”
- “Scientific observations at the local and regional scale are essential to action, and long-term coastal management actions (e.g. coastal habitat restoration) are sensitive to near-term rates and amounts of SLR.”
Exactly how local communities and cities are supposed to use these scenarios for local sea level rise “planning” purposes given these incredible limitations is unexplained.
Also unaddressed in the “National Climate Assessment” report is any explicit discussion of the huge difference between “global mean sea level” and “local sea level” (also called relative sea level) concerning how these vastly different sea level rise data measurements apply or don’t apply at specific coastal locations. .
NOAA clearly notes (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/faq.htm#q1) that “There is an important distinction between the global sea level trend and relative sea level trends (based on local sea level measurements), which must be understood in order to interpret changes to a coastline or particular location, and to properly apply the information”.
The University of Colorado sea level research group which uses satellites to measure global mean sea level for making estimates of ocean sea level clearly states ((http://sealevel.colorado.edu/faq#n3134)) that satellite global mean sea level measurements “”cannot be used to predict relative sea level changes along the coasts”.
Instead the University of Colorado notes that “”Local tide gauges measure the sea level at a single location relative to the local land surface, a measurement referred to as “relative sea level” (RSL)”
For sea level rise planning purposes local coastal cities and communities need to rely upon NOAA tide gauge data with measurements of coastal sea level rise at specific local and related regional locations to address what kinds of sea level increases should be expected. Global mean sea level data and estimates are not applicable at specific coastal locations and inappropriate for use for local coastal planning purposes.
Southern California has some of the world’s most beautiful and expensive coastal communities on the planet including locations at Long Beach, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach and Monarch Beach. The rate of sea level rise at these coastal locations is very important to these communities economic well being and to issues of property protection and enjoyment for the businesses and people that work and live in these communities.
A local newspaper the Orange County Register published two articles on April 24, 2016 (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/sea-713335-rise-level.html), (http://www.ocregister.com/articles/focus-713037-levels-rise.html) alleging that because of CO2 caused global warming the earth’s sea level rise is accelerating and could increase by 3 feet by the year 2100 and inundate local southern California coastal areas causing significant damage to Southern California coastal communities.
These stories based their sea level rise information on the “National Climate Assessment” report and incorrectly applied the mid range scenario to Long Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. Additionally the articles failed to make any mention of the huge qualifications and limitations of the National Assessment reports global sea level rise scenarios.
There are four NOAA long time period tide gauge sea level rise measurement locations in the Southern California region located at San Diego (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9410170), La Jolla (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9410230), Los Angeles (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9410660) and Santa Monica (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9410840).
The NOAA tide gauge data for these locations which covers time periods from more than 80 to over 100 years ago through 2015 data measurements shows that there is no sea level rise acceleration taking place at these locations and that the rate of sea level rise is stable and between 3 to 9 inches per century at these locations not the 3 feet proclaimed in the alarmist article. This NOAA tide gauge data should have been discussed and presented in these Register articles.
NOAA 95% level of confidence analysis shows that there have been no significant changes in the rate of sea level rise at these Southern California locations during the long time period of these measurements. These 95% level of confidence intervals for the specific Southern California coastal locations are available at (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_update.htm?stnid=9410170), (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_update.htm?stnid=9410230), (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_update.htm?stnid=9410660), and (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_update.htm?stnid=9410840).
The climate alarmist news media have done a terrible job addressing the valid issues and information about sea level rise acceleration to the public. Much of what is written about this topic is inaccurate, misleading and erroneous. The media appear to have gone out of their way to ignore NOAA tide gauge data and instead incorrectly based alarmist sea level rise stories on inappropriate use of global mean sea level measurements and computer estimates and forecasts.
A recent study published in the Ocean & Coastal Management Journal (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0964569116300205) addressed the importance of using only tide gauge data for coastal planning not speculative global mean sea level estimates derived from ocean computer models using satellite sea level measurements.
Climate scientist Dr. Judith Curry presented some of the results of this paper (https://judithcurry.com/2016/02/23/is-sea-level-rise-accelerating/) which included the following assessment of how communities should evaluate coastal sea level rise issues:
The network of tide gauges provides the only information of value for costal planning.
The worldwide naïve average of sea level is +0.24 mm/year with no acceleration.
The climate models have crucial flaws making them useless.
Planning schemes must only reflect the proven local and global historical data.
Further supporting the importance of using local sea level rise tide gauge measurements for coastal location planning needs NOAA clearly states that “Relative Sea Level Trends reflect changes in local sea level over time and are typically the most critical sea level trend for many coastal applications, including coastal mapping, marine boundary delineation, coastal zone management, coastal engineering, sustainable habitat restoration design, and the general public enjoying their favorite beach”.
Unfortunately misleading, erroneous and inaccurate information about sea level rise issues is often used by climate alarmists to try and make their case. Extensive NOAA tide gauge data measured at hundreds of coastal locations around the U.S.many with measurement periods longer than 100 years do not support claims of coastal sea level rise acceleration.
NOAA tide gauge data represents an extremely important scientific resource to address specific coastal location sea level rise issues. The real story about coastal sea level rise contained in this critical data needs to be told.