Archive for the ‘sea level rise’ Category

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A new round of Antarctic ice alarm

March 28, 2015

The alarm of a catastrophic meltdown of the Antarctic cycles up and down every year or two.  A journal article says the rate of melt is increasing, the popular press picks up on it and breathlessly warns about huge sea level rises sinking coastal cities around the world. We are told that x number of gigatonnes of ice per year are being dumped off the continent and wreaking their havoc on the world.   Then another study says “not so fast,” the mass losses aren’t that great after all.  Or, some crazy old skeptics ruin all the fun by recklessly bringing some logic to the discussion.

Today we have “Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating” (Paolo, et. al., Science, 2015).  The abstract warns us

“Overall, average ice-shelf volume change accelerated from negligible loss at 25 ± 64 km3 per year for 1994-2003 to rapid loss of 310 ± 74 km3 per year for 2003-2012.”

310 km3 per year (roughly the same as 310 gigatonnes per year) is pretty high compared to most other estimates. So you will probably see many references to this number because the bigger and scarier the more the press likes it.  But for the more sober minded, consider the following comparison of ice loss estimates from “Ice sheet mass balance and climate change” (Hanna, et. al., Nature, 2013)

Various estimates of ice mass change in the antarctic

Various estimates of ice mass change in the Antarctic

How does the recent Science paper compare?  If we place it on estimate plots from Hanna’s paper it would look like this..

Ice sheet mass balance and climate change - Hanna - Nature - 2013 v4

The Paolo Nature paper is an outlier.  But lets take them at their word.  They say that the Antarctic, on average, shed about 300 more Gigatonnes of ice per year during the 2003 to 2012 period than during the 1994 to 2003 period.  Where did all this ice go?  In to the oceans, of course.  That is why we have the great sea level rise scare.

So it follows that the sea level should have been rising faster during the 2003 to 2012 period than during the 1994 to 2003 year period.  How much faster?  Well, every gigatonne of water dumped into the oceans raises the sea level by about 2.78 microns. So 300 gigatonnes of extra water per year would raise the sea levels about an extra 840 microns a year, or about an extra 0.84 mm per year.  We are told that satellite data indicates that the global sea level is rising about 3 mm per year.  0.84 mm per year is a significant fraction of 3 mm per year, so such a rate increase should really stand out in the sea level rise data..

Well, here is some of that satellite sea level rise data…

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This discussion has been about ice that is moving from the land to the sea and raising the sea level.  But let’s take a quick moment to look at the sea ice that surrounds Antarctica.  While this ice does not contribute to changes in the sea level, it does say something about the conditions in that area.

seaice_anomaly_antarctic - Cryosphere Today 150328

Do you see a trend?  I see a trend.  And I know there are variety of “just-so stories” to explain away this trend, but I am unconvinced.

Conclusion

Between 1994 and 2003 the average sea level rise rate was 3.77 mm/yr, according to satellite data (University of Colorado).  If the Antarctic were depositing an average of about 300 more gigatonnes of water in the ocean per year in the following years (2003 to 2012), then the average sea level rise rage from 2003 to 2012 should have increased by about 0.84 m/yr, to 4.61 mm/yr.

Instead, the average sea level rise rate from 2003 to 2012 dropped to 2.66 mm/yr.

The claim of a huge rise in ice loss from the Antarctic over this period is quite implausible.

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The Search for Acceleration, part 9, the Baltic Sea

October 23, 2013

magnifying glass 145This is part 9 of a series of posts in which I am searching for a large acceleration in sea level rise rate in the latter part of the 20th century.  Such a rise rate acceleration is needed  to reconcile the 1.8 mm per year average rise rate for the century attributed to tide gauge data and the approximately 3 mm per year rise rate for the tail end of the century attributed to the satellite data.

The Baltic Sea

There are 22 tide gauge stations in the Baltic Sea area that are at least 90% data complete from 1960 to 2005.  Eighteen of those are 90% complete all the way back to 1930 and ten are 90% complete back to 1900.  The weighting (using a 200 km threshold) is nearly constant for the entire 20th century (see weighting graph below).  I will use the usual technique of detrending, weighting, averaging and derivatives, as shown in the following slide show.  (Note that you can pause or increment the slide show forward or backward by using the buttons that appear when your cursor is placed over the image.)

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Conclusion

The following graph makes clear that the Baltic Sea tide gauge data DOES reconcile the sea level rise rate from the tide gauge data with the higher late century rise rate from the satellite data.

Baltic Sea Detrended Acceleration annotated 2
On the other hand, the tide gauge sea level rise rate immediately before the era of satellite data is higher than rise rate after….

Baltic Sea Detrended Acceleration annotated 3

See an index of the Search for Acceleration series here.

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Sources

20th century rise rate average of 1.8 mm/year

1. Church and White Global Mean Sea Level Reconstruction

2. Links to Church and White sea level data

Satellite data (about 3 mm/year): CU Sea Level Research Group

RLR tide gauge data: Permanent Service For Mean Sea Level

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The Search for Acceleration, part 2: East Coast of North America

June 24, 2013

magnifying glass 145

CORRECTION: 6/30/13

The original detrended sea level rise rate graphs for this post was off by a factor of 12!.  This greatly changes my conclusion.  Incorrect information is now crossed out and is followed by corrected information in red.

This is part 2 of a series of posts in which I am searching for a large acceleration in sea level rise rate in the latter part of the 20th century that could reconcile the 1.8 mm per year average rise rate for the century attributed to tide gauge data and the approximately 3 mm per year rise rate for the tail end of the century attributed to the satellite data.

The global sea level rise rate is swamped by other effects.  In most locations the yearly rise and fall of the oceans is greater than the 18 cm of sea level rise during the entire 20th century.  Geologic effects (e.g. glacial isostatic adjustment or plate tectonics) add to local and regional rise rates, making them deviate greatly from the global rise rate.

I am working under the theory that by detrending sea level data from individual (local) sites and averaging with other regional sites it should be possible to extract changes in regional sea level rise rates while bypassing the question of what the “true” sea level rise rate is in that region.

East Coast of North America

Conclusion: There is no sign of an acceleration in the sea level rise rate in the tide gauge data from the East Coast of North America.

Conclusion:  The tide gauge data for the East Coast of North America that covers that satellite sea level data era (1993 to present) does show a rise rate that is significantly higher than the tide gauge data rise rate for the 20th century.  But the sea level rise rate in the 1930s through 1940s and around 1970 was as high or higher.Whether or not this data reconciles the difference between the 20th century tide gauge rise rate average and the satellite rise rate average is still ambiguous.

I have selected the East Coast of North America, for no particular reason, as the first region to analyse.  I looked for tide gauge data along the coast such that it covered at least the period from 1960 to 2008 with 90% of all monthly data accounted for.  Usable sites ranged from Nova Scotia to Georgia.

Click on any animations or graphs to enlarge.
East Coast North America 90p 1960-2008 Map

The following plot shows the qualifying data spread out for easy comparison.  The key at the right shows the associate RLR data files.

East Coast North America 90p 1960-2008 Raw Spread

Averaged data

As I mentioned above, I am not concerned with finding the sea level rise rate, but rather the change in sea level rise rate. However the following data for the East Coast of North America is interesting because it shows an averaged sea level rise rate for the 20th century that is close to the satellite derived sea rate for the end of the 20th century.  This is will not be the case for most regions around the world.  If you squint the right way you can also see the change in rise rate around 1930 that shows up in the various iterations of Church and White’s derivations of 20th century sea levels.

East Coast North America 90p 1960-2008 Avg 450ani2

Detrended data

East Coast North America 90p 1960-2008 450ani corrected

The last frame of the detrended data animation is worth repeating (see below).  Notice that there is no evidence of an extreme or consistent increase in the sea level rise rate in the last two decades.  The rise rates were as great or greater in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s than they were in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.  However, at least part of the satellite era (1993 to present) tide gauge data may be more than 2 mm/year greater than the average for the 20th century.  It is safe to say that the tide gauge data from the East Coast of the North America does not reconcile the difference between the 20th century rise rate average (about 1.8 mm/year) and the satellite measured average (about 3 mm/year) Whether or not this data reconciles the difference between the 20th century tide gauge rise rate average and the satellite rise rate average is still ambiguous.

East Coast North America 90p 1960-2008 Detrended Acceleration
corrected East Coast North America 90p 1960-2008 Detrended Acceleration