## Sea Level Projections vs. Tide Gauge Data

February 28, 2016

Carbon dioxide, climate change, disaster, SEA LEVELS WILL RISE!

You can see all kinds of sea level rise predictions for the 21st century, with over-wrought images of houses and buildings under water.  One of the favorite predictions of the hand wringers is “1.8 meters” of sea level rise for the 21st century.  A major purveyor of this lurid climate-porn prediction is Stefan Rahmstorf (see here, here, and here).

Consider the following points

• 75% of atmospheric anthropogenic CO2 arrived after 1950.
• There has been no obvious acceleration in sea level rise rates since 1950 as seen from tide gauges.
• Extrapolating tide gauge time series to 2100 would give about 15cm of sea level rise between 200o and 2100.
• Projections of 1, 1.8 or 2 meters of sea level rise between 2000 and 2100 would require extraordinary rise rate accelerations.

Let’s compare the sea level data of the 20th century with these wild prediction for the 21st century.  The movie below will show all the tide gauge data sets available from NOAA that extend over at least 75 years.  In each case the trend is extrapolated to 2100.  Additionally, the likely local relative sea levels corresponding to 1 meter and 1.8 meter global sea level rises for the 21st century are shown.

Music is by Mechett and licensed under Creative Commons

The likely local relative sea levels are calculated by by assuming that the global anthropogenic sea level rise would be distributed evenly over the planet.  This assumption may not be entirely accurate but it is a good first approximation. Here is how the calculation is done.

Let

• GSLR (20th century) be the 2oth century global sea level rise
• LSLR (20th century) be a local 20th century sea level rise
• GSLR(21st century) be the projected 21st global sea level rise
• LSLR(21st century) be the projected local 21st century sea level rise

Then
LSLR(21st century) = LSLR (20th century) – GSLR (20th century) + GSLR(21st century)

Say the 2oth century global sea level rise was 18cm and the projected 21st century global sea level rise is 100cm.   And say the local 20th century sea level rise was 18cm at location A, 30cm at location B, and -10cm at location C.  Then the local projected 21st century sea level rises would be

Location A
Projected rise = 100cm = 18cm – 18cm + 100cm

Location B
Projected rise = 112cm = 30cm – 18cm + 100cm

Location C
Projected rise = 72cm = -10cm – 18cm + 100cm

## Uh, Oh! Karl, et. al., is bad news for Stefan Rahmstorf’s sea level rise rate.

September 25, 2015

### Conclusion first

When the 20th century GISS temperature is modified according to Tom Karl, et.al., it causes the 21st century sea level predictions of Vermeer’s and Rahmstorf’s semi-empirical model to go down!

### Details

I have written extensively about “Global sea level linked to global temperature,” by Vermeer and Rahmstorf (which I will refer to as VR2009).

VR2009 was a widely cited claim of using historical 20th century sea level and temperature data to calculate parameters that could be used to build a model to predict 21st century sea level rise for various 21st century temperature scenarios.  I reproduced the VR2009 model based on their description.  My code was verified by reproducing the VR2009 results using the same inputs that they used.

I spent a lot of time pointing out some of the bizarre results of their model that surely disqualified it form being taken seriously, some of which can be seen here, here, and here.

I also spent a lot of time pointing out that the VR2009 choices of 20th century sea level data sources left much to be desired.  For example, they used the 2006 Church and White sea level data that was already outdated.  If they had used the revised Church and White data, then their resulting sea level rise predictions for the 21st century would have been much lower.

They happily modified Church’s and White’s outdated sea level data by subtracting a reservoir correction (Chao, et. al.), which made their 21st century predictions for sea level rise go up. But they made no attempt to estimate a groundwater depletion correction. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the groundwater depletion is of the same magnitude as the reservoir correction (Wada, et. al.), and including it would have made their 21st century predictions go down.

Nevertheless, Rahmstorf would later claim that his modeling approach was “robust!”  That is, it would give essentially the same result for the 21st century given different sources of 20th century sea level data.

So, I also implemented the VR2009 technique using several different sources of sea level data, which should have given similar results, according to Rahmstorf’s claim of robustness.  In fact, they gave widely varying results, and every combination of sea level data, reservoir data, and groundwater depletion data that I tried gave lower results than VR2009’s chosen combination.

### New Temperature Data!

The widely reported nearly two decade long pause in global warming was causing suicidal ideation among hard-core global warming alarmists.  Something had to be done to stop them from slitting their wrists with shards of glass from their shattered thermometers.

Just in the nick of time – revised temperature data!   Like all proper revisions of temperature data, this revision caused the reported temperature change of the 20th century to go up.

This was a result of a paper by Tom Karl, et. al. (Nature) based on very thin reasoning (see for example) that argued for such revision.  The folks at GISS (who provided VR2009’s temperature data) glommed onto Karl’s logic and subsequently revised their temperature data accordingly.  Other temperature data source like UAH and RSS did not.

Which means we must ask ourselves, what happens to 21st century sea level rise predictions based on the VR2009 model using the now modified GISS data?

VR2009 applied their model to six families of temperature scenarios for the 21st century form the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report.  Let’s see what happens to each of those scenarios when we update the 20th century GISS temperature data.

The IPCC temperature scenarios that VR2009 used for prediction of 21st century sea level rise.

### Case 1.

Sea level inputs are identical to what VR2009 used: Church’s and White’s sea level with the Chao reservoir correction.  The old GISS temperature data is replaced with the new GISS temperature data.  The table below shows that the new GISS data yields 21st century sea level rises that are about 17% less than when the old GISS data is used.

It is a shame that after Tom Karl went to all the trouble to increase the temperature rise of the 20th century it just makes VR2009’s model predict LOWER sea levels for the 21st century.  This must be a great disappointment to Vermeer and Rahmstorf, so you can be pretty sure they will never tell you this result. But I just did.

### Case 2

As I pointed out previously, VR2009 chose to use outdated 2006 Church and White sea level data, instead of Church’s 2009 data.  They also neglected a groundwater depletion correction.  When these improvements are included the VR2009 model yields 21st century sea level rises that are only about 55% of VR2009.  When the new GISS temperature data is included in the mix this drops to about 45%.

### Case 3.

Lest Vermeer or Rahmstorf argue that their large sea level rise rates are saved by another update of the Church and White data in 2011, I have include these results also.  The difference between 2009 and 2011 Church and White sea level data was small.  Here is how the 2011 Church and White sea level data version plays out in the VR2009 model. The resulting 21st century sea level rise predictions are only about 43% of the VR2009 predictions.

### The trend continues.

It seems that no matter what combination of inputs that are used in the VR2009 model, the predicted sea level rise for the 21st century is always smaller than with VR2009’s choice of inputs.  I wonder what that implies?

## 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

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

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.

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.

## Alarmism at Scientific American (again)

February 24, 2015

Scientific American is such an embarrassment.  It’s sad, because I used to like that magazine.

Once again they are shills for the global warming alarmists, scaring people with wildly exaggerated claims about sea level rise.  This time Colin Sullivan writes that the sea level at New York City could increase by six feet by 2100.

Heat waves and floods caused by climate change could mean disaster for the Big Apple’s five boroughs by the end of the century, with sea levels now predicted by a new report to climb by as much as 6 feet by 2100.

Really?  6 feet by 2100????

First, lets start with a minor point.  Real scientists and science writers usually don’t use “feet,” they use meters.  So why does Scientific American use “feet?”  My guess is that it is some linear combination of the following two reasons: the Scientific America audience isn’t really scientifically literate these days, and “6 feet” sounds like more than “2 meters” (even though it is actually slightly less).

Now, lets get to the major point.  Any responsible journalist writing about sea level rise in at New York City would present the historical data.  There are nearly 150 years of sea level rise data available for The Battery (at the southern tip of Manhattan) from NOAA

Do you notice that the sea level rise is less than 3 mm/year?  Can you detect an acceleration over the past 150 years?  The sea level at the Battery will go up about 22 cm by 2100 at the present rate.  To go up 6 feet (1.83 meters) by 2100 it would have to look something like this…

There is a part of me that wants to heap invective on Colin Sullivan and Scientific American, but I realize that while that may make me feel better, it will not help the situation.  So I will simply ask them, “Why don’t you show the actual historic data?”  It seems like a no-brainer, and anything less is journalistic malpractice.

#### Deniers and Alarmists

People like me have been branded with the “denier” epithet.  Why this particular word?  We are called “deniers” an ugly attempt to link us with Holocaust deniers.  It is an inaccurate and unfair moniker.

But we tend to call those at the other end of the spectrum “alarmists.”  Is that an unfair accusation?  I don’t think so, and this Scientific American article demonstrates why.  They pretend to be an objective source, but leave out the most pertinent data.  I can only think of two possible reasons for this: they are just stupid, or they want to cause a state of alarm.  I may be charitable in assigning the second motive.  “Alarmist” is an accurate and fair epithet for them.

## The Search for Acceleration, part 10, US Gulf Coast

February 17, 2014

This 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 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.

### U.S. Gulf Coast

This region  has 4 tide gauge sites with at least 90% data completion between 1950 and 2008.  Three of the sites have data back to 1930 or earlier .  I will analyse this data in my usual manner: detrending, weighting, averaging and derivatives.

This slideshow shows my standard analysis.

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## Conclusion

One thing is certain from the above graphs: the sea level rise rate in the US Gulf Coast region has not shown an acceleration in the last part of the 20th century or the 21st century. The rise rate reached a peak in the 1940s and has been dropping since around 1970.

Keep in mind that there are many factors that contribute to the rise rate in this region.  Subsidence is the primary cause, and subsidence itself has multiple components.

## The Search for Acceleration, part 8, Hawaii

August 16, 2013

This is part 8 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.

## Hawaii

There are only four tide gauge stations in Hawaii with at least 90% of the data from 1960 to 2008.  One of them has good data back to 1910.  Evaluation of this small set of data sites is very simple and 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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It is very hard to make an argument in support of a century end acceleration in sea level rise rate based on this Hawaiian data.

## ENSO

SInce I removed the ENSO correlated component of the sea level for Western North America and for Australia, it stands to reason that the same thing should be done for Hawaii.  See here for the math.

The top graph in the following image shows the weighted, detrended, averaged Hawaiian  sea level (white), ENSO3.4 sea surface temperature (blue),  and the component of sea level data that is orthogonal to the ENSO3.4 data (red).  The bottom graph shows the corresponding relative rise rates associated with sea level (white) and with the ENSO orthogonal component of the sea level (red).  All data is through a 5 year FWHM Gaussian filter.

The correlation is small and, if anything, subtraction of the ENSO correlated component of the sea level makes a century end acceleration look even less plausible.

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

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

RLR tide gauge data: Permanent Service For Mean Sea Level

ENSO/Global warming relationship: Cobb, et. al., Science, 339, 1/4/13

## The Search for Acceleration, part 7, Western North America

July 30, 2013

This is part 7 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 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.

### Western North America

This region  has 13 tide gauge sites with at least 90% data completion between 1950 and 2008.  Seven of the sites have data back to 1920 or earlier (but with some gaps).  I will analyse this data in the same manner as the Australian data.  I will start with the usual detrending, weighting, averaging and derivatives.  Then, I will find the portion of the sea level that is orthogonal to the ENSO3.4 sea surface temperature.

This slideshow shows my standard analysis.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

### ENSO

Like Australia, the sea level around the Western coast of North America seems to be related to the El Nino Southern Oscillation.  The following plot shows an overlay of the detrended weighted average of the 13 Western North American tide gauge sites and the NINO3.4 index from the Hadley Centre.  Both are detrended from 1920 to 2008.  Note that the ENSO data scale is inverted.

Now I will  remove the part of the sea level data that correlates to ENSO  by breaking the sea level data down into ENSO correlated and ENSO orthogonal parts. If the ENSO orthogonal part of the sea level is truly independent of ENSO, then it shows what the sea level around Australia would look like without an ENSO effect. Here is the formula for finding the ENSO orthogonal component of the of the sea level data.

### Conclusion

The highest rise rate during the period covered by this data occurs around 1980.  But that peak was gone before the the beginning of satellite data.  The 1990s and 2000s show some high and low rise rates, but the highs are no higher than the 1930s, and the lows are lower than the 1940s.  Despite some periods of high rise rates in the 1990s and 2000s, the average rise rate does not indicate a large acceleration over the earlier part of the century.  These conclusions are the same whether or not the ENSO correlated part of the sea level is removed.

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### Sources

20th century rise rate average of 1.8 mm/year

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

RLR tide gauge data: Permanent Service For Mean Sea Level

ENSO/Global warming relationship: Cobb, et. al., Science, 339, 1/4/13