Posts Tagged ‘Sea Level Rise’

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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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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

8518750[1]

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…

Battery sea level rise extended 4

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.

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The Search for Acceleration, part 10, US Gulf Coast

February 17, 2014

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 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.

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The Search for Acceleration, part 8, Hawaii

August 16, 2013

magnifying glass 145This 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.

Rise rate orthongonal to ENSO
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

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

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

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The Search for Acceleration, part 7, Western North America

July 30, 2013

magnifying glass 145This 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.

Enso and Western North America

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

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

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

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The Search for Acceleration, part 6, Australia

July 17, 2013

magnifying glass 145This is part 6 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.

Australia

Australia has only 5 tide gauge stations with data sets that are at least 90% complete going back to 1960, but four of those go back to 1940 or earlier.  I will analyse this data in my usual way (detrend, weight, average, and derivative).

Regional sea level rise rates are usually swamped by things other than just global effects.  In the case of Australia we may be able to disentangle one of these effects – the El Nino Southern Oscillation.  I will also consider the component of the Australian sea level data that is orthogonal to the ENSO3.4 sea surface temperature.

The slide show shows my standard analyse.

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ENSO

The El Nino Southern Oscillation dominates the sea level around Australia.  The following plot shows an overlay of the detrended weighted average of the five Australian tide gauge sites and the NINO3.4 index from the Hadley Centre.  I am including tide gauge data after 1915 which include at least two tide gauge sites at all times and no large data gaps.  The similarities are obvious.

ENSO sea level overlay

Let’s try to remove the ENSO effect from the sea level around Australia. I will do that by breaking the sea level data down into an 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.

orthogonal formula440

The top of each of the following slides shows the weighted, detrended, averaged Australian 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 of each slide shows the corresponding relative rise rates associated with sea level (white) and with the ENSO orthogonal component of the sea level (red).  Each successive slide shows the same original data with increasing Gaussian smoothing.

The most important thing to notice is that when the ENSO influence is removed the sea level rise rate at the end of the century is significantly reduced.

ENSO and global warming

If the higher relative rise rates at the end of the century are due to ENSO, then it is interesting to ask whether ENSO fluctuations are greater now (because of global warming?) than in the past.  The best answer to this question can be found in Highly Variable El Niño-Southern Oscillation Throughout the Holocene (Cobb, et. al., Science, 339, 1/4/13).

The abstract states…

Twentieth-century ENSO variance is significantly higher than average fossil coral ENSO variance but is not unprecedented. Our results suggest that forced changes in ENSO, whether natural or anthropogenic, may be difficult to detect against a background of large internal variability.

and the body of the paper mentions…

[T]he detection (and attribution) of any changes in ENSO properties would require very long time series spanning many centuries, to the extent that detection of such changes is even possible.

[M]uch of the observed differences in ENSO variance over the past 7 ky reflect strong internal variability… Relatively robust 20th-century ENSO variability may reflect a sensitivity to anthropogenic greenhouse forcing, but definitive proof of such an effect requires much longer data sets than are currently available, given the large range of natural ENSO variability implied by the available fossil coral data.

Conclusion

According to my usual analysis the rise rate at the end of the century was clearly higher than the average (from 1940 to present), but no higher than the 1940s.   Does the reconcile the satellite data and tide gauge data?  Yes.

But, when the part of the detrended sea level that is correlated to ENSO3.4 is removed, the remaining orthogonal part of the rise rate appears to be lower at the end of the century than during the 1940s, and not particularly high compared to the rest of the century. So if my removal of the ENSO effect is correct, then there was nothing “unusual” about the rise rate at the end of the century
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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

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

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The Search for Acceleration, part 5, The Netherlands

July 6, 2013

magnifying glass 145This is part 5 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.

The Netherlands

Netherlands elevation

Elevation and tide gauge locations for The Netherlands.

Nobody cares more about sea level rise than the folks in The Netherlands. They have been dealing with the issue long before anybody was worried about global warming, since 20% of the country’s area is below sea level.  They have excellent sea level data spanning nearly 150 years.  This map shows land elevations in the Netherlands as well as the location of seven high quality tide gauge stations.

Here is the PSMSL data for those seven locations…

Netherlands Raw Spread

Tide gauge data for the Netherlands.

As I have mentioned before, I am not concerned with finding the sea level rise rate, but rather the change in sea level rise rate. But this set of data averages out to have a 20th century rise rate very close to the commonly reported tide gauge derived average of 1.8 mm/year. (Click on image if animation does not advance.)

sea level annotated 450ani

These seven stations also have very coherent yearly signals, created from the 2, 3, 4, 6 & 12 month Fourier components.  Note that the magnitude of the yearly signal is nearly the same as the entire average sea level rise for the entire 20th century.

Netherlands Yearly signal

Now, lets consider the weighted, detrended data to derive the relative acceleration. (Click on image if animation does not work.)

Netherlands weighted and detrened 450ani

Conclusion

The Netherlands tide gauge data if of the highest quality and long duration.  All seven stations cover 1870 to the present.  The detrended sea level rise rate does indicate that the overall sea level rise rate for last two decades of the 20th century was a few mm per year greater than the century’s average.  However, this very reliable data also indicates that the sea level rise rate at the beginning of the century was just as high as the end of the century.

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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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