A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Sea level hyperbole: CSIRO, BOM, ABC and Kiribati President should apologize for wasting our time

Minister Peter Dutton made a joke about Pacific Islander time. The Offendotrons howled and called for him to be sacked. But the real problem here is not the small 1mm rise in sea-levels, it’s the the national media end up discussing global “offense” levels rather than sea levels. The scientific data shows there is no issue. Australian taxpayers pay the ABC, the CSIRO and the BOM to inform the Australian public, yet none of them explained that the real sea level rise recorded in Kiribati is less than 1 mm a year. Why not?  The ABC does not clear the fog for Australians, it generates it. Dutton apologized, but he shouldn’t have. It feeds the offendotrons. They didn’t accept it, won’t stop referring to his comment, nor start talking about real problems. Apologizing only extends the time our national conversation is wasted on mindless things.

Yet again, the unfunded bloggers report the scientific data and not the institutes we pay to do that?

Noting that today’s meeting to discuss the resettlement of refugees was running late, Mr Dutton quipped that it was running to “Cape York time”, to which the Prime Minister replied: “We had a bit of [...]

The scandal of sea levels — rising trends, acceleration — largely created by adjustments

Headlines across Australia yesterday told us the dire news that a new study finds that “Sea level rising faster in past 20 years than in entire 20th century“.   A new paper by Watson et al is driving the headlines, but underneath this Nature paper is a swamp of adjustments, an error larger than the signal, and the result disagrees with many other studies and almost all the raw measurements. Paper after paper kept showing that sea levels rates had slowed (e.g Chen showed deceleration from 2004, Cazenave said in the last decade sea-levels had slowed 30% (but argued post hoc adjustments could solve that). Beenstock used 1000 tide gauges and found no acceleration of sea levels over the last 50 years. A different researcher — Phil Watson, found that Australian sea levels rose faster before World War II then slowed down.)

Firstly,  hundreds of tide gauges show sea level rising at about a third of the rate than satellites do. Worse, the original satellite raw data showed the same slow rise, until it was suddenly adjusted. The real scandal is that the rapidly rising trend was largely created by adjustments in the first place. These latest corrections just adjust down [...]

Vanuatu sea levels: how much did they contribute to cyclone damage?

Sea levels are part of the scare campaign, but how many journalists ask, and how many scientists admit, that sea levels in the South Pacific are noisy data that changes as the ground moves and the ocean slops back and forward? The Pacific averages 4 km deep. Is it any wonder that slight changes in winds and currents will shift the top 10cm, just 0.0025% , around? Long term sea level changes are difficult to assess. But this is not what we hear much in the media:

“Rising sea levels making island nations such as Vanuatu more vulnerable to storms and amplifies the impact of tropical cyclones” –The Guardian

“Coastal flooding is a sleeping giant,” it says. —  The Climate Council (

The good recent data shows big rises and falls that don’t correlate with CO2

A very neat high-quality network of SeaFrame equipment was installed around South Pacific Islands in 1992 to measure both land and sea movements. This is called the Pacific Sea Level Monitoring Project. It is maintained by the Australian BoM. The geodetic observations are done by Geoscience Australia.

These tide gauges show that sea levels are rising and falling around Vanuatu [...]

Sea level rise was less than thought (skeptics were right)

Skeptics, and particularly Nils-Axel Mörner have been saying that sea level rise, as recorded by tide gauges has been much slower than widely advertised. They’ve also pointed out how the rates of sea-level rise have either stayed the same or slowed down. There’s been no sign of the acceleration needed for the wildly speculative  hypothesis that your SUV, and China’s coal plants are warming the ocean.

This week a new Nature paper (Hay et al) shows the skeptics were right  — but did that view make it to any news broadcast?

Watch the sea-level scare mutate

Even in The Australian the spin from the propaganda machine gets a running, and the previous slow rise is used to pump the scare that the modern “acceleration” is even scarier. What the Australian (and selected sea level “experts”) don’t mention is that the tide-gauges don’t show any acceleration, and nor did the raw recordings from satellites. The 3mm rising sea claims apparently come from satellites that were calibrated to one subsiding tide gauge in Hong Kong.

It’s cherry picking par excellence. We might finally accept tide gauges up to 1990, but after that the tide gauges don’t count — bring in the “adjusted” [...]

Sydney Sea levels rising at just 6.5cm per century. Peak-panic is behind us.

In The Australian Bob Carter compares the long term tide gauge record in Sydney with projections, and exposes the exorbitant cost of insurance for alarmist sea level forecasts. The good news is that it appears councils are waking up, and  “peak-sea-level-panic” is behind us.

Sea-level alarmism has passed high tide and is at last declining. With luck, empirical sanity will soon prevail over modelling.

After years of research it turns out that talking about “global”  sea level rise is nearly meaningless to real people who live in one place. The ocean rise varies locally from beach to beach from as little as 5cm per century to as much as 16cm per century. The variations are mostly due to different rates of land subsiding or rising.

More importantly, the rate of rise was either the same or was even faster before World War II when CO2 levels were “safe”.

Figure 5: Comparison of decadal rates of change over historical record. Analysis based on relative 20-y moving average water level time series. | Watson 2011

Fort Denison in Sydney has one of the longest running continuous records, starting in 1886, and finally local councils are realizing that they need [...]

“Modern seas unprecedented”: An insult to geology and sea level research

Is the latest sea-level rise unusual? Kurt Lambeck said it was, based on his version of the Holocene seas, calculated with modeled crustal movements (to try to guess the rises and falls of the beaches where the sea levels were changing). Obedient science reporters broadcast his message to the world without asking a single hard question. But when the error bars are 2 meters wide and the dating estimates range over hundreds of years, I thought it beyond silly to think we could estimate 100-year average sea level rises in the time of Moses. Nils-Axel Mörner agrees, and shows data below from 50 years of research which demonstrates that sea levels are always oscillating, and that in Europe, the US, the Indian Ocean past changes are larger than the current ones. Nils has published nearly 600 papers on observations of sea-levels around the world. He calls the Lambeck paper an “insult” to geologists and sea-level researchers.  — Jo


An insult to geology and sea level research

by Nils-Axel Mörner

Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics, Stockholm, Sweden, (morner AT

In the 60s, there was a vigorous debate [...]

Sea level rise “unprecedented” when modeling the ancient past

Kurt Lambeck at ANU scored a Climate Bingo moment in the modern media last week with declarations that the 20cm rise in sea levels last century was “unprecedented” in the last 6,000 years! But sea level is fiendishly difficult to measure thanks to rising and falling bits of land. Present day scientists argue over sea level changes in the last 10 years, yet Lambeck seems to have figured out the sea levels in 4000BC. Tricky, what.

When Nils Axel-Morner tried to figure out which modern spot in Denmark is tectonically stable he looked at 60 years of detailed data, from 40 beaches around Denmark. Lambeck has a model that kinda does all that and more. It works out the mass of the icesheets circa Tutankhamen and calculates the mantle conditions. He sorts out the geoidal bulge with assumptions about mantle viscosity to look at tectonic displacement. Hmm. Could be some uncertainty there?

This is Fig 1 from Lambeck et al 2014. Note the scales. Really. Figure how large the 15-20cm rise of the last century would look on the y axis here which doesn’t just cover 150cm, it covers 150 meters. Who would be brave enough to declare that sea [...]

Missing heat not in deep oceans but “found” in missing data in upper ocean instead

Two papers on ocean heat released together today. The first says the missing heat is not in the deep ocean abyss below 2000m. The second finds the missing heat in missing data in the Southern Hemisphere instead. Toss out one excuse, move to another.

The first paper by Llovel and Willis et al, looked at the total sea-level rise as measured by adjusted satellites*, then removed the part of that rise due to expanding warming oceans above 2,000 m and the part due to ice melting off glaciers and ice-sheets.** The upshot is that the bottom half of the ocean is apparently not warming — there was nothing much left for the deep oceans to do. This result comes from Argo buoy data which went into full operation in 2005. (Before Argo the uncertainties in ocean temperature measurements massively outweigh the expected temperature changes, so the “data” is pretty useless.)

Figure 2 | Global mean steric sea-level change contributions from different layers of the ocean. 0–2,000m (red), 0–700m (green), 700–2,000m (blue). The dashed black curve shows an estimate for the remainder of the ocean below 2,000m computed by removing the 0–2,000m estimate from the GRACE-corrected observed mean sea-level time series. [...]

Global sea level rise a bit more than 1mm a year for last 50 years, no acceleration

Here’s a novel approach. Beenstock et al  wondered if tide gauges were placed in any old spot around the world or were biased toward area where sea-level did more rising. They compared the location of tide gauges in the year 2000 to sea level rises and falls as measured by satellite altimetry. It turns out the placement seems to be independent (meaning anywhere). This is pretty important because the infernally tough thing about measuring sea levels is whether the land is subsiding or rising at the same time, and how to correct for that. If tide gauges are spread evenly (or quasi-randomly), it means we could average the lot instead of trying to correct and reconstruct each one individually. So that’s what they did – average (they did not reconstruct).

The consensus estimate is that sea-levels are rising by 2mm a year (and 3mm lately, with adjusted satellite data). Beenstock et al used 1,000 tide gauges and found global sea level rise was  more like 1mm a year (very similar to the rise Nils Axel Morner found on that stable spot in Denmark). The conclusion is that sea level is rising slowly at 1mm a year, and that it hasn’t [...]

Sea level rise less than 1mm for last 125 years in Kattegatt, Europe — Nils-Axel Morner

Nils‐Axel Mörner has a new paper out (his 589th). For 60 years he has been tracking the coastlines close to him, and carefully isolated the exact part which appears to be the most stable. From that he shows that the real sea-level rise in Northern Europe is less than 1 millimeter a year since 1890. This is less that the 1.6mm trend in 182 NOAA tide gauges, and far below the estimates of the IPCC reports.

There is also no sign of acceleration in sea-levels for the last 50 years. (How much should Europeans spend to stop a 1mm annual rise that was already going in 1890 and has not changed much since then?) If anything, Nils work shows how difficult it is to measure true sea-level rise on land that shifts.

In this graph below, he compares the rise of most tide gauges with the Kattegatt region, and the IPCC results. This is only one result from one place, but it is based on thousands of readings from sites all around Kattegatt. His painstaking attention to extreme detail and empirical data stands in stark contrast to the IPCC where the trend depends heavily on adjustments. (Those adjustments appear to [...]