Run from the rising waves! (The latest climate catastrophe scare)

Summary:  The past month has brought forth a sudden burst of studies using models to forecast an acceleration in rising sea levels, accompanied by alarmist new stories.  Here we review them, seeking the common element.

There has long been an odd pattern to climate science articles and news, appearing in groups with a common theme.  Such as the recent burst of articles forecasting an acceleration in the two-century long rise of sea levels (since the end of the Little Ice Age).

Coincidence?  Or is this a desperate Hail Mary pass to terrify a public that remains skeptical of anthropogenic-caused catastrophic climate change — despite 24 years of propaganda about the coming catastrophe (since the staged 1988 Senate hearings that started the crusade)?

In fact, despite the news media’s biased coverage, most aspects of climate change research lie on the frontier of available data and theory (as usual in science debates).  We may face climate catastrophes during the next four score years. These risks certainly deserve study, better funded and managed than the poorly organized scattershot programs done today (details here).  On the other hand, the evidence to date hardly warrants massive public policy action.

Sea level rising 3-4 times faster on East Coast. Global Warming Deniers shouting their denials through snorkels.
Twitter post by Roger Ebert (journalist, film critic, screenwriter). Hat tip to WUWT.

“I don’t believe the biggest fear for man-made climate change believers is the sea level rise”
— Reader’s comment posted in reply to Shaping your view of the world with well-constructed propaganda

(1)  A sudden storm of rising sea level stories

See the For More Information section at the end for links to other posts about rising sea levels.

Update: in the comments are descriptions of current research about rising sea levels.

(a)  The evidence for sea-level rises in North Carolina“, New Scientist, 20 June 2012 — A sensationalized article about “Climate related sea-level variations over the past two millennia“, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 5 July 2011 — “Holgate says the rise could be as much as 1.5 metres {59”} by 2100, but he says that is ‘an extreme upper end’”. See the analysis of the NS article here.

(b)  There are two sides to every debate:  “Elephant seals help uncover slower-than-expected Antarctic melting“, press release announcing “Two years of oceanic observations below the Fimbul Ice Shelf, Antarctica“, Tore Hattermann et al, Geophysical Research Letters, in press (ungated version here). Excerpt:


Our observations of relatively low temperatures below the FIS are largely consistent with previous snapshots presented by Nicholls et al., suggesting less basal melting than predicted by ocean models. Melt rates below the FIS may thus be consistent with steady state-mass balance estimates based on remote sensing, indicating that the ice shelves along the coast of Dronning Maud Land are currently not subject to rapid mass loss.

(c)  California Sea Level Projected to Rise at Higher Rate Than Global Average“, press release for new National Academy of Sciences report, 22 June 2012 — “The sea level off most of California is expected to rise about one meter {39″} over the next century, an amount slightly higher than projected for global sea levels, and will likely increase damage to the state’s coast from storm surges and high waves …”

(d) Significant sea-level rise in a 2-degree warming world“, press release about “Long-term sea-level rise implied by 1.5 °C and 2 °C warming levels“, Michiel Schaeffer et al, Nature Climate Change, 24 June 2012 — Excerpt:

Limiting warming to these levels with a probability larger than 50% produces 75–80 cm {30 – 32 inches} Sea Level Rise above the year 2000 by 2100. This is 25 cm {10 inches} below a scenario with unmitigated emissions …

(e) Sea Levels Rising Fast on U.S. East Coast“, National Geographic, 25 June 2012 — “Not clear whether human-caused global warming is to blame, experts say.” Based on “Hotspot of accelerated sea-level rise on the Atlantic coast of North America“, Asbury H. Sallenger Jr. et al, Nature Climate Change, 24 June 2012.  Their extrapolations forecast a rise of sea level of 20-29 cm {8-11″} by 2100; which is 1.1″/year. The causes are uncertain; their forecast depends on the relative impact of natural cycles, aerosols and CO2. Conclusions:

Aerosols may also play a role in explaining variations in NEH {northeast hotspot}SLRDs (sea-level rate differences}. The mid-century low (Fig. 4) may have been forced by volcanic aerosols reflecting radiation and lowering air temperatures25 and slowing14 SLR. The authors of ref. 26 found 76% of the variance of detrended North Atlantic sea surface temperatures from 1860–2005 could be explained by aerosol emissions and volcanic eruptions. … With our limited series length, the presence of cycles, for example associated with natural ocean variability and/or AMO {Atlantic Meridional Overturning}, is indeterminate. In the Holocene geologic record of an NEH marsh, the authors of ref. 28 found evidence of several rapid SLR increases separated by 900 yr or more that they associated with gyre changes.

Regardless, our correlations suggest that should temperatures rise in the twenty-first century as projected, the NEH SLRD will continue to increase. If future sea-level variability is forced by aerosols and/or is part of a cycle, SLR in the NEH may also alternately fall below and rise above projections of IPCC scenarios alone.

Our analyses support a recent acceleration of SLR on ~ 1,000 km of the east coast of North America north of Cape Hatteras. This hotspot is consistent with SLR associated with a slowdown of AMOC.

(f) Earth still probably doomed no matter which way court rules“, Alex Pareene, Salon, 26 June 2012 — “Don’t worry, even if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, we’re still destroying the planet.”

(3)  For more information

See this FM Reference Page for

About extreme climate change:

Other posts about rising sea levels:

  1. Climate science articles which you might enjoy reading!, 18 January 2009
  2. An example of important climate change research hidden, lest it spoil the media’s narrative, 22 May 2009
  3. About that melting arctic ice cap, 17 April 2010
  4. Fear or Fail: about the melting Greenland ice sheet, 24 May 2010
  5. Today’s good news, about rising sea levels, 3 June 2010 — Esp note the links to articles and studies!
  6. It’s time to worry (again) about disappearing arctic ice, 8 June 2010
  7. Climate Armageddon postponed (again): the melting polar ice, 9 October 2010
  8. More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century, 16 October 2010
  9. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010
  10. Shaping your view of the world with well-constructed propaganda, 21 June 2012


18 thoughts on “Run from the rising waves! (The latest climate catastrophe scare)”

  1. I see no mention of the rising and sinking of the land caused by the rebound from the massive weight of the 3 kilometers of ice after the thawing of the last ice age 20,000 years ago. This is causing the Northeast Atlantic coastlines to rise after being depressed by the glaciers and the coastlines further south to sink because they were pushed up from the bulge that formed around the depression. Goggle the terms “isostatic rebound” or “post glacial” rebound. A table in the Wikipedia article on Post Glacial rebound seems to indicate the North Carolina Coastline is sinking about 1.5mm a year due to this non-global warming effect.

    1. That’s an important factor, and is mentioned in several of the articles. They distinguish the various factors driving sea level changes, and “glacial isostatic adjustment” is among them. For details see the Wikipedia entry on Post-glacial rebound.

      There are other causes of local land movements. For example, San Francisco (like much of NC) is sinking (exaccerbating any sea level rise). Which makes this especially interesting, showing the importance of local factors as well as global trends:

      San Francisco has one of the longest continuous sea level records in the US. As you can see, there’s nothing too remarkable about the record. It is worth noting, however, that over the last 160 years the sea level in San Francisco has gone up by about 8 inches (20 cm) … It is also worth noting that during the last couple of decades it has hardly risen at all.
      Willis Eschenbach, WUWT, 23 Juen 2012

      1. With a difference. Mann’s “hockey stick” was an estimate of past temperatures based on proxies. It’s now largely disproven.

        The subject here are estimates of future temperatures, based on models.

    1. Let’s look at those two studies MT cites, nicely representative of the good work being done on this important subject. Neither provides any basis for strong public policy action, except for more research.

      (1) “The 75-80 cm number also matches an older study from 2008”

      This study examines various sea rise scenarios to determine their physical plausibility in terms of polar ice flows. They clearly state that their conclusions are tentative, and this is early-stage research.

      Kinematic Constraints on Glacier Contributions to 21st-Century Sea-Level Rise“, W. T. Pfeffer1 et at, Science, 5 September 2008 — Abstract:

      On the basis of climate modeling and analogies with past conditions, the potential for multimeter increases in sea level by the end of the 21st century has been proposed. We consider glaciological conditions required for large sea-level rise to occur by 2100 and conclude that increases in excess of 2 meters are physically untenable. We find that a total sea-level rise of about 2 meters by 2100 could occur under physically possible glaciological conditions but only if all variables are quickly accelerated to extremely high limits. More plausible but still accelerated conditions lead to total sea-level rise by 2100 of about 0.8 meter. These roughly constrained scenarios provide a “most likely” starting point for refinements in sea-level forecasts that include ice flow dynamics.


      We present three scenarios by combining likely projection methods thatwe believe roughly bracket the range of potential near-future SLR outcomes (SOM). These are not true limiting cases but give a good sense of the potential variability of total SLR due to dynamic discharge effects.

      … On the basis of calculations presented here, we suggest that an improved estimate of the range of SLR to 2100 including increased ice dynamics lies between 0.8 and 2.0 m. We emphasize that assumptions made to arrive here contain substantial uncertainties, and many other scenarios and combinations of contributions could be considered.

      (2) “Another older study from 2006 suggests 28-34 cm {11″-13″} of rise and an accelerating trend but there are probably better data sets currently than then.”

      The second study confirms the results of the other studies cited: a 20th century acceleration (many studies date this to the early part of the century), and a rise of aprox 8″-12″ to 2100. Not a catastrophe, and far short from the catastrophic forecasts of a meter-plus (39″) rise.

      A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise“, John A. Church and Neil J. White, Geophysical Research Letters, 6 January 2006 — Ungated version here. Abstract:

      Multi-century sea-level records and climate models indicate an acceleration of sea-level rise, but no 20th century acceleration has previously been detected. A reconstruction of global sea level using tide-gauge data from 1950 to 2000 indicates a larger rate of rise after 1993 and other periods of rapid sea-level rise but no significant acceleration over this period.

      Here, we extend the reconstruction of global mean sea level back to 1870 and find a sea-level rise from January 1870 to December 2004 of 195 mm, a 20th century rate of sea-level rise of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm yr−1 and a significant acceleration of sea-level rise of 0.013 ± 0.006 mm yr−2.

      This acceleration is an important confirmation of climate change simulations which show an acceleration not previously observed. If this acceleration remained constant then the 1990 to 2100 rise would range from 280 to 340 mm {11″-13″}, consistent with projections in the IPCC TAR.

    2. Most GCM’s forecast accellerated rise in the coming decades. These models are as yet untested, so only time can validate their forecasts.

      What we do know: there is a large body of research showing no acelleration in sea level rise so far since the early 20th century.

      (1)Sea-Level Acceleration Based on U.S. Tide Gauges and Extensions of Previous Global-Gauge Analyses , J. R. Houston and R. G. Dean, Journal of Coastal Research, May 2011 — Acelleration:

      Without sea-level acceleration, the 20th-century sea-level trend of 1.7 mm/y would produce a rise of only approximately 0.15 m from 2010 to 2100; therefore, sea-level acceleration is a critical component of projected sea-level rise. To determine this acceleration, we analyze monthly-averaged records for 57 U.S. tide gauges in the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) data base that have lengths of 60–156 years. Least-squares quadratic analysis of each of the 57 records are performed to quantify accelerations, and 25 gauge records having data spanning from 1930 to 2010 are analyzed. In both cases we obtain small average sea-level decelerations. To compare these results with worldwide data, we extend the analysis of Douglas (1992) by an additional 25 years and analyze revised data of Church and White (2006) from 1930 to 2007 and also obtain small sea-level decelerations similar to those we obtain from U.S. gauge records.

      (2)Is There Evidence Yet of Acceleration in Mean Sea Level Rise around Mainland Australia?“, P. J. Watson, Journal of Coastal Research, 27, May 2011 — Abstract:

      As an island nation with some 85% of the population residing within 50 km of the coast, Australia faces significant threats into the future from sea level rise. Further, with over 710,000 addresses within 3 km of the coast and below 6-m elevation, the implication of a projected global rise in mean sea level of up to 100 cm over the 21st century will have profound economic, social, environmental, and planning consequences. In this context, it is becoming increasingly important to monitor trends emerging from local (regional) records to augment global average measurements and future projections. The Australasian region has 4 very long, continuous tide gauge records, at Fremantle (1897), Auckland (1903), Fort Denison (1914), and Newcastle (1925), which are invaluable for considering whether there is evidence that the rise in mean sea level is accelerating over the longer term at these locations in line with various global average sea level time-series reconstructions. These long records have been converted to relative 20-year moving average water level time series and fitted to second-order polynomial functions to consider trends of acceleration in mean sea level over time.

      The analysis reveals a consistent trend of weak deceleration at each of these gauge sites throughout Australasia over the period from 1940 to 2000. Short period trends of acceleration in mean sea level after 1990 are evident at each site, although these are not abnormal or higher than other short-term rates measured throughout the historical record.

    1. Shall we spend fortunes to protect against every shockwave, so that we “don’t find out”? Earthquakes, volcano, exotic effects of pollution, peak oil, peak coal, massive solar storms, mega-tsunamis, asteroid/comet impact, etc. It’s a long list, of varying probability, reliability of estimates, and impacts. While we fight nightmares we’ll have to ignore the pressing needs of people alive today. Or we could vastly increase taxes.

      For more about this — and a rational response — see More shockwave events to worry about, in addition to peak oil and global warming.

  2. Yes we should! Lets just get rid of the idea of money all together. It’s destroying the earth and it keeps a vast portion of the human race in extreme poverty anyway.

    1. From watching the Star Trek series, I believe we have to wait until the 24th century until money becomes obsolete. Unfortunately, by then we’ll have invented the holodeck and the human race will be doomed.

    1. From Wikipedia:

      A holodeck, in the fictional Star Trek universe, is a simulated reality facility located on starships and starbases. … Some users may develop an addiction to the holodeck (a condition known as “holodiction”), leading to them spending unhealthy amounts of time there and personifying artificial characters.

      It can simulate almost any environment, and situation. It’s distant future technology. Perhaps imaginary future technology.

  3. James Catfish

    We will likely continue on our present course, simply because those with the power and money have made that choice. I hope they are right, because if they are wrong there is nowhere else to go.

    Political views: I stand with George Washington and his fairwell address.
    FM Note: see Washington’s farewell speech here.

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