Sea level study distorted by journalists

Official complaint regarding inaccuracy

(Sent to the Herald today)

The Herald yesterday carried an article on sea level rise in the Solomon Islands. Villages have been abandoned and whole islands lost beneath the waves. Climate change is forcing people from their homes. Catastrophic sea level rise is already on us and we’re causing it.

This is incorrect. It is another attempt to mislead us into believing our emissions of carbon dioxide are causing sea level rise.

The article leaves a bad taste in the mouth, for the journalist misrepresents the scientific paper it’s based on, claiming that it proves that villages and houses have been lost to anthropogenic climate change, though the paper says nothing of the sort.

The story was written by Ben Guarino at the Washington Post and cites a newly-released paper, Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands (2016, Environmental Research Letters). Guarino’s description of the paper is grossly misleading:

In a recent paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists link the destructive sea level rise to anthropogenic – that is, human-caused – climate change. The study is the first time anyone has concretely analysed the loss of Solomon Island shoreline in the context of global warming, they say.

Global story change

Minutes before posting this, I discovered that numerous papers, magazines and web sites are pushing the story that the new paper proves climate change is to blame for drowning houses and five whole islands. Though I focus on the Washington Post, dozens of outlets have distorted the paper’s results in the same way.

The scientists do not link any shoreline changes to man-made climate change. The Herald should be deeply ashamed to publish this blatantly incorrect statement.

The scientists didn’t study the Solomon Islands to assess the effects of climate change. They thought the Solomons might show them what could happen to Pacific atolls in the future. All the way through, the study is interested only in future climate change and its effects. Perhaps that’s an oddly limited goal, but it’s announced in the first sentence:

Low-lying reef islands in the Solomon Islands provide a valuable window into the future impacts of global sea-level rise.

They specifically state that no link has previously been shown between shoreline recession on reef islands and climate change.

Whilst shoreline recession has been documented on atolls over past decades, the majority of studies have not specifically demonstrated evidence linking shoreline recession to recent sea-level rise (Webb and Kench 2010, Le Cozannet et al 2014). The limited research that has been conducted to date on the responses of reef islands in the western Pacific indicates that islands are highly dynamic, with coastal erosion and inundation threatening infrastructure, resulting generally from extreme events, human armouring of shorelines (e.g. seawalls) or inappropriate planning and development rather than sea-level rise alone (Bayliss-Smith 1988, Merrifield and Maltrud 2011, Ford 2012, Biribo and Woodroffe 2013, Hoeke et al 2013, Mann and Westphal 2014).

This position is adhered to throughout the paper and into the conclusion. Nowhere do the authors say climate change is now causing coastal erosion or inundation, they only say it is predicted, and they do not say the five drowned islands were lost to climate change. They constantly remind us of substantial rises predicted for later this century.

They acknowledge tectonic movements causing land to sink in the Solomon Islands. Guarino, on the other hand (echoed uncritically by the Herald), dramatically announces:

As the ocean rose, they had to flee.

Which is true enough, but leaves out the vital fact that sea level rise (which everybody thinks we cause) was greatly assisted by sinking land (which everybody knows we don’t cause). The lead author, Simon Albert, appears to foster the impression that the paper shows climate change caused the loss of houses and land, but is that actually Guarino again distorting Albert’s emailed comments?

When it comes to island erosion, several factors can mask or overpower the effects of climate change; Albert mentioned plate tectonics, hurricanes, waves, and human disturbances like seawalls or reclamation projects. In the new paper, the researchers attempted to home in on the effects of climate change as much as possible. – emphasis added

So says the scientist—or was it the journalist—and is he referring to present or future climate change? All we can confirm right now is that the paper does not attempt to say what caused coastal erosion, inundation or sea level rise. Instead, it says:

Conclusion

This study represents the first assessment of shoreline change from the Solomon Islands, a global sea-level rise hotspot. We have documented five vegetated reef islands (1–5 ha in size) that have recently vanished and a further six islands experiencing severe shoreline recession. Shoreline recession at two sites has destroyed villages that have existed since at least 1935, leading to community relocations. The large range of erosion severity on the islands in this study highlights the critical need to understand the complex interplay between the projected accelerating sea-level rise, other changes in global climate such as winds and waves, and local tectonics, to guide future adaptation planning and minimise social impacts.

That tells us it was the journalist who inserted comments about “homing in” on the effects of climate change, for the lead author would hardly forget what he had written. But, what was inexcusable, he put the words in the scientist’s mouth. An utterly disgraceful thing to publish — and just to raise false alarm.

SEAFRAME monitoring stations

mthly sea levels 1992 - march 2016

— Click to enlarge —

The paper mentions several studies that use tide gauge data. The March 2016 Monthly Data Report (at right) from the long-standing Australian project, the Pacific Sea Level Monitoring Project (PSLMP), shows that over the last 22 years, sea level in the Solomon Islands has risen at an average 4.6 mm per year, for a total rise of 101 mm (four inches), though since 2011 it has been falling. The report advises readers: “Please exercise caution in interpreting the overall rates of movement of sea level — the records are too short to be inferring long-term trends.

One is hard-pressed to believe houses have disappeared beneath only 100 mm of water. In truth, the only conceivable way that happened was for the land to sink under tectonic movement. Same with the five vanishing islands. Scientists in touch with complex marine and geophysical realities understand this; for some reason this team either don’t understand it or failed to be open about it.

But this whole article is full of hand-waving and hot air; the Herald (and the Washington Post) hoping to sell more shocking newspapers and the scientists hoping for more funding. It seems nobody cares about presenting the truth.

This is an official complaint about inaccuracy

Specifically:

  1. The headline says the paper blames climate change but it actually assigns no cause at all.
  2. Statements in the article that climate change is causing coastal recession do not occur in the paper.
  3. Statements in the article that houses and five islands have drowned because of climate change do not occur in the paper.

Kind regards,

Richard Treadgold.

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SimonAndyRichard C (NZ)Mike JowseyRichard Treadgold Recent comment authors
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Andy
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Andy

Simon opines at HT

Here is an article in the NBR from the ‘expert’ that Andy wants in the panel.
I fully support academic independence but I struggle to see how someone like de Lange can have tenure when his views are so divorced from established science. There is a complete disregard of the many papers that show that sea level rise is accelerating. They are turkeys at Thanksgiving, because there is no prior evidence they assume it can’t happen. Future models of sea level rise are based upon what we believe is happening to ocean temperature and ice melt, but the authors categorically reject them as false, even though it is outside of their area of expertise.

Maybe Simon can waft by and provide us with evidence that NZ SLR is accelerating

We are of course familiar with Church and White

Andy
Guest
Andy

The RSNZ paper cited in the NBR, the one that claims one metre of SLR by 2100, has as co-author, John Hannah of Otago Uni whose own research shows no acceleration of SLR in NZ

Andy
Guest
Andy

The RSNZ paper is here
http://royalsociety.org.nz/media/SLR-v4.9-for-web.pdf

page 1 states

Sea levels have risen throughout the Twentieth Century
Tidal records from many sites around the globe provide
clear evidence that sea levels have risen over the last
century by an average of 1.7 mm/yr (± 0.5 mm/yr).6 Over
the period of satellite observation, altimetry and tidal
records confirm that the rate has increased, as shown in
Figure 1. The rise over the past fifteen years has been 3.3
mm/yr (± 0.4 mm/yr).7

The tide gauge records do not show 3.3mm/yr.

I can only assume that this is the work of criminal con-artists. I certainly can’t see how any self-respecting scientist could put there name to this, when it is clearly a false statement

Andy
Guest
Andy

Contributors and Reviewers
Dr John Beavan, Dr Rob Bell, Dr Robert Bindschadler,
Dr John Church, Prof John Hannah, Prof Keith Hunter,
Assoc Prof Paul Kench, Dr Andrew Mackintosh,
Prof Martin Manning, Prof Tim Naish, Doug Ramsay,
Richard Reinen-Hamill, Dr Andy Reisinger,
Dr James Renwick, Zach Rissel, Prof Caroline Saunders,
Dr David Wratt, Dr Dan Zwartz

I’m pretty sure most of these are not experts on sea levels.

Richard C (NZ)
Guest
Richard C (NZ)

We have the PSMSL TG data from around NZ, the 50 yr trend analyses of long running TGs, the Pacific satellite SL study, the global TG study, all of which are referenced and linked upthread. No “acceleration” in any of them. No sign of an anthro “fingerprint” in the Pacific (have to wait “decades” if that is ever to emerge from natural fluctuation).

They’ve got the RSNZ paper.

I prefer our position from an evidential point of view.

Andy
Guest
Andy

The RSNZ paper that the NBR article links to is dated Sept 2010. I presume that this is outdated and it should refer to a more recent paper.
http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/expert-advice/papers/yr2016/climate-change-implications-for-new-zealand/
http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/media/2016/05/Climate-change-implications-for-NZ-2016-report-web.pdf

Andy
Guest
Andy

Thomas opines at HT

One must assume that the directors of the National (party) Business Review are not really interested in scientific accuracy but in distributing business friendly propaganda. And behold, adjusting to the coming climate change problems is not a “good news story” lightly spun. Especially when a significant element of the NZ in-crowd is cashing in on rebuilding ChCh despite the long term issues with the location

Yes that’s right Thomas, it’s the in-crowd cashing in by spreading lies and propaganda.
Oh, and we all think the world is 6000 years old, dinosaurs didn’t exist and everyone, including unborn babies, should have guns ….

Simon
Guest
Simon

I find it peculiar that you all categorically reject satellite estimates of sea level rise but whole heartedly endorse satellite estimates for temperature. Satellite altimetry has proven to be extremely accurate and yet satellites have no means for directly measuring surface temperature.

Andy
Guest
Andy

I don’t personally reject satellite measurements. I reject the technique of splicing satellite data to the end of tide gauge data and claiming an acceleration exists, when neither individual data source shows an acceleration.

Richard C (NZ)
Guest
Richard C (NZ)

Simon >”I find it peculiar that you all categorically reject satellite estimates of sea level rise…..” You are DEAD WRONG Simon. We EXPLICITLY ACCEPT SATELLITE estimates (and see Andy’s reply). However, “perculiar” yes, if you don’t follow the thread and don’t comprehend what we are saying. Look just upthread, I said: “We [CCG sceptics questioning IPCC-centric SLR] have the PSMSL TG data from around NZ, the 50 yr trend analyses of long running TGs, the Pacific satellite SL study. No “acceleration” in any of them.” “Pacific satellite SL study” is this paper referenced upthread (more than once): ‘Is anthropogenic sea level fingerprint already detectable in the Pacific Ocean?’ Palanisamy et al (2015) http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/8/084024/pdf Vast areas of sea level FALL in the Pacific (see Fig 1). The finding was “NO”, an anthropogenic sea level fingerprint is NOT already detectable in the Pacific Ocean and that we would have to wait “decades” if it were ever to emerge from natural variation. In other words, Pacific SLR is a non-issue but may become topical again in around 30 years time if the IPCC speculation is revisited – if anyone is still interested then. And what you… Read more »

Andy
Guest
Andy

Church and White (2011) report a statistically significant acceleration of SLR since 1990 of 0.009 ± 0.004 mm year−2

If you assume that “global” SLR is now 3.4mm/yr, and has increased from 1.7mm/yr in 1990 (for sake of argument) then the acceleration since 1990 is (3.4/1.7) / 26 = 0.077mm yr-2

This is 6 times the acceleration reported for the rest of the 20th C

Andy
Guest
Andy

Judge Shonagh Kenderdine is heading the Tonkin and Taylor peer review process in Christchurch

This article isn’t exactly complimentary about her:

“The Turitea wind farm corruption, fraud and aftermath”

Paul Stichbury

https://turiteadocuments.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-turitea-wind-farm-a-journey-through-a-labyrinth-of-lies.pdf

Richard C (NZ)
Guest
Richard C (NZ)

Kenderdine’s NOT a judge:

“Attorney-General Finlayson who had permanently removed Kenderdine’s warrant on 6 August 2010.”

But she’s been carrying on as if she were.

Interesting.

Andy
Guest
Andy

James Renwick has a piece in the NBR about sea level rise

http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/climate-scepticism-distracts-us-making-right-choices-190312

He makes this assertion:

Where satellite and tide-gauge measurements overlap (approximately the past 20 years), the agreement on the rate of sea level rise is excellent. There is no unexplained discrepancy. Based on the known physics of ice melt and thermal expansion of ocean water, the rate of sea level rise is bound to keep increasing as greenhouse gas concentrations rise

Andy
Guest
Andy

He might be citing this paper (link taken from Hot Topic)

Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807, Jevrejeva et al, Global and Planetary Change, 2013
http://kaares.ulapland.fi/home/hkunta/jmoore/pdfs/Jevrejevaetal2013GPChange.pdf

Richard C (NZ)
Guest
Richard C (NZ)

James Renwick should aquaint himself with some TG data around the world starting with the Pacific. Same for Satellite data.

Then he wouldn’t make an idiot of himself.

Andy
Guest
Andy

from the paper I just cited

We estimate an acceleration of 0.02 ± 0.01 mm·yr−2 in global sea
level by the conventional method, defining the acceleration as the
second derivative of sea level with time (twice the quadratic coeffi-
cient), measured in mm·yr−2

This rate is approx. 10 times the rate quoted in Church and White 2011. I wonder why this paper isn’t cited more often?

Taking the upper bound of their claimed acceleration, SLR would be 1.5 metres above the secular trend by 2100

Andy
Guest
Andy

Actually the acceleration is only 2.5 – 3 times that of Church and White

The 1.5 metres is correct though (.03 * 10^4 / 2)

Andy
Guest
Andy

Sorry, I’m having a bad maths day.

150mm = 15cm, not 1.5 metres

Richard C (NZ)
Guest
Richard C (NZ)

TG data in Figure 14 and Table 1 of Jevrejeva et al (2013) make a mockery of their “acceleration” claims. Compare the swpacific graph (rise) to sepacific (flat) in Fig 1 for example. Similarly Table 1: Linear trends for 14 regions since 1970 [1970–2008] Basin, Trend (mm·yr−1) Antarctic 4.1 ±0.8 Arctic 3.6 ±0.3 Balticb 1.7 ±0.6 Cpacific 2.2 ±1.4 Indian −0.1 ±1.3 Mediterr 2.7 ±0.5 Neatlantic 0.9 ±0.6 Nepacific −0.7 ±0.3 Nwatlantic 1.6 ±0.3 Nwpacific 2.7 ±0.6 Seatlantic N/A [rise – see Fig 1 graph] Sepacific N/A [flat – see Fig 1 graph] Swatlantic 1.0 ±0.8 Swpacific 1.3 ±0.6 There’s no way they can claim “an acceleration of 0.02 ± 0.01 mm·yr−2 in global sea level (1807–2009)” from that lot. Especially given the Indian rate (−0.1 ±1.3 mm/yr). The Indian is a major ocean basin where rising ocean heat content overwhelms the entire global OHC metric but basin SL is flat. Then they have the contradictory problem (except Nepacific −0.7 mm/yr in Table 1) of all the satellite measured Pacific sea level FALL (blue areas but at rates much greater than −0.7 Nepacific) in Fig 1a of this paper: ‘Is anthropogenic sea level… Read more »

Andy
Guest
Andy

From the same paper

Furthermore, we calculate time variable acceleration using variable
windows (from 10 to 190 years), starting from 1807 and sliding the
windows year-by-year along the observation period, in order to see
the evolution of acceleration depending on the data span and size of
the window. Fig. 15 reveals that during the past 203 years there are
several time periods with positive and negative sea level accelerations,
suggesting that a wide spectrum (from 10 to 100 years) of variability
influences estimates of sea level acceleration, and this leads to uncertainty
in the quadratic fitting of the GSL depending on the time period
selected. Fitting a second order polynomial to the GSL12 for the period
1880–2009 gives an acceleration of 0.001 mm·yr−2
, which is much
smaller than the 0.009 mm·yr−2 reported by Church and White
(2011) for that time period. Fig. 15 shows that, at periods longer than
100 years, global sea level reconstruction is characterised by a positive
acceleration of 0.02 mm·yr−2 over the full period of 1807–2009

I remain unconvinced …

Andy
Guest
Andy

They claim that the acceleration for the period 1807-2009 is 0.02mm yr-2
and for 1880-2009 is 0.001mm yr-2

So the case for anthropogenic acceleration of SLR would appear to be falsified by this paper.

The apparent acceleration occurred before 1880, and curve fitting a quadratic also appears to be an invalid approach, as also demonstrated in the paper

Richard C (NZ)
Guest
Richard C (NZ)

>”So the case for anthropogenic acceleration of SLR would appear to be falsified by this paper.”

Yes, it appears so.

Also, it’s not an attribution paper. They are explicitly equivocal on that in 4. Discussion, page 10 pdf:

“It is debatable whether acceleration of sea level rise in the 20th century is due to anthropogenic climate change.”

When data prior to 1880 determines the greater acceleration, anthropogenic cause is immediately ruled out. This is corroborated by attribution papers, aforementioned Palanisamy et al (2015) in particular, that find no human “fingerprint” in satellite era Pacific sea level data at least. 19th century TG data is not the missing clincher.

Andy
Guest
Andy

This seems like a fairly haphazard paper, in that it uses a quadratic formula to calculate acceleration and then states that the quadratic is very sensitive to start and end points, i,e it is not a quadratic relationship (are we surprised?)

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