Sea Level Rise along the Atlantic Coast of North America north of Cape Hatteras

One of those commenting on the paper by Shepard et al. in the journal Natural Hazards was Albert Parker. Rather than dissect his comment on Shepard et al., let’s take a look at another paper he recently published in that same journal, Oscillations of Sea Level Rise along the Atlantic Coast of North America north of Cape Hatteras, (2012, Nat Hazards, DOI: 10.1007/s11069-012-0354-7).

Essentially, it’s an attempt to refute Sallenger et al. (2012, Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate1597), and more broadly speaking, it’s an attempt to deny the existence of acceleration in sea level rise, pretty much anywhere, anytime — by showing the acceleration in sea level rise.

The first thing that struck me about the paper is this:

Perhaps they were in a hurry. The next thing that struck me is this graph of sea level at “the Battery” (New York):

Several things are notable. First, the graph is rather low resolution and the lines are thick enough to obscure the details. That’s bad practice, and should have been a red flag for the editors. Perhaps they were in a hurry. Another interesting fact is that the values range from about 1200 to 2000, whereas the values I downloaded range from about 6500 to 7300. Looking at the references to find his pointer to the data shows this (with link):

Permanent Service on Mean Sea Level (2012) Data and station information for the battery, NY. Accessed 19 June 2012

The link goes to station data from PSMSL for West Tuas, Singapore.

Must be a misprint. You’d think the editors would have caught that. Perhaps they were somewhat hurried.

Nonetheless, the suffix “.rlrdata” indicates “revised local reference” data. PSMSL states that “For scientific purposes, the RLR dataset is normally superior to the ‘METRIC’, although the latter, which contains the total PSMSL data holdings, can also be analysed bearing in mind the above datum continuity considerations.

It turns out the data used by Parker are the “metric” data, which lack certain data continuity checks performed by PSMSL. It doesn’t affect the analysis because for this station, the difference between the RLR and metric data sets is a constant. Still — you’d think the editors would have checked this stuff. Maybe they were a bit rushed.

One thing the graph shows which does affect analysis is that the annual cycle of variation has not been removed. Here’s the raw data (same as above only offset by 5276 mm because it’s the RLR data file rather than metric):

If we linearly de-trend, then fold it with a period of 1 year, we can see that the annual cycle is substantial:

Here’s a tip for Parker, and Burton, and Boretti, and all the other hacks who play around with sea level data from PSMSL: use their annual rather than monthly data. It has almost no effect on trend analysis, and saves you the trouble of removing the annual cycle (which seems to be too difficult for you).

Oh well, leaving in the annual cycle doesn’t affect the analysis very much. Still, you’d think that the paper’s reviewers, if they were savvy about time series, would have pointed this out and insisted on a revision. Perhaps the review was on the “fast track.”

Let’s get down to the actual substance of Parker’s paper (finally!). It starts thus:

Sallenger et al. (2012) use in their analysis a short time interval of just 30 years to compute the sea level rise (SLR) to analyse the tide gauges along the North American Atlantic coast north of Cape Hatteras. Because there is a relevant 60-year cycle in the North Atlantic records, the 30-year choice is the worst that can be chosen because it is half the 60-year cycle. Fitting the last 30 years, the real SLR trend is overestimated, and fitting the previous 30 years, the real SLR trend is underestimated. The comparison of these two SLRs is not a proof of the existence of hot spots in the positively accelerating seas as claimed by the authors but only the evidence that the authors apparently do not know of the multi-decadal oscillations in the Atlantic.

I have to wonder … did Parker even read Sallenger et al? They didn’t just pick 30 years as the time spans to compare, and they weren’t attempting to prove acceleration in the NEH (NorthEast Hotspot), although they did so. What they did is demonstrate a spatial pattern of sea level differences, by computing the difference in SLR (seal level rate) between the 1st- and 2nd halves of a time window. They did this using windows with widths 60, 50, and 40 years. Why, they even applied some statistics — to estimate the uncertainties in those differences (called “SLRD” for “sea level rate difference”).

Spatial patterns are expected to exist, and to change with rising sea level according to model results. Their goal, as stated in the abstract, is to look for observational evidence of their existence:

These sea-level variations form unique spatial patterns, yet there are very few observations verifying predicted patterns or fingerprints6.

What they found is that for the most recent data (up to the end of 2009) there is a distinct spatial pattern. For a stretch from about Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod on the Atlantic coast of the U.S., there was statistically significant higher SLR in the 2nd half of the time span (the most recent 30, 25, or 20 years) than in the 1st half of the time span (the preceding 30, 25, or 20 years). Here, for instance, is their map of SLRD using the 60yr time span:

Sallenger et al. then report:

The observed NEH is similar to the modelled NEH projected for the end of the twenty-first century2-4 and later1. A robust prediction across all models is for significantly greater SLR north of Cape Hatteras in agreement with the observed NEH.

It’s difficult to know how Parker failed to realize that Sallenger et al. are perfectly aware of the complex pattern of accelerations and decelerations in tide gauge records from North America and of the dependence of the result on the size of the time span. In fact they even computed SLRD at hotspot stations between the 1st and 2nd halves of all possible time spans from 1894 through 1970, to the present, time spans ranging from 40 to 115 years:

What I find truly mystifying is Parker’s snide remark “evidence that the authors apparently do not know of the multi-decadal oscillations in the Atlantic.” If you want to make snide remarks like that, get yourself a blog. If you’re writing a scientific paper … It’s also deplorable because of its blatant and obvious falsehood. Sallenger et al. are perfectly aware of multidecadal oscillations in the Atlantic, they even computed cross-correlation between SLRD and rate differences of both AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) and NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation).

Parker wants us to believe that sea level is oscillating about a constant trend, so there’s no “real” acceleration (his new version of the “no acceleration” thing), since the implication is clear that any upswing will be followed by an inevitable downswing.

Even if Sallenger et al. (2012) apparently do not, somebody else at NOAA knows that the sea levels are oscillating, with the multi-decadal oscillations up to the 60 years requesting proper consideration to infer trends from recorded data. The “Executive Summary” of the report NOAA (2009) says: “…50–60 years of data are required to obtain a trend with a 95% confidence interval of +/- 0.5 mm/yr. This dependence on record length is caused by the inter-annual variability in the observations.”

Newsflash: neither the length of time required for a given trend precision, nor the presence of inter-annual variability, are evidence of oscillatory behavior. Shortly after, Parker says this:

A minimum of 60 years of recording are needed to compute a sea level longer-term trend cleared of all the shorter-term oscillations up to the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation of period 60 years (some other references in the literature to the approximately 60-year cycle are provided by Burton 2012 and a detailed dissection of Sallenger et al. 2012 is provided by Tisdale 2012).

Wow. Just … wow.

Burton 2012 and Tisdale 2012 are not “the literature.” They’re blog posts. Not very good ones. If you look at Parker’s reference list, you’ll find technical reports from NOAA, PSMSL as a data source, blog posts by Burton and Tisdale, but only one actual peer-reviewed scientific paper: Sallenger et al.

Parker charges ahead, computing the trend rate at New York (the Battery) for moving 20- 30-, and 60-year time spans. Here’s his result for the 30-year spans

The plotted time is the endpoint of the 30-year time window. I can’t imagine why his time axis starts at 1852 when the plotted data don’t start until 1923 … seems kind of a waste of space. Maybe he was in a hurry. He does mention that “In the specific location of The Battery, NY, the value of the December 1953 30-year SLR is larger than the December 2009 value, but obviously Sallenger et al. (2012) do not use this comparison to prove that the sea levels are decelerating.” So, at least Parker got in another “shot” and was able to show a graph indicating that SLR was higher in the past than it is as present. Or … does it?

Don’t get the wrong impression, that the plotted values represent the average SLR at the time plotted. Actually they represent the average for a time window ending at that time, so they better represent the SLR at the midpoint of the time span — the value plotted at 2012 represents the estimated SLR around 1997.

I recently modified my smoothing program so that in addition to computing the estimated smoothed value from data, it would also compute the estimated smoothed velocity at each moment of time. With the right choice of time constant, the estimates are very close to those computed from linear regression on a 30-year window. This makes it possible to estimate the 30-yr rate up to the present. The uncertainty on that estimate is higher than for a moment of time with data both before and after … but it’s still a more realistic estimate than taking the 1997 value to represent 2012.

Here’s the SLR computed from linear trends on 30-year time spans, with the plotted time being the midpoint of the time span (I didn’t feel it necessary to do so for every possible month, just for each year, I did feel the need to add 2-sigma error bars, and yes I de-seasonalized the data first):

When we superimpose the estimate from the smoothing program we find that they agree quite well, although the 30-year time spans don’t provide estimates after 15 years ago:

The latest values are higher than previous values. The uncertainty is large enough that we can’t say with confidence that SLR at the Battery is faster now than at any time during the 20th century … but we certainly can’t agree with Parker that is isn’t.

Next, Parker tries to show the lack of acceleration, and even the existence of deceleration, in North American tide gauge data by comparing linear trends of PSMSL data up to 1999 (computed by NOAA), to those from data up to 2006. After all that harping about how you need at least 60 years due to oscillatory behavior, he now wants us to believe in deceleration based on a difference of just 7 years between data sets? Why, yes, he does.

And need I remind you that Sallenger et al. isn’t about 20th-century North American SLR acceleration anyway? It’s about the spatial pattern of recent changes in SLR in North America.

What about that spatial pattern? I took the 20 “hotspot” stations listed in table S1 of the supplementary information to Sallenger et al., and the 36 North American “not hotspot” stations, and compared their changes in SLR. To do this, I first removed the annual cycle from each. Then I linearly detrended each because some of them show dramatically different overall rates due to glacial isostatic adjustment, but changes in the rate aren’t much affected by GIA which has been reasonably constant throughout. Then I aligned the linearly de-trended de-seasonalized records, separately for “hotspot” and “non-hotspot” stations. Here’s the result for “hotspot” stations:

Here it is for “non-hotspot” stations:

Estimating the SLR departure from its overall mean value, gives this comparison between the two groups:

Perhaps you notice the big difference. It’s that the hotspot stations show much faster sea level rise after about 1990 than the non-hotspot stations. Which is exactly what Sallenger et al. established.

Parker then says this:

More than the Table 1, it is the visual scanning of the monthly departures from a smooth, long-term linear trend for all the 128 stations of the United States (as well as for all the 195 other global locations proposed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA, 2012b) that shows no sign of sharp departures and rules out the acceleration claim.

In my opinion, the most bizarre aspect of this is that Parker actually believes it. Truth is stranger than fiction.


36 responses to “Sea Level Rise along the Atlantic Coast of North America north of Cape Hatteras

  1. David B. Benson


  2. Shaming and sad. Who will stand up for the truth in the public domain when this kind of shenanigans obscures the obvious for those willing to purchase it?

  3. Submitted Tuesday, accepted Friday.

    Some very, _very_ special skills required of reviewers in some journals apparently.

  4. Tamino,

    The following was published this month in GRL,

    “The analysis shows that rates of SLR have increased from ~1-3 mm y-1 in the 1930s to ~4-10 mm y-1 in 2011, an acceleration of ~0.05-0.10 mm y-2 that is larger than most previous studies, but comparable to recent findings by Sallenger and collaborators. While land subsidence increases SLR rates in the bay relative to global SLR, the acceleration results support Sallenger et al.’s proposition that an additional contribution to SLR from climatic changes in ocean circulation is affecting the region.”

    Sallenger et al.’s findings are corroborated and are robust.

    So much denial, by well, deniers.

  5. Philippe Chantreau

    “Visual scanning.” Nice. That has to be what the reviewers did with the paper too. You’d get slammed at any community college for turning in an assignment with BS of that magnitude. Blog posts in the reference section? Seriously?

    Another pathetic ploy to make it look like there is research undermining AGW. Expect some buffoon to bring this up in a Congress testimony at some point.

    What the heck is that Natural Hazards journal anyway? Some offshoot of E&E? Seems their review process is of the same caliber.

  6. Parker’s Revisionist day, submitted on Tuesday, read on Wednesday, critiqued on Thursday, accepted on Friday, debunked on Saturday, WUWTed on Sunday, gone by Monday.

  7. rabiddoomsayer

    Submitted Tuesday, accepted Friday.

    It would appear that they can pressure journals to publish less than brilliant papers. We know scientist have been pressured and budgets for data collection have been put under pressure. The laws of the land have been used in ways that would not meet the approval of the Founding Fathers.

    They cannot put pressure on nature to do what they want and the laws of physics are uncorruptable. All that will result is that we are utterly unprepared for what is to come.

    We need scientists to give us their best possible estimates. Thank you Tamino for your efforts to untangle the truth.

  8. Oh Lordy, the syntax in the first page is very poor. And how many snide remarks are there?

    “Even if Sallenger et al. (2012) apparently do not, somebody else at NOAA knows that the sea levels are oscillating….”

    Blog standard rhetoric. Is there more like that within?

    Syntax city.

    “The use of only two values of the SLR distribution is misleading to infer conclusions about the accelerating behaviour…

    By using a 60-year time window or all the data since opening when more than 60 years of recording are available…”

    The opening of,,, the window?

    I’m sorry, I am truly LOL reading the first page. Does peer-review normally overlook such awkward construction if the gist is gettable?

    • Particularly nice is the sentence under Conclusions starting:

      “There is no such a thing like a hot spot…”

      which deserves to be put to music…

      • Perhaps a “We’ll Heat Again” cover? (bonus points if you record it on Hawaii).

      • Hope this isn’t too far afield, but in my defense, the name Tamino originates in a Mozart opera…

        The phrase that tickles chris’s fancy fits marvelously well to the music of a beloved aria from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, namely Cherubino’s Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio. The character is a love-sick boy just seized by the throes of adolescence, but is sung by a woman. The plot compels him to disguise himself as a woman, so the gender-bending hilarity piles up in layers. The first line of the aria translates as “I no longer know what I am or what I’m doing”. Nuff said. I’m sure there are dozens of performances on YouTube, if you are inclined to look it up.

        For starters, how about

        There is no such a thing like a hot spot:
        If you see one, you’re wrong, it’s a not spot.

        Extra points for picking up on phrases in the aria, the gist of which is that the boy can’t stop talking about love, whether anyone is listening or not.

  9. Lots and lots of journals are publishing papers by deniers lately–in every single case, substandard papers that should have been caught at peer review. My drought work, on the other hand, keeps getting turned down without being submitted for peer review (most recently, by the American Journal of Science). What’s a non-denier to think?

  10. I believe August 12th was the acceptance deadline for papers for the IPCC 5AR?

  11. Good ‘ol boys? Internal combustion? Batterys? Need for speed? Acceleration? Wrecks?
    The Dukes of Hazard strike again!

  12. Today statistical analysis of sea level rise is at the same point that statistical analysis of Arctic sea ice was in 2002. In a few years (less than a decade), we will have a sea level rise event that is to sea level rise what the 2007 sea ice melt was to sea ice area, and everyone will sit around with their mouth open, looking surprised.

    Statistics makes assumptions about populations, sampling,and distributions that are violated by non-linear systems that are out of control and seeking a new equilibrium.. Our climate system, including ice sheet melt, is far out of equilibrium, and our climate models do not include ice dynamics, and seem to be missing latent heat transfer processes.

    Significant loss of Arctic sea ice changes all the rules. We have a new climate/weather system. It is a new statistical population. We can not use data from the old system to estimate trends and behaviors in the new system. Atmospheric circulation patterns are different. That means ocean currents are (or will soon become) different. That alone can change the sea level in a particular place by feet. The changes in heat flow will also accelerate the melt, decay, and dynamics of ice sheets.

    By the time we have a couple feet of sea level rise, there will also be more heat (water vapor) in the system (with a different heat distribution) resulting in storms and weather of a different class and/ or location than anything we have seen so far. (Look at how the SST off of New England are increasing year by year) All current estimates of storm surge and sea level rise understate the problem. And this is not going to stop when we get to 6 feet of sea level rise, We need to be looking 500 years down the road.

  13. Aaron,
    It depends upon how well we fit and choose the appropriate function. On Nevin’s Arctic Sea Ice blog one of the regular respondents had fitted an exponential curve to the sea ice data this years result is right in line with that projection. Statistics is also very useful sorting the signal from the noise and working what is normal variation and what is a significant event.

    Statistics is a very useful tool, but cannot predict the timing of a regime change. We still need to understand the real world, but statistics can point out where that understanding is off. Furthermore, much sooner than we might otherwise realize.

    Statistics can be abused, hence Mark Twain’s quote “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.” This blog is so useful in finding out where statistics has been abused.

    [Response: Twain himself attributed the saying to Benjamin Disraeli — but it’s more likely due to Charles Wentworth Dilke.]

  14. If one wonders how such disgraceful “faux-scholarship” can fly apparently unimpeded by quality assessment into a scientific journal, some enlightenment might come from reading a paper by one of the Editors (T.S. Murty) in Pure and Applied Geophysics (another Springer Journal) [M. L. Khandekar, T. S. Murty and P. Chittibabu “The global warming debate: a review of the state of the science” 162, 1557-1586 (2005)] . This shows some of the same ludicrously one-sided selection of references, argument by insinuation, unreferenced assertions, presentation of all of the then wacko ideas about the cause of Earth temperature changes (cosmic rays; urban heat islands) as if these constituted the fundamental state of the science, similarly appalling data presentation [*], and sloppy editing (e.g. in Acknowledgements Professor Pileke (sic) Sr. is thanked for providing links…). One could hardly imagine a paper written in 2005 in which more of the suggestions/insinuations about “the state of the science” could be shown to be incorrect especially in the light of current knowledge.

    Their abstract contains the conclusion: “Our review suggests that the dissenting view offered by the skeptics or opponents of global warming appears substantially more credible than the supporting view put forth by the proponents of global warming”. And indeed their “review” does indicate that they consider this is not a subject to be addressed by an objective assessment of scientific evidence, but rather by creating the perception of competing sides (“opponents” and “proponents”), one of which they choose to cheerlead for by a laughably one-sided presentation. Doesn’t surprise me in the least that T. S. Murty at least of the current editors considers Parker’s little communcation to be jolly good stuff…

    Sadly Springer seem to be comfortable with rather low standards when it comes to scientific publishing.

    [*] Figure 7 is seemingly prepared by copying a figure from a paper with a distorting low resolution photocopier, redrawing the axes with a ruler and adding both the axes ticks and axes labels by hand.

    • David B. Benson

      Unfortunately it appears that Springer Verlag is only in it for the gold these days.

      “All the journals we can sell.”

  15. @Chris – I just looked up that paper for entertainment purposes. I particularly liked the acknowledgement “One of the authors (MLK) would like to express his gratitude to his wife Shalan for her technical assistance on the home computer.”

    Also, 2 of the 7 total citations of that paper are by one of the authors (Khandekar) in that veritable bastion of quality science, Energy & Environment. Someone also bizarrely cited this paper as following “There is strong and growing concern that increased CO2 levels
    affect the global climate via the well-publicized ‘greenhouse effect’ (Khandekar et al, 2005).”

    • Stephen, see Britta Stordal’s “Citations, citations everywhere but did anyone read the paper?” for a similar case of bizarre citation.

  16. Natural Hazards appears to define this as a “short communication”. They state this about such items:

    “Within this section, brief communications to the editors and to the scientific community will be published. The aim is to circulate new information and topics very quickly. Additionally, any short communication on a previously published research article can be commented. The aim is this section is to enhance the written scientific debate.

    Matters arising, brief discussions, research notes, and comments, etc., may be sent for publication as Letters to the Editor which will be given high priority in publication and will ensure fast publication. The letters and short communications should be brief and to the point and should contain no more than 4 journal pages, including tables or figures. There will be no peer-review of the content.”

    So this explains why it was accepted so soon after submission. It is quite surprising to me that a peer-reviewed journal accepts four page communications without peer review.

    [Response: Parker’s “short communication” is 7 pages.]

  17. Boretti and Parker are a couple of petrol heads from that noted centre of sea level research in inland Victoria, the University of Ballarat. The closest substantial body of water, Lake Wendouree, site of the rowing and canoeing events for the 1956 Summer Olympics was actually as dry as a dead dingo’s donger during the extended drought in southern Australia from 2006 to 2010. Probably no direct connection, but just up the road the small town of Ballan is home to Connor Court Publishing, the go to place for crank books on climate science in Oz.

    • wrt that staff photo – Parker’s use of 15-year-old data as if it were current is consistent with his use of a 15-year-old shirt and 15-year-old perm is if they were current.

      You might think its a 15-year-old picture, but I doubt it. It has ever been that way in Ballarat. To get there from Melbourne, you drive 100 kms to the west and 15 years into the past…

      [Response: I don’t think the shirt and hair and relevant.

      I wouldn’t say he used “15-year-old data as if it were current.” It’s not uncommon to compute trends over moving time spans, and I can’t see any consistency of the times at which the results tend to be plotted — sometimes the start time, sometimes the end time, sometimes the midpoint. I think midpoint is clearly most logical, but there’s no standard. I would caution against taking it too literally as representing the state of affairs at either endpoint. It’s quite similar really to the computation of moving averages.]

      • Alex the Seal

        “100 kms to the west and 15 years into the past…” Steady on there tiger – the whole city will be on fibre broadband this time next year.

  18. Tad Murty, the Natural Hazards editor who orchestrated the hatchet job against Shepard, and hustled through this incompetent paper by Parker, is a “hoaxer” using this journal to promote his political views. From Wikipedia:

    Murty characterizes himself as a global warming skeptic. In an August 17, 2006 interview, he stated that “I started with a firm belief about global warming, until I started working on it myself…I switched to the other side in the early 1990s when Fisheries and Oceans Canada asked me to prepare a position paper and I started to look into the problem seriously.”.[1] Murty has also stated that global warming is “the biggest scientific hoax being perpetrated on humanity. There is no global warming due to human anthropogenic activities.”[4] Murty was among the sixty scientists from climate research and related disciplines who authored a 2006 open letter[5] to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticizing the Kyoto Protocol and the scientific basis of anthropogenic global warming.

    [emphasis added]

    • KeefeAndAmanda

      [Since the link at Wikipedia does not take me to the cited article:] This was a quote from him in a 2005 article:

      “Global warning?
      Controversy heats up in the scientific community”

      [Give the page time to load.]

      Here is the full quote:

      “Tad Murty, an expert in meteorology and physical oceanography, who is an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, states his views more strongly.

      “This is the biggest scientific hoax being perpetrated on humanity. There is no global warming due to human anthropogenic activities. The atmosphere hasn’t changed much in 280 million years, and there have always been cycles of warming and cooling. The Cretaceous period was the warmest on earth. You could have grown tomatoes at the North Pole,” he says.”

      As for this journal:

      It looks like what has been going on with respect to evolutionary science in order to deny it – the creation of fake academia to promote evolutionary science denial – will now be going on with respect to climate science in order to deny it, and probably very unfortunately forevermore, just like for the former, and for the same reason. At the site for The National Center for Science Education: Defending the Teaching of Evolution and Climate Science see this late 2010 article:

      The Latest “Intelligent Design” Journal

      Side note:

      I said “forevermore” since in my view if the truth were known we would find that the vast majority of even scientist climate science deniers also just happen to be evolutionary science deniers who at the very least keep their evolution denial nonpublic, and who are just importing all that logically fallacious thinking of their evolution denial into their climate science denial. (Case in point that we know about for this vast majority: Read Roy Spencer’s “reasoning” against evolution and you will see that his “reasoning” against climate science contains generally the same set of logical fallacies and is of the same type of wrong thinking.) The rest seem to have a financial interest in burning fossil fuels or seem to believe in the conspiracy theory that the developed countries are trying to keep the developing countries down. (On this last point: I have noticed this quite a bit from some of those of Indian or Chinese ethnicity.)

      I think that it’s simply at least a somewhat quasi-religious thing for most of the deniers in that with them, it’s at least a somewhat quasi-religious belief that government is inherently evil (some actually believe that some personal Anti-Christ will take over the world using the tool of big government), and so everything that relates to more or bigger government must also be inherently evil and/or false. And so their “calling” will be to fight against what they believe to be inherently evil and/or false, which for them includes not just evolutionary science but climate science. (And this also explains why they have such knee-jerk denials of other science, which would include epidemiological science when it shows that more of the right type of government can mean lower health care amenable mortality, and would include mathematical economics when it shows that that more of the right type of government can mean more overall economic prosperity.)

  19. In case Tamino has missed this, an even more bizarre claim by Dave Burton: that warming surface seawater causing rising sea levels due to thermal expansion violates Archimedes’ Principle and basic physics. I’m not sure if this worth bothering to rebut. (scroll down to the very bottom)

    • Actually, I’m not 100% sure that Burton is wrong on this one technicality: coastal sea level rise does depend to some extent on which parts of the ocean are warming. If the warming is only happening in the middle of the ocean, than the sea level rise will also be concentrated there. Though experiment: if we take a cubic mile of seawater, put in a magic barrier that allows no mixing with the rest of the ocean, and warm it up, what happens? The seawater expands, but because it can’t mix, the only rise is in that local area. The rest of the ocean doesn’t notice. Now, as to how much this hypothetical resembles real world behavior… that’s another question, and while I can’t answer it off-hand, I doubt that Burton has the scientific chops to even make an approximation to that answer.

    • David B. Benson

      Indeed it is the case that warming seawater causes rising sea levels due to thermal expansion.

  20. Burton’s actual quote:

    “But when surface water warms, it rises in place, like ice, and its displacement is unaffected, so it does not affect coastal sea levels.”

    Archimedes’ Principle:

    “buoyancy = weight of displaced fluid.”

    Call Mr. Burton a ‘displacement denier’–if the water’s “displacement is unaffected” then its “rise” is implicitly asserted to be due to some other unspecified (magical?) cause.

    As to MMM’s thought experiment, it seems clear that if the ocean could fully equilibrate geopotentially–it can’t, since it is continually being acted upon by dynamic forces such as tides, weather systems and currents–that the ‘magic mid-ocean packet’ would eventually displace water throughout the world ocean, raising sea levels everywhere.

    Perhaps the thought experiment is clearer if we change the packet’s density not by warming it, but by mechanically expanding the ‘magic barrier.’ We’d see apparent sea level *fall* within the barrier, as in the case of a partially swamped boat, while levels outside would rise proportionately–which could be a very small rise indeed, depending upon the size of the ‘magic packet.’

    MMM is of course correct that the surface of the sea can be surprisingly ‘lumpy.’ I recently spent a little time on the Bay of Fundy–tidal rise at the island where I stayed is about 28 feet. It is pretty awe-inspiring to stand at the low-tide waterline, look up 28 feet to the high-water mark, then glance out to the horizon, which appears to be open sea. But, as stated, that’s not an equilibrium effect–to say the least!

    • Oh, but he gets nailed in the comments …

      Thus far. Once Watts or the like sees the article that will change.

  21. Pat Michaels is an evil man.