Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dr. Nils-Axel Morner's Maldives Tree - what's up with that?

Here's an update:

{Another post with too many typos, my apologies, I'm not a pro, just an observer doing the best I can with what I got… hopefully I caught most all of the holdouts this time.   ~ ~ ~  edited 2/20/2014}

Dr. Nils-Axel Morner is at it again, claiming that the world's oceanographers don't know what they are doing and according to his "authoritative" study he concludes that sea levels are not rising.  In fact, the man goes further: "The practical implication of our conclusions is that there, in fact, is no reason either to fear or to prepare for any disastrous sea level flooding in the near future."

Anthony Watts is proud to lend his support:

Australian sea level data highly exaggerated, only 5 inches by 2100 
Posted on April 26, 2013 by Anthony Watts 
In a new analysis published in Volume 8 Issue 2 of Environmental Science Dr. Nils-Axel Morner suggests global sea levels will rise only about 5 inches by the year 2100. 

Axel Morner concludes that Australian government claims of a 1 meter sea level rise by 2100 are greatly exaggerated, finding instead that sea levels are rising around Australia and globally at a rate of only 1.5 mm/year. This would imply a sea level change of only 0.13 meters or 5 inches by 2100. Dr. Morner also finds no evidence of any acceleration in sea level rise around Australia or globally.{...}Conclusions:In view of the data presented, we believe that we are justified to draw the following conclusions:(1) The official Australian claim of a present sea level rise in the order of 5.4mm/year is significantly exaggerated.(2) The mean sea level rise from Australian tide gauges as well as global tide gauge networks is to be found within the sector of rates ranging from 0.1 to 1.5 mm/year.(3) The claim of a recent acceleration in the rate of sea level rise cannot be validated by tide gauge records, either in Australia or globally. Rather, it seems strongly contradicted.
The practical implication of our conclusions is that there, in fact, is no reason either to fear or to prepare for any disastrous sea level flooding in the near future.
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Anthony's uncritical embrace of Morner's latest reminded me of this remark and image from Anthony a while back in another article touting Morner's revolutionary findings:

Watts: "So it boils down to this: Who would you rather believe? People doing studies on-site and gathering photographic evidence that shows clear geologic actions of lowered sea levels on the islands, or somebody sitting in an office analyzing and doing regressions on tide gauge data when they’ve never even done and checking on the quality control of the gauges themselves?"

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Mr Watts' self-righteously asks: "Who would you rather believe?  People doing studies on-site and gathering photographic evidence"

Funny thing that.  Look at the type of photographic "evidence" Morner circulates, see some strange alinement issues? 

I'll let Tom Curtis take it from here via a comment he made over at :

Posted on 6 December 2011 by dana1981

#55 - Tom Curtis at 11:24 AM on 2 May, 2013
In a prior post, I referred to a photoshopped picture used by Morner as "evidence" of the lack of sea level rise in the Maldives.  I have been unable to find the scientific paper  in which it was located, and so must withdraw the claim that it appeared in such.  Never-the-less, Morner has frequently used this tree in his presentations about sea level rise, including at WUWT and in an interview for 21st Century Science and Technology (PDF).  

The story Morner gives is that he knew of the tree from visits to the Maldives in the 50s, and that its continued survival in the tide zone is evidence that sea levels have not risen.  That basic story has some embellishments I will discuss below.  Two accompany the story, four different pictures (plus B&W variants) of Morner's Tree are used.  

There are two grainy "before pictures".  One of those has a mark identifying it as a propriety photograph in the lower right corner, strongly suggesting it is a stock photo and has no relationship to Morner's tree (other than species and isolated location).  There are also to "after photos", of which one, due to the distinct slope of the intertidal zone where it is located, is also obviously not the same tree as the other.  It is not at all clear that either of these dubious photos was actually provided by Morner, although both have circulated among climate "skeptics" as illustrating Morner's tree.
The two "genuine" photos are produced below from WUWT.  The "before" tree is in the lower left corner, the "after tree" in the upper right corner.

The first thing to notice is that they are not identifiable as the same tree.  Indeed, if the large oval stone in the left foreground of the upper picture is the same stone as that in the right midground of the lower picture, they are not the same tree.  The upper right tree is far closer to the stone than is the one in the lower right.  Probably the stones are merely similar, rather than the same, in which case the pictures are still not of the same tree.

That, however, is a minor point.
Far more significant is the photoshopping of the upper right picture.  This is far clearer in the version of the picture from the 21st Century Science and Technology interview, used as the basis of the picture below.

If you look closely at the picture you can see two edit lines where two pictures have been grafted together.  The first in order of editing (marked by the orange arrow) is shown by the sharp cut off of the tree's shadow along with a subtle change of colouration in the stones.  I am not expert on imaging fraud, so it is possible that I am wrong about that one, although I doubt it. 

The second edit line is definite.  Not only are the rock colours on either side of the line clearly distinct, but there is a clear discontinuity between the roots and lower branches of the tree and the leaves and upper branches.  The discontinuity even orphans a sawn of branch on the left side of the tree, leaving it apparently floating in mid air.

Not only is the photo fishy, so is the attached story.  The tale that the island on which the tree is located, Viligilli (or Villingili) is a prison island fails on the simple fact that no prison is located on the island (see also google map).  The notion that the tree was uprooted and then replanted fails on the fact that the roots shown are solidly attached to the earth below, with no disturbance of that Earth.  And with that part of the tale, so also goes the theory that Australian science students are both vandalous and fraudulent.

DJ at WUWT quotes a discussion of the story by a purported Maldivian.  That anonymous source claims Viligilli was a prison island until 1973, which rescues part of Morner's story.  They also go on to say, however:
"The tree is called ironwood (Pemphis acidula). It’s known for its resilience against salt and is usually the dominant species in very high wave energy and salt spray zones. Having traveled to over 600 islands in Maldives I have witnessed a number of such one ‘tree’s’. The tree in question simply has withstood erosion in the last 10 or so years while weaker trees around it fell. 

Aerial photographs of 1968/1969, 1998 and 2004 shows that the area is relatively stable with occasional erosion. There have been a number of trees in this specific area of the island like the one in question which have remain separated from the island. It is part of the erosion process. The tree most likely was there 50 years ago but it certainly was not alone as it is now. It is these kinds of ad hoc observation based conclusions rather than rigorous assessments which make me question the findings of Morner."
(My emphasis)

If we accept the authenticity of this Maldivian (and hence the partial corroboration of Morner's account) then we must also accept their expertise on such isolated trees.

Indeed, on first principles we can see that account to be correct.  If sea level is falling, the intertidal zone will be in the process of being colonized by a species (Pemphis acidula) that can grow in that region.  We would consequently expect to see few mature trees, but a significant number of immature trees colonizing the zone.   A stable sea level would be evidenced by a number of mature trees in thickets, as is common for the species.  Only with rising sea levels would sole mature survivors of former thickets remain.  

So, in as much as Morner's photoshopped picture is evidence of anything, it is evidence of rising sea levels.  But it takes the sort of "skepticism" that can't even notice such blatant photoshopping to not notice that.

I might add that Tom Curtis has another few excellent observations regarding the substance of Morner's work:
jimspy @27, there is no need for ostracizing (a social act). Morner should be welcome to attend whatever scientific conferences he wishes, to discuss issues with any colleagues who wish to, to publish anything he can get past peer review (and in Energy and Environment, anything he can't get past peer review). But if the quality of his science does not improve, even without ostracizing, his results will be ignored as demonstrably irrelevant and ill grounded.

The problem is not the scientific community, but the political community, or at least sections of it, who find his brand of clap trap politically useful. Personally I believe newspapers who publish complete scientific nonsense as being the truth, as does the Spectator ought to be heavily fined for false advertising. They advertise themselves a presenters of fact, but instead present fictions in the guise of facts. Therefore they are fraudulently selling their wares, just as much as a publican who waters his beer, and should face the same range of penalties. 
But beyond that, Mörner's article is political speech, and should be protected accordingly.

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All this begs the question what is the response of Watts and other climate science "skeptics" ?  Do they see Morner repeatedly using an obviously photoshop'ed image - one that many of them have personally accepted as gospel - as an indication that they should reconsider their own assumptions, or do they just ratchet up their attack on science?
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Here's some more sources of information regarding Dr. Nils-Axel Morner:

Damning evidence of fraud by Nils Axel-Morner
Posted on November 10, 2009 by Dale Husband
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Nils-Axel Mörner - bio
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July 21, 2004 - official complaint from President of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Dr. Mörner has misrepresented his position with INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Research)
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Kook Lies About ‘Lies’
Charles Johnson | 3/30/09 10:50:07 am 
So who is Nils-Axel Mörner, and how is he able to see these things that every other scientist in the world can’t?
Well, in addition to his activities “debunking” climate change, Mörner is also an enthusiast of dowsing and water witching.
And he has some very weird ideas about archaeology. See here, here, here, and here.
And he is associated with fringe wacko/antisemite/conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche. Here’s an interview (PDF) he did with the LaRouche publication Executive Intelligence Review.
And he is an “allied expert” with the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, a group that is controlled by energy industry lobbyists.
Good old conventional science 
makes so much more sense.

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I invite folks to listen to a recognized sea level expert 
explain the state of the science:

In Search of Lost Time: 
Ancient Eclipses, Roman Fish Tanks and 
the Enigma of Global Sea Level Rise
Professor Jerry X. Mitrovica, Ph.D.
Uploaded on Aug 17, 2010   |  DistinctiveVoicesBS 

1 comment:

citizenschallenge said...

Dear anonymous, Your complains about some specific item you take issue with are welcome - I'll be happy to listen and even explain why you have or have not convinced me.

But, silly empty insults - nah, ain't gonna post it.

Why not try explaining what you find wrong with the above ? ? I'm ready for serious critique.

PS. if my tone isn't as respectful of Morner as you think it should be - it's just a reaction to the things he implies about serious scientists, and the frauds he himself pulls over on too many innocents.

I've known too many con artists in my time to humor them much.