Thursday, July 14, 2016

Shining light on NC-20 Burton's devious distortions

In this post I'm getting back to looking at Dave 'NC-20' Burton's narrative.  We've been having a bit of a debate over at the comments section of WUNC's article by Dave Dewitt titled, "The Changing Carolina Coast: Managing the Threat of Rising Water."   Dave jumps around a lot so I'm focusing on specific quotes.  In this case I want to answer some of his responses to my previous post.  

In that write up I included many links to sources indicating observed accelerating sea level rise, but NC-20 keeps trying to drag attention back to the last century and what he fancies "insignificant" sea level rise.  He also makes much of "no coastal Sea Level acceleration," but he leaves out all the details since they would undermine his claims.  I chose to look at those details and learn.  In this post along with my commentary I'll be sharing authoritative sources so the interested can learn and decide for themselves.

Consider our Earth as a real physical entity, it's cryosphere (glaciers, sea ice) have been in a stable condition for the past few thousands of years, since the end of the last ice age.  The documented warming of the past century acted to soften up and fracture that ice mass, like a block of ice left on a warm sidewalk.  Of course melting (and water contribution) is slow during these initial phases of warming!  That's no cause for ignoring what is happening this century. 

Perhaps his biggest deception is making an issue of the stately rate of sea level rise during the last century, then pretending it's a guide to this century.  Such deliberate misperceptions needs to be confronted.  
NC-20  Burton writes:  Thank you, CC  for the links, and for verifying what I told you, even if you apparently didn't read it.

I wrote, "DavidAppell, do you now agree that that graph (of sea-level at Brest, France) shows "no apparent acceleration" since the turn of the 20th century? However, if you use the data all the way back to 1807, there is acceleration, because the rate of sea-level rise accelerated slightly in the late 19th century. Here's the spreadsheet ... Here's the chart …"
For comparison, here's a quote from the Wöppelmann et al paper that you cited:
"Both instrumental records show a roughly coincident increase in the rate of relative sea-level rise around the end of the 19th century."
As you can see, we agree.
"accelerated slightly" - slightly???

In NC-20's cartoon world-view this rather dramatic shift in sea level trend makes no impression at all.  An example of how the bias-filter alters the perception of reality, since it wouldn't do to recognize how dramatic that acceleration actually was.  

Also, please notice, it was no up-tick followed by a drop.  It's been relentlessly uphill ever since.  Thus NC-20 is left with nit-picking the "acceleration rate"  during the previous century with all his might.  All the while doing his best to ignore the observed 
acceleration in our 21st century.

26:00 min. - GRAPH - Global Trend Sea Level, (Reconstruction from EMD residuals)


Until the end of 19th century sea levels had been quite stable for many thousands of years.  Fluctuating modestly with global temperature fluctuations, rising and dropping 2 to 3 inches with little cumulative change.  Now we see a relentless rise and every reason in the world to expect increasing acceleration.  

Subtle it may seem from NC-20's cartoonish perception, but that doesn’t make it any less menacing to our cities, our society and ourselves. 

NC-20 Burton writes:  “CC wrote, "explain again how you figure there's been no acceleration in sea level rise?”

Actually, what I've written many times is that there's been no acceleration in coastal sea-level rise in over 85 years, and at most locations there's been no acceleration in over a century, which means that adding ~100 ppmv CO2 plus 1 ppmv CH4 to the atmosphere has not caused any increase in the rate of sea-level rise.

Earth's processes don't march to NC-20's unrealistic expectations. 

It's foolishness to expect an exact tracking between sea level rise and the sudden ramping up of greenhouse gases (read global insulation) during this past century.  An appreciation for Earth's processes makes it abundantly clear why a bit of lag and variability is to be expected.


Here's another example of focusing on a sliver of reality and ignoring the big picture.  Coastal sea level, is "Relative Sea Level".  Dave thinks we should dismiss "Absolute Sea Level" because it often doesn't correlate with sea level changes along the coastline.  That there are well understood reasons for this he also ignores.

Here's a look at the different rates of land movement at Tide Gauge locations


NC-20 asserts that tide gauges are the gold standard and that we should throw out the satellite record, because it's subject to more corrections and revisions than Tide Gauges.  He reveals his foolishness by pretending that Tide Gauges hardly undergo any adjustments.  Look into it, you'll find out, as I did, that Tide Gauges need way more corrections that NC-20 dares hint at.
Historical Tide Gauge Measurements
Edited: May 17, 2011
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What is glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), and why do you correct for it?
 Edited: July 29, 2011
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
For a taste of the complexity of Tide Gauges: 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Global Sea Level Acceleration from EMD perspective. 
Marco Olivieri
EMD (Empirical Mode Decomposition)

IMEDEA Divulga | 53:45 min


Note that your "between 1993 and 2010" numbers refers to computer-model-adjusted satellite altimetry data, which does not measure coastal sea-level, is not directly comparable to coastal sea-level measurements, and is not evidence of accelerating sea-level rise.
Get this!  NC-20 declares that using satellite altimetry data and putting them through computer models, invalidates their numbers as evidence.  Further, he intimates that 'coastal' sea level is all that matters when it comes to understanding sea level changes.

In their echo-chamber it's expected to demonize "computer models" - in real life it's ludicrous.  Nothing in modern science can happen without the use of computer models to help process data.  Nor in real life.  Planes couldn't be built and air traffic control would be impossible without "computer models" doing the heavy lifting - neither would weather maps or forecasts and so it goes, on and on from there.

As for the deeper question.  It's true satellite's can't substitute for tide gauges any more than tide gauges can do a satellite's job.

They are not directly comparable because at the coast, the land itself, is moving up and down due to a variety of geological phenomena.  There are other issues added into the mix to complicate deciphering tide gauge numbers:  currents, prevailing winds, geography and such.  

Tide gauges track “relative sea level” which must undergo adjustments and comparisons with other data to arrive at a rough guess at “absolute sea level” also referred to as Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL).  Furthermore, no two coastlines are the same.

Satellite observations, though much more difficult, are vastly superior for arriving at "absolute sea level" given their complete coverage.  But not so good teasing out all the conflicting signals from coastlines.  All this has been excruciatingly researched and written up.

NC-20 types can't bring themselves to recognize the complimentary nature of Tide Gauges (RSL) and Satellite data (ASL, aka GMSL).  Nah, after all, they are not out to learn, deception and confusion is their game - thus rather than constructive debates and learning experiences we have deliberate misunderstanding, cartoonish conspiracy ideation and emotional hostility.  But hey, it sells.

Geology is usually so intuitive, it's rare to find something that goes against your instincts. But isostatic rebound creates a moment of exactly that: the more landlocked glaciers melt, the lower the local sea levels drop. Here's how. …

Our dynamic planet has an apparent paradox: the more ice melts from landlocked glaciers, the lower the sea level gets in nearby areas. How does this happen? Through the physics of isostatic rebound, when the surface of the planet acts as an elastic sheet dimpling and rebounding under changing loads. …
Here’s a simple animation to help visualize what they are explaining.
Comparison of From Glaciation to Global Warming - A Story of Sea Level Change 

Since tide gauges have their drawbacks.  The working experts have been coupling Tide Gauges with Global Positioning System and combining that data with an array of satellites that measure different aspects of our oceans and can be used to cross check the accuracy of each other, along with constantly enhancing our collective understanding.
Satellite Altimetry to Tide Gauge Measurement of Sea Level: Predictions of Glacio-Isostatic Adjustment 
James A. ClarkPaul E. Haidle, and L. Nichole Cunningham
Dave Burton writes:
CC, did you read that article? Did you read what they called "stunning?"
" least half of more than 5 inches of sea level rise they detected during the 20th century..."
In other words, about 3 inches, in a century.
If that frightens you, maybe you need to get back on your Prozac, sweat pea.
What's more, although they shamefully neglected to mention it, all of the acceleration in rate of sea-level rise depicted in their 3rd figure actually occurred prior to the 1930s, which means prior to CO2 levels rising above about 308 ppm.

It’s important here to stop and think about NC-20’s approach.  Besides relying on insults to deflect attention away from constructive learning, he seems to have no appreciation for the physical reality of our huge planet. 

I say this because he seems unaware that our global climate system had been settled into a wonderful plateau for the past many thousands of years.  When he/they look at the paleo sea level chart that long running plateau makes not the slightest impression on them.

Recent decades show marked acceleration, but to avoid that reality, NC-20 rejects the satellite data.  We just can't trust anything that’s had so many adjustments made to it.  Yeah, and how did the Space Shuttle ever fly, or the Hubble Telescope ever take pictures, etc, etc?  It's the old tactic of setting impossible expectations.

Inability to appreciate it’s significance doesn’t make it any less significant.
Sea level rise is accelerating; 
how much it costs is up to us
Friday 11 March 2016 

Regarding this 21st century we occupy, we are certain that rapidly increasing glacier melt water from the now softened up Antarctica and Greenland ice mass will be flowing into the oceans - no getting around that geophysical reality. 

Obsessing over the 20th century record and pretending it’s a guide to the 21st century is dishonest in the extreme.  Hell, I think it ought to be actionable.


Perhaps it is a mute point since SB1161 was withdrawn, then again, it's important to  understand the real arguments and intentions behind SB1161 - Because the demand for 
NO MORE LIES is only going to get louder!

Five Reasons to Pass the Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act (SB 1161)
Jason BarboseWestern states policy manager | March 29, 2016

Is misinformation about the climate criminally negligent?
Lawrence Torcello  |  March 13, 2014  |  The Conversation

The delusion demands totally ignoring the profound and fundamental changes we have witnessed over the past couple centuries. 
Wrong. That's satellite altimetry, David, not coastal sea-level. Satellite altimetry measures the wrong thing, in the wrong places.      
        Sea-level only matters at the coasts. 
Unless of course, tides and currents, storms and hurricanes conspire to pile it up on your seashore community.
Dave Burton: Satellite altimetry is incapable of measuring sea-level at the coasts.  Coastal sea-level measurements from high-quality, long-term tide gauge records show that coastal sea-level has seen no detectable, sustained acceleration since the 1920s.

Tide gauge datum continuity at Brest since 1711: France's longest sea-level record

Guy Wöppelmann, Nicolas Pouvreau, Alain Coulomb, Bernard Simon, Philip L. Woodworth

  First published: 26 November 2008

…Nevertheless, there are some similarities in their rates of relative sea level rise. Linear regressions of segments of the MHW records are similar:  a trend of 1.22 ± 0.25 mm/year is obtained for the 20th century at Liverpool [Woodworth, 1999], whereas a trend of 1.14 ± 0.18 mm/year is obtained at Brest for the same period [Pouvreau, 2008]. The trends are further consistent over the 19th century period (0.39 ± 0.17 mm/year and 0.42 ± 0.18 mm/year respectively), indicating a recent significant increase in the rate of sea level rise at both sites. 


Global Sea Level Acceleration from EMD perspective. Marco Olivieri

IMEDEA Divulga 

Streamed live on Apr 21, 2015
We explore the possibility to use EMD (Empirical Mode
Decomposition) to improve the robustness of Global Sea level
acceleration assessment for the last century. EMD is an adaptive
technique that extracts periodicities from time-series. This was
systematically applied to RLR monthly Tide Gauge data archived at PSMSL to determine the monotonic function that represent the
a-periodic component of each time series. By implementing robust
statistics and methods derived from econometrics we then reconstructed
Sea level function at global and regional scale. A newly determination
for the global mean sea level rise and its variations is proposed and discussed in terms of statistical significance for constant rates and
constant acceleration with respect to abrupt changes occurring in a
limited period of time.
… Church & White fit a quadratic to averaged and adjusted tide gauge data, and detected a small acceleration in rate of sea level rise for the 20th century as a whole. But it turns out that all of that acceleration occurred in the first quarter of the 20th century (and the late 19th century). After 1925, their data showed a small deceleration in rate of sea level rise, rather than acceleration.
I found that it not only showed deceleration in sea level rise after 1925, all of the acceleration in sea level rise for the full 20th century was also gone. 

That’s a pretty skewered bias driven description.  It would make more sense to listen to someone who actually works in this field?  It is complex and it takes experts to explain and help put competing argument into perspective.

Sea-level Rise in 20th Century Was Fastest in 3,000 Years, Rutgers-led Study Finds
In the absence of global warming, the Earth’s sea level might have dropped in the past century
Monday, February 22, 2016
By Todd B. Bates

…Since the rate of sea level rise has not increased significantly in response to the last 3/4 century of CO2 emissions, there is no reason to expect that it will do so in response to the next 3/4 century of CO2 emissions. The best prediction for sea level in the future is simply a linear projection of the history of sea level at the same location in the past.

A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise, by John A. Church and Neil J. White.

Fact is, that’s simply not true.  
A few cherry picked tide gauges with simplistic trend lines, of your choosing, don’t mean a thing.  

In researching these claims I found numerous indications of the evidence pointing to increasing acceleration - but NC-20 chooses to ignore all that with a childish dismissal based on impossible expectations and a disappointingly simplistic (and decidedly biased) appreciation for satellite data processing.

… In 2011, Church and White released a third data set. This one shows a very slight acceleration in sea level rise after 1925, though much smaller in magnitude than the deceleration seen in their other data sets. The post-1925 acceleration in this data set, if it continued to 2080, would add just 0.8 inches of sea level rise, compared to a linear projection.

Did you notice the title for their 2011 paper? Sea-Level Rise from the Late 19th to the Early 21st Century, Since the rate of sea level rise has not increased significantly in response to the last 3/4 century of CO2 emissions, there is no reason to expect that it will do so in response to the next 3/4 century of CO2 emissions. {Only by ignoring what's happening with our cryosphere!} The best prediction for sea level in the future is simply a linear projection of the history of sea level at the same location in the past.
Ref: DOI:10.1007/s11069-012-0159-8


Sea-Level Rise from the Late 19th to the Early 21st Century
John A. ChurchNeil J. White

Surveys in Geophysics
September 2011, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 585–602
"Abstract We estimate the rise in global average sea level from satellite altimeter data for 1993–2009 and from coastal and island sea-level measurements from 1880 to 2009.  
For 1993–2009 and after correcting for glacial isostatic adjustment, the estimated rate of rise is 3.2 ± 0.4 mm year−1 from the satellite data and 2.8 ± 0.8 mm year−1 from the in situ data.  
The global average sea-level rise from 1880 to 2009 is about 210 mm. The linear trend from 1900 to 2009 is 1.7 ± 0.2 mm year−1 and since 1961 is 1.9 ± 0.4 mm year−1. ..."
NC-20, not sure how you figure this makes you correct:

1900 to 2009 = 1.7 ± 0.2 mm year
1961 to 2009 = 1.9 ± 0.2 mm year
1993 to 2009 = 3.2 ± 0.4 mm year

Incidentally, here’s an interesting talk by Marco Olivieri about a new adaptive technique that extracts periodicities from time-series.  Complex stuff, but quite interesting.  These results also indicate accelerating sea level.

Global Sea Level Acceleration from EMD perspective. 
Marco Olivieri
Streamed live on Apr 21, 2015
We explore the possibility to use EMD (Empirical Mode Decomposition) to improve the robustness of Global Sea level acceleration assessment for the last century. EMD is an adaptive technique that extracts periodicities from time-series. This was systematically applied to RLR monthly Tide Gauge data archived at PSMSL to determine the monotonic function that represent the a-periodic component of each time series. By implementing robust statistics and methods derived from econometrics we then reconstructed Sea level function at global and regional scale. A newly determination for the global mean sea level rise and its variations is proposed and discussed in terms of statistical significance for constant rates and constant acceleration with respect to abrupt changes occurring in a limited period of time.

NC-20 offers a questionable list of studies he claims dispute accelerating sea levels.  Here is a much more inclusive review of published studies and they certainly indicate rising sea levels and that it's accelerating. - Gateway to U.S. Federal Science

Sample records for accelerate sea-level rise studies 


Current rate of Global Mean Sea Level rise

GMSL Rates (Linked to source)


Why is the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) different than local tide gauge measurements?

Edited: 2015-10-16 

     The global mean sea level (GMSL) we estimate is an average over the oceans (limited by the satellite inclination to ± 66 degrees latitude), and it cannot be used to predict relative sea level changes along the coasts. As an average, it indicates the general state of the sea level across the oceans and not any specific location. Local tide gauges measure the sea level at a single location relative to the local land surface, a measurement referred to as "relative sea level" (RSL). Because the land surfaces are dynamic, with some locations rising (e.g., Hudson Bay due to GIA) or sinking (e.g., New Orleans due to subsidence), relative sea level changes are different across world coasts. To understand the relative sea level effects of global oceanic volume changes (as estimated by the GMSL) at a specific location, issues such as GIA, tectonic uplift, and self attraction and loading (SAL, e.g., Tamisiea et al., 2010), must also be considered.
     We do compare the altimeter sea level measurements against a network tide gauges to discover and monitor drift in the satellite (and sometimes tide gauge) measurements. This is discussed further in the tide gauge discussion.
     GMSL is a good indicator of changes in the volume of water in the oceans due to mass influx (e.g., land ice melt) and density changes (e.g., thermal expansion), and is therefore of interest in detecting climate change.

For further discussion, see also:
Nicholls, R. J., and A. Cazenave. "Sea-Level Rise and Its Impact on Coastal Zones." Science328, no. 5985 (2010): 1517-1520.


Coastal sea level projections with improved accounting for vertical land motion


Correcting estimates of sea level rise
Acceleration in sea level rise far larger than initially thought
PUBLIC RELEASE: January 14, 2015  |  Harvard University


As the seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at America’s shores
By Ryan McNeillDeborah J. Nelson and Duff Wilson
Sept. 4, 2014

Part 1: A Reuters analysis finds that flooding is increasing along much of the nation’s coastline, forcing many communities into costly, controversial struggles with a relentless foe.

WALLOPS ISLAND, Virginia – Missions flown from the NASA base here have documented some of the most dramatic evidence of a warming planet over the past 20 years: the melting of polar ice, a force contributing to a global rise in ocean levels.

The Wallops Flight Facility’s relationship with rising seas doesn’t end there. Its billion-dollar space launch complex occupies a barrier island that's drowning under the impact of worsening storms and flooding.

NASA's response? Rather than move out of harm’s way, officials have added more than $100 million in new structures over the past five years and spent $43 million more to fortify the shoreline with sand. Nearly a third of that new sand has since been washed away.  

William V. Sweet
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services
John J. Marra
National Centers for Environmental Information


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