Monday, September 15, 2014

Denier deception: Rising seas get the better of Wondering Willis Eschenbach at WUWT

In the past three days, WUWT has been busy denying and rewriting a lot of science. Global warming, of course. Rejecting the greenhouse effect and global warming is the bread and butter of WUWT.

This time they've gone to the extent of promoting "an ice age cometh" battiness from Bob Carter, who warns of an impending ice age starting this year and ending in 2050. It's a very little "little, little ice age".

Then WUWT took a diversion and branched out into ozone hole denial - courtesy of Tim Ball. I think it might be the first time they've outright rejected ozone science. It's another sign that Anthony is scrambling to shift the Overton Window back to where he wants it. It's been shifting too far toward reality for his liking.

Wondering Willis Eschenbach thinks seas won't rise, despite melting ice sheets

Today there's Wondering Willis Eschenbach (archived here), supporting his mate Anthony who is of the view that sea level can't possibly rise as much as projected. Willis wrote in flowery prose about something he read in an AAAS Newsletter. He quoted it as:
Virginia Panel Releases Coastal Flooding Report. A subpanel of the Secure Commonwealth Panel of Virginia released a report containing several recommendations for dealing with risks posed by coastal flooding. The report, which is largely based on data from a 2013 report by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, predicts a sea level rise of 1.5 feet within the next 20 to 50 years along the Virginia coast.

1.5 feet is 45.7 cm - so keep that number in mind when you read the rest.

I got carried away again doing research, so this article is quite long. If you're on the home page, click read more if you want to, um, read more :)

Willis' bad number detector is busted

Willis said:
My bad number detector started ringing like crazy.  
Instead of going to science Willis did some back of the envelope arithmetic. Finally he decided to go to the original report, not the Virginia Panel report, but the January 2013 VIMS report. He said he "bust out laughing". Yep, he likes to write in a folksy manner, like a hick from the backblocks. He quoted the 2013 report:
The future of sea level change in Virginia is most appropriately forecast by reference to the state-of-the-science synthesis and recommendations prepared for the National Climate Assessment (Parris et al. 2012). The consensus of scientists working on this report is that by 2100 global sea level will be between 8 inches and 6.6 feet above the level in 1992. When modified by local and regional factors this information provides the best available basis for planning. 

The above quote I found on page 12 of the VIMS report.

Virginia lawmakers prepare for rising sea levels

As an aside, I've tried but failed to find the report referred to in Willis' quote up top. What I have deduced is that it was a "draft report of a subpanel of the Secure Commonwealth Panel, which is advising Gov. Terry McAuliffe on emergency management issues" as reported by the Richmond Times. And it is reported as having been prepared by James Redick, who is the Director of the Norfolk Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response and co-chair of that particular flooding subpanel.

You may also be interested in the fact that the Virginia General Assembly has set up a Joint Committee to report on the topic of recurrent flooding, following the 2013 recurrent flooding report from the Center for Coastal Resources Management at VIMS. This is different to the subpanel referred to above. This joint committee first met on 22 July this year. Here is a link to the proposed agenda for the meeting on September 10, just a few days ago. The Chair of the Joint Committee, Chris Stolle, wrote back in July:
This subcommittee is tasked with completing its first year’s work by November 30, 2014 and reporting its efforts to the General Assembly by the first day of session. This is a very short time frame so let’s get started.

Planning in the face of uncertainty

Back to Willis' wonderings. He wrote:
The “consensus” is that sea level rise by 2100 will be between eight inches and seven feet? Oh, that’s just too good. And how is that floor-to-ceiling estimate the “best available basis for planning”?
I agree, it does make planning for 2100 difficult to have such large boundaries for the estimate. Still, if I were a planner I'd be planning for the worst case scenario while hoping for the best. Whether a rise of two metres is reached in 2100 or 2150 or even 2200 is really neither here nor there when doing very long range planning. It is virtually certain thing is that seas will rise by at least that much within the next two or three centuries, given that WAIS has already started to collapse.

Incredulous Willis

Willis refers back to his original quote and writes.
...To get that 450 mm (1.5′) of rise in 50 years would require that the seas rise by no less than nine mm per year. If we allow 2.7 mm/year for subsidence as they did, it would have to rise at 6.3 mm per year, starting now and continuing for fifty years.
And it gets worse. To get that foot and a half of rise in 20 years would require that the seas immediately start rising at 22.5 mm per year, call it 20 mm per year after subsidence. I note in passing that this rate is the maximum rate mentioned in the underlying document … in other words, they’ve taken the absolute worst and most ludicrous estimate, 6.6 feet by the year 2100, and called that the “best available estimate for planning”? … spare me … 

Willis is committing the logical fallacy of personal incredulity. He argues that the long term trend in sea level rise at Sewells Point and Portsmouth, subtracting a subsidence at both places of 2.7 mm/year, is 1.7 mm/year and 1.1 mm/year respectively. He ignores the fact that the rate of rise is probably already increasing at Sewells Point (equivalent rates for Portsmouth are not provided by NOAA).

He also assumes that sea level will rise at a linear rate ad infinitum. It won't. The way ice sheets behave lesser rate rises will be punctuated by sudden large jumps in sea level. Willis doesn't explain why he thinks that melting ice sheets at WAIS and on Greenland won't raise sea level. He writes:
Now, the alarmists started this booshwa about an impending and dangerous acceleration in sea level rise back in the 1980s. James Hansen has repeated this claim of impending acceleration for decades, as have many others. It’s become a recurrent meme for the alarmists, repeated around the world. And for all of that time, there hasn’t been the slightest sign of any increase in the rate of sea level rise. None at all, and indeed, instead  of acceleration, we’ve seen deceleration.

Sea levels continue to rise faster

Well, that's not personal incredulity, that's straight up lying. There is no deceleration in sea level rise. It's most likely already an increase, with the current rate of sea level rise being estimated at 3.2 +/- 0.4 mm/year. The VIMS report was written before the latest IPCC report came out. The current AR5 WG1 IPCC report states in section TS2.6 that:
Based on proxy data, the magnitude of centennial-scale global mean sea level variations did not exceed 0.25 m over the past few millennia (medium confidence). The current rate of global mean sea level change, starting in the late 19th-early 20th century, is, with medium confidence, unusually high in the context of centennial-scale variations of the last two millennia. Tide gauge data also indicate a likely acceleration during the last two centuries. Based on proxy and instrumental data, it is virtually certain that the rate of global mean sea level rise has accelerated during the last two centuries, marking the transition from relatively low rates of change during the late Holocene (order tenths of mm yr–1) to modern rates (order mm yr–1). {3.7, 5.6.3, 13.2}
Global mean sea level has risen by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m, estimated from a linear trend over the period 1901–2010, based on tide gauge records and additionally on satellite data since 1993. It is very likely that the mean rate of sea level rise was 1.7 [1.5 to 1.9] mm yr–1 between 1901 and 2010. Between 1993 and 2010, the rate was very likely higher at 3.2 [2.8 to 3.6] mm yr–1; similarly high rates likely occurred between 1930 and 1950. The rate of global mean sea level rise has likely increased since the early 1900 with estimates ranging from 0.000 to 0.013 [–0.002 to 0.019] mm yr–2. {3.7, 5.6.3, 13.2}

Willis claims that the sea level rise has decelerated. But the evidence shows that it has accelerated from 1.7 mm/year for the period 1901 to 2010 to 3.2 mm/year for the period 1993 to 2010. Similar to the rate rise between 1930 and 1950. It's not slowing down at all, it's speeding up again.

When facts don't support the denialist message

Willis finishes up with this bit of projection:
However, when it comes to climate alarmism, facts don’t seem to be important in the slightest … welcome to post-normal science, where actual observations and real-world data are just an insignificant detail.

Willis is projecting denialist tactics on scientists. Actually I think that facts are important to science deniers like Willis. So important that he feels the need to lie about them. He replaces "facts" with disinformation. In the world of deniers, actual observations and real-world data are not insignificant. They are the insurmountable barrier preventing science deniers from having their way.

A recap of some recent reports on sea levels

Before I shift to the weird comments from the fake sceptics at WUWT, I'll refer you to some relevant research. First off, the report that the VIMS report based its projections on. It was an NOAA technical report called: Global Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States National Climate Assessment, published in December 2012 (before AR5 IPCC). It includes the following statements:
We have very high confidence (>9 in 10 chance) that global mean sea level will rise at least 0.2 meters (8 inches) and no more than 2.0 meters (6.6 feet) by 2100. (page 1)
Based on a large body of science, we identify four scenarios of global mean SLR ranging from 0.2 meters (8 inches) to 2.0 meters (6.6 feet) by 2100. These scenarios provide a set of plausible trajectories of global mean SLR for use in assessing vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation strategies. None of these scenarios should be used in isolation, and experts and coastal managers should factor in locally and regionally specific information on climatic, physical, ecological, and biological processes and on the culture and economy of coastal communities....(page 3).
...the observed rates of RSL [regional sea level] rise and the evidence presented by Sallenger et al (2012) and more recently by Boon (2012) are sufficient to suggest that experts and decision makers may consider accelerated rates along the northeastern stretch of coast into their risk-averse, worst-case scenarios. (page 10).
...In recent decades, the dominant contributors to global SLR have been ocean warming and ice sheet loss. Many previous studies, including the IPCC, assume ocean warming to be the dominant contributor. However, the NRC (2012) recently reports that advances in satellite measurements indicate ice sheet loss as a greater contributor to global SLR than ocean warming over the period of 1993 to 2008. Our scenarios are based on four estimates of global SLR by 2100 that reflect different degrees of ocean warming and ice sheet loss (Table 2 and Figure 10). (page 11).

This is Figure 10 from page 12 of the report. As always, click the chart to enlarge it.

Figure 10. Global mean sea level rise scenarios. Present Mean Sea Level (MSL) for the US coasts is determined from the National Tidal Datum Epoch (NTDE) provided by NOAA. The NTDE is calculated using tide gauge observations from 1983 – 2001. Therefore, we use 1992, the mid-point of the NTDE, as a starting point for the projected curves. The Intermediate High Scenario is an average of the high end of ranges of global mean SLR reported by several studies using semi-empirical approaches. The Intermediate Low Scenario is the global mean SLR projection from the IPCC AR4 at 95% confidence interval.
For comparison, below is Figure 13.11 (a) from the IPCC WG1 AR5 report, as an animation, showing the four different RCP pathways.

Note: I have only shown charts from Figure 13.11 (a)
Figure 13.11: Projections from process-based models of (a) GMSL rise relative to 1986–2005 and (b) the rate of GMSL rise and its contributions as a function of time for the four RCP scenarios and scenario SRES A1B. The lines show the median projections. For GMSL rise and the thermal expansion contribution, the likely range is shown as a shaded band. The contributions from ice sheets include the contributions from ice-sheet rapid dynamical change, which are also shown separately. The time series for GMSL rise plotted in (a) are tabulated in Annex II (Table AII.7.7), and the time series of GMSL rise and all its contributions are available in the Supplementary Material. The rates in (b) are calculated as linear trends in overlapping 5-year periods. Only the collapse of the marine-based sectors of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, if initiated, could cause GMSL to rise substantially above the likely range during the 21st century. This potential additional contribution cannot be precisely quantified but there is medium confidence that it would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise. Source: WG1 AR5 IPCC

There is an article at by sea level expert Stefan Rahmstorf, about how a survey of 90 sea level experts from 18 countries expect that with unmitigated warming, the likely range of sea level rise is 70 to 120 cm by 2100. Stefan Rahmstorf is one of the authors. At he states that the survey: reveals what amount of sea-level rise the wider expert community expects. With successful, strong mitigation measures, the experts expect a likely rise of 40-60 cm in this century and 60-100 cm by the year 2300. With unmitigated warming, however, the likely range is 70-120 cm by 2100 and two to three meters by the year 2300. 

Here is Figure 4 from that report, which I've annotated with a 45 cm sea level rise and marked 2050. Remember that most experts agree that the sea level rise on the north east coast of the USA will be above the global average.

Fig. 4. Scenarios of future sea-level rise generated from survey results for two contrasting temperature scenarios (RCP3-PD; blue and RCP8; red). Shading represents mean likely and very likely ranges. The evolution of sea-level rise from AD 2000 to the respondent estimates for AD 2100 was described by a quadratic time dependence. The current NOAA sea-level scenarios (Parris et al., 2012), published after our survey was conducted, are shown for comparison as dashed lines. Likely projections from IPCC AR5 for AD 2100 (relative to AD 2000) are shown for RCP 2.6 and 8.5 as vertical bars on the right. Source: Horton14 with annotations by HotWhopper.

The bottom line

My takeaway from all this is that it is extremely unlikely that global sea level will rise by more than two metres by 2100 - but after that, the sky is the limit. If we don't do anything to mitigate global warming, then seas will most probably rise by at least 70 cm and probably more by the end of this century. Some areas will experience a greater sea level rise. For example, the north east coast of the USA.

Now if you were charged with long term coastal management planning for Virginia, would you take advice from Wondering Willis Eschenbach and the band of deniers at WUWT, who think that melting ice sheets won't raise sea levels? Or would you take advice from experts at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, combined with advice from 90 top sea level experts from around the world, and the Director of the Norfolk Department of Emergency Preparedness and Response.

From the WUWT comments

norah4you says "NO NO NO" based on an "analysis" she did 21 years ago:
September 14, 2014 at 2:07 am
NO NO NO. The landsinking has been the major reason for all this. I found that out while analysing Sea Levels around the world back in 1993 (using 43 essential factors in my computer model). Landsinking AND erosion.

Greg Goodman is another fake sceptic who spreads Willis' fibs about rising sea levels and doesn't "believe" that melting ice sheets contribute to sea level rise.
September 14, 2014 at 12:17 am
“sea level rise at Sewells Point VA is 4.4 mm/yr and 3.8 mm/yr at Portsmouth, Virginia.”
That gives 220mm and 190mm for their longest cited period including whatever subsidence is happening. No need for ‘if’s.
As Willis points out there has been no acceleration is global sea level over the last century and the “alarming” rise in temperatures in the last two decades of the 20th c. turned out to be short lived.
So their lowest estimation of sea level rise in VA is more that twice what the data actually indicate.
Their highest figure is off in Al Gore cuckoo land.

phillipbratby prefers the pseudo-science at WUWT to actual science and says:
September 14, 2014 at 12:18 am
I’m not sure why anybody would subscribe to the Science Magazine if they want to find out about science.

John F. Hultquist is a paranoid conspiracy theorist and writes:
September 14, 2014 at 1:01 am
The issue in Virginia is how best to harvest other peoples money (OPM) for the betterment of your democratic friends and voters that will keep your party in power. For the next couple of years there will continue to be buckets of federal money spread around by using cAGW claims. This trough of slop will continue for a long time, even if the next administration wants to empty it. So, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – you just have to believe in global warming before he will provide the gifts you want.

Mike Ozanne surmises nefarious intent, and believes that the US government would not have its own research capability and can't fact check
September 14, 2014 at 5:18 am
My cynical gene is twitching, by mere happenstance do there happen to be Federal funds available to assist States at risk from “climate change” related flooding? 

"Recurrent flooding study for Tidewater Virginia". Center for Coastal Resources Management, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 2013. (link)

"Global sea level rise scenarios for the US National Climate Assessment". US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Climate Program Office, 2012. (link) Note: this is the Parris et al. 2012 document referred to in the text.

Horton, Benjamin P., Stefan Rahmstorf, Simon E. Engelhart, and Andrew C. Kemp. "Expert assessment of sea-level rise by AD 2100 and AD 2300." Quaternary Science Reviews 84 (2014): 1-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.11.002


  1. "Sea level rose by 6 cm during the 19th century and 19 cm in the 20th century. Superimposed on the long-term acceleration are quasi-periodic fluctuations with a period of about 60 years. If the conditions that established the acceleration continue, then sea level will rise 34 cm over the 21st century. Long time constants in oceanic heat content and increased ice sheet melting imply that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates of sea level are probably too low."

    Hmm. 6cm during 19th century. 19cm during 20th century. If there was no acceleration then 20th century sea level rise would be 6cm as well. BUT IT'S NOT.

    Simple math seems to be very difficult for deniers.

    How these guys can deny these facts is just beyond me.

    1. Oh, but it is perfectly simple.
      Take your reference, fig. 3. Look at the sea level curve from ~1940-90. Concave downward - deceleration! Look at the rate chart from ~1950-80. Rate is decreasing!
      Or, if you want to be more alarmist, eyeball the trend in the rate since ~1920. So, okay, not really decreasing anymore, but still pretty much flat! Even your alarmist scientific paper shows it!

      There you go - sea level rise rate increase refuted in three easy steps. And all it required was careful selection of endpoints, the exclusive use of the Mk. I eyeball, and complete disregard of any more recent data.
      It's so simple - a fool could do it!

    2. Ha ha. You've got the WUWT brigade down to a T, Anonymous. But you should know they hold the patent on the Mk. 1 eyeball. They might charge a licence fee :)

  2. Comprehensive stuff Sou. Well done

  3. OK, so anyone want to fess up to being norah4you? because that one seems to me to be aimed at taking the piss out of the Wutters.

    1. Nora is hard core WUWT. She's on every thread. Living in an echo chamber means never having to feel embarrassed.

    2. WUWT and its echo chamber seems to parallel the underlying comedic device in The Seinfeld Show i.e. watching two or more stupid individuals trying to be smart can be hilarious. Except, unlike The Seinfeld Show, with the Wutters there's an underlying nastiness that defines them as "rats with word processors". [h/t pigeon slur, 'rats with wings', by character Sandy in Stardust Memories, 1980]

    3. Her first part - that sea level isn't rising, its the land sinking all over the globe is the kind of thing I'd expect from Professor Inferno. And then her computer model with its 'essential factors' is a great finisher if she meant to be funny.

      I guess that with dbstealey pruning out the rational, informed, commenters at WUWT and now Sou pointing out all the disinformation for the benefit of the less knowledgeable, WUWT's audience is really slimmed down to the Tea Party types. And yes (remembering the fully functional human brain in a mouse) those types are capable of anything.

    4. I'm guessing that 'norah4you' actually parses to 'no rah for you', and thus probably not female. Like a while back there was this person posting as 'aratina cage' over at PZ's place, and everyone assumed they were female too. But turns out, of course, to be 'a rat in a cage'.

      Sorry for being pedantic, but that's all our AGW denier friends have got left.


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