Friday, May 22, 2015

Tasteless and ignorant at WUWT: A repugnant combination in denial of rising sea level

Sou | 11:10 PM Go to the first of 35 comments. Add a comment
Anthony Watts sense of humour would not be shared by most decent people. It might even shock. Today he has copied an ugly cartoon that he said was posted by Rick McKee on Anthony's WUWT Facebook page (archived here). To save you looking, I'll describe it.

The cartoon pictures seven bearded men dressed in gear the colour of the garments worn by Buddhist monks, all wearing a crucifix around their necks. Bearded Christian Buddhists? The men are all kneeling in front of a puddle of water. Behind them is a large figure in black wielding a large knife and wearing a full face mask. That figure is probably meant to signify an ISIS militant. To the right is what I think is meant to be a caricature of President Obama, talking to the kneeling bearded men (I think they are meant to represent journalists brutally beheaded). Underneath is the caption: "I just want you to know I'm throwing the full force of the U.S. military behind stopping the horror of this rising sea level!"

The word "horror" is highlighted in red and underlined.

Anthony thinks this is funny. Seriously. He thinks the brutal murder of journalists in the middle east is cause for mirth and mockery. He put his cartoon under the headline and text:
Friday Funny – the horror of rising sea levels in context
As many know, Mr. Obama made some wild claims about climate at the recent U.S. Coast Guard Academy commencement.
For example:
“The world’s glaciers are melting, pouring new water into the ocean.  Over the past century, the world sea level rose by about eight inches.  That was in the last century; by the end of this century, it’s projected to rise another one to four feet.

Anthony doesn't believe that ice melts with global warming. He's said so on numerous occasions (see the further reading below). Whether he really doesn't believe that ice cubes melt when you take them out of the fridge (does he have a refrigerator?), or whether this is just another example of him knowingly spreading disinformation I don't know. (Is he ignorant or a liar?)

Seas will keep rising faster as the ice sheets melt

When President Obama said that the projected sea level rise is from one to four feet, he was citing the conservative science from the latest IPCC report. It is possible though less likely that sea level will rise two metres by the end of this century (six feet or so). It won't stop there. It will keep on rising as the West Antarctic ice sheets melt into the sea, adding maybe three metres. And then the Greenland ice sheets adding another seven metres. And East Antarctica - well that's a whole other ball game.

Here are some numbers for you - the sea level rise associated with the complete melting of ice sheets in different regions.

  • All Antarctica: 58 metres (190 feet)
  • West Antarctic Ice Sheet: 3.3 metres (11 feet)
  • Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet: 0.24 metres (9 inches)
  • Amundsen Sea Embayment glaciers in Western Antarctica: 1.2 meters (four feet)
  • East Antarctic Ice Sheet: 53 metres (174 feet)
  • All of Greenland: 7.4 metres (24 feet)
  • All ice sheet ice (not including glaciers elsewhere): 65 metres (213 feet)

The amount of sea level rise is just the equivalent amount of ice. I don't know that it allows for post-glacial rebound

I only showed those numbers to put sea level projections in perspective. There is no suggestion that all this ice will melt in the next few centuries. Maybe only a quarter of it if we are lucky. The point is, a rise in sea level of anything up to four or five metres over the next couple of hundred years is not a whole lot of melt, compared to all the water locked up in ice. It's an awful lot of sea level rise to cope with, however.

The sea level won't rise by the same amount everywhere, nor will it be gradual. It will happen in bursts. Anthony Watts and his descendants will perhaps be fortunate if they remain on the west coast of the USA. (Or maybe not, because they'll have worse droughts to cope with.) The east coast will find seas rising higher than the global average, because most of the initial melt is expected from Western Antarctica.

From the WUWT comments

I'll skip the comments about ISIL. There was enough nonsense about sea level.

paullitely is either ignorant, suffering delusions, or both. He's wrong and President Obama is right. 
May 22, 2015 at 2:32 am
They must have made a typo. Sea level rising about 12 mm per decade. That’s closer to four INCHES per century. Recent Glacier melt has been since the early 1700’s when Maunder Minimum little ice age ended. Man has nothing to do with it.
Similar exaggeration saying 97% of scientists say man makes warming when it is about 55% if you ask more than the 77 in the sample used to get 97%. It is less and less as the time without warming approaches 20 years while CO2 rises.

The IPCC report (TS.2.6 Changes in Sea Level) states that: "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."  The sea is currently rising at around 3.3 mm a year (trend since 1992).

Neil. is one of WUWT's utter nutters. I think he is talking about President Obama
May 22, 2015 at 3:02 am
My one and only question has to be, why has this man not been arrested, charged with treason and executed yet?

To which M Courtney (from the UK) responds:
May 22, 2015 at 3:09 am
Most countries would consider your statement about your Head of State to be closer to treason.
You are lucky to have such freedom of speech.
So use it to make more constructive criticisms instead of cheerleading for death.
Oddly, M Courtney takes exception to the poor taste in the comment from Neil. but not to the ugly cartoon that Anthony posted.

TimC asks if he is the "only one". The answer so far is "yes". Another reader defends Anthony's very poor taste (and not on the grounds of freedom of expression).
May 22, 2015 at 3:18 am
Although I accept that this is a “Friday Funny” thread, am I the only reader here to find the McKee cartoon above frankly disgusting, and to question our host’s decision to copy it here?
This is an obvious “take” on the appalling ISIL beheadings where religious bigotry and hatred led individuals such as “Jehadi John” publicly to behead persons including citizens both of the USA and UK – then to post obscene online images and videos of the killings.
Whatever one’s political opinion of the Obama presidency, and his latest pronunciations on climate, can it really be conceived that the (duly elected) president of the United States would ever authorise or encourage US armed forces (whether inside or outside the US) to behead unarmed civilians – even combatants – as depicted? Not least, this cartoon is a complete travesty of the integrity and professionalism of the US armed forces who, some 70 years ago now, bravely led us (under Ike’s leadership) in freeing the European mainland from German occupation…

References and further reading

A selection from HotWhopper articles


  1. Sou, just to explain one aspect of the cartoon (which is about as funny as a dead baby's doll), the clothes aren't Buddhist saffron, but prison orange, the preferred palette for IS / Daesh / death cult / pick a name hostages awaiting their horrible fate.

    According to the framing of the Christian right, the only victims of consequence are Christians, hence the iconography in the daubing.

    1. Yeah, Islamic terrorists have been using orange jumpsuits as a symbol ever since GW Bush gifted it to them with the Gitmo detention photos:


      The Dubya presidency: it just keeps giving.

    2. Thanks, Frank. I figured as much. I didn't know the significance.

      Millicent are you saying that it's because of the colours used at Guantanamo? Not just Guantamano either. Isn't the colour common garb for prisoners anywhere in the US? Or maybe only Federal prisons.

      Or is that just coincidence? (ISIL don't appear to favour Americans over anyone else when murdering people. Anyone is fair game AFAIK.)

    3. It's a reference specifically to the illegal detention without trial of people at Guantanimo. That the colour is used in other US prisons has no bearing: the Islamists are making the point that while the West poses as the forces of law and order, under GW Bush at least the US used kidnap, illegal detention and torture.

    4. I think it has to do with this mass execution of Libyan Christians which was done on a beach near the Mediterranian.


    5. An additional aspect of the "funny" exploitation of murder for the sake of scoring points in the climate wars....

      If you read comment threads in the "skept-o-sphere," you will often find comments saying that Obama is sacrificing lives at the hands of jihadists by focusing concern on climate change. The thinking is that any efforts spent to address climate change come at the expense of fighting terrorism. Obama actually loves terrorists, and addressing climate change is a convenient way to lay cover for advancing the Caliphate...

      In fact, the line of argumentation is in line with the thinking that Obama actually has created Isis:


    6. Hmm, interesting alliance forming between radical Islam and Santorum's fundamentalism here. There are a lot of pretty hardline - but less hardline than ISIS - muslims who claim that the US, particlularly the CIA, is behind ISIS. Now Santorum says something very similar, just that the US agency happens to be the President.

    7. It's pretty normal for Muslims to come up with conspiracy theories about anything which they think will make Muslims look bad (like IS). If they don't like it, it must be a conspiracy. This sort of thinking is widespread, not just among Muslims of course. And Santorum is a loony.

    8. Oh and while I think of it, this is not in any meaningful sense an "alliance forming between radical Islam and Santorum's fundamentalism". It's more of a coincidence than an alliance. Santorum and IS will still hate each other's guts.

  2. "The sea is currently rising at around 3.3 mm a year (trend since 1992)."

    Not so, at least according to Church and White (2nd/3rd authors):



    Last paragraph:

    "Given the importance of the altimeter
    record, we encourage further attempts to estimate bias drifts and
    to identify and correct the underlying issues leading to these drifts.
    In the meantime, we recommend that the archived altimeter data
    should not be adjusted with our bias drifts but that users of altimeter
    estimates of GMSL should be aware of the potential need to adjust
    for small but significant biases, particularly in the early part of
    the record."

    It's taken them a little while to get somewhat of a clue (using hourly tide data instead of the monthly data, big problems there, using monthly tide data that is).

    Acceleration is now positive but still not statistically significant, trend down somewhat either 2.6mmpy or 2.9mmpy.

    It is nice to see them finally get a real SME involved too.

    More to come.


    1. And the old and new estimates all overlap. More accurate, yes, but a huge revision?

    2. What is an SME in this context?

      I don't get the comment about "...get somewhat of a clue..."? Monthly tide gauge data is good for some purposes like large scale studies. High rate data (hourly or higher frequency) is the right data to use for detailed comparisons like the paper you are talking about.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. They also say "",,, in contrast to the previously reported slowing in the rate during the past two decades, our corrected GMSL data set indicates an acceleration in sea-level rise (independent of the VLM used), which is of opposite sign to previous estimates and comparable to the accelerated loss of ice from Greenland and to recent projections, and larger than the twentieth-century acceleration."

      The accelerated loss of Greenland is addressed by;
      An improved mass budget for the Greenland ice sheet; Ellyn M. Enderlin, Ian M. Howat, Seongsu Jeong, Myoung-Jong Noh, Jan H. van Angelen, and Michiel R. van den Broeke4; Geophys. Res. Lett., 41, 866–872, doi:10.1002/2013GL059010
      "The rate of loss increased from 153 ± 33 Gt/a over the period 2000–2005 to 265 ± 18 Gt/a from 2005 to 2009 and 378 ± 50 Gt/a between 2009 and 2012, giving a total acceleration of 27.0 ± 9.0 Gt/a2 since 2000. This acceleration is in good agreement with the 2003–2012 acceleration of 25 ± 9 Gt/a2 detected by GRACE [Wouters et al., 2013]"

      plugging the acceleration into a spreadsheet, and converting Gigatons of ice/yr^2 to mm of sea level rise gives me about 2067 for 1 meter. If you include accelerating Antarctic loss, it could be as soon as 2050. Anybody want to bet on whether the imminent loss of Larsen C will slow things down?

    5. SME = subject matter expert (old skool = land surveyor (1st of my many lives))

      RE: monthly vs hourly tide data. Noticed something three years ago, doing a very small study for the USACE, fairly obvious to me at least, has something to do with Houston & Dean (2012) (Dean passed away a month or two ago), well not exactly that paper, but pretty much anything those two touched, I''m the antithesis of wrt sea level rise).

      I posted on RC back then as EFS_Junior about how that sausage was made (I've known Houston going back to ~1983 and the only one real takeaway with him is, don't let him anywhere near a laboratory or prototype (field) setting, his 1978 PhD is basically a cut and paste of HS Chen's 1974 MIT PhD thesis, he's basically a sand salesman/shill for the ASBPA/FSBPA, he has many fairly crude presentations casting all kinds of aspersions wrt GMSL, his latest was comments made to the NC Coastal Resources Commission (at least three major critical errors in those comments)).

      Long story short? Those 2015 NC comments lit a fire under me, got back to the thing I noticed three years ago, much has been accomplished, still have a significant amount to do, if (very big if) it's at all publishable ... what it won't be is a global reconstruction but a very local reconstruction, you might say a proof of concept.


    6. Brian,

      Scary indeed.

      That is, you extrapolating the product of ~21.5 years of satellite altimeter data, 52 years into the future with NO error bars.

      Since the reported acceleration (BTW, I hate that word as applied to GMSL) isn't statistically significant ...

      2.6 * 52 = 0.1352 m
      2.9 * 52 = 0.1508 m

      Oh wait, you reverse engineered 12-13 years of data (from an entirely different paper) and assumed acceleration over that time period, something Hansen did when (AFAIK still does) claimed five meters of SLR by 2100 (exponential acceleration no less, ~5 or ~10 year doubling) using only ~10 years of ice sheet data. That's EXACTLY something that Houston would do, except he'd cherry pick data showing deceleration and then extrapolate 52 years.

      But thanks anyway, for your very valuable input. :(

    7. Thanks, Everett. I wasn't aware of the new paper.

      @Neil White - I expect U Coloradu Sea Level Unit will be looking at this closely - have you heard anything about that?

    8. Sou

      The U Colorado group are certainly aware of it - in fact a U Colorado version of the altimeter data sets was run through our calibration system and the after-calibration results from the two data sets were very similar. This is discussed in the paper (half way down the second column on the second page, and in figure 3).

    9. Thanks, Neil. I noticed that your paper recommends not adjusting the altimeter record to account for the bias you detected (but that people using the data be aware of it).

      Does this mean that the U Colorado data is likely to remain more or less as is for the time being? I ask because it's a very handy reference that I use a lot here (with your work, as you know :))

      I haven't discussed acceleration much if at all, but see that your analysis brings the data more in line with the ice to sea water shift.

      Perhaps in future I'll reference both this latest paper as well as U Colorado (because it is updated regularly), using your work to qualify the numbers. I'll hope to do it in a way that won't confuse readers. Your view on this?

    10. Yes, I think that is a reasonable approach. One of the reasons we're a bit cagey about actually making the adjustment is that we're hoping that some other groups would also look at this area more closely and that, hopefully, there will be a few more estimates in a year or two so that some sort of consensus correction could be arrived at.

      There are also fairly up-to-date graphs and data sets available at the CSIRO sealevel web site (www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/).

      A final note is that I am now retired and, now that this paper has been published, I won't be taking an active role in CSIRO's work on this from now on.

    11. Thanks, Neil. That reference to the data has answered what was going to be my next question. (On reading and rereading your paper I'm in awe of the detailed work that must have been involved in the analysis.)

      I hope you enjoy your retirement as much as I've valued your research work :)

    12. Sou, Neil,

      +1,+ really big number

    13. Everett - Observations seem to be moving toward what used to be the 2 sigma worst case bound, like observed vs modelled Arctic sea ice.

      Increasing rates of ice mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets revealed by GRACE; I. Velicogna; GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L19503, 2009; doi:10.1029/2009GL040222
      "The best fitting estimate for the acceleration in ice sheet mass loss for the observed period is 30 ± 11 Gt/yr2 for Greenland and 26 ± 14 Gt/yr2 for Antarctica. This corresponds to 0.09 ± 0.03 mm/yr2 of sea level rise from Greenland and 0.08 ± 0.04 mm/yr2 from Antarctica."
      "To verify that the improvement obtained with the quadratic model is significant we used an F-test [e.g., Berry and Feldman, 1985]. The F-test show that the improvement obtained with the quadratic fit is statistical significant at a very high confidence level."
      "We showed that a detailed analysis of the GRACE time series over the time period 2002–2009 unambiguously reveals an increase in mass loss from both ice sheets. The combined contribution of Greenland and Antarctica to global sea level rise is accelerating at a rate of 56 ± 17 Gt/yr2 during April 2002–February 2009, which corresponds to an equivalent acceleration in sea level rise of 0.17 ± 0.05 mm/yr2 during this time. This large acceleration explains a large share of the different GRACE estimates of ice sheet mass loss published in recent years. It also illustrates that the two ice sheets play an important role in the total contribution to sea level at present, and that contribution is continuously and rapidly growing."

      Dynamic thinning of glaciers on the Southern Antarctic Peninsula; B. Wouters, A. Martin-Español, V. Helm, T. Flament, J. M. van Wessem, S. R. M. Ligtenberg, M. R. van den Broeke, J. L. Bamber Science 22 May 2015: Vol. 348 no. 6237 pp. 899-903; DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5727
      " Ice mass loss of the marine-terminating glaciers has rapidly accelerated from close to balance in the 2000s to a sustained rate of –56 ± 8 gigatons per year, constituting a major fraction of Antarctica’s contribution to rising sea level. The widespread, simultaneous nature of the acceleration, in the absence of a persistent atmospheric forcing, points to an oceanic driving mechanism."
      "This suggests a remarkable rate of acceleration in dynamic mass loss since about 2009 that must have been near-simultaneous across multiple basins and glaciers.

      "The GRACE data shows an increase in mass loss in our region of interest (fig. S6) and are consistent with the ICESat/Envisat and Cryosat-2 observations within uncertainties at all time intervals."
      "Combining the Cryosat-2– and GRACE-derived rates yields an error-weighted mean mass loss of 56 ± 8 Gt/year for July 2010 to April 2014."

      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/348/6237/899/F2.large.jpg (might be paywalled) looks more like a hockey stick than a parabola, but what does a college dropout like me know?
      Maybe there are some white swans lurking which will cause the ice shelves to re-form, and the ice streams feeding them to return to a more sedate rate. Maybe there will be a collective decision by humanity to institute policies which will decrease CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. I'm not holding my breath in anticipation, and I wouldn't bet the beach house on this. (My beach house happens to be a 34 foot sailboat which sleeps four in comfort or six in ecstasy as the old saw says; one meter, or five meters is a small portion of its anchor rode.)
      Error bars are a two edged sword; when the distribution is asymmetric and long tailed, one edge is a lot sharper.

    14. Brian,

      The difference between you and me is actually quite small.

      You may think it will happen tomorrow, I may think it will happen the day after tomorrow, in either case it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. You may think it is still stoppable, I do not. That glass, the glass of humanity, isn't half full or half empty or even just half, for me, that glass has been completely empty since I was ~eight years old.

      I could point you the Obama's EO, I fully support it, but I would go much further, such as moratorium on new infrastructure below the 500-year flood plane. However, I'm in no position to dictate those matters.


      There are 316 replies to that EO, the two most interesting (IMHO) are from the NAR (National Association of REALTORS (their capitalization not mine)). (Search for Russell Riggs)

      "The Association urges you to halt implementation of this one-size-fits-all approach until the Administration seeks input from Congress, state and local governments, the private sector and other regulated stakeholders. We look forward to a response to our questions on development and implementation of the standards and urge each agency to release its assessment of the standards and implementation plans as soon as possible."

      In other words, or in a single word ... delay ... so that we can protect our wealth ... delay ... and build even more ... delay ...

      I remember that day, back in 1983, standing on the beach in Duck, NC thinking to myself, that we (meaning humanity) should not be building in the coastal zone. It's a view I've held onto ever since then. I am neither a sand engineer or a flatlander.

  3. Sea levels were 3 to 5 metres higher than at present during the last interglacial period. Why is it so hard to believe it can't happen again absent human activities? We have no knowledge of how long it took for the seas to rise last time. The issue is that we now have billions of people living on the planet and have built a massive infrastructure along the coastlines. There is very little the majority of humanity will be able to do to stem this tide of rising oceans.

    1. Cam - any change like warming or cooling of Earth has to have a cause. In this case the cause of warming is primarily our addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. This is resulting in the fastest warming on Earth in millions of years.

      There is knowledge of how long it took seas to rise in the past - at least for some periods of time. Scientists can measure it from examining shorelines and dating the different sea levels.

      As far as what we can do about it - we can slow the rate of rise and maybe even cap the total rise. Or we can choose to melt the ice sooner and get the seas to rise faster. We do that by regulating how much CO2 we add to the air, and how quickly we add it. We can even remove CO2 from the air. That will control how quickly and by how much the earth warms.

      There's a little brochure from BoM that will get you started on learning about the greenhouse effect - and/or use Google.


    2. "We can even remove CO2 from the air."

      Well, yes, in theory. The only way of doing any significant amount in practice is large scale BECCS, which nobody has yet got working, and AFAIK nobody is even trying to get working. What worries me is that by the time anyone does get it working, we'll be trying to deal with loss of agricultural land too due to sea level rise, shifting rainfall patterns, etc, etc. That will make setting aside large tracts of land for biofuel even less practical than it is now.

      It seems to me that any scenario that relies on BECCS is basically saying "Well hey, if we use stacks of magic unicorns farting rainbows we can do all sorts of stuff!". Might be true, if unicorns can be made available, but it seems crazy to bank on it. I think the IPCC talks and papers should ignore any such scenarios, and concentrate on stuff we know we can get working. Otherwise we're just playing games and deluding ourselves.

    3. There's something that denialists need to understand, which is that chemothermodynamically CO2 is a boulder at the bottom of an energy hill. It has a high oxidation state, and much energy is required to reduce it. More, in fact, than we usefully get from producing it in the first place.

      That last sentence is profoundly important...

      Plants invest stupdendous amounts of such energy, gathered by photosynthesis, because reduced carbon is an excellent scaffold for the stuff of life. Indeed, in the periodic table it's the premier element for scaffolding. Evolution's already done a pretty good job in maximising the efficiency of harvesting solar energy through photosynthesis, and although it's nowhere near 100% it's pretty good when the thermodynamic taxman's hand in life's pocket is considered.

      Finding a method then that will draw down CO2 faster than does the phytosphere will require access to an energy source as spectacular as the fossilised one (anyone see the First Law irony growing larger in the rear-view mirror?) or the radioactive one (which has its own tales of thermodynamic mystery and imagination). If we could get the phytosphere to do this job at anywhere near the rate at which we oxidise fossil carbon we'd not need to used fossil carbon in the first place - that fabulously-reductive photosynthate resource would suffice.

      And we all know that that's not the case...

      There are, of course, potential geochemical sinks for CO2 but the hydrological one has profound biochemical consequences, and the geological one works on, well, geological timescales. And going the purely physical route by poking CO2 into nooks and crannies is akin to catching smoke with a net... and Laws 1 and 2 are holding their hands out in that scenario too.

      The bottom (boom-tish) line is that if you don't want to spend all of your time and energy cleaning shit off the walls, don't throw the shit there in the first place.

  4. Oxford University scientists, after a year of research, have determined the best technology to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and try to reverse global warming.
    It’s trees.

    They considered methods ranging from capturing emissions from factories and power stations to extracting carbon dioxide directly from the air, and adding lime to oceans to increase their absorption of the gas, a study released on Tuesday showed.

    Wharf Rat

    1. Might be difficult to plant enough trees to offset fossil fuel emissions. Also you need to bury the trees afterwards so they do not release the carbon they have absorbed.

  5. Aside, you probably know this one from last year, I'd missed it somehow:

  6. Temperature Data shows global cooling until adjustments are made. Various agencies make different adjustments. All adjustments are done making the past cooler and the present warmer. Global Warming is only in the adjustments. It is just not happening. Meanwhile, CO2 continues to rise without any effects.

    1. Better trolls, please.

    2. Paul is of course wrong. It's the complete opposite to what he says. Without corrections, the record would have shown greater warming, not less.

      See here and here and here.

      I wonder what he thinks is causing the ice to melt so quickly or the seas to rise? Magic? Leprechauns?

    3. You would think trolls could at least stay on-topic. He is wrong about the CO2 as well, scientists have found an increasing trend in down-welling infrared radiation - that extra heat has to go somewhere.


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