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A sea level Golden Horseshoe nominee*

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 October 2012

I was reading a sign high on the wall behind the bar:

‘Only genuine pre-war British and American whiskeys served here’

I was trying to count how many lies could be found in those nine words, and had reached four, with promise of more …”

Dashiell Hammett, “The Golden Horseshoe”

Google News occasionally throws up some obscure postings that I would never otherwise come across. A recent example was a letter to an editor of a Scottish newspaper (not my usual reading material) declaring that “Climate change is not man-made”. The letter itself is uninteresting – a basic confusion between weather and climate seguing into a NIMBY-ish rant about windmills. Ho hum.

However, in one of the comments from a “Dr John Cameron, St Andrews” (posted 9/Oct/2012), there was this unrelated pseudo-factoid:

As regards the catastrophic sea level rise in the Pacific, it became obvious some 20 years ago that results from island tide gauges did not support computer predictions. Scientists from Flinders University in Adelaide set up new, modern, tide-gauges in 12 Pacific islands to test whether there was in fact any evidence of sinking. Recently the whole project was abandoned as there had been no sign whatsoever of a change in sea level at any of the 12 islands for the past 16 years.

Now this is specific enough to probably actually refer to something real, but doesn’t pass the sniff test for something that might actually be true. Scientists don’t set up monitoring stations only to get the answer they want and then stop monitoring if it doesn’t happen. This only happens in the fevered imaginations of conspiracy theorists. So I was intrigued enough to investigate what this actually referred to…

The easiest way to look for this is to search for the exact string – specifically the second sentence. Google comes up with 1000 or so very close antecedents – particularly with the “new, modern, tide-gauges in 12 Pacific islands” section. The links are to comment threads on partisan websites, the standard climate ‘skeptic’ blogs, and even a mention on SkepticalScience. The comments stretch back around 5 years. Some of the examples give an actual source for the remarks (unlike Dr. Cameron’s version) – one Dr. Vincent Gray – a well known pseudo-skeptic. Some even cite the newspaper article they appeared in – a error-ridden puff piece by Lawrence Solomon at the Canadian Financial Post. Curiously, that online version of the article doesn’t have a publishing date – though secondary sources suggest it was published on Oct 26th 2007. The lack of a date means that people quoting it often claim that this is a ‘recent’ claim.

Going back a little further, Gray made similar claims in a July 2007 article:

A claim that Pacific Islands were sinking led to an investigation by Flinders University, Adelaide, which replaced all the tide gauges in 12 Pacific islands to attempt to find out whether it was true. The attempt has now been abandoned as a failure, as none of the 12 islands showed any significant change since 1991. The team tried to save face by claiming that all showed an upwards “trend” because the 1998 hurricane caused a temporary depression in the ocean. Since 1998 all have remained flat, and the main island of contention, Tuvalu, actually rose last year.

This is referenced to an actual report from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology about the “South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project” (SPSLCMP), dated November 2006. Now we are getting somewhere!

There are some obvious signs of confusion in the Gray/Cameron statements. Firstly, the Australian National Tidal Facility (which installed and monitored the tide gauges starting in 1991) used to be managed by Flinders University in Adelaide – but the facility was transferred to the National Tidal Centre run by the Bureau of Meteorology … in 2003!

Second, the SPSLCMP has been rolled out in stages starting in 1991: the third stage terminating in Dec 2005 – and they are now in stage IV. This might be the source of Gray’s claim that the project had been abandoned, though even the report he cited clearly states that the phase IV was started in January 2006 and was slated to continue at least another 5 years (at that time). The ‘last 16 years’ is a clue that the Cameron statement was obviously written in 2007 not 2012.

Finally, annual reports from SPSLCMP are available through to June 2011 – indicating a project that is very much ongoing and one that was not ‘abandoned’ before 2007.

So none of the statements that Gray (and Cameron) made about the project itself were true (either in 2007 or in 2012). But what about the sea level trends?

This is even odder. The report Gray cites states clearly that relative sea level trends (1992/3/4 to 2006) at all stations were positive (2.7 to 8.1 mm/year for the 11 of the 12 stations with long enough records). The 12th station at FSM was only installed in 2001 and the trends were very noisy (though positive). The Jun 2006 SPSLCMP report goes further and applies corrections for platform movement and the inverted barometer effect, concluding that trends ranged from 1.7 to 7 mm/year at the 11 longer stations. Note that these trends may include a component of subsidence/uplift of the islands themselves and so are the numbers most relevant for local planning (not eustatic sea level change). But so much for not finding a trend!

As one would expect, monitoring has continued since 2007, and in the latest report (June 2011), the 11-station trends range from 2.8 to 7.7 mm/year (and +17.0 mm/year at the FSM station). The monthly data series are available here for people to check for themselves. Comparisons with the satellite altimeter records show a reasonable coherence since the West Pacific sea level has risen faster than the global mean (at least partially related to the number of recent La Niña events).

Trends using all data up to June 2011.

Roughly comparable trends (1991-2012) using the satellite altimeter record.

In summary, every piece of concrete information in the Gray/Cameron statement is wrong. They were wrong even in 2007 when the statement was written and even wronger when it was cut-and-pasted without sources in 2012. Yet demonstrating this took a a few hours of googling, a little familiarity with the issues and people, and obviously is not going to be done by every reader. Thus a statement which clearly make no sense goes unchallenged for years and keeps getting regurgitated. Sure, no single statement like this is likely going to change anyone’s mind about anything, but this one and others like it form part of a drumbeat of disinformation, which by repetition, becomes embedded and hard to shift.

A good question would be why I bothered to research a claim in an obscure comment, on an obscure letter to the editor in a regional newspaper I have never read, and I don’t really have a good answer. Clearly, looking for substantive points in newspaper comment threads is a bit of a fool’s errand, but I was still surprised at how completely wrong every single aspect of the comment was. Given that I did look into it, it is worth sharing here – just on the off chance it will save someone else the bother.

* The Golden Horseshoe award, whose name derives from the Hammett quote above, is for spectacular wrongness in the climate discussion, first initiated by SomeAreBoojums, and occasionally revived by the Wabett.

251 Responses to “A sea level Golden Horseshoe nominee*

  1. 51
    jgnfld says:

    @42 For perhaps the only time in RealClimate history, certain posters do not deserve derision. Consider that a fathom is ~2 metres. Now consider how millifathoms and millimeters would relate!

  2. 52
    Alexandre says:

    Gavin, it’s good that you’ve done it, but just don’t get carried away in this slippery slope. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated trying to get the record straight in this level of all-spread BS.

    Well, I’m sure you know this better than anyone…

    Keep up the great work you guys do here. Cheers from a regular reader in Brazil.

  3. 53
    Pete says:

    Might be cool to have a Kindle/e-book put out that uses Gavin’s format/methodology to diagram maybe 50 different similar “living legends” (you might even be able to identify the universe of repeating memes). Then, folks could apply the same Google search to suspiciously specific comments and see if they match one of the examples (or are a near version of). I think would be emensely useful, and a good source for journalists (the few that still do the digging anyways).

    Perhaps a RealClimate associate could take on the task, and then run it by you guys for review before publishing. No need for the prefunctory preamble of the science at the beginning of the book–could just reference that with recommended sources, and then get to the meat.


  4. 54
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Dan H., 2 mm/yr… lemme see. Back to the heyday of the Roman empire, 4 metres. Hmm. You think anybody would have noticed?

  5. 55
    Susan Anderson says:

    Given the news about rising temperatures and the startling Arctic melt, it is hard to comprehend how any record could be used to deny the preponderance of realities described here and elsewhere:
    “September 2012: Earth’s warmest September on record”
    Masters and others have plenty of summaries of our changing climate.
    Yes, this is only a very short snapshot of breaking US (local) temperature records. And the UK and northern Europe are on the other side of some effects from the wobble of jet stream, Rossby waves, Arctic exhalation, overturning current changes, and the whole basket of complex interacting phenomena. Whatever means are used to describe and measure, there are noticeable phenomena for laypeople in the flesh and blood world we inhabit.

    One telltale sign is to go over to something like Woodfortrees and fiddle with the start date. Without question, once you get past the overly short timeframes (8 years? 12 beginning to be long enough?) each increase in length of records gives you a steeper curve. So why is anyone trying to keep people for eyeballing the longer trends for themselves getting away with not being called dishonest. The records are there, ferludssake!

    The whole thing reminds me of a time in hospital when I had a hard time getting doctors to look at a suppurating wound in plain sight while they told me they didn’t see anything on the CT scan.

    MEvidence in plain sight is now overwhelming theory, and should be heeded.

  6. 56
    Susan Anderson says:

    DanH, if you are not Dan H, I’d suggest you expand your moniker at least slightly. Dan H is a persistent manipulator of information here, and I suspect many will not notice the very slight difference. His water drips on stone, and fraying patience is likely to overflow on to you.

    (Yours from the peanut gallery, though I have to admit my real name is a useful out in plain sight disguise, being so common.)

  7. 57
    Hank Roberts says:

    > derision

    Still appropriate for posts by Dan H., classic, consistently misleading, misinformation expertly spun. His mimicry of scientific language improves; his content doesn’t.

    >>> Dan H. …
    >>> Overall, the global sea level has been
    >>> (and continues) to rise at ~ 2mm/yr ….

    >> [Response: Ah yes, proof by assertion ….
    >> twisted from the actual facts…. misleading
    >> enough to actual[ly] give the casual reader
    >> a completely wrong impression. Classic. – gavin]

  8. 58
    Marco says:

    PAber #46: If you consider pointing out several untruths about the SPSLCMP, such as it supposed demise and not finding any upward trends, as propaganda, you should get yourself a new BS meter. Yours appears to be inversed, as this is all hardcore scientific data.

  9. 59
    Adam Sacks says:

    I am a climate activist, have followed the science as closely as I am able, and have wrestled with how to communicate it to the public. I, like many others, have little success to report, and don’t know what the solutions are (maybe some problem reframing would be helpful). I would like to offer some observations, and would welcome other thoughts.

    1. For years we have been engaging in social marketing, public relations, psychological investigations, popular media (e.g., “Inconvenient Truth,” “Day After Tomorrow,” NOVA, etc.), disinformation deconstruction, activist blogs (e.g., ClimateProgress, SkepticalScience), remedial information, etc. Lewandowsky and Cook is another excellent addition to the collection. But we still haven’t figured out how to move public opinion. In the U.S. there has indeed been a change over the summer, but I would venture to say that the agent was the dire weather, not reasoned, even well strategized, argument. It should be amply clear by now that human beings do not make decisions based on reason, in no small measure because we can’t predict the future and the unintended consequences of our decisions. But most probably because the cerebral cortex is a late-comer in the survival game, and we “trust our feelings” first.

    2. It seems to me that, consistent with your training, climate scientists have been understandably reluctant to communicate your deepest misgivings about the implications of climate change. In order to do so I suspect you would have to take steps beyond the boundaries of the peer review and be subject to severe collegial criticism. In the normal course of science, those rules make sense, but the normal course of science unfolds over decades or longer; in the global warming world we don’t have anywhere near that kind of time. I have seen this paradox first-hand, in conversations with climate scientists over the years who relate to me privately the acute anxiety and anguish that they are reluctant to communicate to the public. They tell me that they fear that if they express themselves the public will “shut down” and not listen to reason, although the public doesn’t appear to be listening to reason in any case.

    3. Climate science has been, as it turns out, extraordinarily conservative in its predictions about the pace of change; this has become especially apparent over the past five years. Time frames for expected planetary response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations have collapsed by decades, with uncharacteristic astonishment appearing regularly in the literature. The public doesn’t know this very well. How can they respond accordingly when we don’t communicate the bare truth? I wrote an online article about this around three years ago at

    4. Climate is sold to the public as an energy problem. It is, of course, a fossil-fuel energy problem, but the problem is a symptom of a much greater problem, one that touches every corner of our lives. It is an issue of gross transgression of planetary carrying capacity, and if global warming were to disappear tomorrow we would still be facing catastrophic resource depletion and pollution issues. Of course, the pace and consequences of climate change dwarf the others, but we have to do far more than switch to solar energy (at an apparently impossible pace).

    5. Global warming, like fossil-fuel depletion, are qualitatively different from other problems we currently face: as they accelerate they threaten the very existence of our exponential-growth culture and the fantasy of prosperity for all. I don’t know if it’s possible for people to address that kind of change until we’re pressed so firmly up against the wall that we can barely move. When that happens with climate, it will be far too late. As far as I can tell, from the windows of climate opportunity that keep closing then inching open again, it’s already likely too late (recent shift in the emphasis on mitigation to adaptation is one sign of that). But I doubt that you will ever say “too late.” Maybe if you did people would pay attention. Maybe there are better ways of saying it. Maybe saying it somehow would be a first step in turning things around. Maybe not, but we haven’t tried it yet (except for Lovelock, and now even he’s backpedaling).

    In closing, I want to say that I have the greatest respect for the work you have done over the past couple of decades. You have collected and analysed mountains of data in the most extraordinary scientific undertaking in history. You were then thrust into a foreign and vicious arena which you handled with remarkable equanimity and grace (although I’m sure it often didn’t feel that way). It has been essential for beginning to address climate issues: were it not for your dedicated efforts, we would know nothing of global warming, it would all just be “weird weather.”

    But something is still missing, something which perhaps shouldn’t be thrust on you, but is thrust on all of us. I think that “something” is an understanding of how culture works, how civilizations play out (for one perspective, see Joseph Tainter, Collapse of Complex Societies), and most mysteriously of all, what we can possibly do about it.

  10. 60
    rog says:

    “These charts were drawn to a very high level of precision, by sailors who’s lives depending upon their accuracy.”

    Accuracy is a measurable term and marine charts can have an accuracy of +/- 500 metres.

  11. 61
    Dave Person says:

    Hi Gavin,
    Nice post, which clearly demonstrates how factitious “facts” propagate in society. I am a wildlife ecologist who studied wolves in SE Alaska during the last 20 years. Wolves are always controversial and the bizarre “facts” circulated by the public about them and my own work are astounding. Many haven’t even the least connection with reality but they fill the need of many to reaffirm their prejudices and beliefs. I think we need to always realize that for many, perhaps most people, reason is in the service of rationalizing their emotions not the other way around. For the most part, scientists transcend that dilemma with the help of the scientific method and peer-review, but we are a very small minority in the world and perhaps we expect too much from others with regard to skeptical thinking. We complain about disinformation, but to be effective, that propaganda must have fertile ground in which to take seed. In the U.S., that ground may be particularly productive and fearful because if US citizens reflect at all on the consequences of and solutions to greenhouse gas emissions, they must realize that their entire way of life needs to be reorganized, particularly those living in suburban and rural areas. Moreover, climate change is just one symptom, albeit a horrendous one, of human overpopulation and overconsumption. We have many more battles ahead even if we resolve anthropogenic global warming. Unfortunately, with respect to the climate crisis, until events overtake the deniers in ways obvious to an obtuse public, we will be mired in a “he-said she-said”, “bunk de-bunk” series of debates.

  12. 62
    Dan H. says:

    The recent trend in sea level rise has been in place since the start of the latest temperature rise (~150 years). I know there are those who quote higher or lower values, but they are usually based on shorter, 10- or 20-year trends. Had temperatures been rising steadily since the Roman Empire, then I guess 4 meters would be a reasonable guess. Of coursBy why stop at the Roman Empire? Sea levels have risen about 16m in the past 8000 years, just not at a constant rate.

  13. 63
    Isotopious says:

    “I am a climate activist, have followed the science as closely…”

    Here are skeptical my thoughts:

    Fossil fuel dependent economies/ societies may cause serious global warming (+ 2 deg C).

    Therefore, some form of insurance (emission reduction) should be used to reduce the risk.

    Risk management can be aptly described as “prepare for the worst, hope for the best”.

    While I’m sure many climate scientist are “hoping for the best”, when it comes to the literature they are always “preparing for the worst”.

    I suppose my point is when dealing with science which deals with policy, you need to acknowledge that policy should also influence science…I remember a study which showed bread cooked in a high temperature oven is linked to cancer. You don’t see the authorities banning bread though… If anybody is at risk its the baker (flour on the lung). More people are dead from mining coal then AGW, so if you wanted to ban it…..

    10 deg C by the end of the century would be “hell on earth!”, quite an alarming projection is equally matched by a world where there are little fossil fuels left to burn, leading to mass war and upheaval.

    Thus, there should be a concerted scientific effort to show that AGW may not be all that serious at all, as well as the opposite. The problem lies in its uncertain nature, rather than a given outcome.

    This I think explains why ordinary peoples’ “gut feeling” is telling them to ignore the guy on the street corner with a sign sayn “fossil fuels running out” or “get ready to cook!” or “ban bread”, etc…

    Ordinary people are often right out of ignorance.

  14. 64
    MalcolmT says:

    Here’s a good, honest documentary about sea level rise in the Pacific: “The Hungry Tide”
    Sharing it with friends may go some way to countering the disinformation Gavin has so neatly skewered.

  15. 65
    Susan Anderson says:

    Russell, you go from strength to strength.

    In many ways your art is better than mine. If you have time this weekend, come to FP Open Studios and introduce yourself. No doubt we’ll hate each other on sight, but it would be amusing. Others also welcome.

  16. 66
    Slioch says:

    Isotopius … “10 deg C by the end of the century … is equally matched by a world where there are little fossil fuels left to burn”

    You haven’t even begun to understand these matters, have you?

  17. 67
    Rob Painting says:

    Dan H – “Sea levels have risen about 16m in the past 8000 years, just not at a constant rate

    Nonsense. See these Skeptical Science posts:

    Jerry Mitrovica: Current Sea Level Rise is Anomalous. We’ve Seen Nothing Like it for the Last 10,000 Years
    Sea Level Isn’t Level: Ocean Siphoning, Levered Continents and the Holocene Sea Level Highstand

    Note how the paleo sea level markers and the glacial isostatic adjustment modelling completely refutes the flawed idea of a globally warm Roman, or Medieval Period.

    Relative sea levels were declining throughout the Roman & Medieval Periods because there was no glacial meltwater addition, nor thermal expansion of seawater, to counteract the siphoning of water into the regions of ocean floor that were collapsing.

    Global sea sea level is, indirectly, the best proxy for global temperature because it reveals the status of global ice cover. All of which vindicates a certain Penn State University Paleoclimatologist, and Real Climate co-founder…..

  18. 68
    Jim Larsen says:

    This post is grand, but it is missing the critical bit of information which would make it encompassing instead of trivia, which is a graph of sea level rise rate (not sea level itself) over the last 2000 years. As it is, it doesn’t really refute the skeptics, who say sea level rise is merely an ongoing event, either from the last ice age or the little ice age. This was covered in the comments, but standard-issue pre-refutations are good to put up front, especially if the skeptic argument isn’t even noted. (Sometimes noting and refuting only grows the beast)

    55 Susan A said, “once you get past the overly short timeframes (8 years? 12 beginning to be long enough?) each increase in length of records gives you a steeper curve”

    Yes, but unfortunately, since the skeptic argument is that this is a natural oscillation and we’re at the peak, you’re describing their exact claim. (at least in their eyes)

  19. 69
    John says:

    PAber concerns are very valid. I have been following the SEAFRAME data for some years. The trend series change published in their reports is flawed. Their caveat that the short time series makes their ‘headline’ trend table unreliable is somewhat disingenius (sp.?). As PAber notes the trend series has been coming down in most years. why is this? The massive dip in 97/98 (which is caused i think by el nino) means all later years data become an upward trend change. You can try this at home by downloading the data from the website. Smooth out the 97/98 outlier dip and the trend increases all at least halve. In some cases they disappear entirely.

    I dont think this is a professional statistical job being done by their team. In fact if i remember they are running simple linear trends through the data. You can virtually replicate their results simply in excel chart with the trend stats option.

    I suppose i am picky with this type of thing as i do statistics for a job and seeing the big el nino effect or whatever in 97/98 in their graphs and then seeing how it impacts on the headline trends they are publishing makes me quite annoyed.

    The SEAFRAME data is a great resource and you should at least look at the graphs to understand what is happening in the pacific islands in the last 15 years.

    Cheers, John.

  20. 70
    Tim Kozusko says:

    Thank you Gavin.
    Alvin Toffler is quoted as saying “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who can’t read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.” Perhaps, but I tend to believe it will be those who cannot (or will not bother to) perceive the difference between information that has merit and that which does not. My wife is a teacher and I have gently implored her to take this up in her teaching. So I just forwarded your piece to her, and I suspect it will show up in a lesson.

  21. 71
    Mrlee says:

    “10 deg C by the end of the century would be “hell on earth!”, quite an alarming projection is equally matched by a world where there are little fossil fuels left to burn, leading to mass war and upheaval.”


  22. 72
  23. 73

    “It [is] always best to read actual research, rather than opinionated blogs.”

    Luke 4:23

  24. 74
    Marco says:

    Dan H. #72: you just might, really might read the very first link you provide. Figure 3a is the relevant one that shows you your claim about the last 8000 years is wrong.

    Your second link states in the highlights:
    “The sea-level trend provides a value of 0.7–0.3 mm yr−1 since 7000 cal yr BP”, which also debunks your claim.

    Your third link relates to local changes in a bassin + landlocked sea, and thus is a rather poor reference.

    Only your last link may somewhat back up your claim (although it once again relates to a very local record.

  25. 75
    chris says:

    Dan H, re:

    Had temperatures been rising steadily since the Roman Empire, then I guess 4 meters would be a reasonable guess. Of coursBy why stop at the Roman Empire? Sea levels have risen about 16m in the past 8000 years, just not at a constant rate.

    But the papers you’ve linked to actually highlight the problem with your silly misrepresentation. They indicate that sea levels haven’t risen significantly for around 4000 years.

    You linked to a very old paper by Kurt Lambeck. But if we look at Lambeck’s analyses of sea level rise since the Roman period, your rather blatant misrepresentation (a rise of “4 meters”) is directly contradicted:

    Lambeck K (2005) Sea level in Roman time in the Central Mediterranean and implications for recent change Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 224, 563-575

    For which Lambeck concludes:

    ”Part of this change is the result of ongoing glacio-hydro isostatic adjustment of the crust subsequent to the last deglaciation. When corrected for this, using geologically constrained model predictions, the change in eustatic sea level since the Roman Period is -0.13 +/- 0.09 m.”

    In other words far from a “4 meter” sea level rise, sea levels have actually gone down a tad for the 2000 years before the modern era.

    The three other papers you linked to highlight your misrepresentation, and actually focus the problem, namely that an increase in temperature causes sea levels to rise for a very, very long period unless the temperature rise is reversed.

    So the post glacial melt as a result of rising earth temperature at the glacial-postglacial transition lasted well into the early part of the Holocene, and up to 6-7000 years ago. Eustatic sea level rise has been small since then and pretty non-existant for the 4000 years before he modern era – since the papers you linked to show exactly that it’s odd that you use them to pursue a misrepresentation.

    P.S. You need also to be careful about addressing true (eustatic) sea level rise (corrected for the effects of post glacial rebound which can have a very significant effect on apparent local sea level changes). Rather than focussing on the very local analyses you’ve linked to it would be helpful for understanding if you read some more general reviews that address global scale eustatic sea level changes throughout the Holocene.

    Pirazzoli PA (2005) A review of possible eustatic, isostatic and tectonic contributions in eight late-Holocene relative sea-level histories from the Mediterranean area Quart. Sci. Rev. 24, 1989-2001

    Church JA et al. (2008) Understanding global sea levels: past, present and future Sustainability Sci. 3, 9-22

    Milne GA (2009) Identifying the causes of sea-level change Nature Geosci. 2, 471-478


  26. 76
    Dan H. says:

    The entire exercise was an attempt to show Marco how extrapolating the recent SLR back to the Roman Empire was futile. He claimed (not me) that 2mm/yr for 2000 years would yield a 4m SLR since the Roman era. I simply showed that if you extrapolate far enough back, you can intersect the SLR since the end of the last glacial maximum (whether that occurs at 8000 or 10,000 year BP is relatively minor). The papers to which I referenced point that out – sorry that you missed my sarcastic representation of Marco’s claim.

    I agree that SLR mimics temperature rise. Research has shown that periods of higher temperatures lead to sea level increases, and lower temperatures lead to decreases. This was not an attempt to misrepresent, but to emphasize the errors in extrapolation.

  27. 77
    flxible says:

    Dan H once again awards himself a Golden Horseshoe

  28. 78
    Frederium says:

    It’s even worse than that. A very well science-educated and cliamate skeptic person I know once sent me a newspaper article. According to that person, the article was explaining how the rise of CO2 was NOT linked to global warming. In fact, the article was clearly stating the opposite. It just had the typical structure of “at fist the data seems odd but carefully analyzed it proves global man-made warming.” I conclude people can read what they want to read, and by some sort of psychological blindness, even turn clearly stated conclusions the otherway round. The battle is unwinnable my friends…

  29. 79
    chris says:

    O.K Dan H, but aren’t you making exactly the same extrapolating error you are mocking? You state earlier on the thread that:

    “The recent trend in sea level rise has been in place since the start of the latest temperature rise (~150 years). I know there are those who quote higher or lower values, but they are usually based on shorter, 10- or 20-year trends.”

    But we know that sea level rise has accelerated during the anthropogenic period. Just to take one of the examples you linked to (the recent Bay of Biscay paper in Quat. Sci. Rev. by Leorri et al), this group infer a pre-anthropogenic sea level falling trend up to around 1900, and a 20th century sea level rise of 0.63 mm/yr (Brest)/1.42 mm/yr (S. Biscay)/0.69 mm/yr (Cascais).

    that’s somewhere around 0.9 mm/yr 20th century averaged. But sea levels are rising at around 3 mm/yr or a bit higher now.

    O.K. that’s only a broad single location (‘though it is a paper you’ve cited to pretend a different message). But the evidence indicates rather robustly that sea level rise has accelerated during the anthropogenic era [I’m using “anthropogenic era” in the way Loorri et al are using to indicate the dominant period of anthropogenic-induced warming].

    And since you agree that “SLR mimics temperature rise”, that acceleration is presumably pretty much what you expect…Yes?

    Obviously as the earth continues to warm under enhanced greenhouse forcing, sea level rise will continue to accelerate…yes again? That seems to be what your “SLR mimics temperature rise” predicates…yes?

  30. 80
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dan H. is using you to polish the spin to better misrepresent the science.

    Posts under the “Dan H.” monicker on other climate blogs abound. Look them up.

    You suggest better cites; they get used — to improve the simulation of a scientist.

    The claims and assertions don’t change, they continue to mislead.

    He doesn’t learn like a scientist would from reading better information. Every opportunity is used to repeat the same talking points — only the fake cites become more superficially convincing.

    When you have to check everything he claims, and the claims are consistently unsupported, who’s failing the Turing test?

  31. 81
    Craig Nazor says:

    I have debated Dan H for around four years on different web sites. Hank is absolutely correct – his basic strategy of denying anthropogenic global climate change behind a facade of scientific reasoning is totally consistent, despite embarrassing himself on many occasions.

    Dan H – do you believe that the sea level rise observed in the past 100 years is accelerating? Do you believe that the observed sea level rise is the result of AGCC? Do you think that this acceleration of sea level rise should cause any concern for human civilization? Do you see how what you are doing is exactly what this particular post is pointing out?

  32. 82
    Rob Painting says:

    Dan H – I’m well aware of the paleo sea level research since the last Glacial Maximum. If you read my post you’ll see that the Fleming (1998) paper is contradicted by the physical evidence. Their reconstruction eliminates the Holocene Sea Level highstand. Something we know for sure did in fact occur.

    And your linking to papers which you clearly don’t understand, doesn’t impress. It would have been much simpler for you to simply confess you knew next to nothing about this topic. Now you have to furiously search for papers that you think support your erroneous opinion, and try to bring yourself up to speed.

    I can tell you now, you’re going to be shit out of luck.

  33. 83
    RolyG says:

    There must be some term for the precision of wrongness of a statement. It seems to me an obvious ploy to state very exact information to persuade others the information is scientific and accurate.

    All this reminds me of the antithesis, the classic put down used by 20th century linguistic philosophers ‘your statement is not even wrong’. I’ve seen lots of those too.

  34. 84
    Charles says:

    Guys, Enough!
    What started as a facetious extrapolation by Marco has ballooned into the absurd. Yes, if the 2mm/yr trend was extrapolated back to the Roman era, it would overstate the sea level substantially. Likewise, extending that trend back another 8000 years, it would understate the trend. And, if we extrapolate back a million years, we could walk to every continent.

    Some people are taking these examples of the improper use of statistics to wage their own private war. Take a step back, read the recent posts, laugh a little, and move on.

    Sea levels have risen about 0.25m since the start of the industrial revolution (Church & White). Higher during the periods of greater warming, lower in others.

  35. 85
    chris says:


    I think you’ll find it was Martin (not Marco) that made the extrapolation.

    It’s not that big a deal, but it is worth establishing every so often what the inescapable evidence indicates, and where individuals that profess a rational approach to the evidence pretty much have to agree.

    We’ve found it here, I think. Sure, Dan H is trying to sell a misrepresentation and the very papers he cites highlights his misrepresentation. But we’ve established a pretty fundamental point of agreement, namely that in a world with rather massive amounts of meltable land ice, the rate of sea level rise increases with the extent of temperature rise (at least in the early periods of melt). Even Dan H. asserts that rather fundamental truth. I think we all agree that the rate of sea level rise has accelerated during the anthropogenic era (the papers that Dan H. cites, for example, indicate that)…and so on.

    That’s useful isn’t it? These aren’t exactly profound truths but it is useful to see that even someone who invests a considerable amount of his time in misrepresenting science, is rather constrained by realities to align with inescapable evidence-based interpretations.

    Jeffrey Davis quoted the bible earlier on this thread (Luke 4:23), but I would say that John 8:32 is rather more appropriate for this thread (and for science-based policy in the round), namely:

    the truth will set you free” (!)

  36. 86
    MacDoc says:

    Gavin that was a brilliant dissection and pathology report. :D

  37. 87
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ya know, I noticed after the US debate last night many online services proclaiming just how amazingly fast their user base/watchers/followers/friends list was growing on the new topics about the debates.

    And not one of them mentioned whether they were checking to see if the astonishingly fast pace of signups meant they had the attention of meat people, or were being added to bots’ lists.

    I suspect a massive species-wide Turing test failure in progress. We can’t distinguish simulated attention of fake-attention-grabbers from real attention by meat people.

    And attention is a profoundly strong reinforcer.

    People who think they’re getting attention do more of what makes them think they’re getting attention.

    Thus it’s easy enough to trap them into wasting their time.

    Think “monkey trap” — except it’s not our fists we’re putting into that narrow-necked bottle to grab the bait and be trapped.

    It’s our brains.

    Eschew the fake attention that never changes what it posts, but always improves the shiny wrapper around the bogus claims.

    Real people change with better information, once they learn the people trying to inform them give a damn about them and their families and their grandchildren.

    That’s the point here. Real problem, real people, real consequences.

    And lots and lots of chaff, smoke, and mirrors distracting.

  38. 88
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Roly G,

    The “not even wrong” smackdown actually belongs to Wolfgang Pauli. He used it to criticize a research paper that was rather vague. The full quote goes, “Not only is that not right, it isn’te even wrong!”

  39. 89
    J Bowers says:

    Google Global Warming 101 can be a big timesaver. Saves having to trawl through pages of Google results fed by Morano’s bulletins before finding something sensible.

  40. 90
    Marco says:

    Oi! I just checked the thread, and there’s one Marco commenting here, it’s me, and at no point do *I* make any extrapolations!

    Thanks, Chris, for also pointing that out.

    I’m not surprised Dan H. made that mistake, considering his grandstanding with papers of which two contradict his claims on 16 m rise in the last 8000 years.

  41. 91
    Rob Painting says:

    Charles –“Likewise, extending that trend back another 8000 years, it would understate the trend”

    Charles you don’t appear to be paying attention – current sea level rise is anomalous. The Earth has not seen anything of this magnitude for 10,000 years – according the the scientific research. See this video by Jerry Mitrovica for instance.

    This make perfect sense as the natural orbitally-driven warming rid the Earth of vulnerable land-based ice, and this ceased after we passed the Holocene Climatic Optimum. The gradual cooling as the Earth began its slow descent toward the next glacial maximum stopped the addition of glacial meltwater to the global oceans, and with the ocean volume remaining static, the collapse of glacial forebulges, and continental levering, siphoned seawater away to fill these collapsed regions. Therefore relative sea level fell, and this is why we see “3 metre beaches” throughout the equatorial ocean.

  42. 92
    Dan H. says:


    What erroneous opinion do you think I am furious trying to support? That sea level rise has not been constant over time? I would be happy to entertain any research which shows that I am wrong. Funny how you are quick to ridicule that which you misunderstand. I prefer scientific papers over internet videos.

    Yes, periods of rising temperatures has correlated quite well with rising seas. The highest increases recently have been aligned with the 30s and 90s. I would expect any future large temperature increase to be accompanied by a correspondingly large sea level rise.

    No and No. Sea level rise has accellerated in the past, but not in the past decade, and poses no immediate concern. I have never denied that humans have influenced climate. Do you not see that I have attempted to emphasize exactly what this article is about, and it flew right over so many people’s heads?

    First off, my apologies for confusing your post with Martin’s. With regards to the papers referenced: see figure 6 in the Fleming paper (first link) shows more detail than 3a, and shows ~16m lower sea levels 8000 years ago (at least Rob acknowledges that the paper shows 16m SLR, although he claims other research contradicts those conclusion). In the second link, the Leorri paper, you stated that the sea level reise over the past 7000 years was much lower. You are correct. However, my statement concerned the past 8000 years. This is similar to the presidential candidates in the debate arguing different statistics, both of which are correct, but extend over different time frames. Some have claimed that the Bruckner paper should be disregarded, because it focised on local sea levels. Well, the last I knew, the Mediterranean sea level was similar to the Atlantic (certainly not off by the several meters that would be necessarily to discount the paper). No one mentioned the McGriffiths paper. Probably because it showed 16m lower sea levels 7500 years ago. Again, don’t rely on what others (or myself) say, but read the original work – the entire paper. It is enlightening. I noticed no one showed any contradicting work.

  43. 93
    Doug Proctor says:

    Hmm. The graphic appears to show that island downdrop as a result of a falling seafloor ridge is responsible for landbased sea level changes. Open ocean seems to be 1.8 mm/yr, which has been standard for a long time.

    [Response: Nonsense – look at the last figure – that is the open ocean field for this region over the same period. – gavin]

    In any situation where the background is steady, the outliers, if not random, will determine the mathematically correct average of the group. But if the two groups (background and outliers) are not casually connected in their behaviour, the appearance will not represent the reality.

    Darwin’s atolls and seamounts like under Bermuda create havens for carbonate organisms because what once was at sealevel sank at a rate acceptable to the organisms’ ability to maintain their preferred sealevel position. If all but a few, new oceanic features sink, rather than rise, then the data of the islands will pull the oceanic averages to the positive, sinking side. Is that what is going on?

    If this is the case – sinking is the standard, only maintained by organisms’ debris-shedding, then Tuvalu have a problem that is organic, rather than sea-level. The question to be asked is what level of total buildup they are capable of, and whether sinking + sea-volume increase is within their capabilities. If CO2-enhanced melting is bringing only a 1.8 mm/yr added demand, I suspect that it is sinking, rather than glacial melting that is the problem.

    Either that or local environmental degradation of the reef-building organisms.

  44. 94
    Marco says:

    Dan H, I’ll accept the apology, but not much the rest of your comment. Brückner should be discarded because it even specifically mentions the issue of tectonic movements and its large role in sea level changes in this region. Did you even get as far as reading the abstract?

  45. 95
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… this one and others like it form part of a drumbeat of disinformation, which by repetition, becomes embedded and hard to shift….”

    –From the original post.

  46. 96
    Steve Metzler says:

    No. 37 Russell says:

    26 The British Admiralty charts drawn 200-300 years ago… were drawn to a very high level of precision, by sailors who’s lives depending upon their accuracy

    Since the current rate of sea level change is about 2 milifathoms a year, charts calibrated in fathoms fall about three orders of magnitude short of persuasive.

    Ooh. Direct hit. Meow!

  47. 97
    Rob Painting says:

    Dan H – “What erroneous opinion do you think I am furious trying to support?

    You demonstrated it earlier with this comment:

    Sea levels have risen about 16m in the past 8000 years, just not at a constant rate

    The peer-reviewed scientific literature has shown this to be wrong. Very wrong. You simply made this up this claim – without having done any research whatsoever. No amount of scrambling through the literature is going to cover this gaffe.

    Remember all those 3 metre beaches throughout the equatorial ocean?

  48. 98
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 16m
    Rob, he was pulling your leg with that one.
    Attention, remember?

  49. 99
    Steve Fish says:

    To Gavin and company regarding the Golden Horseshoe Award:

    I think that this post should go directly to the Bore Hole because it marks an important Bore Hole landmark. I am not kidding- read on.

    Because I am already convinced about what climate science is telling us and one of my primary motives for being here is a fascination with anti-science denialism, I have decided that now is the time and this topic is the place to report on one of our very own disinformation stars. It is both scary and illuminating how effective very inept denialist propaganda can be, so the purpose of this geeky post is to honor one of our very own inept denialists- Dan H.

    I have been monitoring the Bore Hole and with 150 posts in the Hole (yes I said geeky), Dan has demonstrated excellence in his trolling hobby. There is no one poster at Real Climate who can even reach up to Dan’s knees in providing incorrect information. Furthermore, Dan has displayed exceptionally relentless trolling (with the exception of a 6 month lapse in 2011) of the Real Climate forum.

    I would like to, humbly, nominate this great trolling star here in our own backyard for one of Gavin’s Golden Horseshoe awards. With 150 posts and tens of thousands of words I can’t think of anyone who is more deserving. We should all put our hands together to honor our Dan.

    Even more significant I think that it is important to recognize Dan’s contribution to the education of those who come to Real Climate for real science information. His predictable denialist methods, when combined with his easy to debunk misinformation, have provided innumerable excellent bad examples for educational correction purposes. Posts and counter posts could be collected into a training manual for understanding anti science methods. It would be a shame to not recognize Dan’s contribution to climate science education. I am overcome with emotion.

    I think that this post should appear just after, Dan’s 150th post in the Bore Hole. On the other hand, if it doesn’t appear at all I could hardly complain. Steve

  50. 100
    Jim Larsen says:

    Here’s a chart for the past 8000 years. Note that between 8kya and 7kya sea level was skyrocketing. From 7kya to 4kya it rose a bit, from 4kya to 2kya it varied upwards, and since 2kya it has been FLAT. Dan H, in his infinite wisdom(?) decided to slather that 8-7kya rise across the board, thus enlightening(?) us all about how the current rise is typical. Take a sheet of paper to extrapolate the current rate back, and it hits the 8kya level a bit before 5kya, so even this inventive(?) analysis is wrongish, as the current rise is approaching double the average of the last 8000 years.

    So, over the last 7000 years nothing nowhere for any amount of time comes remotely close to the current rate of rise, over the last 2000 years sea level has been flat, and Dan H wins the Most Misleading Poster Award.

    And that 8kya to 7kya rise bears notice, as if that trajectory resumes it would really ruin our day…