Who is right? Judith or Nils Axel?
Nils Axel Morner is a Swedish sea-level expert and he does searching research leading to a conclusion that the sea level is stable overall. His recent Fiji research is exemplary. The only response to it from Warmists is an "ad hominem" one -- noting that a group of climate skeptics quite openly helped Morner with costs of his trip to Fiji. The Warmists see that as a fatal flaw. They fail to see any similar problem flowing from the fact that Warmists generally have their research funded by sympathetic university departments. Universities are unbiased, you see. Anybody who has worked in a university department will give that a horse-laugh.
Judith Curry calls herself a "lukewarmer", meaning that she accepts global warming theory but doubts that the warming will be large enough to be worth bothering about. But she does accept that there has been some sea level rise in the 20th century.
These days, just about everything bad is said to be made worse by global warming but the original scare was sea-level rise. Both Hansen and Gore, for instance, predicted in the early '90s that substantial parts of Manhattan would be permanently underwater some time soon. If that were true, some parts of Manhattan should already by now be looking a bit watery.
Sadly, however Manhattan and most of the rest of the world are going about business as usual. For most of the world, the sea seems to be just about where it always was. The lay observer at least can see no change. So Morner would seem to be the only scientist with his feet on the ground. Only his account coincides with commonly perceived reality.
So the big threat of severe worldwide flooding seems utterly empty -- which is why a vast range of other bad outcomes from warming have been conjured up. There have to be new fears to replace the old failed fear.
Warmists are never deterred by reality, however, and continue to assert that sea levels are rising, even if it is very slowly. So there is a minor industry of trying to work out exactly what the sea level is doing. And most researchers agree that there is some sea level rise going on, though they all estimate only minute amounts of it. And estimate is the word. Gross sea level rises such as Gore and Hansen predicted would have hit you in the eye but the tiny rises that Warmists can squeeze out of their data are very slippery. There is nothing clearly observable. It is all guesswork.
And a moment's thought will tell you that it HAS to be guesswork. Oceans have these pesky things called waves. The ocean won't stay still enough for you to measure it. You can try to measure high-water marks but what if a gust of wind causes a really big splash during the day that is not repeated later in the day? Is that the high-water mark?
In addition to those commensense limitations on measuring small changes in sea level there are more profound difficulties. Judith Curry lists some of them. See the folowing excerpt:
"To reconstruct equilibrium sea level changes from tide gauges, account must be made of vertical shifts of the land, caused by geological processes or land use (e.g. ground water extraction). To improve scientific utility for sea level studies, numerous modern tide gauges are being augmented with automated, continuous GPS measuring instruments which records vertical land movements. Further, account must be made of non-eustatic dynamic changes in sea level due to tides, storm surges, tsunamis and large-scale ocean currents.
Further, tide gauge technology has changed over time. Simple wooden staffs have evolved into higly sophisticated digital equipment — it is likely that the results from different equipment might not agree with each other.
A wooden staff is not going to measure with the same degree of accuracy-or under the same circumstances as a digital equipment.
Tide gauges have the following disadvantages for determining global sea level changes: uneven distribution around the world; missing data; spatial and temporal variations in ocean circulations; and land movements. Because of these disadvantages, calculating global mean sea level rise from the limited tide gauge network has proven to be difficult.
Although considerable progress has been made, further improvements to the historical record are still needed, particularly in accounting for ocean circulation changes."
Despite all that however, Judith does accept that some sea-level rise is proven. She says: "Global mean sea level (GMSL) has risen about 8 inches during the 20th century".
In coming to that conclusion she relies heavily on "corrected" data and Morner claims that corrections are the whole of any stated sea level rise. For instance, Curry appears to accept the Stockholn record. And it's true that the official Stockholm record does show a slight rise. But what did that record show before it was "corrected"? John Daly has the graph:
So an actual FALL in the sea level in the Baltic has been "corrected" to show the opposite. That is some shenanigans. But shenanigans like that are common in global warming "research".
So how do they justify their shenanigans? They postulate just enough "isostatic uplift" to get the result they want. By isostatic uplift they mean that the ground was rising rather than the sea level falling. And the theory behind that is that the last ice age put such heavy glaciers on the ground that the ground sank down a bit. So, when the glaciers retreated, the land bounced back up again. That seems to be true. But how come that is still happening thousands of years after the ice has gone? It makes no sense. It is just a theoretical fix, not reality-grounded.
It is true that in different times and places the ground does rise or fall in response to various local factors but those changes are all over the place, not just where glaciers used to be. The most established changes are falls in the land on the East coasts of both Florida and England. And where I live in Northern Australia, the land is geologically very ancient and very stable. Glaciers never reached us. Yet I have documented a notable sea-level FALL in the ocean nearby over recent decades. And let us not forget the earlier but carefully delineated sea level fall at the Isle of the Dead in Tasmania.
And that goes back to the fact that the oceans don't behave like water in a jug. Water in a jug has a fixed level. The level in one part of a jug will be the same as the level in all other parts of the jug. But the earth is not a jug. It is a sphere and the water sloshes about. So the level in one time and place will be different from the level in other times and places. You can calculate a statistical average but there is no physical reality to it. And attributing a cause to the observed movements can only be guesswork. The RAW tide-gauge data is full of both rises and falls. There is no detectable uniform effect -- as global warming theory would require.
But Let's get back to Stockholm and the Baltic. As a very enclosed sea situated withing a limited latitude range and little subject to air and water currents, it should be a fairly good "thermometer" of what the sea level as a whole is doing -- if anything. So that Stockholm data is pretty important. So is it real? Has the sea level really fallen that much or is it just some error of measurement? Are there similar findings in other parts of the Baltic? Could the Swedish scientists have been right to "adjust" it?
Hardly. The Baltic sea level really has fallen. You can see evidence of it that no adjustment can hide. In the ancient Hanseatic port city of Talinn in Estonia at the East end of the Baltic you can see where the old sea walls used to be. But they are about a kilometer inland from the present sea-shore. As the sea level has fallen, Talinn has gained several hectares of new land where the sea used to be. Even the most dedicated Warmists would have difficulty adjusting that out of existence. So there are places on earth where the sea level has fallen and places where it has risen. The situation is nothing like what global warming theory predicts.
Nils Axel Morner is the one in touch with reality. Now that she is retired maybe Judith too can become more skeptical -- JR.