Tuesday, May 18, 2010

IPCC TECHNICAL ASSESSMENT REPORT 5 – THESIS 2

Thesis: That the discussion of sea level rise in IPCC TAR4 has much to recommend as a model for other topics.

Those of you who have already seen our first thesis, on global temperatures, may have got the impression that we were out to ‘get’ the IPCC. This is not the case. We are self-financed and have no agenda. As we say on our Home Page: “We are trying to prove only one thing: rational debate is possible when participants have access to the facts.”

In TAR4 the increase in sea level is presented in the following graph.





This graph appears as Figure 3 in the Summary for Policy Makers and elsewhere (We have extracted the sea levels from a compound graph which also showed Global Average Temperatures and Northern Hemisphere snow cover). It combines levels from tide gauges (circular dots) and satellite measurements (the red line).

In the summary the accompanying text says: “Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003: about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8] mm per year. Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer term trend is unclear.” Similar words appear in the Technical Summary and the Synthesis report. What is commendable in this case is that even in the condensed Summary for Policy Makers there is no attempt to attach a high level of significance to the higher rate of sea level rise for the ten years preceding the preparation of the report.

The Technical Summary also states (Paragraph 3.3.3): “The tide gauge record indicates that faster rates similar to that observed in 1993 to 2003 have occurred in other decades since 1950.” This is supported by the following figure in Chapter 5 of the main report.





This contrasts markedly to the global temperature graph we discussed in the previous ‘thesis’. (http://www.climatedata.info/Discussions/Discussions/opinions.php?id=5404421343497121129 ).

There are two areas where the increase could be presented in a wider context in TAR5.

Firstly since TAR4 was written there is more evidence of sea level changes in the last couple of thousand years.





The blue crosses represent relative sea level rise for Vidarholmi in Iceland as calculated by Gehrels et al. No adjustment has been made for post glacial rebound but this is unlikely to have varied substantially over the period of the estimates. The figure before 100 AD may have been modified by compression in the salt marsh sampling area but even so the levels after that date suggest that recent rates of rise are by no means extraordinary.

The green circles show estimates of sea level on the coast of Israel calculated by Sivan and Toker. They are based on archaeological evidence from different broadly defined time periods (e.g. Hellenic or Crusader). The dating and levels are not given to a high degree of accuracy but also suggest that rapid sea level changes might have occurred in the past.

The red line, provided for comparison, is the increase since 1702 based on tide gauges by Jevrejeva et al. This confirms that the rate of sea level increase accelerated around 200 years ago and is not a recent phenomenon.

The second point is that in the previous interglacial sea levels were about 6 m higher than they are today and in other interglacial periods levels were from 3 m to 20 m higher. It is therefore possible than in coming centuries many coastal locations on earth might experience sea level rises of the same order of magnitude as those estimated by Sivan and Toker. That said there are many coastal cities in the world, such as Marseilles, Akko (Acre) and Naples, which existed well before the start of the present era and which have adapted to sea level changes.

IPCC TAR5: The TAR4 dealt with sea level changes accurately and in a responsible way. However the IPCC TAR5 could be improved by expanding information on the context of the projected level changes.

References:
Gehrels et al., Rapid sea-level rise in the North Atlantic Ocean since the first half of the nineteenth century. The Holocene 2006; 16; 949

Shivan and Toker, The Sea’s ups and downs. http://newmedia-eng.haifa.ac.il/?p=2330

Jevrejeva, S., J.C. Moore, A. Grinsted and P.L. Woodworth. 2008. Recent global sea level acceleration started over 200 years ago?, Geophysical Research Letters, 35

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