Friday, December 7, 2012

New paper by sea-level expert concludes IPCC alarm over sea-levels is baseless

A new paper by geophysicist and sea-level expert Dr. Nils-Axel Morner examines data from satellites, tide-gauges, and field work to conclude that "At most, global average sea level is rising at a rate equivalent to 2-3 inches per century. It is probably not rising at all." Professor Morner concludes, "Since sea level is not rising, the chief concern of the potential effects of anthropogenic “global warming” – that millions of shore-dwellers the world over may be displaced as the oceans expand – is baseless."

Sea Level is Not RisingPrintE-mail
Written by Professor Nils-Axel Mörner   
Friday, 07 December 2012 

Main points

  • - At most, global average sea level is rising at a rate equivalent to 2-3 inches per century. It is probably not rising at all.

  • - Sea level is measured both by tide gauges and, since 1992, by satellite altimetry. One of the keepers of the satellite record told Professor Mörner that the record had been interfered with to show sea level rising, because the raw data from the satellites showed no increase in global sea level at all.

  • - The raw data from the TOPEX/POSEIDON sea-level satellites, which operated from 1993-2000, shows a slight uptrend in sea level. However, after exclusion of the distorting effects of the Great El Niño Southern Oscillation of 1997/1998, a naturally-occurring event, the sea-level trend is zero.

  • - The GRACE gravitational-anomaly satellites are able to measure ocean mass, from which sea-level change can be directly calculated. The GRACE data show that sea level fell slightly from 2002-2007.

  • - These two distinct satellite systems, using very different measurement methods, produced raw data reaching identical conclusions: sea level is barely rising, if at all.

  • - Sea level is not rising at all in the Maldives, the Laccadives, Tuvalu, India, Bangladesh, French Guyana, Venice, Cuxhaven, Korsør, Saint Paul Island, Qatar, etc.

  • - In the Maldives, a group of Australian environmental scientists uprooted a 50-year-old tree by the shoreline, aiming to conceal the fact that its location indicated that sea level had not been rising. This is a further indication of political tampering with scientific evidence about sea level.

  • - Modelling is not a suitable method of determining global sea-level changes, since a proper evaluation depends upon detailed research in multiple locations with widely-differing characteristics. The true facts are to be found in nature itself.

  • - Since sea level is not rising, the chief ground of concern at the potential effects of anthropogenic “global warming” – that millions of shore-dwellers the world over may be displaced as the oceans expand – is baseless.

  • - We are facing a very grave, unethical “sea-level-gate”.


Observational facts indicate that sea level is by no means rapidly rising. It is quite stable. This is the case in key sites like the Maldives, Bangladesh, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Saint Paul Island, Qatar, French Guyana, Venice, and northwest Europe. Tide gauges tend to exaggerate rising trends because of subsidence and compaction. Full stability over the last 30-50 years is indicated in sites like Tuvalu, India, the Maldives (and also the Laccadives to the north of the Maldives), Venice (after subtracting the subsidence factor), Cuxhaven (after subtracting the subsidence factor), and Korsør (a stable hinge for the last 8 ,000 years).

Satellite altimetry is shown to record variations around a stable zero level for the entire period 1992- 2010. Reported trends in the order of 3 mm/year represent “interpretational records,” after the application of subjective “personal calibrations” which cannot be substantiated by observational facts.

Therefore, we can now return to Fig. 1 and claim that the “models” (upper curve) provide an illusory picture of a strong sea-level rise and that the “observations” (lower curve) provide a good reconstruction of the actual changes in sea level over the last 170 years, with stability over the last 40 years. We can now return to the spectrum of present-day sea level rates (Fig. 2) and evaluate the various values proposed. This is illustrated in Fig. 16. Only rates in the order of 0.0 mm/year to maximum 0.7 mm/year seem realistic. This fits well with the values proposed for year 2100 by INQUA (2000) and Mörner (2004), but differs significantly from the values proposed by the IPCC (2001, 2007).

If sea level is not rising fast, and is not going to rise fast, then the greatest threat imagined by the IPCC disappears. The idea of an ever-rising sea drowning tens of thousands of people and forcing hundreds of thousands or even millions of people to become sea-level refugees is simply a grave error, hereby revealed as an illusion.

The true facts are to be found in nature itself. They are certainly not to be found at the modelling consoles. Some data depend heavily on interpretation. Other evidence, however, is clear and straightforward. Consider trees. I have often said that “trees don’t lie”: see e.g. Mörner, 2007c. In that paper, I described the significance of the lonely tree by the shore in the Maldives which indicated that sea level had been stable for 50-60 years. A group of Australian environmental “scientists”, realizing that the location of the tree was fatal to their notion of ever-rising sea level, uprooted it and left it, still in leaf, lying on the strand. There are also the trees on the beach in Sundarban, indicating significant coastal erosion (caused in part by the clearance of mangroves to make way for shrimp-farms) but no sea level rise at all (Mörner, 2007c, 2010a).

I hope that by this research we can free the world from the artificial crisis to which the IPCC has condemned it. There will be no extensive or disastrous global sea-level rise in the near future. That was the main threat in the IPCC’s arsenal of bugaboos, and now it is gone.


  1. Thanks Nils, and Hockey Schtick for bringing it up. Definitely an item to keep on my tablet for the next sustainability/renewable energy gabfest I am unable to avoid attending.
    Bit of background:
    As a building designer in NQ Australia, it is necessary for me to keep an eye on a few tide gauges, for the purpose of establishing AHD (Australian height datum) and HAT (highest astronomical tide). There are something like 200 operational tide gauges in Queensland, of which 40 have medium- long-term data. 38 of these are operated by State agencies and port authorities. Two belong to the (Federal) Bureau of Meteorology. All show variations. None are necessarily "wrong" since coastal topography has an effect and can vary over time.
    There is no evidence of sea-level rise, only small fluctuations, mostly attributable to SOI/ENSO effects.
    The recently elected State government managed to dump something like $600 million worth of "green" projects, but the sea-level issue is more intractable. The recently issued Interim State Planning Policy (on flood risk etc) retains a 0.8m sea-level rise "at" 2100. Could be interpreted as "not until" 2100 but that won't prevail will it.