A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Some sea-level sanity.....

As we know, there is an awful lot of spume sprayed about over sea-level rise. If you would like to get some salty common sense on sea-levels, then you should read the following balanced review, just published:

Hokusai: The Great WaveRobin Edwards: 'Sea levels: abrupt events and mechanisms of change.' 'Progress Report' in Progress in Physical Geography 29(4), December 2005, pp. 599-608.

[Right: Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849): 'The Great Wave Off Kanagawa' (Fugaku sanjurokkei: Kanagawaoki namiura) (1831). 25.4 x 37.1 cm colour woodcut; the original is in the Hakone Museum in Japan. This image appears to be in the public domain.]

This is a cautious and careful commentary which deals with tsunami, seismic events, palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, model simulation and marine data, meltwater pulses, and recent sea-level changes.

Throughout the author stresses the problems of obtaining accurate and meaningful data, concluding:
"...correlations are compromised by the failure of many studies to account adequately for the vertical uncertainties associated with the sea-level indicators used."

An important observation examined is that "separating mass-related eustatic sea-level changes from those due to steric effects or the redistribution of water around the globe becomes increasingly difficult after the early-Holocene addition of meltwater diminishes." Interestingly, a recent fall in eustatic sea-level in the central Indian Ocean based on observations from the Maldives may well tie in with the mass redistribution theory.

I trust the IPCC will take note of this thorough and balanced review. It demonstrates tellingly the immense difficulties of collecting and interpreting data and theories relating to sea-level change. The only real conclusions are the immense complexity both of the subject and of the sea-level changes themselves.

Philip, how pleasant to read balanced science rather than hype. Time for a nice, gentle latte, I deem, to calm the ups and downs of life.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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