Two opinions – One Sea Level Rise Study

In the constant back and forth over “climate change” (I still so hate that term as it is so nebulous as to be totally meaningless) and the rate of rising seas posted an article with the headline, “Satellite snafu masked true sea-level rise for decades“.  The headline alone leads you to believe that water has been rising up on the shorelines in an accelerated pace for decades. But a prominent climate scientist who is not one of the so-called “97% of climate scientists” that are alarmist over “climate change” had a different take once he bothered to read a little deeper.

Here’s an excerpt from the article on

The numbers didn’t add up. Even as Earth grew warmer and glaciers and ice sheets thawed, decades of satellite data seemed to show that the rate of sea-level rise was holding steady — or even declining.

Now, after puzzling over this discrepancy for years, scientists have identified its source: a problem with the calibration of a sensor on the first of several satellites launched to measure the height of the sea surface using radar. Adjusting the data to remove that error suggests that sea levels are indeed rising at faster rates each year.

Dr. Roy Spencer, a climate research scientist at the University of Alabama, saw the headline and at first drew the same conclusion. But then he thought to read the rest of the story and look at the supporting documents.

When I read that, I (like everyone else) assumed that corrections to the satellite sea level data since 1993 have now led to a revised trend toward faster (not slower) sea level rise. Right?


During the satellite era (since 1993), the trend in sea level rise was revised downward, by almost 10%, from 3.28 mm/year to about 3.0 mm/year. (For those concerned about Miami going underwater, these numbers equate to a little more than one inch every 10 years). This result was published back in April in Geophysical Research Letters, and the new Nature study looks at the wiggles in the revised data since 1993 and makes ominous pronouncements about sea level rise “acceleration”.

I’m calling “fake science news” on the Nature reporter who covered the story. The headline was technically correct…but misleading.

Here’s the conclusion from the paper on which both opinions are based.

The new approach based on the GMSL budget indicates a drift of 1.5 ± 0.5 mm/yr, in agreement with the preferred value of Watson et al. [2015] but lower than Zawadzki et al. [2016]. Applying this correction over the first 6 years of the altimetry record leads to lower GMSL rate (of 3.0 ± 0.15 mm/yr) over the altimetry era than previously assumed. More importantly, the GMSLrise since the mid-2000s shows significant increase compared to the 1993–2004 time span. This contradicts conclusion of previous studies [e.g., Cazenave et al., 2014] that reported slowing down of about 30% of the GMSL rise during the years 2000s (without TOPEX A drift correction), attributed to La Niña events. Here we show that in spite of the several temporary sea level drops caused by La Niña events, the GMSL rise has increased during the last decade.

It’s funny how all this controversy is about 3mm over 6 years. We need an analog to Chicken Little for rising seas because the sky was not falling and our continents are not drowning.

Here’s the article on

Here’s Dr. Roy Spencer’s opinion on his blog

Here’s a link to the study