On Sea Levels and the Sun, Climate Models Miss the Mark

Margerie Glacier. Photo by Kimberly Vardeman.

On Sea Levels and the Sun, Climate Models Miss the Mark

By H. Sterling Burnett

Time and again, climate models and the outlandish claims made based upon them are found wanting when confronted with hard data and real world experimentation as opposed to unverified assumptions.

The latest evidence of the weaknesses of arguments supporting the idea of dangerous anthropogenic climate change comes from studies of sea levels and cosmic rays.

Two new studies by Australian researchers Albert Parker and Clifford D. Ollier, published in the journal Earth Systems and Environment, call into question estimates used by the United Nations (UN) to back its claim human-caused climate change is increasing the rate of global sea level rise.

One study, using sea level measurements in three locations around the Indian Ocean dating back to the 1800s, discovered the raw sea level measurements show no rise in sea levels. This contrasts with UN claims Indian Ocean sea levels have risen dramatically. The UN’s sea level rise estimates rely on data from the UK’s Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL). PSMSL claimed raw data were insufficient for accurate coverage, and thus it “adjusted” the data to reflect measurements at other locations. Parker and Ollier show the adjustments were done in “arbitrary” ways, using methods that consistently show higher sea levels than are actually measured.

“The adjustments are always in the direction of increasing the alarm,” Ollier told Fox News. “If the raw data show no alarming rise, and you want to create an alarm, you have to alter the raw data.”

Parker and Ollier’s second study shows the UN often uses data from locations with only short-term records, which miss large scale, long-term, decadal and multi-decadal oscillations that shift sea levels upwards and downwards. Using multiple analyses of tide gauges along the U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the researchers show when these oscillations are accounted for sea levels have experienced on average a much more modest rise since the beginning of the twentieth century than estimated by the UN.

“Limited data from limited areas of study are … unsuitable for making predictions about the whole world sea level. Yet, people continue to make such predictions, often on an alarming scale,” write Parker and Ollier. “Without incorporating these oscillations, it is impossible to make useful assessments of present global accelerations and reliable predictions of future changes of sea level. Furthermore, it is well known that local sea-level changes occur also because of local factors such as subsidence due to groundwater or oil extraction, or tectonic movements that may be either up or down.”

Ollier estimates sea levels are rising only half as fast (about half a foot per century) as claimed by the UN. He says much if not all of the sea level rise may be due to entirely natural factors.

The significance of clouds on climate cannot be debated but their significance when compared to the significance of carbon dioxide just became better understood, and claims concerning the dominance of carbon dioxide suffered a beat down.

New research published in Nature Communications seems to confirm the sun’s role in climate is underestimated by climate models. Climate models assume solar activity has a direct but minimal effect on global temperatures and climate. This research is the first to use experimental data to confirm a powerful indirect effect of solar and cosmic activity on Earth’s climate.

The data indicate cosmic rays from supernovae, and from fluctuations in solar irradiance, lead to changes in cloud formation on Earth, producing an effect five to seven times stronger than the direct effect of changes solar irradiance alone.

The experiments show as cosmic rays increase so does cloud cover, and visa-versa. As clouds increase, they block the amount of sunlight and solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface and trap some amount of outgoing radiation, with more clouds on balance having a cooling effect. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits the causes and consequences of cloud formation are poorly understood, with climate models’ treatment of clouds being one of the primary weaknesses limiting the accuracy of their projections.

The experiments described in Nature show how cosmic rays affect cloud formation: When solar activity is low, more cosmic rays reach Earth, forming more low clouds, and the world is cooler. When the sun is active, fewer cosmic rays reach Earth, fewer low clouds form, and the world warms.

Lead author Henrik Svensmark told the Global Warming Policy Foundation the new research explains why, over geologic time scales, the correlation between climate variation and changes in cosmic rays is much larger and closer than the correlation between climate variation and shifts in greenhouse gases. The idea that carbon dioxide has been controlling climate on long time scales is wrong.

The Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age coincide with changes in solar activity, as does the recent pause in rising global temperatures extending from the late twentieth to the early twenty-first centuries, which has occurred during a time of remarkably low solar activity.

“[This research] gives a physical foundation to the large body of empirical evidence showing that solar activity is reflected in variations in Earth’s climate,” said Svensmark in a media statement accompanying the release of the Nature study. “For example, the Medieval Warm Period around year 1000AD and the cold period in the Little Ice Age 1300-1900 AD both fit changes in solar activity,”

The Australian reports Svensmark concluding, “The logical consequence is that the climate sensitivity of [carbon dioxide] is smaller than what climate models suggest …, since both carbon dioxide and solar activity has had an impact.”

PHOTO: Margerie Glacier. Photo by Kimberly Vardeman.

H. Sterling Burnett is senior fellow for environment and climate issues at The Heartland Institute.

This article was also published on The Heartland Institute’s blog, available here.