Warmist Cargo Cult Science Returns

Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University climate Svengali, a member of the CRU (he figured prominently in the e-mail scandals at East Anglia), and great Pittsburgh Penguins fan (he created the famed "hockey stick graph" that was so influential on the 2007 IPCC Climate Change report) has stepped in it again, this time co-authoring a new study (Kemp et. al) that claims to show a massive acceleration in sea level rise in North Carolina that coincides with the industrial era.

This study claims to reconstruct 2,000 years of sea levels.  (It actually extrapolates from a study of shallow salt marshes with an historical reconstruction going back 300 years and based on the prevalence of foraminifera fossils to reconstruct the past sea levels.  These reside in the very shallow, sandy pools and die in deeper waters, so theoretically we can see where sea levels were in the past.)  They used tide gauge data to calibrate.  By observing agreement between direct observations and this proxy reconstruction they can estimate the rate of rise and extrapolate into the past.  Or so they claim.

They were exhaustive in their methodology; choosing a whopping two points (Sand Point and Tump Point) to study the fossils and calibrating from data from two other points (Wilmington and Hampton Roads).  Their conclusion?  Sea level rise has accelerated, and this "correlates" to the industrial era.

According to the abstract:

Sea level was stable from at least BC 100 until AD 950. Sea level then increased for 400 y at a rate of 0.6 mm/y, followed by a further period of stable, or slightly falling, sea level that persisted until the late 19th century. Since then, sea level has risen at an average rate of 2.1 mm/y, representing the steepest century-scale increase of the past two millennia. This rate was initiated between AD 1865 and 1892.

Louisiana comes to mind.

Louisiana has lost considerable coastal marshland as a result of human intervention. Flood control dams and levees prevent swollen rivers from picking up silt, and dredging to keep the coastal waterways open move the silt from its natural place, leading to erosion of the coastal shallows. According to this Tulane.edu paper:

The main forms of human disturbance are the river-control structures such as dams and levees, the dredging of canals, and draining and filling.


A large part of the sediment gathered by existing marshes is accumulated during seasonal flooding. Flood overtopping and overbank sedimentation, both vital to the survival of existing marshes, were dramatically reduced as large areas ceased to be flooded. River water also helped to reduce marsh salinity and provide nutrients, and its loss has resulted in the breakup and dispersal of large amounts of nutrient-starved marshlands.

And without the extra silt brought from floodwaters, the shallows are subject to erosion and breakup.  This would clearly warp the fossil record, but would also warp the tidal gauge record as well; the sea would appear to be rising when in fact the land is sinking, being washed away.

Writing in Wattsupwiththat, Willis Eschenbach provides us with a map of the North Carolina sites from 1733 juxtaposed with a satellite photo from 1990.  Notice the radical difference between the two.

Clearly, erosion is a problem here, yet the authors of the paper fail to give it any credence.  Of course the fossil record will show sea level rise!

As to the "correlation" between the industrial era and this increase in rise rate, well, the rate increase appears to begin around 1880, well before the rise in industrial emissions.  It would not be before increases in land-use change that would contribute to erosion.

The only plus in this work is that Mann signs off on the Medieval Warming Period and Little Ice Age -- something he steadfastly refused to do while defending his "hockey stick graph."  This paper admits that both occurred, and the authors should have realized that this also explains why there was sea-level rise increase during the 19th century, but it seems to go over their heads.

Of course, older tide gauge data is likely to be poor, too, and the older data is suspect.

And it's not even consistent with itself.  According to Willis Eschenbach:

The first conclusion is that as is not uncommon with sea level records, nearby tide gauges give very different changes in sea level. In this case, the Wilmington rise is 2.0 mm per year, while the Hampton Roads rise is more than twice that, 4.5 mm per year. In addition, the much shorter satellite records show only half a mm per year average rise for the last twenty years.

So they have taken two, count them, two records and averaged them!

This also contradicts all other studies that show a far lower sea-level rise. 

This is in no way, shape, or form science; it is advocacy in costume.  It's a play with sets, props, actors pretending to be a work of science.  There was a predetermined outcome, the sites of study were chosen with that outcome in mind, and the authors issued a big, glossy press release before the publication of the paper in order to make a splash with the salivating dogs of the mainstream media.  They knew this would be analyzed to death, but wanted it to get before the public first.  Likely the public would hear that, yes, sea levels are rising faster and would get little of the rebuttal.

Despite this, people like Mann continue their climatological malpractice, and are even accorded respect.  Such shoddy workmanship in any other field would put the principal into another line of work.

But not in climatology; being a charlatan hack seems to be de rigueur.

During the Second World War Allied airfields brought wonderful treasures to New Guinea, and when the war ended the natives, believing the airplanes were from the gods, built their own airports, hoping to use sympathetic magic to bring back the planes and their wondrous treasures.  Richard Feynman coined the phrase "cargo cult science" to illustrate a form of pseudo-science, something that looked like science but was not -- like the "airports" of the islanders.

This is cargo cult science at its most onerous.

Timothy Birdnow is a St. Louis-based writer.  He blogs at www.tbirdnow.mee.nu.