The World’s Biggest Thermometer

Are temperatures today unprecedented and dangerously high?  Apparently- the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report says that current temperatures are higher than at any time in the last 125,000 years

But that is wrong.  Temperatures today are cooler than they were in the past.

In making that statement I am not referring to data from ice cores (as in my previous posts here and here), but a simple and accessible temperature measurement device: the biggest thermometer in the world.

The following statements are uncontroversial:

1 Sea level rise is largely due to melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of the oceans.

2 Thermal expansion and glacial melting are symptoms of temperature increase.

3 Higher sea level indicates warmer conditions, lower sea level indicates colder conditions.

4 Sea levels are currently rising (by a small amount- NOAA says Fort Denison, Sydney, has a rise of 0.65mm per year).

5 This indicates temperatures have been rising.

6 But sea levels and therefore temperatures were higher than now about 4,000 to 7,000 years ago.

If you doubt point 6, you can easily tell whether it was warmer or cooler in the past relative to today.

How?  By looking for evidence of sea level change in areas that are not affected by tectonic rising or falling coastal land, or by large scale water run off or glacial melting, or by very large underground water extraction.

Areas such as the eastern coastline of Australia- the world’s biggest thermometer.

The continent of Australia is very old and flat.  It is in the middle of its continental plate with very little tectonic activity.  Australia’s coastlines are therefore largely stable with little vertical movement, apart from a small tilt down at the northern edge and a small uplift along the southern coast.  Australia is also a very long way from ancient ice sheets.

Evidence of higher sea level is plain to see in many places around Australia.  For example, at Phillip Island in Victoria, Victorian Resources Online describes raised Holocene beaches at Chambers Point, 0.5m and 3 to 5m above high water mark.  Arrows on this Google Maps image show where to find them.

More evidence at Wooloweyah Lagoon, near Maclean in NSW:

And Bulli, NSW:

There are many, many other locations where you can find Holocene beaches well above current sea level. 

Some of the height of these stranded beaches is probably due to the weight of deeper seawater from the melting ice sheets gradually tilting up continental coastlines as the sea floor deepened leading to an apparent drop in sea level at the coast.  However, as Lewis et al (2013) and Sloss et al (2018) (see Appendix below) show, this was of lesser importance especially in northern Australia.  Sea level fall was largely due to climatic influences- in particular, cooling and drying since the Holocene Optimum.

To conclude:  Sea levels were higher in the past, so temperatures must have been higher. 

Therefore there is no evidence that current temperature rise is anything unusual.  Just check the world’s biggest thermometer.

Appendix:  Here are a few of many references to higher Australian sea levels in the Holocene, and reasons for variation.

Sloss et al (2007)  Holocene sea-level change on the southeast coast of Australia: a review

“Present sea level was attained between 7900 and 7700 cal. yr BP, approximately 700—900 years earlier than previously proposed. Sea level continued to rise to between +1 and +1.5 m between 7700 and 7400 cal. yr BP, followed by a sea-level highstand that lasted until about 2000 cal. yr BP followed by a gradual fall to present. A series of minor negative and positive oscillations in relative sea level during the late-Holocene sea-level highstand appear to be superimposed over the general sea-level trend.”

ABC TV catalyst 19/6/2008

Even the ABC says sea levels were higher in the Holocene!

Lewis et al (2008) Mid‐late Holocene sea‐level variability in eastern Australia

“We demonstrate that the Holocene sea-level highstand of +1.0–1.5 m was reached ∼7000 cal yr bp and fell to its present position after 2000 yr bp.”

Moreton Bay Regional Council, Shoreline Erosion Management Plan for Bongaree, Bellara, Banksia Beach and Sandstone Point (2010)

“Sea levels ceased rising about 6,500 years ago (the Holocene Stillstand) when they reached approximately 0.4 to 1m above current levels. By 3,000 years before present they had stabilised at current levels”

Switzer et al (2010) Geomorphic evidence for mid–late Holocene higher sea level from southeastern Australia

“This beach sequence provides new evidence for a period of higher sea level 1–1.5 m higher than present that lasted until at least c. 2000–2500 cal BP and adds complementary geomorphic evidence for the mid to late Holocene sea-level highstand previously identified along other parts of the southeast Australian coast using other methods.”

Lewis et al (2013) Post-glacial sea-level changes around the Australian margin: a review

“The Australian region is relatively stable tectonically and is situated in the ‘far-field’ of former ice sheets. It therefore preserves important records of post-glacial sea levels that are less complicated by neotectonics or glacio-isostatic adjustments. Accordingly, the relative sea-level record of this region is dominantly one of glacio-eustatic (ice equivalent) sea-level changes. ….Divergent opinions remain about: (1) exactly when sea level attained present levels following the most recent post-glacial marine transgression (PMT); (2) the elevation that sea-level reached during the Holocene sea-level highstand; (3) whether sea-level fell smoothly from a metre or more above its present level following the PMT; (4) whether sea level remained at these highstand levels for a considerable period before falling to its present position; or (5) whether it underwent a series of moderate oscillations during the Holocene highstand.”

Leonard et al (2015) Holocene sea level instability in the southern Great Barrier Reef, Australia: high-precision U–Th dating of fossil microatolls

“RSL (relative sea level) was as least 0.75 m above present from ~6500 to 5500 yr before present (yr BP; where “present” is 1950). Following this highstand, two sites indicated a coeval lowering of RSL of at least 0.4 m from 5500 to 5300 yr BP which was maintained for ~200 yr. After the lowstand, RSL returned to higher levels before a 2000-yr hiatus in reef flat corals after 4600 yr BP at all three sites. A second possible RSL lowering event of ~0.3 m from ~2800 to 1600 yr BP was detected before RSL stabilised ~0.2 m above present levels by 900 yr BP. While the mechanism of the RSL instability is still uncertain, the alignment with previously reported RSL oscillations, rapid global climate changes and mid-Holocene reef “turn-off” on the GBR are discussed.”

Sloss et al (2018) Holocene sea-level change and coastal landscape evolution in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia

“ By 7700 cal. yr BP, sea-level reached present mean sea-level (PMSL) and continued to rise to an elevation of between 1.5 m and 2 m above PMSL. Sea level remained ca. + 1.5 between 7000 and 4000 cal. yr BP, followed by rapid regression to within ± 0.5 m of PMSL by ca. 3500 cal. yr BP. When placed into a wider regional context results from this study show that coastal landscape evolution in the tropical north of Australia was not only dependent on sea-level change but also show a direct correlation with Holocene climate variability….  Results indicate that Holocene sea-level histories are driven by regional eustatic driving forces, and not by localized hydro-isostatic influences. “

Dougherty et al (2019)  Redating the earliest evidence of the mid-Holocene relative sea-level highstand in Australia and implications for global sea-level rise

“The east coast of Australia provides an excellent arena in which to investigate changes in relative sea level during the Holocene…. improved dating of the earliest evidence for a highstand at 6,880±50 cal BP, approximately a millennium later than previously reported. Our results from Bulli now closely align with other sea-level reconstructions along the east coast of Australia, and provide evidence for a synchronous relative sea-level highstand that extends from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Tasmania. Our refined age appears to be coincident with major ice mass loss from Northern Hemisphere and Antarctic ice sheets, supporting previous studies that suggest these may have played a role in the relative sea-level highstand. Further work is now needed to investigate the environmental impacts of regional sea levels, and refine the timing of the subsequent sea-level fall in the Holocene and its influence on coastal evolution.”

Helfensdorfer et al (2020) Atypical responses of a large catchment river to the Holocene sea-level highstand: The Murray River, Australia

“Three-dimensional numerical modelling of the marine and fluvial dynamics of the lower Murray River demonstrate that the mid-Holocene sea-level highstand generated an extensive central basin environment extending at least 140 kilometres upstream from the river mouth and occupying the entire one to three kilometre width of the Murray Gorge. This unusually extensive, extremely low-gradient backwater environment generated by the two metre sea-level highstand….”

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18 Responses to “The World’s Biggest Thermometer”

  1. Garth Says:

    Ken, a really good analysis. I think you’re doing excellent work – am enjoying reading each of your articles. Cheers, Garth

  2. billinoz Says:

    An excellent informative post Ken. And completely in line with what Jennifer Marohassy discovered last year along the coast of Noosa in Qld.

    Our present climate temperatures are not particularly remarkable.

    I will share this on Facebook

  3. cohenite Says:

    Excellent work Ken; I have book marked it.

    • ngard2016 Says:

      Cohenite, good to see you’re still around and remember your jousts with Luke at Jennifer’s blog a number of years ago.I can’t believe that these con merchants have any credibility left today , but most of the OECD govt’s around the world are true believers.
      Evidently actual data and evidence count for SFA. And according to Lomborg we are regrettably going to waste trillions $ on this idiocy for decades into the future. And ZIP change to temp or climate by 2050 or 2100 and beyond.
      China, Russia + developing countries etc must be laughing all the way to their banks? Unbelievable but true.

  4. ngard2016 Says:

    Thanks again Ken for your hard work over the years. Their ABC Catalyst also highlighted this story about the Narrabeen Man death at Nth Sydney about 4,000 years ago.
    They mention that SLs were about 1.5 metres higher then than today. This seems to tie in with your research of these latest studies.
    You can watch the video or read the transcript at the link.
    BTW the true believers will always say that the earlier Holocene higher temps were NATURAL but today are caused by higher levels of co2 since 1950 (co2 levels in 1950 about 311 ppm) etc.
    Any thoughts Ken about how you counter their arguments or beliefs?

  5. ngard2016 Says:

    I’m in moderation AGAIN. Why is it so difficult to post a comment here?

  6. ngard2016 Says:

    Here’s Dr John Christy’s talk to the GWPF where he puts their so called climate crisis claims etc to the test.

  7. ngard2016 Says:

    Her’s another quick way to check out the Biden donkey’s EXISTENTIAL threat nonsense since 1970.
    Africa’s ( 53 countries) population has soared since 1970 from 363 million then to 1370 million today. An increase of about 3.7 times in just 50 years.

    In 1970 African life expectancy was about 46 and today is about 63 and of course they also have a higher percentage of urban living today. That’s our poorest continent.
    But the world population has also increased by 4.1 billion in the last 50 years. From 3.7 billion then to about 7.8 billion today.
    The life expectancy of the world pop was about 56.5 in 1970 and today is about 72.8 and of course much higher for wealthy OECD countries. And OECD countries’ percentage of urban living is over 80% and Aussies about 84% and NZ about the same.
    The requirement for farmers and farm workers is very low today compared to 50 or 100 years ago. YET we feed a much higher population today and everyone is wealthier and healthier than 50 years ago. Calories intake per person is at an all time high.
    So where is their so called dangerous climate change or EXISTENTIAL threat?

  8. ngard2016 Says:

    Dr Hans Rosling’s BBC video also accurately plots the wonderful increase in health and wealth from 1810 to 2010.
    That wealth and health has also increased since 2010 according to Matt Ridley. Yes the WU-FLU is a bummer but so far a small change for overall life expectancy.
    This takes about 5 minutes of your time and uses 120,000 data points to trace our Human history since 1810 and our beneficial use of fossil fuels.

  9. billinoz Says:

    Ken I’m reading a Biography of Julius Ceasar by Adrian Goldsworthy. There is a lengthy discussion of his invasions of Britain. And the difficulties of working out where the Roman invasion landed, Because the sea level was an estimated 1.5 meters higher then than now. The coastlines of Britain & Gaul were completely different because the sea was higher then. 1.5 meters higher !

  10. billinoz Says:

    Hi Ken I’ve sent an email to you, re the BOM’s claim that Tasmania’s Winter was the warmest on record. Any thoughts ?

  11. billinoz Says:

    Hi Ken, the past few days I’be been down staying at Beachport in the South east of SA.

    This region is a low lying area where the sea has receded over the past 8-10 thousand years. And in the process left a series of raised barrier dunes ( that the locals call “Ranges’ ) with huge swamp areas between the dunes.

    Settlement in the late 19th century and 20th century saw the digging of huge drains to drain the swamps and so make it suitable for farming. There are large drains ( as large as rivers ) entering the sea along the coast.

    And there are no locks at all.

    So any rise in sea level would be reflected in sea water intrusion via these large drains into the ‘new’ dried out farm lands of the South East.

    And is hasn’t happened.

    Doesn’t seem to be happening as if it was there wold be calls for locks to be installed to prevent it. ( As done by the Dutch in the Netherlands. )

    Conclusion : No sea level rise happening in the South East of South Australia !

  12. Ian George Says:

    How does the NOAA map compare with the BoM data for Fort Denison?
    Not much difference between Dec 1914 and Dec 2020 levels.
    Am I missing something?

    In 2008 a report was produced showing significant rises in sea levels at Fort Denison. When an employee claimed the report didn’t reflect the actual data, he was sacked (similar reason to Peter Ridd). Can’t find the link but remember it clearly.
    2008 report;_ylu=Y29sbwNncTEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Ny/RV=2/RE=1632728570/RO=10/

    • kenskingdom Says:

      NOAA data from 1886 to 2010, with a different calculation before 1914. I make it 0.11 metre increase from 1920 to 2020. That is pretty slow. Your link to the report didn’t work for me.

  13. Ian George Says:

    The link above downloaded the report to my downloads so not sure how to pass that on. I went looking for the link to the employee I mentioned and I came across the link to the report.
    The report is called Fort Denison – Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study compiled by the Coastal Unit, Oct 2008.

    • kenskingdom Says:

      Thanks- opened the report. All based on projections from IPCC, like all others produced by local authorities and state governments in the past 10-15 years- not at all backed up by current or historic data.

  14. Ian George Says:

    I had the same impression, Ken. Can’t find the link about the guy getting sacked by questioning the report but remember it well.
    You are doing some great research. Enjoy your work immensely.

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