West Australian sea level BS … fact checking the gloom and doom with DATA

There are recent scary stories about sea levels rising that will sink Fremantle, so I have looked at the tidal gauge records:

[…]Good job it’s got nothing to do with carbon emissions or climate change, otherwise our far-sighted State Government might be a bit concerned about the massive increase in such things it has just approved at James Price Point.
Sea level on the rise in Perth
Sea levels on the Perth coastline are rising at three times the global average, the latest State of Australian Cities report shows.
I got it from some Facebook Greenies who shall remain unnamed as I don’t wish to shame them just yet. It seems they like to believe what they read in the media, but they should have noted the author Is AAP, and never to be believed without proof. So let’s have a look.


Tide Gauge Data

Plot of monthly mean sea level data at FREMANTLE. Link to larger image of monthly data plot.

Catastrophic, about 6 inches over a hundred years. Possibly sinking as the coastal plain’s aquifer is being pumped dry. So, let’s have a look at Bunbury: Oh dear, it,s worse than we thought, about 1, yes 1 inch over 100 years. Oops, no, it’s dropped, actually lower over the last 40 years.

Tide Gauge Data

Well, I guess we had better have a look at Geraldton then. Surely it must be catastrophic there: I see the figures don’t go back far here, but a fall over twelve years by the looks,

Let’s go south then to Albany, where there is a lot of rock, so it probably wont be sinking:

Looks bad there too. No change in 20 years. Let’s check the article again then.

Sea levels on the rise in Perth

AAP, The West Australian December 4, 2012, 1:32 pm
Sea level on the rise in PerthSea level on the rise in Perth

Sea levels on the Perth coastline are rising at three times the global average, the latest State of Australian Cities report shows.

In a statistic that federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese described as “disturbing” and “extraordinary”, readings since 1993 have indicated sea levels are rising by between nine and 10 millimetres per year.

The global average is around three millimetres per year.

With temperatures rising and rainfall falling, environmental changes are having little effect on the numbers of people moving to Perth, with the city population growing by 2.6 per cent since 2001 – making it the fastest growing capital in the country.

Yikes. Between 9 and 10mm a year for 20 years. That means 400mm since 1993.

Complete and utter BS

I looked at rainfall and temperature too, all gloom and doom, I have already done some fact checking of that before.  Who checks this rubbish at The West?

More alarmism found in the SMH too

About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley) Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Incorporated Kimberley Environmental Horticulture (KEH) is a small group of committed individuals who promote the use of indigenous plants for the landscaping of parks and gardens. Rehabilitation of Kimberley coast, bushland and pastoral regions are also high on our agenda. This includes planting seedlings, weed control, damage from erosion or any other environmental matter that comes to our attention. We come from all walks of life, from Professionals and Trades oriented occupations, Pensioners and Students, Public Servants and the Unemployed. We have a community plant nursery where we trial many old and new species, with a view to incorporating these into our landscaping trials. Our labour force are mainly volunteers, but with considerable help from the 'work for the dole' program, Indigenous Community Development Employment Program (CDEP) groups and the Ministry of Justice, with their community work orders; in this way we manage to train many people in the horticultural skills needed for indigenous plant growing. We constantly undertake field trips that cover seed and plant collection in the Kimberley. Networking around the Kimberley region and the east Pilbara is a necessary part of promoting our activities. We consult on a range of Environmental and Landscaping matters that deal with our region. Our activities involve improving Broome's residential streetscapes by including 'waterwise' priciples in planting out nature strips. Sustainable environmental horticulture is practised by members of our group. We use existing vegetation as the backbone of any plantings, using these species to advantage when planning to develop tree forms or orchards. The Broome region is sensitive to development. Subsequently many weed species have become dominant in and around developed areas. The use and movement of heavy machinery is the biggest single cause of environmental degradation. We dont live in a 'Tropical Paradise' but on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert. The plants that survive best here, grow in well-drained pindan sand, and are found from the Dampier Peninsular southward to where average rainfall is below 600mm. When we use rainforest species, detail is important when planting, water catchment, sunlight and understorey species are all considered. The use of recycled 'grey' water is an advantage here as well as treated waste-water, although many local species do not fare well with nutrients from this source. We use waterwise planting methods which include harvesting asmuch rainwater as possible, with swales designed to hold up to 200 litres, to help recharge the local groundwater aquifer. There has been a serious decline in this aquifer over the last few years. With the fast expansion of the Broome peninsular, more and more land is being covered by concrete, iron and bitumen so that much less water is available to replenish the aquifer, allowing the salt content to become significantly higher. The small Broome Peninsular is on the south-western corner of the Dampier Peninsular (bound by Broome, Derby and Cape Leveque at the northern tip). Compaction by vehicles also inhibits water retention due to the content of our local pindan sand, hard as concrete in the dry, going to soft and sloppy mud after rain. None of us are botanists, inevitably we have got some names wrong, names changed, or have not gone to sub-species level. If you note a photo or description may be wrong, please e-mail to kimenvhort@yahoo.com.au
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16 Responses to West Australian sea level BS … fact checking the gloom and doom with DATA

  1. Kevin Smith says:

    Don’t blame the poor old West, Tom – it’s straight reporting of a Federal Government report http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/infrastructure/mcu/soac/files/factsheets_2012/Perth_Final_Factsheet_FA.pdf

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  3. “Yikes. Between 9 and 10mm a year for 20 years. That means 400mm since 1993.”

    Your arithmetic is out by 100%, and they’re referring to Hillarys of course.

    SLR at Fremantle since 1993 is 4.8 mm/year. 1993 is the start of satellite sea-level measurement, and also conveniently (for those like the CSIRO) a low point in almost all sea-level records around Oz,. which exaggerates the recent rise.

    • Tom Harley says:

      yeah, I had just remembered the Broome figures which were supposed to be about that, but we have a 10 metre tide range twice daily during springs … 40cm is nothing to us here, I have seen differences of that in one day to what tide charts tell us. I used to work at the top high tide level for years with water lapping at my feet occasionally. I still don’t see any recent rise.

  4. “Don’t blame the poor old West, Tom – it’s straight reporting of a Federal Government report…”

    I assume that was said in jest since The West Australian story ignored almost all the other points in the report and only headlined the one they could link to climate change. This is standard selective reporting for the monopoly West Australian on almost all major social issues, a bias only evident to people who research.

    As noted above, 1993 had the lowest sea levels in the 1990s at Fremantle.

    1990 – 0.699
    1991 – 0.706
    1992 – 0.699
    1993 – 0.647
    1994 – 0.685
    1995 – 0.745
    1996 – 0.822
    1997 – 0.704
    1998 – 0.743
    1999 – 0.875
    2000 – 0.852
    2001 – 0.779
    2002 – 0.715
    2003 – 0.741
    2004 – 0.743
    2005 – 0.760
    2006 – 0.753
    2007 – 0.777
    2008 – 0.858
    2009 – 0.807
    2010 – 0.797

    Directly comparing 1993 and 2010 gives a 0.15m sea level rise, which over 18 years averages 0.0083333m, or 8.3mm per year.

    Directly comparing 1999 and 2010, the sea level has fallen 0.078m or an average 0.0065m pa over the 12 years. That’s 6.5mm per year.

    If more accurate averages are calculated with 1993 for some reason the start year, the first nine years averaged 0.761 and the second nine years (2002-2010) averaged 0.772, an 11mm difference which over 18 years averages a 0.611mm rise per year.

    If they can cherry pick 1993 as a comparison year, so can I … in 1949 the Fremantle annual mean tide level was 0.752, in which case sea levels on the Perth coastline fell 0.83mm per year from 1949 to 2002, or rose 0.726mm per year from 1949 to 2010.


    1993 – 0.545
    1999 – 0.770
    2010 – 0.730
    1993 to 2010 = 10.277mm per year

    1993-2001 average – 0.663
    2002-2010 average – 0.702
    i.e.1993-2010 average = 2.17mm per year

    Fremantle .611mm pa. Hillarys 2.17mm pa. Average 1.39mm pa.

    How can Fremantle and Hillarys have different rates of sea level rise? A clue might be found in a study not reported by The West Australian … Anthropogenic land subsidence in the Perth Basin: challenges for its retrospective geodetic detection (published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia April 2012 – http://www.cage.curtin.edu.au/~will/Featherstone53-62.pdf).


    Proper quantification, mapping and monitoring of recent-past subsidence in the Perth Basin also have implications for sea-level change measurements, because the Fremantle and Hillarys tide-gauges are located on it. Fremantle provides a long-term record (since 1897) that has been given substantial weight in global sea-level projections (Church & White 2006), notably because it is one of relatively few long-term records in the Southern Hemisphere. However, tide-gauges only measure sea level change relative to the land, so if the land is subsiding, the relative sea-level change will be contaminated (Belperio 1993; Aubrey & Emery 1986), as will be any future projections (Morner 2004). In short, coastal land subsidence causes sea-level rise measurements to be exacerbated, but it also makes lowlying coastal areas more vulnerable to seawater inundations (Brunn 1988).

    First, there is no independent supporting evidence for the -50 mm/yr subsidence reported by Ng & Ge (2007) and sensationalised by the Western Australia news media. Evidence from reprocessed InSAR imagery and independent CGPS suggest that the subsidence is closer to -5 mm/yr, but the exact values are spatially and temporally variable (Table 1).

    There is good correlation between changes in the depth of the water table in the confined Yarragadee Aquifer and the rates of subsidence of the CGPS installation at Gnangara (Figure 3). Depending on the time-span chosen over which linear regression is applied, different subsidence rates can be obtained. Fourteen years of data give a subsidence rate of -4.6 mm/yr, but this increases to -6.1 mm/yr during the 2000–2005 period of increased groundwater extraction. This demonstrates that the rate of subsidence is not linear, which needs to be taken into account by GPS analysts who do not necessarily have such local knowledge (Bouin & Woppelman 2010). Perth will need a dedicated subsidence-monitoring program if future water shortages necessitate recommencement of increased groundwater extraction from the Yarragadee Aquifer. This would also be necessary to correct relative sea-level change measurements at the Fremantle and Hillarys tide-gauges.

    The past Fremantle and Hillarys tide gauge measurements have not been corrected even though Perth’s coastal planning policies are effectively based on them due to projected rising sea levels caused by climate change.

    So the average annual sea level rise from the two tide gauges since 1993 is well below the global average at 1.39mm and studies pretty well confirm an average 5mm per year drop in Perth land levels over that timeframe, the study authors warning that this subsidence contaminates the tide gauge records.

    Despite this, the Federal Government, the media and most West Australians now believe sea levels off the Perth coastline are rising up to 10mm per year, three times the global average.

    Perth sea levels have been doing much the same as global temperatures since the 1990s – just about nothing.

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