Houston, J.R., 2016. Discussion of: Boon, J.D. and Mitchell, M., 2015. Nonlinear change in sea level observed at North American tide stations. Journal of Coastal Research, 31(6), 1295–1305.
Boon and Mitchell determined sea-level acceleration using monthly averaged relative mean sea-level data from 45 U.S. tide stations and 1 Canadian station for 1969–2014. Their methods of analyzing tide gauge data are interesting and useful. However, they then projected sea-level change for 58 years from 1992–2050 based on constant accelerations calculated from these 46-year records. Calculations of acceleration based on records as short as 40–50 years are well known to be heavily corrupted by decadal variations in sea level. For example, Boon and Mitchell showed that 3–6 year variations in record length or time period resulted in what they said were “dramatic change” in calculated acceleration. Therefore, the accelerations they calculated did not even remain constant for a few years, making long-term projections based on them untenable. Boon and Mitchell projected significant sea-level falls from 1992 to 2050 on the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington, in stark contrast with projections of significant rises by the National Research Council. Similarly, their projections on the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts differ remarkably from projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Acceleration calculated from 46-year records varies significantly through time, and it is not valid to fix an acceleration value and project it into the future as if it were a constant.