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Nils-Axel Mörner is Wrong About Sea Level Rise

Posted on 6 December 2011 by dana1981

The Spectator has published an article written by Nils-Axel Mörner with his usual denial about sea level rise (which has been re-published by many of the usual suspects).  Figure 1 shows the mean global sea level data whose accuracy Mörner denies:

sea level

Figure 1: University of Colorado global mean sea level time series (with seasonal signal removed)

Mörner claims that the "true experts" think this data is wrong (emphasis added):

"The world’s true experts on sea level are to be found at the INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Reseach) commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (of which I am a former president), not at the IPCC. Our research is what the climate lobby might call an ‘inconvenient truth’: it shows that sea levels have been oscillating close to the present level for the last three centuries. This is not due to melting glaciers: sea levels are affected by a great many factors, such as the speed at which the earth rotates. They rose in the order of 10 to 11cm between 1850 and 1940, stopped rising or maybe even fell a little until 1970, and have remained roughly flat ever since."

This is quite different from the INQUA official position on climate change, which opens by saying (emphasis added):

Climate change is real
There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and, indirectly, from increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes in many physical and biological systems. It is very likely that most of the observed increase in global temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is due to human-induced increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (IPCC 2007).

As George Monbiot has documented, INQUA has been trying to dissociate itself from Mörner's views.

Current president of the INQUA commission on Coastal and Marine Processes, Professor Roland Gehrels of the University of Plymouth, says his view do not represent 99% of its members, and the organisation has previously stated that it is "distressed" that Mörner continues to falsely "represent himself in his former capacity."

Tuvalu is among the various individual locations Mörner focuses on in his attempt to distract from global sea level rise.  However, it is a rather poor choice, since sea level rise around Tuvalu is faster than the global average (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Map of the Pacific Island region interannual sea level trend (linear variation with time) from the reconstruction 1950-2009. Locations of the 27 tide gauges (black circles and stars) used in the study are superimposed. Stars relate to the 7 tide gauges used in the global reconstruction. Dark areas relate to non-significant trends. From Becker (2011).

So how does Mörner explain the global sea level rise record, in which both satellite altimeters and tide gauges show average global sea level rise on the order of 3 mm per year (Figure 1)?  It's all a conspiracy, of course:

"In 2003 the satellite altimetry record was mysteriously tilted upwards to imply a sudden sea level rise rate of 2.3mm per year...This is a scandal that should be called Sealevelgate. As with the Hockey Stick, there is little real-world data to support the upward tilt. It seems that the 2.3mm rise rate has been based on just one tide gauge in Hong Kong"

Obviously this conspiracy theory is utterly absurd, and is easily disproven by simply examining the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) published in 2001, two years before Mörner's accusation of falsified sea level data, which shows an approximately 10 to 15 mm rise in average global sea level from 1993 to 1998 (Figure 3).

ipcc tar sea level

Figure 3: Global mean sea level variations (light line) computed from the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite altimeter data compared with the global averaged sea surface temperature variations (dark line) for 1993 to 1998. The seasonal components have been removed from both time-series. (IPCC TAR)

In short, Mörner's conspiracy theory and accusation of falsified data is complete nonsense.  It's also ironic that Mörner accuses others of falsifying data, since he has previously doctored photographs in his own presentations (i.e. see multiple photos of the Maldives 'marker tree' spliced together here and here).

However, even if we disregard the satellite altimetry data and instead examine the tide gauge data that Mörner prefers, his assertions are still clearly false.  Church and White (2011) examined sea level data from both tide gauges (TGs), satellite altimeter data (Sat-Alt), and the estimated contribution to the sea level rise from various sources (Figure 4).  The net estimated mean sea level rise from tide gauges and satellites is essentially the same.

church white

Figure 4: The observed sea level using coastal and island tide gauges (solid black line with grey shading indicating the estimated uncertainty) and using TOPEX/Poseidon/Jason‐1&2 satellite altimeter data (dashed black line). The two estimates have been matched at the start of the altimeter record in 1993. Also shown are the various components contributing to sea level rise (Church and White 2011)

Rather than being flat since 1970, as Mörner claimed in The Spectator article, mean sea level has risen more than 80mm over that period, according to tide gauges.  In fact, not only is global mean sea level data rising, but the rise is accelerating.

Highlighting the degree to which his arguments are divorced from reality, in testimony to the British House of Lords, Mörner even presented this laughable graph (which was later reproduced by Monckton and the SPPI), simply rotating Figure 1 to produce "the evidence that sea level is not rising" (Figure 5).

bizarro sea level

Figure 5: Tilted global sea level data produced by Monckton and Mörner in the SPPI Monthly CO2 Report for January 2011

Nils-Axel Mörner's claims regarding sea level rise are the very definition of denial, involving nothing more than conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated accusations of data falsification wich are easily proven untrue.  The mainstream media needs to realize that Mörner is simply not a credible source of information about sea level rise or climate science in general.  One individual's unsupported conspiracy theories do not trump empirical observational data.

Note:  this is the Intermediate level rebuttal to the myth Sea level is not rising

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Comments 51 to 93 out of 93:

  1. An update to my post @48:

    1)  I have tracked down the source of Morner's claim that the ABSLMP shows a 5.4 mm per year sea level rise.  If you take the average of the raw trends of all 16 AMSLMP stations from their time of construction to June 2011, it is 5.37 mm/year.  These are the trends before any adjustment for local changes in height of the equipment relative to surveyor's datum points, and before reverse barometric adjustments.

    The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported these figures in their 2011 report, but then reported the size of the adjustments and the final adjusted figures.  It is hypocritical of Morner to ignore those adjusted figures and then to criticize the BOM for not accounting for subsidence and/or the effects of ENSO (ie, barometric effects).

    2)  I have managed to track down the source of the data, and which data he selected in making his comparisons.  Specifically, in addition to the 16 SEAFRAME (ABSLMP) sites, he uses the metric sea level data from the Permanant Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL).  He only uses sites which continue significantly past 1990, or where two very close sites can be used to provide a significant record extending past 1990.  I was able to determine this by looking at his Figure 1, and noting the four sites he shows in the immediate vicinity of Port Philip Bay (Melbourne).  There are not four Revised Local Reference (RLR) records in that vicinity, ergo he must have used the metric data.

    The key about using metric data is that it has not been adjusted to account for any local vertical movements of the tide guage.  In contrast, RLR records are adjusted to a standard height datum and so adjust for any purely local subsidences or uplifting of the tide guage.  (They do not account for changes resulting from subsidence or uplift of contintental plates, as near as I can determine.)  Because metric data does not account for local land movements, it is considered highly suspect.  The PSMSL state:

    "Without the provision of full benchmark datum history information, records generally remain as 'Metric only' in the databank and not as 'RLR'. In general, 'Metric' records should NEVER be used for time series analysis or for the computation of secular trends. Without datum continuity their only use is in studies of the seasonal cycle of mean sea level. If there is any doubt about the datums for a particular record, the PSMSL would be pleased to supply clarification."

    Of course, Morner has used those metric records so do exactly what the PSMSL has said you should never do, ie, compute a secular trend.  He has gone on to criticize the RLR (ie, height datum adjusted) data from the SEAFRAMES because it disagrees with the the data for which he has no record of local relative height movements.  This is the sort of gall I would expect from the man who published a photoshopped picture as "evidence" in a purportedlyh scientific paper.

    3)  Morner's figure 3 is a mishmash of different sorts of data.  His 5.4 mm trend that he claims is reported by ABSLMP2011 is the metric version, as are his various Australian (2a, b and c) and World (3 a and b) tide guage records and are not comparable because of the effects of local land movements.  In contrast, Church and White and the Topex/Jason satellite record are independant of local land movements, and have a reverse barometric adjustment and hence are comparable to the 4.3 mm year mean trend of the SEAFRAME tide guages.  The suggested discrepancy between the SEAFRAME data and the satellite data is, however spurious on another ground.  Specifically, the satellite data is not taken over the same period or the area.

    Fortunately the ABSLMP2011 report shows the Topex/Jason trend from Dec 1992 to March 2011 (Fig 17).  I have adapted that image by showing the approximately location of the ABSLMP sites, and their trend from construction to June 2011.  The later was shown by colour picking from the location indicated by their trend on the index bar, and flooding their square with that colour so direct colour comparison gives a good idea of the relative trends:

    As can be seen, the only significant disagreement is at Hillarys near Perth (SW Western Australia).  As it happens, the highest, second, highest, and fourth highest months on record occured between March and June 2011, the addition of which of which wold largely account for the discrepancy between satellite and tide guage records.  Curiously, Morner commented extensively on the nearby Fremantle tide gauge record, but truncated his analysis prior to that notable surge in local sea levels (also visible in the Fremantle data).  The difference at Hillarys between sea level trends to June 2010 and June 2011 is 1.6 mm/year.  Adjusting the Hillarys trend down by that amount probably better reflects the time parity with the satellite record shown, and adjusts the trend to 7.4 mm/year (yellowy orange).  There remains a small discrepancy, as also at Port Kembla in the reverse direction.  Overall the satelite record tends to confirm the accuracy of the SEAFRAME data, and clearly refutes cliaimed overall Australian trends of 0.1 to 1.5 mm per year as made by Morner.

    4)  I previously mentioned the geographical bias of Morner's additional stations.  They come almost exclusively from the east and south east coasts with their low sea level rises.  The extent of the bias is shown in the figure below:

    The area highlighted represents over 50% of the Australian coastline.  As shown, the ABSLMP has 7 of 16 SEAFRAMES in that area, representing a slight East Coast bias.  That bias is not consequential because the ABSLMP do not report a national average (for a reason).  Morner, how does report a national average, increases the bias with his 36 station long records, and still further with his full 86 station count. In all, the most rapidly rising sea levels around the Australian Coast are represented by just 26% of Morners tidal guages.  Despite this he purports that a simple mean of the stations will show the sea level rise around Australian coasts.

    5)  Much of Morner's criticism of the ABSLMP is based on the idea that twenty years is far to short a time to determine long term trends.  (Despite that, he purports to find a significant five year trend in the Fremantle data, showing he is nothing if not inconsistent.)  However, as a criticism of the ABSLMP, this is distinctly a straw man.  They have this to say on the subject (in ABSLMP 2011):

    "It is important to emphasise that as the ABSLMP sea level records increase in length, the sea level trend estimates will continue to stabilise and become more indicative of longerterm changes. Caution must be exercised in interpreting the ‘short-term’ relative sea level trends (Table 2) as they are based on short records in climate terms and are still undergoing large year-to-year changes."

    (My emphasis)

    In essence, Morner has taken the AMSLMP's own caution and expanded it, incompetently, into a "scientific" paper, taking care all the time to not mention the ABSLMP's original caveate.

    It is no wonder he made sure to publish the paper in as obscure a journal as he could.

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  2. Nice work Tom, as always. You should send a comment to the journal. Perhaps they are just in the business of selling "peer review" rubber stamping and they won't care, but then again, perhaps they will publish the comment.

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  3. I'd just like to second what Philippe says, nice work indeed Tom, checking the details is hard work, and normally a pretty thankless task, but very important. 

    I also think it would be worth submitting a comment to the journal, fewer bad papers would be submitted if more people wrote comments papers.  This doesn't matter in science as the few bad papers that get through peer review are just ignored by the scientists, but papers in climatology also generate interest in the general public, who are less able to tell the wheat from the chaff, so the importance of comments papers is much greater.

    I note the journal in question requests the author to provide the names of five people who could review the paper.  I really wish journals didn't do this, a good journal should have sufficiently able action editors that are familiar with the field and can identify suitable reviewers themselves.  It seems to me to be a recipe for a failure of the peer-review process if you can choose freindly reviewers.

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  4. By the way, this isn't the first time Morner has done this sort of thing, see for example here and here.

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  5. In a prior post, I reffered to a photoshopped picture used by Morner as "evidence" of the lack of sea level rise in the Maldives.  I have been unable to find the scientific paper  in which it was located, and so must withdraw the claim that it appeared in such.  Never-the-less, Morner has frequently used this tree in his presentations about sea level rise, including at WUWT and in an interview for 21st Century Science and Technology (PDF).  

    The story Morner gives is that he knew of the tree from visits to the Maldives in the 50s, and that its continued survival in the tide zone is evidence that sea levels have not risen.  That basic story has some embellishments I will discuss below.  Two accompany the story, four different pictures (plus B&W variants) of Morner's Tree are used.  There are two grainy "before pictures".  One of those has a mark identifying it as a propriety photograh in the lower right corner, strongly suggesting it is a stock photo and has no relationship to Morner's tree (other than species and isolated location).  There are also to "after photos", of which one, due to the distinct slope of the intertidal zone where it is located, is also obviously not the same tree as the other.  It is not at all clear that either of these dubious photos was actually provided by Morner, although both have circulated among climate "skeptics" as illustrating Morner's tree.

    The two "genuine" photos are produced below from WUWT.  The "before" tree is in the lower left corner, the "after tree" in the upper right corner.

    The first thing to notice is that they are not identifiable as the same tree.  Indeed, if the large oval stone in the left foreground of the upper picture is the same stone as that in the right midground of the lower picture, they are not the same tree.  The upper right tree is far closer to the stone than is the one in the lower right.  Probably the stones are merely similar, rather than the same, in which case the pictures are still not of the same tree.

    That, however, is a minor point.

    Far more significant is the photoshopping of the upper right picture.  This is far clearer in the version of the picture from the 21st Century Science and Technology interview, used as the basis of the picture below.

    If you look closely at the picture you can see two edit lines where two pictures have been grafted together.  The first in order of editing (marked by the orange arrow) is shown by the sharp cut off of the tree's shadow along with a subtle change of colouration in the stones.  I am not expert on imaging fraud, so it is possible that I am wrong about that one, although I doubt it. 

    The second edit line is definite.  Not only are the rock colours on either side of the line clearly distinct, but there is a clear discontinuity between the roots and lower branches of the tree and the leaves and upper branches.  The discontinuity even orphans a sawn of branch on the left side of the tree, leaving it apparently floating in mid air.

    Not only is the photo fishy, so is the attached story.  The tale that the island on which the tree is located, Viligilli (or Villingili) is a prison island falls on the simple fact that no prison is located on the island (see also google map).  The notion that the tree was uprooted and then replanted fails on the fact that the roots shown are solidly attached to the earth below, with no disturbance of that Earth.  And with that part of the tale, so also goes the theory that Australian science students are both vandalous and fraudulent.

    DJ at WUWT quotes a discussion of the story by a purported Maldivian.  That anonymous source claims Viligilli was a prison island until 1973, which rescues part of Morner's story.  They also go on to say, however:

    "The tree is called ironwood (Pemphis acidula). It’s known for its resilience against salt and is usually the dominant species in very high wave energy and salt spray zones. Having traveled to over 600 islands in Maldives I have witnessed a number of such one ‘tree’s’. The tree in question simply has withstood erosion in the last 10 or so years while weaker trees around it fell. Aerial photographs of 1968/1969, 1998 and 2004 shows that the area is relatively stable with occasional erosion. There have been a number of trees in this specific area of the island like the one in question which have remain separated from the island. It is part of the erosion process. The tree most likely was there 50 years ago but it certainly was not alone as it is now. It is these kinds of adhoc observation based conclusions rather than rigorous assessments which make me question the findings of Morner."

    (My emphasis)

    If we accept the authenticity of this Maldivian (and hence the partial corroboration of Morner's account) then we must also accept their expertise on such isolated trees.

    Indeed, on first principles we can see that account to be correct.  If sea level is falling, the intertidal zone will be in the process of being colonized by a species (Pemphis acidula) that can grow in that region.  We would consequently expect to see few mature trees, but a significant number of immature trees colonizing the zone.   A stable sea level would be evidenced by a number of mature trees in thickets, as is common for the species.  Only with rising sea levels would sole mature survivors of former thickets remain.  So, in as much as Morner's photoshopped picture is evidence of anything, it is evidence of rising sea levels.  But it takes the sort of "skepticism" that can't even notice such blatant photoshopping to not notice that.

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  6. An example from Jyllands Posten about falling sealevel around Maldives:

     Sea lelve falling around Maldives

     This picture is used as an argument for falling sea level around Maldives.

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Fixed image width that was breaking page formatting.

  7. Klaus Flemløse what's up with that?

    What about the doctored photograph, why aren't you up in arms about that?

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  8. Oh and why should we trust that above image is from a beach in the Maldives anyways?


    Speaking of sea levels are you familiar with Prof. Mitrovica?

    He gives some great lectures that discuss new finding regarding global and regional see levels you'd find fascinating: "Enigma of Global Sea Level Rise"

    ~ ~ ~

    In Search of Lost Time:
    Ancient Eclipses, Roman Fish Tanks and
    the Enigma of Global Sea Level Rise
    Professor Jerry X. Mitrovica, Ph.D.


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  9. Tom Curtis, you comments are too good not to share.

    Hope you don't mind.  Thanks for doing the heavy lifing.

    I might even repost the entire article later.

    ~ ~ ~ 

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    Dr. Nils-Axel Morner's Maldives Tree - what's up with that?

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  10. Follow up to post 56:

    There are two messages in this image.

    1) In the underlying article the authors want to show that the water level at the Maldives is falling. For this purpose, they probably want to present a convincing picture as possible. This picture is what they can produce.

    2) With a declining water level the vegetation will spread. That's what we see in the picture. Do you believe in a falling sea level over 70 years ?

    This image is in contradiction with the Nils-Axel Mörner pictures, where he claims that the water level is declining despite the fact that there is no increase in vegetation.

    Youtube on sea level at the Maldives:

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  11. Here is the latest sea level from the area around Maldives according to Colerado University. The sea level rise is around 3 mm pr.year using a simpel linear regression.



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  12. Prof Nil-Axel Mörner has been so kind to e-mail me the original photo. The photo shown  in post #55 was a double exposure, not a photo shop picture.

    It is very unfortunate, that prof Nils-Axel Mörner published a double-exposed image, thereby creating a myth about fraud and deception.

    The only way to remove any doubt is to publish as much as possible of the documentation before and after the tree have been cut down. 



    Click to enlarge

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Adjusted image width

  13. Klaus Flemlose @62:

    1)  Regardless of the tale told by Nils Axel-Morner, the photo I discuss @55 above was not an double exposure.  Double exposure is a technique of exposing the same frame of film twice (or more), thereby creating multiple overlaping images.  Unless great care it taken, it will result in ghosting as in the photo below.  It will not result in sharp demarcation lines as discussed above.  Therefore, there remains no doubt that Nils Axel-Morner edited a photo of a tree by deleting portions of it and grafting sections of other photos to replace those portions that were deleted.

    2)  It is not possible to positively identify the tree in the new photo as that in either of the photos discussed in my 55 above.  There are some similarities, but also some distinct differences.  The differences may be because they are different trees, or because the pictures were taken from different angles, or at different times.  

    Based on the similarity of the background, the new photo probably does show the tree shown here in connection to Axel-Morner's claims.  I was previously aware of the photo at the link, but did not previously discuss it as it was not directly claimed to be an identical tree, and was not attributed to Axel-Morner.  Given the new claim by Axel-Morner, however, I will point out that the root base of this tree and that in the photoshopped picture are definitely distinct.  This can be seen because:

    a)  The size of the rocks in the foreground are very disimilar;

    b)  The large flat rock on the left of frame and near the tree in both pictures is dissimilar in shape; and

    c)  The root base of the tree in the new photo is much thicker than that in the photoshopped picture.

    3)  It is easy to see why Axel-Morner has been using the photoshopped picture rather than the one he has just sent you.  The picture he has sent you clearly shows an erosional face in the current tidal zone.  It also shows the nearest tree to the one in the center of the photo to also have erosion undercutting its roots.  Finally, it shows a slab of concrete lying partially within the tidal zone, and clearly undercut by wave action.  All three are indications of rising sea levels at that location.

    Until Nils Axel-Morner gives a clear account of how he photoshopped the picture @55, shows us all three pictures he used in doing so, and gives a clear account of why he did so, the only sensible thing to do is to treat this as an example of fraud, and to disregard any "evidence" on which we are reliant on Axel-Morner as our informant.  Brushing of the incident with patently absurd claims (ie, that the photo resulted from double exposure) only calls into further question his trustworthiness. 

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  14. Klaus,

    A heads up to you.  People who support obviously false explainations damage their own reputations.  Why should I believe anything from someone who supported obviously false proposals?  Consider the sourse of the information you present to others as accurate.  Why do you believe such claptrap?  Why have you been taken twice by the same fraudster?  Why would you continue to believe the material on those websites that support this fraud?

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  15. Klaus, you say Nils sent you the original, and then you say the one he posted was a double exposure.  Double exposure does not occur after the photo has been developed.  A double exposure is an original.  You should have said, "He sent me a different shot of the same tree, a shot that was not a double exposure."  If you know enough to understand what a double exposure is--to the point of believing that it absolves Morner--then you should know that saying "Prof Nil-Axel Mörner has been so kind to e-mail me the original photo" doesn't make sense.  You're either trying to play games, or you're incredibly naive, naive enough to trust Morner's "double exposure" explanation without knowing what a double exposure is.

    Morner also did not send you the original.  He sent you a scan of the developed original, unless he's lying about the double exposure.  I seriously doubt that Morner, if he actually took the picture in question, used a film camera, the only type of camera able to create a double exposure (unless the digital camera has an extremely rare firmware error that just happens to occur intermittantly and just happened to occur with this particular, highly-controversial exposure).  He's wealthy enough to be able to afford a digital camera capable of performing as well as a film camera.

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  16. DSL @65, the photo shown @62 is certainly not the "original" version of any part of the photoshoped photo.  The rocks in the foreground are different, and the boats in the background are different, not to mention the missing house and tree in the middle distance on the right of the new photo that is absent from the photoshopped photo.  It is possible, but not likely that it is a photo of the original tree whose folliage is shown in the photoshopped picture.

    Klaus Flemlose @62 on rereading your post I note that you still believe that the tree whose foliage is shown in the photoshopped picture was "cut down".  Axel-Morner's claim was that it was uprooted ("torn down") rather than that it was cut down.  It is essential to his story that it was uprooted, for if it had been cut down, it would not have been possible to replant it.

    The fact that his story requires that the tree be uprooted shows what a work of fiction that story is.  Only if erosion has removed almost all soil from around the roots of a tree can it be uprooted without strenuous digging and (preferably) a tractor.

    Further, Axel-Morner's account is as follows:

    "You know what happened? There came an Australian sealevel team, which was for the IPCC and against me. Then the students pulled down the tree by hand! They destroyed the evidence. What kind of people are those? And we came to launch this film "Doomsday Called Off,” right after that, and the tree was still green. And I heard from the locals that they had seen the people who had pulled it down. So I put it up again, by hand, and made my TV program...."

    So not only did these herculean and malicous Australians uproot the tree, but Axel-Morner replanted the tree and then, purportedly, to the photo (explicitly identified as the photoshopped photo in the caption).  That being the case, the roots would still be loose in the photo and (given the freshness of the foliage) the marks of the Australians efforts in digging out the tree would still be evident.  Neither is the case.

    I believe the entire basis of the story of the uprooted tree is to be found in Axel-Morner's imagination.  Not only does he find it useful to embellish the envidence via photoshopping, he finds it usefull to slander scientists with complete fictions.

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  17. Many thanks to Tom Curtis, Micheal Sweet and DSL for their remarks. I appreciate them.

    I have for a long time followed Professor Nils-Axel Mörners attacks against climate scientists and believes that he has gone far over the line of dignity. Prompted by Tom Curtis analysis of Mörner pictures, I have written to Nils-Axel Mörner to get his version of the images and how they should be interpreted. In addition, I asked Mörner to publish all the pictures from his trip so that all indications of fraud and scams can be swept away. He deserves a fair trial. Only by getting his version is possible.

    Prof Nils-Axel Mörner has informed me, that he was not aware of the discussion about him on Skeptical Sciences. He is now.

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  18. Klaus, perhaps after Morner has addressed his integrity here, he can go to Open Mind and address this

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  19. I think, I have found the stockmark picture mentioned in post 55. It can by found in the video: after 7 minutes and 42 second. The logo originates fra Newsworld. There is a cut in the video so it is not possible to make sure it is the same tree. 

    8.june 2013, 11.00

    Before the cut we can se the ocean with  a clear horison without any ships. After the cut , there are many ships in the horison. This means it is two different sequence taken at different times and different angels. Prof. Mömer is standing close to the tree and we can't se the whole tree. Does this mean, that it is a case of another photo manipulation ?


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  20. Klaus Flemlose @69, thank you for that find.  That is indeed the tree with the mark, and Axel-Morner's appearance therefore positively identifies the tree as being the one he is talking about.  As the picture I reffered to above was very grainy, I have made a screen capture and reproduced the picture below:

    Further, comparison of this picture with the "before" picture shown @55 shows they are pictures of the same tree, probably taken at the same time.  The "before" picture, therefore, does not show that the sea was much closer than in the "after" picture, but merely shows a grainier picture with a higher tide.

    (I should note that picture you showed @56 may also be using natural variation to conceal the sea level rise.  In that case, I would suggest, the erosion shown is likely to have been from a recent storm surge.)

    What is most interesting about the video, however, is the way that Axel-Morner so casually leans against the tree:

    He does this while telling us that the tree has not been knocked down in fifty years.

    Later, refering to the time of that filming he had this to say:

    "This tree, which I showed in the documentary, is interesting. This is a prison island, and when people left the island, from the ‘50s, it was a marker for them, when they saw this tree alone out there, they said, “Ah, freedom!” ... I knew that this tree was in that terrible position already in the 1950s. So the slightest rise, and it would have been gone. I used it in my writings and for television.  

    You know what happened? There came an Australian sealevel team, which was for the IPCC and against me. Then the students pulled down the tree by hand! They destroyed the evidence. What kind of people are those? And we came to launch this film “Doomsday Called Off,” right after that, and the tree was still green. And I heard from the locals that they had seen the people who had pulled it down. So I put it up again, by hand, and made my TV program.... 

    They call themselves scientists, and they’re destroying evidence! A scientist should always be open for reinterpretation, but you can never destroy evidence. And they were being watched, thinking they were clever."

    So, according to his later account, the tree had just been propped up by hand.  Yet in the film, he casually leans against it and it is rock steady.

    Well, we already knew the story of the vandalistic Australian scientists was a fiction, but it is nice to have additional confirming evidence.  It is also interesting to see the nature of Axel-Morner's scientific ethics.  "[You] can never destroy evidence", he writes, but he is certainly not averse to manufacturing it.

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  21. I am confused about the sequence of events around the tree and the photo/film taken.

    It seems that Mörner and his team arrived at the scene after the alleged climate scientists have overturned tree.

    The explanation for the movement of the tree relative to the oval stone is presumably, that it has been raised elsewhere than where it originally stood. How many meters has it been move away from the original position?

    In respect of picture replacing the photo shop picture, there is a question about when it was taken. Before or after Mörner and team raised the tree again?

    Why did't Mörner informed the public that the film and photo was a reconstrution  and not reality ?

    I am still confused and I hope Prof. Nils-Axel Mörner is able to make public the documentation needed so no doubt exists.

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  22. Klaus,

    There are a host of questions that Nils-Mormer needs to address.  He has provided no evidence that this tree was located in an isolated position 50 years ago.  As Tom pointed out above, this type of tree is common in locations of retreating coastlines.  No picture or evidence of any tree from the 1950's has been produced, only an unlikely hearsay story.  Nils-Morner has produced several photos of different trees, that he claims are the same tree, most of which show only sea in the background so that they are not identifiable.  If the photos were taken with identifiable background the questions would be easily resolved.  All the photos show evidence of erosion consistent with rising sea levels.  No photos have been produced of a tree pushed over.  The most likely explaination of any similar tree falling is erosion caused by rising sea levels.  No information has been produced to support Nils-Morner's outrageous claim that scientists pushed the tree over, only an unsupported claim of a hearsay story.  How many contradictions do you need to have pointed out before the story is thrown out as false?  My limit was passed long ago.

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  23. Just some more comments on double exposures in cameras, in addition to the excellent ones made by Tom Curtis.


    1. Not only is it extremely unlikely in digital cameras, it is not easy to do in film cameras manufactured since the 1970's. Most of these cameras have a mechanism that prevents the shutter being fired before the film is wound on. This mechanism needs to be overridden (if it can at all) to ensure the photographer is doing it deliberately. Cameras that allow multiple exposures are typically bulky medium or large format film cameras.

    2. In order to correctly expose the film, the camera metering will need to be overridden manually by the photographer who knows they are taking multiple exposures on the same area of film. For a double exposure, each of the two exposes should receive half the light they would for a normal exposure in order for the film to receive the correct total amount of light. Or, put another way, an inadvertant double exposure would be over-exposed, bleaching out highlights and making dark areas lighter. Although it is possible to compensate for overexposure by a reduced printing/scanning time, it is typically visible in the final result (bleached out highlights cannot be magically "recovered" when they are not on the film.

    It is clear that the photograph claimed to be a "double exposure" is no such thing.

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  24. A minor note - Klause Flemlosse has been following up on this issue, and located the probable location of the tree.  Comparison of arial photos of the area shows the Morner's tree to have been washed away by 2005.  I guess that would be due to the lack of erosion due to the falling sea levels Morner has discovered /sarc.

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  25. 'Double exposure'!? Give me a break! As a semi-pro I'm backing what Phil and Tom are saying.Also, I'm confused. Surely, Klaus at #62, that cannot be the 'original' photo? Just try matching the composition, shadows, lighting and clouds. (Well, you won't! That's the point.) It may be the 'original' tree...And you really have to wonder at the competence of people who'd uproot a tree to 'demolish evidence' and then leave it lying around to be restored - remarkably restored, in fact - don't you?
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  26. This double exposure claim is the funniest thing I think I've read in a long time.  It was ridiculous enough already to try to pass of such a poor Photoshop job as the real thing.  It's freaking hilarious to try to claim that it was a double exposure.

    Morner's work is providing great momentum to my investments in head vice manufacturing companies.

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  27. Here is the Google Earth of Viligili Island west of Malé. The location  of the tree is at the south east corner of the island. By comparing the picture and using Google Earth I think it is the only possible place for the famous tree.

    In addition to this, Malé can be seen through the tree in Doomeday Called Off at 7 minutes and 42 seconds. 


    Thanks to Tom Curtis for these pictures.

    There is a stone reef along the east cost of Viligili Island. This reef at low tide is probably used by Mörner as the "dry land"-picture shown earlier !!! 

    I have tried to find the tree, the oval stone and the concrete block close to the tree, but I can find them. Please try to find them by your self on Google Earth.

    The pictures and Doomsday Called off are take on different dates. I can't identify the dates. The pictures  in Doomsday Called Off is probably taken in North-South direction. Hint: look at the tree and the oval stone.

    If I am correct about the location in addition to photo shopping, it is also a case of photo manipulation not telling the location og dates.

    In a scientific field study I think location, map and date for pictures must present.

    Lars Oxfelt Mortensen - the producer of Doomday Called of - is in  respect of the Maldivian tree almost clean. He has shut the sequence about the tree. Since the film is a documentary  date, time and location ought to be on the fil.

    I would be pleased if my findings can be veryfied.



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  28. The following is my description of the composite picture shown by Klause:

    "The main picture is the Google Earth picture from 5/3/2005. I have circled in red the probable former location of Morner's Tree. I say former because the tree is clearly no longer in that location. Further, it is clearly not one of the nearby trees, none of which would allow the view north north-east from that point to the ferry terminal as shown in the picture Morner sent you (picture A). Pictures B and C are screenshots from the video, showing respectively the view to the south east and the view of Male to the east.

    The remaining three photos were uploaded to Google Earth (photographer and date shown on photos). Photo D shows the view from Villingili Beach back to the point on which the tree was located. Photo E shows the view from the beach to Male at low tide. Photo F shows an arial view north west towards Villingili."

    (Hi res version)

    Pictures A to C strongly restrict the possible locations of the tree.  If the tree had been located significantly far from the red circle, it would not have been possible to establish the sight lines shown.  That is particularly the case for picture A.

    Picture D is also very interesting.  It is the view back from the beach, and while it might be possible to miss a scrubby tree from the arial photos due to a grainy image, from ground level looking back an isolated tree would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  Clearly the tree has now been washed away.

    Also of interest is the following earlier arial photograph showing Villingili prior to the development of the modern port, and redevelopment of the ferry port and terminal.  It shows the ferry terminal with a red roof, just as it has in picture A.  That suggest that the development occurred after 2003 when Morner took picture A, but prior to February 2005, when it shows up clearly and complete on Google Earth.

    We now have several genuinely authentic picture of the tree, and one photoshopped picture.  Given the location of the tree in the genuine pictures, I am frankly puzzled by the photoshopping.  Certainly little was gained by it.  We also have definitive evidence that a tree, isolated in the intertidal zone in 2003 had washed away by 2005.  That it was in the intertidal zone to begin with strongly suggests it was a survivor from a period of significant erosion, and that it was washed away at last demolishes it as evidence that the sea levels were not rising.  So in the end, all Morner has is evidence that if you are selective about timing with regards to tides, and angles of shots, you can make a tree look further from, or closer to sea level.  And that gullible people will accept this as evidence uncritically.

    Other than that, the tree merely stands (pun intended) as proof that Morner is not to be trusted to deal honestly with the evidence.

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  29. How is it possible for Mörner to take the "dry land"-picture ?

    My guess: at spring tide togehther with strong wind so that the water is blown a way !

    Remarks: se post #62

    The famous tree is  aprox. 4 meter tall.

    The oval stone is  aprox 3/4 meter

    The concrete block i aprox 2 meter - could be in connection with a road to the shore

    The famous tree i aprox. 6 meter from the shore

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  30. I have tried to investigate the photo from Minicoy Island from 2010 taken by Nils-Finn Munch Petersen – se post 56.


    Figure 6 One of the locals of Minicoy, Ali Manikfan, showing how much the island has grown.  What was once the beach is now located well above the wave-washing zone, is becoming overgrown (just as many beaches in the Maldives; Fig. 4; Mo¨rner et al., 2004; Mo¨rner, 2007a,b) and invaded by land-snails (photo: N.F. Munch-Petersen, 1992). Link.

    This photo has been used as documentation that the water level in the Maldives is decreasing. The photo was taken at the north side of the south-western part of the island close to the light tower looking towards the isthmus.

    Here is a picture of Minicoy Island: 

    Here is a picture of the isthmus:  

    In the bay protected by the isthmus on the inside of the atoll, it is expected in most cases that new land will be created. Prof Nils-Axel Mörner and Nils-Finn Munch Petersen have used this as the proof of the decreasing sea level around the Maldives.

    Using Google Earth, it appears that there is erosion on large parts of the island and a buildup of sand in at least two places as a result of coastal protection programs.

    It would be pleased if someone could check my argument.

    From Colorado University, I studied the water level around Minicoy Island. This is shown in the following figure:


    This figure shows that the water level has increased by about 3.2 mm per year during the years 1990-2013.

    So we have a paradox as Prof. Nils-Axel Mörner and Nils-Finn Munch Petersen claim that the water level is decreasing whereas sea level based on satellite measurements show the opposite. Who is right?

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  31. Well, Klaus, by now, I think it's pretty obvious. You demonstrated what real skepticism is like.On one side, a photo with no context and an authoritative assertion that has no backing. On the other side, the same photo, with all the context and numeric data. Who is right is as clear as the waters around the Maldives on a good day...

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  32. Klaus @80, the lighthouse is located on the southern coast of the island, just north of the barren patch above the word "niveau" in your third picture.  In that picture, it is covered by the icon for a photo, but you can still see some of the white cement(?) around its base.  

    If the description of the location of the photo is accurate, then it is clear it was not taken from the beach on the north side of the island adjacent to the lighthouse.  That is because the photo is sighted along the beach, which clearly recedes leaving an expanse of water along the line of sight to the isthmus.  Similar considerations indicate the photo was not taken along the shore of the bay that you indicate.

    Rahter than either of those two locations, I suggest the photo was taken on the west end of the long white beach directly below the word "Minicoy" in your second photo.  Indeed, it was probably taken pretty much directly below the second "i" (or the following two letters) of that word.  As you will notice, the line of that beach directly aligns with the isthmus, which is clearly visible in the background of the first photograph.

    The white sand at that location shows that wave action tends to deposit sand there, and given its location relative to currents, will not typically remove sand.  It is a relatively sheltered location, however, and the rate of deposition is likely to be slow.  Therefore I do not agree with your explanation of the photo.

    To me, it is far more likely that the vine covered area on the beach is just that area that is most commonly wave swept only as a result of storm surge.  Sea level in that area can vary by around 200 centimeters based on changes in large scale wind patterns (Indian Ocean Dipole) and by another 200 centimeters based on tidal action, but storm surge can lift sea level by one or two meters.  Given such a low beach it would be extraordinary if occasional cyclones did not sweep that beach, and in doing so sweep the vine covered area of the beach.  Such occasional storm surges would more than adequately explain the coverage of that area of the beach by rapid growing vines, but not by slow growing trees. 

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  33. Many thanks for the comments on post No 80.

    Prof Nils-Axel Mörner and Nils-Finn Munch Petersen are using photos to substantiate their claims of a falling sea levels at the Maldives. As I see  it , they are using photos as an attempt to deliberate and manipulate readers to believe in their claims. None of the used photos support their claims of a falling sea level. They have chosen photos that have been changed  by cutting and photo-shop manipulations.

    There is a ongoing formation and decomposition of a coastline. Therefore, it is impossible from a picture to infer anything unless there is a systematic and comprehensive changes to a coastline over many years.

    Their view of the water level at the Maldives may not be supported by scientific analysis.

    Their view is repeated again and again in many newspapers and climate skeptic circles. Therefore it is necessary reply again and again.

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  34. Tamino has documented yet another case of Morner presenting an argument whose entire weight is based on not considering all the available evidence, in this case in the Solomon's.

    In this case, Morner compares two tide guage records from different locations in the Solomons.  One clearly shows an rising and accelerating trend.  In the second, Morner uses an inflated sea level scale to make the positive trend less obvious.  He also uses a different time scale, starting from about the time of the acceleration in the other record.  He concludes there is no acceleration.

    Tamino points out that there is another, overlaping tide gauge record from the second island.  Combining the two records for the same island shows that, yes, the sea level is rising, and yes, it does accelerate at about the same time as the acceleration for the other island.

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  35. Tom,

    Your post is excellent and clearly shows that Morner is fast and loose with the data. 

    The post is about the Marshall Isalnds and not the Solomen Islands.  For those who are not familiar with remote islands, The Marshall Islands are home to about 68,000 people.  The average height of the islands is about 1 meter (see this Wikipedia article) They have had severe flooding problems from over 20 cm (that's 20% of all the above sea level height they have) of sea level rise in the past 30 years.  Since they are a protectorate of the USA presumably they will be moving to the USA once Majuro is no longer habitable.  A single large storm could decimate the country at any time.

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  36. Michael - the Marshall Islands appear to be very close to the equator. Tropical cyclones don't form close to the equator because the Coriolis Force moves toward zero - there is no way to impart the spin necessary for cyclone formation.

    Counterintuitively, the region is likely to see a decline in the rate of sea level rise once the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) switches from the current negative phase to a positive one. In other words, the greater-than-globally-averaged sea level rise is a result of the extra water mass being pushed there as a result of winds which power the wind-driven circulation. When those winds weaken, so too will the rate of sea level rise in that region. 

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  37. ROb,

    The Marshall Islands are far enough north but are only rarely affected by tropical cyclones.  They are further East than the normal west Pacific Typhoons and further west than the East Pacific Hurricanes.  They were affected by Typhoon Paka in 1997 source.  Their situation is more on the edge with every centimeter of sea level rise and a single moderate hit (like 1997) could wipe them out.  If they are lucky the IPO might shift to help them a little.  Overall, ocean winds have increased from AGW which causes them problems.  They are so low that  any increase of the trade winds can potentially flood the country.  Fresh water resources on small islands are always precarious and rising seas threaten the water they have.  Currently the northern islands are starting to recover from a severe drought.

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  38. Actually, like many low-lying islands they are doomed. I was just pointing out the path to inundation is a complex one.

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  39. Tamino now has a post analyzing Morner's use of the Fremantle data mentioned in point 5 of my post @51 above.

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  40. I have three questions. First, what do you think Morner's motivation could be for rejecting consensus on this issue? He clearly knows he'll be smeared and isolated because of it as opposed to being held in the high esteem he once was. That makes me tend to think he is worth listening to.

    Secondly, he claims that the satellite record has been "falsely adjusted" to "get a trend" because older data showed little or no rise. I can't find any data that shows what the new "calibrations" were, or why they were made. Does anyone know?

    Finally, I did some research on how the altimetry of the Sats works at In that
    quite detailed information, there are a large number of error sources listed that have to be corrected. They are listed as variable signal propagation delays due to ionization and water vapor, tidal effects, eddies, gravity anomalies, rotational effects, antenna angle of incidence, signal noise, and surface wind. I reason that each error correction is likely subject to some quantifiable total error range which is not documented. Also, to my surprise, I found words to this effect. "Resolution of the altimeter is 47CM (3.125ns) and range measurement over the ocean is 10 times greater than this" That is 4.7 meters! I also found this "satellite altitude accuracy is about 1 or 2 CM". So my question then is how is it possible to resolve the measurement to millimeters when the resolution is many 1000s of times lower than that, altitude accuracy is an approximation 10 to 20 times that, and there are other unquantified error sources?


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  41. Danmcc @90 , one can only guess at the various motivations that compel Dr Moerner's rejection of all the evidence.

    If he were the one and only person to reject the physical evidence of our modern global warming, then perhaps one could look at his age [currently 79] and speculate about him "Going Emeritus" or suffering some organic deterioration that could explain such strange behavior.   Or look at prior personality type favoring maverick attitude [in blunter terms: "ornery contrariness"] or perhaps even a type of persecution complex.

    However, we do not have access to his inner psyche — and so, in view of the considerable number of humans who believe the Earth is flat or believe that all scientists are in a grand century-long Conspiracy against mankind . . . or even that the Moon Landings were faked or that Climate Change is a Hoax by the Chinese . . . then IMO we should recognise that not all humans are fully sane (sane in the sense of being intellectually sane).    It would appear that Moerner is just one more example — nothing more, nothing less.    Danmcc, really it is not worth your while agonising over such motivations.   There is plenty of other craziness in this world, worthy of your more urgent attention.

    Your second point — the "falsely-adjusted" altimetry data — is more easily dealt with.   Look at the bigger picture : sea temperature measurements show the ocean is warming [as expected, from the increase of the so-called Greenhouse Effect which has been going on for a century or more] and that a vast amount of land-based ice (well over 30 million Megatons, over that time) has melted and flowed into the ocean.   So of course the sea level has risen substantially — and with much more to come.   Moerner is being grossly unscientific.  Crazily so.   (Danmcc, you may also be amused to read Tom Curtis's post #51 above, and subsequent discussion.)

    Thirdly, Danmcc, as you point out — a single satellite, making a single 90-minute orbit around the planet, will have great inaccuracy in altimeter reading.   But multiply those orbital passes by tens of thousands of iterations, and the integration will have only a very tiny error.   And remember that the satellite data is also well-supported by the tide-gauge data.

    Basically, Moerner is laughably wrong (or is "sadly wrong" the better term?).

    Please note that the initial diagram in the OP article above, is now more than 5 years out of date.  Sea level is rising ever faster (and an up-to-date analysis is to be found on statistician "Tamino" website).

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  42. danmcc @90,

    You speak in the present tense and while this thread has been collecting cobwebs for some years, you are correct in using the present tense. Nils-Axel Mörner is still at it, for instance last year responding to the assertions that SLR in the last century was 'extremely likely faster thanany of the previous 27 centuries' set out by Kopp et al (2016) last year with a pantomine 'Oh no it's not.' And more recently he is published in an obscure non-SLR journal. If you want to see the man himself in action, there is 19 minutes of him from last summer in full flow here.

    Mind, of late there has been proposed adjustments to that satellite record pre-2003 but I don't think Mörner will be happy with the adjustments being suggested by, for instance Chen et al (2017).

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  43. Damcc

    You asked " what do you think Morner's motivation could be for rejecting consensus on this issue?" but the answer you suggest is exactly backwards.

    If Morner was to agree with the consensus he would be one of a million scientists and no-one would care about his opinion.  Since he is a "skeptic", he gets to write Wall Street Joural articles, is feted at Heartland Institute bashes, is paid to give speeches on AGW, is presented as an expert and does not have to learn any of the science. 

    Skeptic scietists like Spencer, Curry, Lidzen and Watts (they are scraping the bottom of the barrel when one of their "experts" never even graduated from college) would be completely ignored if they were mainstream because their contributions are so small compared to Hanson, Mann and many others.

    Morner owes his fame to being skeptical.

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