I asked NOAA public relations about this, and the answer I got back (awhile ago) was:
The statement in the press release was made on the basis of the following statements in the text:So by "continued to rise" NOAA apparently meant 'continued to have a positive trend.' That's kinda different. Yes, I understand you can't make conclusions about AGW or sea level based on a few year's worth of data, but you need to be precise too or you look like you're pushing inconvenient details under the rug. Anyway, NOAA continued:
* "The global rate of sea level change computed over the years 1993-2010 (cited references) is 3.1 +/- 0.4 mm yr-1"
* "Over this brief time period and in areas more than 200 km from the nearest coast where comparisons can be made with Argo and GRACE, the mean rate of total sea level rise is 1.5 ± 0.9 mm yr–1 (note that the uncertainties from here to the end of this section are 95% confidence levels). This rate cannot be compared with the global average over the entire altimeter time period cited above since at least 10 years of data are required to determine a reliable rate (Nerem et al. 1999). This rate is, however, in agreement (Fig. 3.29) with the sum (1.6 ± 0.6 mm yr–1) of the rates of the upper (depths < 700 m) ocean steric (0.5 ± 0.5 mm yr–1) and ocean mass components (1.1 ± 0.6 mm yr–1)."Maybe they're worried about giving anti-AGW people any ammunition, but really they're supposed to be a science organization first and would it really have made a difference if they said "despite its long-term upward trend, sea level has remained the same over the last few years, though scientists expect it to eventually resume its upward trend" or something to that effect?
Also, the graphic depicts monthly results, so while there is variation from month to month, the overall trend, if looking on a yearly basis, still looks to be upward. But it is true that that is not explicit in the graphic.
Anyway, now that I look at the sea level graph again from the University of Colorado (see figure) I think my question was nitpicking, because it's really only in the last 15 months or so that the 60-day smoothing trend is down, and that's not unusual at all (look at 2007-2008, or 1998-2000, or 1994-1997). I didn't ask a good question, and, as usual, Goddard was just trying to manufacture doubt.