Tag Archives: sea level

Good news: rising seas might not cover these Pacific islands

Summary: The press reports often and in detail about climate and climate science, with two exceptions. They tend to hide from the public the exciting progress in understanding climate (they stick to the myth that “the science is settled”). Equally sad, they ignore the (too rare) good news about climate and the environment. Many posts here have covered the former; today we look at some of good news.

The science is telling us it is already too late for us.  And so we have been asking the global community to say, OK, think about the future, the speculation of what will happen.  But don’t forget those who are already affected, those for whom it is already too late, we are working together collectively with the countries in the like situation, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, where the impact of climate change is about total annihilation of our nations.

— Anote Tong (President of Kiribati), interview on CNN, 8 June 2014


Kiribati, only 1-2 meters above sea level


  1. “Warming may not swamp islands”
  2. Some of the supporting peer-reviewed research
  3. Rising sea levels, past and future
  4. For More Information

(1)  Good news!

Warming may not swamp islands“, Christopher Pala (writer), Science, 1 August 2014 — Gated. Excerpt:

… a song blasting over Kiribati’s state radio envisions an apocalypse for this fishhook-shaped atoll halfway between Honolulu and Fiji: “The angry sea will kill us all.”

… Many scientists quietly demur.

No doubt, the sea is coming: In a 2013 report {AR5}, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that global sea levels will rise up to 1 meter by 2100. But recent geologic studies suggest that the coral reefs supporting sandy atoll islands will grow and rise in tandem with the sea. The only islanders who will have to move must do so for the same reason as millions of people on the continents: because they live too close to shore.

Paul Kench, a geomorphologist who now heads the University of Auckland’s School of Environment in New Zealand, was the first to question the dire forecasts for Kiribati and similar island nations. In 1999, the World Bank asked him to evaluate the economic costs of sea-level rise and climate change to Pacific island nations. Kench, who had been studying how atoll islands evolve over time, says he had assumed that a rising ocean would engulf the islands, which consist of sand perched on reefs. “That’s what everyone thought, and nobody questioned it,” he says. But when he scoured the literature, he could not find a single study to support that scenario.

So Kench teamed up with Peter Cowell, a geomorphologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, to model what might happen. They found that during episodes of high seas—at high tide during El Niño events, which raise sea level in the Central Pacific, for example — storm waves would wash over higher and higher sections of atoll islands. But instead of eroding land, the waves would raise island elevation by depositing sand produced from broken coral, coralline algae, mollusks, and foraminifera. Kench notes that reefs can grow 10 to 15 millimeters a year — faster than the sea-level rise expected to occur later this century. “As long as the reef is healthy and generates an abundant supply of sand, there’s no reason a reef island can’t grow and keep up,” he argues.

It’s not new news. New Scientist wrote about this four years ago: “Shape-shifting islands defy sea-level rise“, 2 June 2010 — Excerpt:

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Have we prepared for normal climate change and non-extreme weather?

Summary: The climate always changes, with or without our intervention. The political struggle over climate-related public policy has left much of America not only vulnerable to anthropogenic extreme climate change, but also to normal climate variations. Another in our series about how America sees the world, and prepares for change.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earth; bio here), comment posted to “UK floods in context” at Climate Etc

Greenpeace artwork about sea levels

Greenpeace is not helping with its silly propaganda


  1. Normal climate change
  2. The long rise of global sea levels
  3. The rise continues, at roughly the same rate
  4. Projections of future sea levels
  5. Preparing for the future
  6. For More Information

(1)  Normal climate change

The climate has changed endlessly since the day the Earth was born, and will until the day it dies. Alarmists advocate radical public policy changes changes in the hopeless quest to freeze the world’s climate in its status quo (quite different than the advice of the IPCC and major climate agencies).

While the Left and Right quarrel over equally specious visions of the future, we make inadequate preparations for the inevitable. We build cities in the Southwest, ignoring  the region’s history of mega-droughts. We build suburbs on fragile Atlantic barrier islands, sand bars destined to be swept away by storms. And, the subject of today’s post, cities like New York and New Orleans lie like sleeping dogs on the highway, to be wrecked by quite ordinary storms.

The world has been warming since the early 19th century, and the the average sea level has been rising since the late 19th century. Global warming will accelerate this, a little or a lot — depending on the amount of warming during the 21st century. Here we look at this creeping danger. It’s a slow threat, but one we can prepare for.

(2)  The long rise of global sea levels

Here is a graph showing the long rise of the oceans: the yearly average global mean sea level (GMSL) from various sources — Figure 13.3 from Chapter 13 of the IPCC’s Working Group I of AR5:

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Good news about climate change!

Summary: To start your week on a pleasant note, here are articles giving good news from climate scientists. It’s easily lost amidst the predictions of apocalypse soon. At the very least, these suggest that we have more time to prepare than commonly expected.

Good News!



  1. Update on the rising seas
  2. New research about the effect of more CO2
  3. The big picture about climate change
  4. For More Information

(1) Update on the rising seas

Many experts have disputed claims that rising sea levels were affecting Pacific islands, attributing the damage to their inhabitants wrecking their ecosystems. Slowly the news media takes notice: “Shape-shifting islands defy sea-level rise “, New Scientist, 10 June 2010 (gated) — The full article is gated. For more details see “Pacific islands growing, not sinking“, ABC News. Opening:

For years, people have warned that the smallest nations on the planet – island states that barely rise out of the ocean – face being wiped off the map by rising sea levels. Now the first analysis of the data broadly suggests the opposite: most have remained stable over the last 60 years, while some have even grown.

Even better news comes from new research that shows the oceans continue to rise at the same rates as during the past several centuries, although forecast to accelerate. See “Seas will rise no more than 69 centimetres by 2100“, New Scientist, 14 May 2013

A comprehensive study of the behaviour of ice sheets suggests that … sea levels will rise by 16 to 69 cm {7″ – 27″} by 2100. That’s not too far off the best estimate in the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007: it predicted 18 to 59 cm {7″ – 23″} by 2100.

See the actual research for details:

(2) Important new research about the sensitivity of global temperature to rising CO2 levels

One of the active fronts in climate science is research to determine the effect of rising CO2 on global temperatures, with several high-profile papers published this year.

(a) The news media reports the debate (updated)

Climate slowdown means extreme rates of warming ‘not as likely’“, BBC, 19 May 2013 — Excerpt:

Since 1998, there has been an unexplained “standstill” in the heating of the Earth’s atmosphere. Writing in Nature Geoscience, the researchers say this will reduce predicted warming in the coming decades. But long-term, the expected temperature rises will not alter significantly.

A second chance to save the climate“, New Scientist, 19 May 2013 — Opening:

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Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future

Summary:  While we quake in fear at the stream of apocalyptic forecasts fed us by the news media, let’s look back at two previous forecasts about rising sea levels and melting sea ice. Perhaps we’d get better forecasts from our experts if we more often held them accountable for them.




  1. The opening of the NorthWest Passage
  2. A flooded New York City
  3. Key things to remember about global warming!
  4. Other climate forecasts
  5. For More Information

This is an update from Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010.


(1)  Opening the NorthWest Passage to shipping

Arctic Meltdown“, NASA press release, 27 February 2001:

… in 10 years’ time, if melting patterns change as predicted, the North-West Passage could be open to ordinary shipping for a month each summer.

These predictions come in a recently declassified report of a meeting of American, British and Canadian Arctic and naval experts in April last year, organised by Dennis Conlon of the US Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia. Entitled “Naval Operations in an Ice-Free Arctic” …

Peter Wadhams of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge agrees that the Arctic could soon open up. “Within a decade we can expect regular summer trade there,”he predicts.

Eleven years later the “within a decade” prediction has proven false, with little (no?) commercial traffic yet on the NW Passage.

In 2012 the arctic ice melt was unusually extensive, beating the previous minimum in 2007 (see the data here).  NASA reported that satellites show that the key chokepoints of the Northwest Passage were mostly open in early August, and reached its minimum in mid-September. But NASA mentions an important detail about satellite data usually ignored by the news media (red emphasis added):

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The seas are rising, and have been over ten thousand years. What comes next?

Summary: The world has been warming for the past two centuries, and the oceans have been rising for over ten millenia. The urgent task of climate scientists is to determine if these trends will accelerate, and if so by how much and when. Here we look at the history of rising seas, and what the new IPCC report warns us to expect. Rising seas are one of the most vivid and potentially most important of the climate changes expected during the 21st century.


Here are other posts in this series about second order draft (SOD) of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And this from earlier reports: When did we start global warming? See the surprising answer (it’s not what you’ve been told).



  1. Introduction
  2. Long-term sea levels, based on proxy data
  3. The past century (direct measurements,
    moderately reliable)
  4. Recent (reliable direct measurement)
  5. IPCC forecasts of the future
  6. For More Information about rising sea levels

About measurements: one inch = 25 mm = 0.025 meter

(1) Introduction

In this series we look at the latest work of the IPCC to see what the news media have hidden from us about the results of climate scientists. The world has been warming for two centuries, as all agree. But so much else they’ve told us is not accurate. Mostly due to their exaggerations, misrepresentations and omissions of the IPCC’s work — and the peer-reviewed literature on which it rests.

As we see in the comments to previous posts, this produces odd situation — increasingly common in today’s New America, with its broken OODA loop — of well-educated people astonished to learn what climate scientists have said for many years — because during that time they’ve read quite different things in the news media. Show them the text, the data — and watch the resulting incredulous shock.

The same process will happen the Right, as those on they (eg, the Tea Party) learn they rely on sources that lie to them. The surprise 2012 election results might have started this process. The results of these collisions between facts and dogma will play a large role in determining the fate of 21st century America.

Now, let’s turn to the seas. First we’ll look at sea levels over various time horizons. Then we’ll look at the latest IPCC report.

(2) Long-term sea levels, based on proxy data

From “Sea-level fluctuations during the last glacial cycle“, M. Siddall et al, Nature, 19 June 2003 — Gated.

Nature, 19 June 2003


(3) The past century (direct measurements, more reliable)

From the EPA’s Climate Change Indicators page:

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