Are sea levels rising? Yes, very slightly, a trend that began before the Industrial Revolution brought all those CO2-belching smokestacks and SUVs.
It has been going on ever since our planet began warming its way out of the little ice age (not a true ice age) which existed from about 1300-1850. That was the coldest period of the past 10,000 years. It ended shortly after Washington’s troops experienced brutally cold temperatures at Valley Forge during the winter of 1776-77 and Napoleon’s suffered a bitterly frigid retreat from Moscow in 1812.
Bear in mind that there is nothing at all new about rising temperatures and sea levels, or lowering ones either for that matter. Sea levels have been steadily rising in fits and starts at the rate of about 4 to 8 inches per century.
Meanwhile, the world’s mean temperatures have also been rising at a pretty constant rate of about 1° F (0.60° C) over the past 100 years. Despite rising atmospheric CO2, sea levels haven’t changed much at all over the past three decades, and temperatures have been flat over the past 17 years.
Since sea levels fluctuate back and forth over multicentury and multidecanal periods, any meaningful understanding of trends requires a long-term perspective. Consider that back around 18,000 years ago during the deepest part of the last ice age, a period known as the “Wisconsin,” sea levels were about 400 feet lower than now. That was because lots of the water was bound up in land ice.
Then about 15,000 years ago huge ice sheets covering North America and Eurasian land masses rapidly began to melt. This caused sea levels to rise at the rate of roughly 16 feet per century up until the beginning of the “Holocene Optimum.” Somewhere between about 8,000 and 5,000 years ago that rate of rise declined precipitously, and it has been relatively stable ever since.
Well … reasonably stable. Sea levels fell during that recent little ice age as ice accumulated in Greenland, Antarctica, Europe, and worldwide glaciers, but haven’t changed much since.
How much is it changing? According to the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “It is likely that GMSL [Global Mean Sea Level] rose between 1920 and 1950 at a rate comparable to that observed between 1993 and 2010.”
Will floods imperil Al Gore’s new $9 million ocean view Montecito, California, home? Yet atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower during 1920-1950 than they were between 1993 and 2010 . . . while the rate of sea level rise has actually slowed, not accelerated, during the past decade.
Perhaps also remember that Greenland was obviously a lot warmer one thousand years ago when Eric the Red and his Viking band raised sheep and goats on its coastal grasslands [see photo at top]. And regarding that melting West Antarctic sheet we keep hearing about, what we hear a lot less about in the media is that it contains less than 10% of Antarctica’s ice mass, which by the way is growing . . . or that it sits atop a recently discovered chain of active volcanoes.
Glaciers are known to grow and shrink over long and short time intervals through changes influenced by a host of different natural factors. A radar study that examined 200 of them across the Greenland subcontinent between 2000 and 2010 found that some accelerating glaciers were in proximity to others that were decelerating. It also observed that overall melting speed-ups were much lower than IPCC models projected.
Let’s keep our heads above the water and not get too feverish about what we hear from IPCC. This is the same organization that warned Himalayan glaciers might disappear altogether by the year 2035, and that this would lead to flooding of rivers . . . followed by imminent drought and starvation for billions of people. IPCC was later forced to admit they made that all up.
And recalling then-candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge that his presidency would mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” just how much appreciation does that success really warrant?
Given that a modest ocean rise actually began slowing quite a bit earlier back in about 1960, the year Obama was conceived, not so much.
So we might as well reconcile ourselves to the reality that climate temperatures and sea levels will continue to rise and fall despite anything President Obama, the EPA, Al Gore, or the IPCC may have to say about it. Be very wary of would-be saviors promising to quell rising tides of doom.
NOTE: This article was first published by NewsMax on December 23, 2013.