The Science of Sea Level Rise




For about the last 20 years satellites have begun to measure global sea levels.   In particular, the Topex/Poseidon satellites from about 1992 to 2002 showed no sea level rise at all in the raw data; and the Jason-1 and Jason-2 satellites from about 2002 to 2013 showed a slight decline in sea level in the raw data [1].  Allowing for reasonable corrections due changes in the base level of the continents and sea level expansion due a warmer world, the original satellite measurements place an upper limit on any possible sea level rise of about 0.7 mm/year (2-3 inches for all of the 21st century).


Please note this is in stark contrast to wild model predictions bandied about even in the scientific press and especially to raw satellite data arbitrarily “corrected” by the British contingent of the IPCC who added an imaginary rise of 3.2 mm/year “for the purpose of showing some sort of [upward] trend [in the satellite data, where there was none previously]!”




Since the end of the last ice age about 18-20 thousand years ago, the sea level has risen by 120-130 meters (or more than 400 feet).   As the world has naturally warmed since then (i.e. well before any possible human contributions), the annual sea level rise for about the last 7 thousand years has been mostly leveling off[2].




The long standing sea level rise, according to tide gauge measurements from around the world, has continued into the 20th century amounting to about 1.8 mm/year (or about 7 inches for the entire century).  And the annual rate of increase has continued to DECLINE, being about 2.03 mm/year for the first half of the 20th century, 1.45 mm/year for the second half of the 20th century, and with barely discernible changes for the first decades of the 21st century[3].


Indeed from 2010 to 2011, satellites indicated a drastic decline in global sea levels (7-11 mm) now commonly attributed to an El Nino and to new patterns of rainfall in the normally drought stricken interior of Australia[4].


This slowing-down of the long term trend of gradually increasing sea levels even in the face of rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations over the last century is a blow to the wild predictions of the climate alarmists[5].




After most of the CO2 had *disappeared* from the atmosphere some 18-20 thousand years ago (almost as if CO2 had either a NEGATIVE correlation or no effect at all), the earth started to warm and came out of rather severe ice age.   As a consequence, most of the ice sheets melted raising the sea level by perhaps 400 feet.   This sea level rise has mostly tapered off since then. 


Fortunately, the remaining ice sheets in Greenland and especially Antarctica are close enough to the poles with very cold average temperatures to be in no immediate danger of melting in their interiors.   But since cold air is very dry, a warmer world (by even a few tens of degrees which would not melt the glaciers) has exponentially more water vapor, dumps more snow over the land increasing the mass of ice in the interior away from the coast, and in total significantly DECREASES global sea level [6].


Indeed, satellite measurements of the largest ice sheet on the planet (90% of total), indicate that on balance the ice mass is growing with a consequent lowering of sea levels [7][8].







In the Maldives, there had been a prominent 50 year old tree located exactly on the shoreline that served as a long-standing marker for returning visitors.  But because this tree could not survive salt-water inundation and thus indicated no change in the sea level over its lifetime, a group of Australian environmental alarmists uprooted it to prevent it contradicting their apocalyptic claims.  This is a further indication of political rather than scientific motivations among the alarmist crowd.


The Sea Level Group at the University of Colorado faced with the horror of 21st century satellite data perversely indicating the oceans were not rising fast enough to drown everyone, decided to add a ARBITRARY fudge factor to satellite measurements of sea levels just enough to maintain both the hysteria and NASA funding[9].   Despite the complete lack of any scientific foundation for these new claims, the world-wide press continues to trumpet their new figure of 3+ mm/year; and this continues in spite of contradictions by actual (uncorrected) satellite measurements for the last 20 years which show a slight decline in sea levels.


Former Vice-President Al Gore, who won the Nobel Peace prize for his wonderfully inventive film “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2007, predicted that the Arctic ice cap at the North Pole would melt entirely over the following seven years and also that the sea levels would rise by some TWENTY FEET drowning millions.   Fortunately there is no recall process and he still gets to keep the money because in December 2008, there were 7.3 million square miles of arctic ice and in 2013 there were still 7.3 million square miles (within 5%) but perhaps more significantly the sea level has actually DECREASED, not risen, by few millimeters since then.   Perhaps the hundreds of millions of dollars Al made in trading CO2 Cap-and-Trade credits really did save the word… That was close one… Thanks…





Climate change alarmists need new satellites because the old ones showing no sea level rise are a clear and present danger to the annual 22 BILLION dollars in “research” funding paid for by US taxpayers.   And at some point, perhaps we need to ask ourselves as a society, how many starving children, how many school rooms, how many acres of wilderness we could save annually with 22 BILLION dollars.





with credit to Zwally, H.J., Giovinetto, M.B., Li, J., Cornejo, H.G., Beckley, M.A., Brenner, A.C., Saba, J.L. and Yi, D. 2005. Mass changes of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and shelves and contributions to sea-level rise: 1992-2002. Journal of Glaciology 51: 509-527.



with credit to Robert A. Rhode, Global Warming Art Project.



with credit to Holgate, S.J. 2007. “On the decadal rates of sea level change during the twentieth

century” in Geophysical Research Letters 34: 10.1029/2006GL028492.



with credit to John T. Fasullo, Carmen Boening, Felix W. Landerer and R. Steven Nerem,  

            “Australia's unique influence on global sea level in 2010–2011”, Volume 40, Issue 16, pages

            4368–4373, 28 August 2013



and especially Church, J.A., White, N.J., Coleman, R., Lambeck, K. and Mitrovica, J.X.  2004. 

“Estimates of the regional distribution of sea level rise over the 1950-2000 period”.  Journal of

Climate 17: 2609-2625.



with credit to Keith Sherwood and Craig Idso, “Highly Over-Hyped: Greenland’s and Antarctica’s

Impacts on Sea Level”, CO2 Science Volume 9, Number 13: 29 March 2006.



Davis, C.H., Li, Y., McConnell, J.R., Frey, M.M., Hanna, E., “Snowfall-driven growth in East Antarctic ice sheet mitigates recent sea-level rise”, Science 308, 18981901 (2005).



Vaughan, D.G, “How Does the Antarctic Ice Sheet Affect Sea Level Rise?“, Science Volume 308, Number 5730, pages 1877-1878 (2005).



with credit to Quinn, K.J. and Ponte, R.M. 2010. Uncertainty in ocean mass trends from GRACE. Geophysical Journal International 181: 762-768.

and Ramillien, G., Lombard, A., Cazenave, A., Ivins, E.R., Llubes, M., Remy, F. and Biancale, R. 2006. Interannual variations of the mass balance of the Antarctica and Greenland ice sheets from GRACE. Global and Planetary Change 53: 198-208.