Taiwan sinking: Subsidence or Global Warming Induced Sea Level Rise?

This news story about Taiwan has been making the rounds with the usual alarming news outlets. My view is clearly on subsidence, caused by poor land use practice. See below the Continue Reading line for the easily found reasons.

Rising sea levels threaten Taiwan

File picture of rescuers searching for residents trapped by the rising flood waters sparked by typhoon Morakot in Pingtung, southern Taiwan last year

Excerpts: from AFP via Yahoo News

Rising sea levels threaten Taiwan

TUNGSHIH, Taiwan (AFP) – When worshippers built a temple for the goddess Matsu in south Taiwan 300 years ago, they chose a spot they thought would be at a safe remove from the ocean. They did not count on global warming.

Now, as the island faces rising sea levels, the Tungshih township is forced to set up a new temple nearby, elevated by three metres (10 feet) compared with the original site.

“Right now, the temple is flooded pretty much every year,” said Tsai Chu-wu, the temple’s chief secretary, explaining why the 63-million-dollar project is necessary.

“Once the new temple is completed, we should be able to avoid floods and the threat of the rising sea, at least for many, many years,” he said.

The temple of Matsu, ironically often described as the Goddess of the Sea, is only one example of how global warming is slowly, almost imperceptibly piling pressure on Taiwan.

And unlike the temple, none of these crucial economic establishments can possibly be lifted, leaving them exposed to the elements.

“If the sea levels keep rising, part of Taiwan’s low-lying western part could be submerged,” said Wang Chung-ho, an earth scientist at Taiwan’s top academic body Academia Sinica.

Still, environmentalists consider the risk too high to ignore, and they point out that it is compounded by the overpumping of groundwater both for traditional agriculture and for fish farming.

This has caused the groundwater level to fall and land to subside below sea level in some coastal areas, experts warn.

The greatest extent of seawater encroachment has been estimated to be as far as 8.5 kilometres inland with an affected area of about 104 square kilometres (40 square miles) in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung county, according to a study co-written by Wang.

Once low-lying areas are routinely invaded by sea water, it is very hard to turn back the tide, analysts warned.

In its 2007 assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations said that due to the global warming, the world’s sea level is projected to rise by up to 0.59 metres before the end of this century.

However, Wang was more pessimistic, citing recent findings that greenhouse gas emissions are growing faster than previously believed.

Read the rest of the story here: AFP via Yahoo News


And where is Pingtung County in Taiwain?

Taiwan ROC political division map Pingtung  County.svg

But that is not where the Matsu temple that is the focus of the story is, it is a misdirection. Read on.

Now consider this news story about a hi-speed rail system in Taiwan from China Daily that says:

Safety concerns were raised after according to the Taiwan High-Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) figures revealed that at its worst, the land at one site along the stretch in Yunlin County has sunk 55 centimeters over the past seven years.

Over-pumping of underground water for irrigation has been blamed for the subsidence, and the Water Resources Agency (WRA) has identified 1,115 wells in the area that need to be sealed to stop the sinking.

Seems pretty clear that subsidence is happening quickly in that county. Here’s a paper studying the Yuanlin area, Changhua County. PDF here. Note the mention of Yunlin County, save that for later.

Using Radar Interferometry to Observe Land Subsidence in Yuanlin area, Changhua County, Taiwan

Abstract: The behavior of land subsidence in Yuanlin area, Changhua County, Taiwan has been monitored by the two-pass method of Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (DInSAR) during the period from 1995 to 2002. Our interferometric result has shown that the subsidence behavior is unusual right before and after the Chi-Chi earthquake. Two-month before the earthquake, the pre-seismic differential interferogram detects a substantial increase in land subsidence with a prominent U-shaped pattern of groundwater level change. Two days after the devastating earthquake, our one-month image-pair shows a five-fold increase in land subsidence and an apparent shift of subsidence center. In this study, we suggest mechanisms that contribute to land subsidence in pre-seismic, co-seismic and post-seismic. We tend to believe that the circular/elongated pattern shown in our interferograms are caused by a point-source deformation. Besides, strain also plays a very important role in accelerating land subsidence shown in the post-seismic differential interferogram. It causes a very sudden, step-like surge in groundwater. The shaking of the earthquake as well as the increase of groundwater trigger the occurrence of soil liquefaction, in return, accelerating land subsidence. We propose there are two center of land subsidence right after the Chi-Chi earthquake though only one subsidence center can be observed in our differential interferogram.

Here’s what the Taipei Times shows happening as a result of land subsidence:

Land subsidence causes damage to a house in Tungan village, Kaohsiung County. PHOTO: HSU PAI-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Here’s an interesting passage from the Geography Department at NTU titled The Hazards of Taiwan:

The fish-farming industry in western and northeastern Taiwan requires several times more ground water than is needed for irrigation. This kind of over-pumping of ground water results in serious land subsidence or sinking in the coastal areas. According to a recent survey, an area of up to 1,097 square kilometers suffers from subsidence: this is 3% of the island’s total land area and 9% of its flat area. This problem obviously needs an immediate and effective solution.

So even though there is plentiful evidence that local land use abuse resulting in subsidence is the primary cause of seawater incursions, the reporter, Benjamin Yeh, chooses instead to make “global warming” the primary culprit.

His paragraph says it all:

The temple of Matsu, ironically often described as the Goddess of the Sea, is only one example of how global warming is slowly, almost imperceptibly piling pressure on Taiwan.

Religion and global warming, a match made in heaven.

From this Taiwan Government Report on Water Resources we find this paragraph, red emphasis mine:

Land Subsidence

Lured by profits, many farmers in the coastal areas of Yunlin, Changhua, Pingtung, Chiayi, and Ilan have expanded into aquaculture. Aquaculturalists have dug 170,000 illegal wells and pumped excessive amounts of groundwater, because it is cheap and stable in temperature. In addition to being used in aquaculture, groundwater is also pumped for industrial, residential, and standard agricultural uses. Recent data shows that while 5.94 billion cubic meters of groundwater is being pumped annually, only four billion cubic meters is being replaced. This deficit has caused land in many areas to subside, especially along the southwestern coast and on the Ilan Plain. Overall, almost 865 square kilometers of Taiwan’s plains, or a full 8 percent, tend to subside. The most serious subsidence has occurred around Chiatung in Pingtung County, where sites have sunk by as much as 3.06 meters. The average rate of subsidence in the coastal areas is between five and 15 centimeters each year.

The Temple of Matsu is in Yunlin County which is located on this map:

Taiwan ROC political division map Yunlin  County.svg

Another study on groundwater and subsidence from the Department of Geomatics, National Cheng Kung University says:

For example, the overall amount of subsidence in Yunlin area in the past 30 years reaches about 2 meters, and the total affected area of subsidence is about 516 km2. Land subsidence has increased the vulnerability in this area, and a large portion of which lies below the mean sea level.

When badly flawed articles like this one from AFP’s Benjamin Yeh appear, blaming global warming for flooding clearly caused by land subsidence as a result of poor land use practice, we need to complain loudly to editors.



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Maybe it’s because global warming has made it rain less………….
(I’m just making a preemptive strike here.) LOL

PeterB in Indianapolis

Step 1: Build on land at or below mean sea level.
Step 2: Pump about 4 billion liters (over 1 billion gallons) MORE groundwater out of the area than gets replenished each year.
Step 3: Experience catastrophic flooding.
Step 4: Blame “global warming”
Step 5: Profit!
Easy as pie.


Bottom line: incompetent, agenda-motivated reporter tells lies. Climate skeptics will be blamed again.


Also some recent news on sea levels – an news article from Fiji suggesting that they on the other hand have had ultra low sea levels recently:


When I lived in Phoenix Arizona in the 60’s and 70’s, we hand our first recorded earthquake. It was small and it’s possible few if any people felt it. The cause was due to the ground water removal causing settling but because the structure of the earth was firm, very little movement took place. Pumping was such a problem that farmers were reaching the point that it was costing to much to lift the water to the fields. Other locations are not as fortunate and they depend on the water to support the hight of the land.
Some locations it’s not water removal but is oil. Some of the older oil fields in the Unites States look nothing like they did when they were first drilled because the land has sunk so much.
Both of these problems couldn’t be caused by Global Warming.


It’s hard to believe, but China still claims Taiwan, subsidence and all.

Evan Jones

Axel Moerner could sort that out. (He knows what areas are uplifting and what areas are subsiding.)

Tom Bakewell

Something not mentioned in this ‘article’ is the fact that Taiwan is in a tectonically active area where things can go up and down as well as sideways. Way long ago I looked at a lot of marine seismic data just to the south of the island, and boy, was it ever bent up (and down and sideways) Lots of unconformities visible.
The trouble with trying to measure sea level is first figuring out if the land is moving up/down. Quite the puzzle.
Tom Bakewell

Bruce King

Excellent post. People don’t realize that the amount of water is not finite. Then
what else than global warming to blame. Surely the scientists are aware of what has happened.
In the U.S. we are aware of what is happened. One example is the natural gas boom
in northwest Louisiana. Enormous amounts of water is needed for drilling below the
Shale layer at around 10,000 feet. Many farmers with worn out land are digging
enormous ponds to store water for use by drilling companies. An unexpected bonus
to go with lease payments and fees for pipe line crossings. One of the few states with
little unemployment problems.

Steve in SC

Of course the typhoons are caused by global warming no doubt.

…a large portion of which lies below the mean sea level.
Looks like salt-water pisciculture might a viable solution in Yunlin.
Alternatively, the Taiwanese might actively encourage immigration from the Netherlands…


1. Tell everyone the sea level is rising.
2. Snap up ocean-view real estate on the cheap.
3. Profit!


“[…] the land at one site along the stretch in Yunlin County has sunk 55 centimeters over the past seven years. […]”
At that rate of subsidence, Taiwan should consider changing it’s name to Atlantis.


Taiwan is a big sandbank. This is why, when they have earthquakes, whole “mountains” collapse. When you remove water from underground, the sand packs down. That’s why they had to go so deep to get to the bedrock (262 ft) when they built the Taipei 101 building.
I did not know global warming was so selective…


Scotland is still rising due to the effect of the weight of the last glaciation being removed. Does that mean we are having global cooling at the same time we are having global warming? Inquiring minds wish to know.
@Bill Tuttle, we will have to acclimate them slowly. First move them into the 9th ward of New Orleans to get them used to the below sea level pressure and then move them to the Netherlands.

Henry chance

The template never changes. Identify a crisis. Play the victum and identify a human villian.
They do not want a solution. I will offer one. Build the temple like a floating river boat casino. They it can adjust to fresh or seawater level changes.


@Bruce King Shucks, maybe I ought to get in on this. Shale starts in the Boston area only down about 400 feet. The driller told me that they get ratty coal at that level down toward Providence.


“If the Greenland ice sheet melts, sea level could rise by as much 25 feet. Today there are 17 million people living less than one meter above sea level in Bangladesh, while places like Florida and Louisiana in the United States, Bangkok, Calcutta, Dhaka and Manila are also at risk from sea level rise.”


Las Vegas has sunk several feet due to overpumping of groundwater. Global warming would be blamed if it were closer to the ocean.

Dennis Wingo

Another thing that they don’t tell you in this article is that 500 years ago most of this land was underwater. I spent several weeks in Tainan Taiwan in 1990 and we took a cultural visit to the old Dutch compound in downtown Tainan. There was a woodcut that showed the compound, now on a hill in downtown Tainan 500 years ago. At that time the compound was on an island in the bay where Tainan is today.
Further investigating with my university hosts, I found that the southwestern end of Taiwan has been rising at an incredible rate over the past several hundred years of known history there. There is a fort that was built in the late 1800’s that was then on the beach, is now 1/4 mile from the ocean. Even the invasion obstacles that were placed on the beach that were supposed to rip the bottoms out of Chinese landing craft, placed in the water near the beach in the 1950’s, are now out of the water.

Pat Moffitt

Taiwan is not alone – see “Land subsidence caused by ground water withdrawal in urban areas” http://www.springerlink.com/content/jv32477625t44146/ Cities included on the list -Bangkok, Houston, Mexico City, Osaka, San Jose, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Venice.

Sea level changes according to Colorado university near Taiwan:

On “Using Radar Interferometry to Observe Land Subsidence in Yuanlin area, Changhua County, Taiwan”.
I think a one or two images of such “uncommon” techniques would be advisable.
One picture equals thousand words.
1. http://envisat.esa.int/handbooks/asar/CNTR1-1-6.htm
Chapter: Land Subsidence:
Direct image: http://envisat.esa.int/handbooks/asar/aux-files/ephimg-21718026.jpg
Figure 1.83 Relationship between ERS-1 SAR Interferogram and Panoma Subsidence. Image generated by JPL
2. http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/fs-165-00
Chapter: The Role of Science (Fig. 10)
Direct image: http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/pubs/fs00165/Images/fig10.jpg


Won’t it take a few thousand years for the ice sheet on Greenland to melt? Plent of time for a reverse or full cycle of any trend and even more time for other catastrophes…


The truth about Tiawan land (mis)use has been well documented: http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/SNAA-7Y58FL?OpenDocument&RSS20=02-P
Nothing but sound and fury from the warming outlets on this…

Hu Duck Xing

Dennis Wingo said;
” I found that the southwestern end of Taiwan has been rising at an incredible rate over the past several hundred years of known history there.”
Oh no! Is it going to capsize too? :0)


Using http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends.shtml you see places like Ko Lak nearby is seeing the sea level dropping 0.48 mm/yr. At Guam the sea level is also dropping 1.05 mm/yr. Check Japan, some up, some down.
Since many places show opposite movement in the sea level while in very close proximity how assured are we that these site are not more or less hand picked for display? This map is showing about a hundred out of many thousands of locations. As we have seen with temperature stations (much thanks to Anthony), we have little assurance of fair, random scientific data on this matter.


I’d like to submit a motto for the Warmist contingent: “So much BS, so little time”.

Sadly, the temple of Matsu (Goddess of the Sea) on Taiwan floods almost every year now. That gets blamed on human-caused global warming by the high-priests of the Global Warming religion, rather than other, far more likely natural causes.
Kary Mullis (Nobel prize winner for the polymerase chain reaction – PCR that has revolutionized DNA research) wrote in his book Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, “We accept the proclamations of scientists in their lab coats with the same faith once reserved for priests. … We have turned them into something almost as bad as lawyers. … Scientists could be something to entertain us and invent nice things for us. They don’t have to be justifying their existence by scaring us out of our wits. … we still haven’t learned to separate matters of fact from our beliefs. We have accepted as true the belief that we are responsible for global warming …”
Mullis gave a TED talk celebrating the need for actual scientific experimentation to justify scientific claims. In that 2002 talk (which for some reason was not posted to the TED website until last year) he rails against the IPCC and scientists who are in it for the money and not for curiosity about the truth. (The part about the IPCC and Global Warming is near the end, but the talk is humorous and riviting and well worth the time to watch.)
If you don’t have the time to watch the video, here is a short version from Mullis’s book: “Who are these people who make comfortable salaries arranging scientific symposia and stories for the media? They aren’t politicians. Politicians don’t know anything about scientific things. They just want to look like they do. Somebody has to advise them. Who are those advisors? It’s an important question because those people–who are always having to come up with the imminent disasters that can be prevented by governmental projects, sponsored by informed and well meaning politicians-are manipulating you. They are parasites with degrees in economics or sociology who couldn’t get a good job in the legitimate advertising industry. They are responsible for a lot of the things that you accept year after year as your problems. The problems they imagine for you are as imaginary as the commercials during Seinfeld about some Australian outback macho guy, with a Hollywood model by his side, driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle, with pathetic halfwits in pursuit due to a misunderstanding about the relative merits of the vehicles.
“Who pays these experts? Is it the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the United Nations is supporting with our money? Or is it the Environmental Protection Agency, which you were bitching about today because your company was having to close down one of its plants due to some fish that might go extinct, and you might get transferred in the shuffle? … Is it the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility? Is it Greenpeace? The Sierra Club? You are too tired from your day at work to try to figure it out. … the sun never sets on the British Empire or bureaucrats–environmentalists, as many of them are called today. Sleep soundly. Your planet is in well-fed hands.”

Ironically, 1998, when Mullis published these words, is now tied for highest temperature anomaly with 1934, after scientists at GISS (see graph and image of GISS email adjusted their calculations six times between 1999 and 2007 until they got the result they wanted!

OOPS! Here is the link for the TED talk by Kary Mullis.


Isostatic readjustment after the last ice age retreat means Scotland is rising and that southern Britain is sinking, a seesaw effect.
The constant refrain we hear from politicians in Britain is; “we cannot save the east coast (Norfolk) because of AGW and rising sea levels”
When the real problem is falling land levels and coastal erosion, a little more geomorphological study and a little less scaremongering and be a little like the Dutch, build massive dams/polders, problem goes away (albeit in the short term).


I’d rather listen to the experts than AFP.

“You have Vanuatu, and also in the Pacific, north of New Zealand and Fiji — there is the island Tegua. They said they had to evacuate it, because the sea level was rising. But again, you look at the tide-gauge record: There is absolutely no signal that the sea level is rising. If anything, you could say that maybe the tide is lowering a little bit, but absolutely no rising.”
Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner – former expert reviewer for the IPCC

OT – May 2010
In the future we [Russians] can anticipate a somewhat warmer and much more unstable climate, including snowfalls in May and July.
Russian WWF Climate Protection Program [translated]


Enneagram says:
May 10, 2010 at 10:16 am
Then you’d better take that pail of water away from Dorothy.
It’s May 10, 2010, and I am getting heavy rain starting to spit snow in NW Calif.
Snow level was supposed to be 5,000′, but has dropped to 3,000.


Classic. Overpumping of Ground Water. Overpimping of Global Warming.


From the IPCC
“No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected

Rhoda R

Pat, I’m surprised that Miami, Orlando, and Tampa aren’t on that list. We’ve been using the Floridian aquifer at an alarming rate in the south of Florida; I’m surprised that house-gulping sink holes are the only problem we’ve had.


Sounds like Taiwan has more than ample rain water as you read, see, and hear of Taiwan’s weather and floods. Just look at the pictures. Sounds like they should be capturing some of their flood waters in lakes and pumping it into their aquifers, not out. Bet most of their rain water is channeled down the rivers to the sea right now and lost. Thousand+ wells pumping water out of the aquafers will make a big difference over time, I guess they are seeing that now. I’m sure it keeps their water management budgets low and a well is more convenient but they will pay a price in the end. Just please, get off the ‘rising sea’ mantra.


Hu Duck Xing: Thanks for the link, the story is incredible. It might not have gotten much press in 2007, but with the Climategate scandal, this should come out. More people would be willing to hear the story!

Lonnie Schubert

Could AFP make their contact pager harder to work with?


Hmm, lets see. Melting glaciers in Greenland are causing sea levels to rise in Taiwan, thousands of miles away. Yet other low-lying land areas of the world are unaffected. Aren’t all the seas connected? Doesn’t water always seek its lowest level? How do the global warming seas select which land to flood over??

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

I should think it is obvious what is happening.
The People’s Republic of China (aka PRC or Communist China) is desperate to reclaim the territory occupied by the “rebellious” Republic of China (aka ROC or Taiwan), but they clearly do not want to risk a possibly-nuclear war to do so. Thus they have resorted to reclaiming the land by using their vast industrial might to to mine and transport Taiwan (Formosa) to the mainland from the bottom upwards, covertly working under the seabed across the Taiwan Strait. You can clearly see on the maps the subsidence is occurring on the edges of the main island with western shores, i.e. they are facing the PRC thus a direct route is possible.
This clearly is a more plausible explanation than global warming-induced sea level rise.


“Isostatic readjustment after the last ice age retreat means Scotland is rising and that southern Britain is sinking, a seesaw effect.”
First Guam, now Britain and Taiwan, are all at risk of capsizing.

Your website AFP contact claims to be a commercial site and that I’m not a client and therefore cannot leave a comment. (I merely wanted to point back to WUWT). Also, their pick list prelim to being able to leave a comment, didn’t seem to include the US!


Enneagram says:
May 10, 2010 at 10:16 am
“If the Greenland ice sheet melts, sea level could rise by as much 25 feet.”
The Greenland Ice Sheet is melting at a rate of 195 cubic kilometers per years.
It currently has a mass of 2.8 Million cubic kilometers. At the current rate it will take 10,000 years to melt.
At best we only have a few hundred years worth of fossil fuels to burn.


I hate quoting the IPCC but it’s better from the horse’s mouth when knocking AFP. How AFP decided it must be rising sea levels due to global warming is beyond me.

“Sea level is also influenced by processes that are not explicitly related to climate change. Terrestrial water storage (and hence, sea level) can be altered by extraction of ground water, building of reservoirs, changes in surface runoff, and seepage into deep aquifers from reservoirs and irrigation. These factors may be offsetting a significant fraction of the expected acceleration in sea level rise from thermal expansion and glacial melting. In addition, coastal subsidence in river delta regions can also influence local sea level. Vertical land movements caused by natural geological processes, such as slow movements in the Earth’s mantle and tectonic displacements of the crust, can have effects on local sea level that are comparable to climate-related impacts. Lastly, on seasonal, interannual, and decadal time-scales, sea level responds to changes in atmospheric and ocean dynamics, with the most striking example occurring during El Niño events.”


harrywr2 says:
May 10, 2010 at 11:55 am
Except that they are not fossil fuels, just like the ethane and propane on Saturn’s moon, Titan, is not from fossilized Extraterrestrials.
Most oil and natural gas are constantly being produced in the mantle by abiogenic means. We will never run out.

Gary Hladik

Uh-oh, my wife is flying to Taiwan the end of the month. I hope it’s still there in three weeks…


Subsidence due to groundwater extraction is a major problem in central Mexico, even when I lived there a number of years ago. Some buildings had sunk over a meter, and were sinking perceptible amounts annually. In fact, at the cathedral in Mexico City they had installed stairs going down so that you could get to the stairs going up. Fortunately, as the central plateau is about 2000m above sea level, there’s no risk of flooding. Their problems are undoubtedly worse than Taiwan’s, given that there is little rain there to replenish the aquifer.


BBC Scotland had much the same thing back in November 2009 (“Thailand’s rising tide of problems”) :
“In a three part special about climate change, BBC Scotland’s social affairs reporter, Fiona Walker, looks at what Scotland could be like in 2080.
In this first piece she writes about her trip to Thailand to see how areas of that country have disappeared under the sea and she asks whether the same fate could befall parts of Scotland.”
And, according to the article: “Professor Dr Thanawat Jarupongsakul from Chulalongkom University says it’s down to global warming and coastal erosion which he believes we all need to prepare for.”
Far be it for me to question the good Professor, with a little help from google, it is quite easy to find a report from the World Bank which puts the problem down to a number of causes – none of them global warming. Coastal damage due to fisheries is one of them. Lack of replacement silt due to interference with upstream river systems is another.
Funny how I could find that without getting off my backside, when Fiona got a nice trip to Thailand and still seems to have missed it.
This was during the pre-COP15 mega media feeding frenzy. So after all the splaff about what MMGW could be like, the article quotes Oxfam Scotland: “”Next month, we’re holding Scotland’s biggest ever demonstration in support of climate change in Glasgow.”
Since when did the scope of the “License Fee” (BBC tax) extend to giving free publicity to protest groups?
After the event, the protest organisers claimed 50,000 marchers. The police put it at 7,000.