National Geographic’s Junk Science: How long will it take for sea level rise to reach midway up the Statue of Liberty?

natgeo_statue_liberty_sea_levelAssuming that it can actually get there?

Today on the WUWT Hot Sheet, we reported that there was more fear-mongering imagery from National Geographic, as seen at right.

Steve Wilent said in a tip:

Have you seen the cover of the September 2013 National Geographic Magazine? Cover story: Rising Seas. Image: The statue of Liberty with water up to about Liberty’s waist — more than 200 feet above sea level.

I wondered if they told readers how long that will take to get to that level, like I did in a previous photo portraying New York underwater here:

According to the Nat Geo article “Rising Seas”, it turns out that they didn’t tell their readers about how long it would take to reach the level depicted on the cover, so I’m going to do the calculation for you. First, specs on the Statue of Liberty. I found this image with measurements:


But neither it or the article using it had the details I was seeking to be able to determine the heights above current mean sea level.

The National Park Service stats page says:

Top of base to torch 151’1″ 46.05m
Ground to tip of torch 305’1″ 92.99m
Heel to top of head 111’1″ 33.86m
Ground to pedestal 154’0″ 46.94m


Since the measurements are to ground level, I also has to determine the height of the island above MSL. A variety of measurements I discovered give different answers. Google Earth says 7 feet, while this National Park Service document says  15-20 feet were the highest elevations during its natural state before becoming a national monument. Looking at photos, etc, and considering those citations, for the sake of simplicity I’m going to call the height of Liberty Island at 10 feet above MSL. That puts the torch at 315 feet above the sea level.

I also had to estimate where the NatGeo waterline was, and based on folds in the robe, I estmated it to be 1/3 of the entire height of the statue from feet to torch, or about 50 feet above the top of the pedestal. That puts the NatGeo waterline at approximately 214 feet, or 65.2 meters above mean sea level.

So I have added these measurements, along with the estimated water line from the NatGeo cover to this image from WikiPedia:


So now that we have an estimated value for the NatGeo waterline depicted on the cover of the magazine, we can do the calculations to determine how long it will take for sea level rise to reach that height.

We will use the rate value from the tide Gauge at “The Battery”, just 1.7 miles away according to Google Earth.



How long will it take to reach the NatGeo waterline in the cover photo?

The mean sea level trend is 2.77 millimeters per year. At that rate we have:

65.2 meters = 65200 millimeters / 2.77 mm/yr = 23537.9 years

That’s right, 23 thousand 500 years!

A new ice age will likely be well underway then, dropping sea levels. The water would never get there. That’s assuming the statue still exists there at all. Ironically, Liberty Island is a remnant of the last ice age:

Liberty Island is a small 12.7-acre island in New York Harbor. As a remnant of last glacial age, it is composed of sand and small stones deposited as the glaciers retreated.

Even if we believe that sea level will accelerate to 2 or 3 times that rate (as some proponents would have us believe), we are still looking at thousands of years into the future. At a 3x rate, we are looking at 7846 years into the future.

Without explaining this basic fact to their readers, National Geographic is doing nothing but scare-mongering with that cover image.  Shame on them.

It is this sort of junk science sensationalism that causes me and many others not to subscribe to National Geographic anymore. Their climate advocacy while abandoning factual geographics such as this is not worthy of a subscription.


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Mike Bromley the Kurd

No argument there.

Alan Van Buren

Count me in as one of those others who found out long ago how biased Nat Geo is and dropped the subscription


That’s assuming the statue still exists there at all.
Why? Is Obama sending that one back too?

Mk Urbo

The term “grasping at straws” in a marketing/agenda sense comes to mind….

davidmhoffer says:
August 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm
> That’s assuming the statue still exists there at all.
Copper thieves.

My question would be entirely different, and as usual, more philosophical than scientific. Assuming that this would be a global event, with water at the same level everywhere, is there actually that much water on Earth?

National Geographic has good photos and bad science. We cancelled our subscription some years ago but I still look at the copies in the Dentist’s Waiting Room for the admirable photography and just ignore the Junk Science and Global Warming Alarmism.


The depicted level is pretty darned close to the absolute maximum possible if all ice in all places (Greenland + Antarctica) were melted and ended up in the oceans.


Okay, so the photo and, no doubt, the article is ludicrous.
Where does NatGeo figure enough water for a rise of 65 meters, world wide, would come from?
Franky, I think even 5 meters might require the whole of Antarctica to melt or am I way off?

I haven’t read the story because I knew it would be nothing but propaganda after reading the following in the Editor’s Note on Page 4 of the issue: “Because there are no computer models or scientists to tell us with certainty how fast and how much the seas will rise, it is a challenge to illustrate this story. You could say it requires a leap of imagination. . . “


All war is deception – Sun Zhu. Any doubt about what kind of state we are in? That NatGeo is practicing a war against science is shameful.


@ cynical scientist
Are you basing that on some formula that estimates the total volume of ice (on land) of Greenland and the Antarctic?


nickshaw1 says:
August 20, 2013 at 10:39 pm
If the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, sea level might rise about six meters. If both Antarctic Ice Sheets melted, sea level would rise by about 60 meters.

my sub is expired or expiring – if I get that issue I’ll send it back asking them to stop trying to get p*rn in this house, climatic or otherwise

Mike McMillan

Since the island is a glacial remnant, it is reasonable to assume it will be threatened by the next ice age glaciers. A real test for the NYC snow removal crews.


I just don’t see it. I read an article recently about a sunken forest off Mobile that they determined to be on dry land during the last great Ice Age. It’s about 70 feet underwater.
If the melting of the sheets covering a goodly portion of the northern hemisphere (incredibly thick sheets at that!) only resulted in a rise of 70 feet (about 22 meters or so), how the heck could just Antarctica and Greenland total about 60 meters?
Or am I really missing something?

Unite Against Greenfleecing

Generation dumb.
I don’t blame National Geographic, they have long since realized that their target audience crave science fiction, the target audience are pop idol fans with limited thinking capabilities. They want a quick scare story to retweet, facebook or share.


I think it looks very nice, a bit like an infinity pool.

Strange coincidence, if as they claim they just made some sort of guess, that their picture depicts almost exactly ALL of the world’s ice melted – no more no less. Since Antarctica started glaciating millions of years before the current sequence of ice ages started, they are portraying a climate something like back in the cretaceous. Even the most rabid alarmist hasn’t done that, have they? (But heck, why not? One lie is as good as another.)


But but but, according to this report, the big wet in Australia in 2010 and 2011 reversed the trend in sea level rise;

Coincidentally I just wrote National Geographic a letter I’ll post separately, but first I want to correct what you report (by the way, before I even took the wrap off of my issue I was already doing the same calculation you did here regarding the length of time it would take to raise sea levels that high). They do make mention of how long it might take on the “If All the Ice Melted” supplemental poster (it makes the AIT animation look tame by comparison—Florida is reduced to several islands):
[N]o one really knows how long it would take to melt it all. Probably more than 5,000 years, some scientists say.
Followed immediately with this to stay on message:
But if we burn all the coal, oil, and gas, adding some five trillion tons of carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet.
Thought you’d also be interested to know that on the page following the poster is almost the exact picture of the moulin in Greenland you used the other day, minus the mention of soot of course. One more quote from the article:
In May the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts for million [actually, no it didn’t], the highest since three million years ago. Sea levels may have been as much as 65 feet above today’s; the Northern Hemisphere was largely ice free year-round. It would take centuries for the oceans to reach such catastrophic heights again, and much depends on whether we manage to limit future greenhouse gas emissions. In the short term scientists are still uncertain about how fast and how high seas will rise. Estimates [such as Hansen’s beauty regarding Manhattan] have repeatedly been too conservative.
And finally another from the poster:
The East Antarctic ice sheet is so large—it contains four-fifths of all the ice on Earth—that it might seem unmeltable. It survived earlier warm periods intact. Lately it seems to be thickening slightly—because of global warming. The warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which falls as snow on East Antarctica. But even this behemoth is unlikely to survive a return to an Eocene climate.
The map points out that East Antarctic contributions to global sea level amount to 175 feet. I’ll share the letter I sent next, where I, like Sully, also noted the “leap of imagination” called for by the editor. I wonder if he’ll answer. Cheers!

Ummm, NatGeo has been rewriting history and twisting science for at least 20 years now… Just try to get off their mailing list!

All right. So here’s the letter I sent to National Geographic a while ago. I know they would never publish it in part or in full (the lead paragraph offers a nice synopsis though), but I feel better for having sent it. Needed to get some of that off my chest…again. Contents:
The irony is fathoms deep in your ‘alarming’ “Rising Seas” cover depicting the Statue of Liberty half-submerged in the Atlantic, a fantasy piece of such low probability that even the most climate-anxious scientists agree such an outcome would be several millennia away. The only true threat to Liberty is immediate and comes in the form of the relentless surge offered by overzealous propagandists who enthrone the political dictates of activist post-modern pseudoscience to implement an open agenda that aims to control and punish humanity. 
Under the guise of the innocuous-sounding Sustainable Development banner, this edict to de-develop developed nations and cripple the growth of developing nations will do nothing to affect climate but much to promote poverty, wealth destruction, loss of national sovereignty, energy and resource rationing, restriction of property rights, further environmental degradation, and a general continued withering of Liberty. 
Perhaps National Geographic could turn its attention upon that global phenomenon instead of wasting any more of its valuable pages advocating a misguided political and economic philosophy anchored in anti-science, anti-human sentiment, and above all else, abject failure. It is far beyond time that your once-proud society returned to its roots in the scientific method. What passes now for climate ‘science,’ and specifically those issues concerning attribution, is nothing more than a falsely heralded consensus of unfalsifiable ignorance. Even more objectionable is the wanton promotion of this manufactured consensus as robust and unequivocal. It is a farce and a dishonor to those who established the long-standing scientific principles that, like our Liberty, wither as a result. Richard Feynman is rolling in his grave.
One must look no farther than page 127 of the “Rising Seas” issue to understand at least a small portion of what is at play here in the article by Hannah Bloch titled “Failure Is an Option.” She says:
Scientific researchers are reluctant to own up publicly to flops. Reputations and future funding depend on perceptions of success.
Indeed, but the stakes in this case are so much higher than the simple protection of a funding stream, by several orders of magnitude in fact. What is at stake is no less than Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That is no exaggeration when one objectively considers the reality that would be delivered through Sustainable Development.
Before continuing down that road, I did want to also touch upon the Editor’s Note, Sea Change, by Chris Johns. I surmise he was speaking tongue-in-cheek when he said “A catastrophe is playing out in slow motion.” Certainly true Mr. Johns, though not quite as slowly as I’d like. And there is in fact a man-made catastrophe unfolding, we agree, just not the same catastrophe. Yours is a crystal-ball catastrophe comprised of many a could, maybe or might. Mine is a crystal clear catastrophe-in-the-making equating to economic suicide. As is of cue you added this:
Because there are no computer models or scientists to tell us with certainty how fast and how much the seas will rise, it is a challenge to illustrate this story and telegraph the problem’s urgency. You could say it requires a leap of faith in imagination that is grounded in fact. 
Can I translate? 
I confess that the entropic nature of climate requires the concession of great uncertainty, or as Kevin Trenberth put it privately, “We are not close to balancing the energy budget,”  but this will not keep us from using scare-mongering imagery and uncorrelated circumstances to foster anxiety regarding the rise in sea level that has been occurring for millennia and will continue to occur until nature flips the switch back to the next age of glaciation. Despite our knowledge that mitigation will be far costlier than adaptation in regards to efficacy, environment, and economy, we are forging ahead with the mitigation agenda regardless. To keep this agenda on course we must continue to “offer up scary scenarios” and ignore the empirical evidence that points more and more strongly toward natural variability with each passing year. We choose to instead substitute empirical evidence with model-based projection that hinges upon a leap of faith in imagination rather than a foundation in sound science.
I know it is an editorial page with a statement by a photojournalist, but regurgitating unscientific phrases such as “ever more destructive storms” and a “leap of faith in imagination” is an insult to your readership. I am willing to bet that your audience is a far more skeptical bunch than you are willing to concede. Matters as contentious as anthropogenic global warming are best presented from a balanced rather than biased viewpoint, and the attempted stifling of dissent that has been the cornerstone of AGW proponents is a wholly unscientific endeavor that must be abandoned. National Geographic could lead the way were it to choose to do so, and, were it to do so, would assist in restoring faith in modern science tarnished by the stain of activist climate science.
Finally, to lend weight to my previous statements of fact, not conspiracy, regarding the impact of Sustainable Development, I offer figures derived by the UN, its chief promoter. If we continue upon this deviant course instead of the natural course we were following (the UN termed it the Golden Economic Age), by the year 2100 the global GDP will have contracted by $200 trillion ($350 trillion vs. $550 trillion). That equates to a 40% decrease in per capita income for developed countries and a 50% decrease in per capita income for developing countries. Read that again. Eighty percent of humanity lives in developing countries and this agenda aims to cut their projected wealth in half. Please keep that in mind whenever you hear it parroted that these efforts are primarily meant to help the poor. They do the exact opposite and instead will ensure that poverty is unforgivably sustained for the world’s poorest. I conclude with my earlier premise that those propagating this agenda wish only to control and punish humanity. When enough people awaken to that reality, this backward opposition to humanity’s natural course of development, this Golden Economic Age, will be swept aside. My advice to you is to join us to that end, or step aside.

Robert Crouch

@Unite Against Greenfleecing “They want a quick scare story to retweet, facebook or share.” must be one of the best quotes describing our current generation! May I borrow it?

Ric Werme says:
August 20, 2013 at 10:25 pm
davidmhoffer says:
August 20, 2013 at 10:19 pm
> That’s assuming the statue still exists there at all.
Copper thieves.
LOL. Thank you, Ric, you’ve made my afternoon. 🙂
Good article, Anthony, this info should be out there for all to see – and it will be, thanks to your blog and others like it. The warmists have nowhere to hide, and no lie escapes detection.


Has anyone seen the new Tom Cruise scifi movie, Oblivion? It shows a post-apocalyptic world, but we can always tell which city we’re in because all of the most iconic buildings remain. Heck, even in D.C. the Washington Monument is completely intact, even though the rest of the city is pretty much rubble. (Surprisingly, it’s not a bad movie at all, other than those kinds of details I enjoyed it).
This kinda looks the same.. a ridiculous benchmark of catastrophe, which of course reminds me of the Original “Planet of the Apes”… Charlton Heston sees part of the Statue of Liberty rising from the sand, it’s thousands of years in the future and the Apes have done all they can to erase human artifacts, but that statue is still essentially intact. “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
I disagree that NatGeo has great photography these days. All that I see (my parents still subscribe, members since the 50s and every issue intact) are staged, grainy, and mediocre images. And I have a business selling commercial photography, so I have some idea what makes a great image.
The whole sea-level rise scare depends upon acceleration of current trends, and that acceleration is simply NOT happening. But that doesn’t stop the alarmists from claiming that it is.


Did not the UN at one time have a post on their website stating there would be 50 million sea level rise by 2012? Since been quietly removed.

Lil Fella from OZ

NG may have enough ice in their refrigerators to make that much water. They seem capable of pulling anything out of nowhere to get a ‘story.’ What an absolute ludicrous effort. No science involved!


The National Geographic makes a habit of ignoring and re-arranging facts to suit itself. For example, they altered the position of the pyramids of Egypt in order, as they put it, to make “a more pleasing composition” of the photos. You might give them a pass on that if they ever bothered to tell their readers about their manipulations.


If I fictionalized current events into another set of subjects, and posited huge numbers of professionals blandly engaged in grandiose lies about without any apparent sense of shame or anyone but a few isolated skeptics to oppose them, it would be seen as grotesquely implausible.
On the other hand, I’m sure I could make a SyFy Channel movie out of it.

David, UK

Now, come on. The picture in that cover could happen. Eventually. And there might be talking apes too. The important bit is the last sentence: “[Gary] Knell, whose vision for NPR was profiled just last month in the Wall Street Journal, will take over at the National Geographic Society.”


Actually the picture says it all, although not in the way intended. The alarmists claim that climate change will violate our freedoms, whereas the violation of our freedoms is in the distortion of the science itself.

Inadvertently, scientists say here that it’s all over for the Kakadu wetlands with just 2cm of rise
Since it hasn’t changed in decades, what are they worried about.

brian boru

the 65 metres is about what you would get from the complete melting of antarctica. ie a lump of ice a few miles thick and several thousand miles wide.
mind you, humans never cease to amaze me. they panic about the smallest things (is milk good for you or bad for you this week?) and shrug off utter disasters like WW2.
If we had that sea level rise in a year, there would be some effects for sure, but life would just carry on as normal. it would be less far to walk to the beach, some people would have lost some property, some ports would need rebuilding as would some cities – on the upside think of the new land grab in greenland and antarctica


Facinating thing about this is that satellite data supposedly tells us sea levels on average are rising some 3 mm plus per year.
Central east coast USA is one of the faster subsiding places on the planet (some 0.7mm/year I think?).
Yet somehow the Battery Point tide guage only gives us 2.77 mm per year…..
And then we may take into account the 0.7 mm per year of the sea rise we measure we get from pumped aquifer water reaching the sea.

Even the junk scientists from BoM don’t see any rise, or they would have built their new buildings in Broome a lot higher;

Peter Miller

We live in a world where newspaper and magazine sales are tumbling because of the internet.
Sensationalism and scary forecasts still sell, as every climate scientist can attest to.
Nat Geo wants to survive, so in editorial policy the concepts of scary and sensational naturally receive higher priority than facts. Also, like many of our great scientific institutions, the management has probably been hi-jacked by serial lefties, who have an agenda which would make the founders turn in their graves and bear little resemblance to the thinking of their members/readers.

michael hart

That torch she’s holding doesn’t look very carbon-neutral to me…..
…..a windmill, perhaps?


The rise of sea level is likely not a linear function.
As sea level rises, it’s surface area increases thus requiring more melt to keep the rise linear.

Other National Geographic hoaxes: Piltdown man, Nebraska Man, Peking Man, Java Man and the Archaeoraptor (half bird half dinosaur thing)


This would not happen, as in 23500 years the Statue of Liberty will be knocked over by a thick ice sheet …

Paul Burtwistle

and the reason I stopped my Nat Geo subscription years ago was because of their incessant pushing of the green issues. They should learn that it puts a lot of people off.


What kind of warming would create such a sea level rise for National Geographic’s image? During the warmer Eemian interglacial Greenland’s ice sheet showed only a modest response.
(Nature – 2013) “…a modest ice-sheet response to the strong warming in the early Eemian…”


You missed the whole point of the cover. In essence climate change will have very limited impact as shown by our ability to maintain the statue of liberty very well over thousands of years. We will cope very well regardless how high the water comes.


Bah, 23,537.9 years! As if. I’ve seen the documentary “Planet of the Apes” and the year was only AD 3978 where the statue was buried in sand up to the waist.


I dunno… If all the National Geographics stored in attics, basements, and medical offices were burned at the same time there might be enough soot created to cover Greenland and the poles and melt them. But then you’d have to factor in the isostatic rebound of the continents after getting rid of all the back issues when doing the sea level rise calculation. Of course I’ll need funding for further study.


The real science question is how many comets will have to deposit water to flood the planet to a 200 foot sea level increase. The number to be looking for is the one that estimates the extra water needed after the Gore “all glaciers melt” and the North and South Poles are ice free, the mountains are not ice capped, etc. Next, estimate how to get all those ice comets in the Oort cloud to Earth.
Then, someone at National Geo will calculate how the mass of the SUV’s and their carbon footprint will attract them. Sort of like a huge celestial ice magnet.