Sea level rise, subsidence and hurricanes… Oh my!!!

89 thoughts on “Sea level rise, subsidence and hurricanes… Oh my!!!

  1. The green fund-raising efforts called “news” rarely mentions subsidence, as melting glaciers are so much scarier.

  2. Excellent article, except that I don’t think it’s groundwater withdrawal which is causing the subsidence. It’s because most of Galveston Island is built on silt which was pumped out of the harbor.

    • Great video! Galveston is one of our favorite places to visit. My wife and I were married in a historic church in Galveston… St. Joseph’s was built in 1860 and survived the 1900 hurricane.

    • … most of Galveston Island is built on silt which was pumped out of the harbor …

      It kind of reminds me of Seattle. There they filled in around the buildings to raise the street level by as much as two stories. The resulting tunnels have become a tourist attraction. link Seattle was originally built in a location that was too low but there is some subsidence where they built on sawdust fill.
      Nobody is predicting a worst case sea level rise of more than a meter by 2100. link Seattle has demonstrated that cities can deal with much more than that.

    • Only the buildings in the city of Galveston were raised. This was in response to the 1900 hurricane whose storm surge went over the island. The tidal gauge stations are not in the city but in the harbor and should not be affected.
      As a person who lived in the Houston/Galveston area from 1979 to 1997, I believe the areas south of Houston switched their water source from well-water to lake water in the early 1990s in response to the threats posed by subsidence. If well-water is a major factor in subsidence then it is not apparent on the map above. As an example, I find it interesting that the greatest subsidence is located in the most industrialized portion of Houston, the Houston ship channel. It sure looks like land use and subsidence has a far greater effect on coastal flooding than rising sea levels from global warming.

      • Water isn’t just pumped for drinking. The petrochemical facilities pumped a great deal for use in their processes, hence the correlation of subsidence with the industrialized areas along the ship channel.

  3. David,
    I don’t see the colors for sea level trends on Figure 4 — and I’m not even wearing my eclipse glasses, yet.

    • That’s because the gray area of the subsidence map is covering up most of the two orange “up” arrows. You can see the tip of one of the arrows just above Pelican Island. PowerPoint only allows me to render one color transparent. I opted for white. There is a yellow “up” arrow visible to the northeast at Sabine Pass.

  4. Alternatively
    This graph shows four apparently ‘co-related’ variables
    Most of the north American continent is subject to postglacial uplift. The uplift extends to the northern portion of the North American tectonic plate, which btw. covers about 50% of the Arctic Ocean.
    If the Arctic Oceans floor is rising (Hudson Bay area has risen about 2m, yes two meters, in the last hundred years) then all that water has to go somewhere else. About 30% of the long term gravity anomaly in the N. Canada is a directly associated with post-glacial uplift, which in turn is reflected in the short term (on dacadal scale) of the local magnetic variability .
    It could be postulated that the local magnetic change is a good metric for the uplift variability, and consequently the sea level rise.

  5. You know if your fill a bathtub halfway, mark the level on all 4 sides, add more water, mark the level on all 4 sides, drain the water, then measure the 4 level deltas you will find that they are never equal to each other.

    • Despite the sarcasm, your point is valid. Climatologist witch doctors intentionally confuse the general public by conflating subsidence with sea level rise. They are two completely separate and independent issues driven by completely separate and independent mechanisms.

  6. Interestingly, it has been suggested that spent nuclear fuel (mischaracterized as “waste”) although not producing enough energy to drive the turbines of a nuclear plant any longer, still retains an enormous amount of its previous energy – roughly 95%. That means that, instead of spending money to bury the spent fuel for a long period to allow their radioactivity to return to background levels, which does nothing more than heat the enclosure that contain them, we should use our brains and place them into cask containers (currently being used) , which they will heat initially (and for a very long time afterward) to a temperature well beyond the boiling point of water – up to 350 degrees. This essentially free energy can easily be used to desalinate an enormous amount of seawater , removing the need to extract water from a city’s aquifer, perhaps eliminating most subsidience.

  7. Most of the subsidence shown on that map IS in fact related to groundwater withdrawal, with some impact also from oil and gas removal as well, hence the two bullseyes around the Texas City and Baytown areas, where refineries pumped huge amounts of O&G in the past and huge volumes of GW for use in their processes. The subsidence in the Houston-Galveston area has been greatly mitigated near the coast in recent years as most of the communities and large volume users have been converted over to surface water supplies provided by the City of Houston. Not all of the petrochemical assets susceptible to storm damage are floating or moored to the bottom in the gulf. Some of the largest petrochemical complexes in the country are between Galveston and Houston and are mostly located at or below 20′ above sea level.

    • I should correct myself to say that the “refineries” didn’t pump huge amounts of O&G…but large numbers of wells placed very near the refineries did. For an interesting view of things, go to Google Earth and search for “Tabbs Bay” near Baytown, Texas. If you look north of Hog Island on the 1978 historical image on Google Earth, you can see several dozen oil wells in Tabbs Bay. I have historical photos from that area showing an enormous cluster of wells in the bay in that areas over a period of several decades. Those wells correlate to one of the small bullseyes showing around 10′ of subsidence on David’s original map. The subsidence along the bay near Baytown was so severe that the Brownwood Subdivision was bought out by the government due to repeated flooding and is now used as a nature center.

    • Texas City, Kemah, LaMarque, and Galveston (most all of Galveston County) including rice irrigation in Galveston and Brazoria Counties, is supplied water by Gulf Coast Water Authority. The freshwater needs of the refineries and chemical plants are supplied by same. The source is the Brazos River. The infrastructure for the drinking water and raw water from the Brazos was essentially completed in the mid-seventies. That transition ties nicely with the end of the subsidence in the maps above.
      The levee’s surrounding Texas City were built in the 50’s/60’s. They were originally 17′ AMSL…. for a Cat 3 surge….not anymore.
      I worked down there from 1999-2007, the last for were with GCWA.

  8. David, you are a treasure! I’m a geologist and geological engineer (BSc Eng ’61, MSc Geol 68) with an eclectic work history still practicing full time as a consultant in mining and metallurgy.
    My first work – Geological Survey of Manitoba, then hydrologist along the rightofway of the Greater Winnipeg Floodway (Red River of the North) , at the time second only to the Panama Canal in terms of cubic yardage excavated, and in town water supply during which I discovered the extension of the former old Missouri River channel at depth below Lake Agassiz bottom clays in Manitoba when it flowed north to the Arctic during earlier interglacials (reversed flow during glacial damming and was captured by a river that is now the lower modern Missouri). Did Geo Survey work, mineral exploration and metallurgical in Nigeria (co-founder and lecturer at Nigerian School of Mines), other Africa, mineral economics for Canadian Feds writing chapters in the Canadian Minerals Yearbook,
    I worked for the oil and gas industry for 5yrs, went on to consulting in mining, exploration and metallurgy. I keep up my interest O&G and even wrote a tech-ec report on the proppants (Frac sand- natural and manufactured) industry in North America for Roskill Information Services in UK (Roskill. com) which they sell for a small king’s ransom! And have an interest in climate and never miss one of your excellent articles. Real geologists came to the fight relatively late. I used to think the alarm was real before delving in.

    • Geologist all around, my daughter is one, working for a well known international mining company, one of the largest. Strangely many of them, including the three world largest have headquarters in the UK, while the UK virtually has no mining of any consequence.

      • You don’t have to live in the shadow of a head frame.
        And if you are the supplier of capital rather than labour you generally choose not to be near it except for the yearly photoshoot for the annual report

    • Gary, I am flattered and honored by your compliments. My work has pretty well been the inverse of eclectic. All “little oil” (as opposed to Big Oil).
      I worked East Texas from 1981-1988 and then I’ve worked the Gulf of Mexico (mostly East Cameron South Addition and Garden Banks) ever since. The first offshore project and first 3d survey I ever worked was a field in East Cameron South Addition. I’ve worked that same field for 4 of the 5 companies I’ve worked for… 😉

    • David, you certainly are eclectic and thorough in your wide ranging topics demolishing Big Climate. I consider the neomarxbrothers’ policies to solve a non problem to be the biggest threat that mankind has ever faced and we need application of logic, incisive analytics and a skill with words like you possess in this task. I’ve always thought of geological deduction as the pinnacle of forensics. I have a beautiful example of just this idea: The global warmth and biological productivity of the Eocene was determined by a variety of such forensic analyses. The following direct window into the Eocene was discovered in the Ekati Diamond pipe near the Arctic Circle in NWTerritories in northern Canada: redwood chunks dating at 53Mybp – real wood with crystallized sap seams and even the red color was preserved- were found my miners at the 300m level in the open pit. Did the MSM jump all over this story? Of course not. Enjoy.

  9. Great article as always, David.
    Harris county (Houston) is almost all exclusively surface water now. The conversion happened over many years, but (back in the day) western Harris County was covered with rice farms which were told they could no longer pump water to flood their rice patties. The farmers got the message, and eventually sold their farms to create subdivisions.
    The main culprits of the sinking were the refineries. They use a lot, and the sinking surrounds their wells. But all in the multi-county area had to stop using ground water. There was resistance from small water districts who wanted to keep using ground water. After all, the surface water reservoir is in east Harris County, and the water districts in western Harris County weren’t interested in converting.
    As the map shows, some areas sunk more (faster) than other areas.
    When Hurricane Alicia struck, it devastated low lying areas that had sunk the most along upper Galveston Bay. It completely took out one subdivision called Brownwood in Baytown. The owners were forced to leave. This has since been turned into a nature center. The evidence of sinking/destruction of Brownwood was the last straw, and was used as the scare tactic to get/force the rest of Harris County on surface water.

  10. So the big financial threat from fantasised extreme climate change is to oil rig assets that would be rendered valueless in a decarbonised economy. Rather a weird argument.

    • I does push the weirdness envelope… It logically compares to “We have to pass the bill, so we can see what’s in it”… 😉

  11. It is the never ending flow of b.s. by the climate obsessed that I despise the most. The simple, closed minded anti-reality positions of the climate true believers is so predictable and so deceptive.

  12. Thank you David for another informative article.
    My first visit to Baytown was in the mid 60’s and was told then by an engineer that the local subsidence and flooding at high tide was due to ground water removal. It may be more complicated but the issue has been going on for a long time.
    Living along the NJ coast, I know that the barrier islands have been sustained since I was a youngster by pumping sand from the ocean back to the beaches and the streets still flood during a heavy rain.

  13. SUBSIDENCE: The go-to site for subsidence (or its opposite) in the USA is always the NOAA CORS project.
    The data available for Galveston, TX is:
    Galveston seems to be rising up a bit in the last few years, rather than subsiding. One must remember that Galveston is built on a sand bar — a barrier island — not solid ground.

  14. Climate change sea level alarmism is nonsense. At any location, the local sea level is dominated by land movements, not climate change. And worldwide, coastal land areas over the past 30 years have actually increased (e.g. from river silting and land uplift) more than they have decreased (e.g. from subsistence), as revealed from actual satellite observations:

  15. David,
    Yet another thoroughly educational and entertaining article, refuting the ‘topping-the-snorkel’ assertions of accelerating sea level rise while leading us through so many more points of historical and geological interest! Thank You!

    • It started its maritime life as a North Sea train ferry. Helix is kind of like the Thunderbirds of oilfield services vessels.

  16. Sea level change — raise and fall — are associated with several natural [earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, etc] and man made causes [destruction of coastal zones, water-oil-gas extraction, testing of atomic bombs, dumping of waste along the coast lines, etc]. For each station or region the detailed analysis on cause and effect must be studies by taking account the natural cyclic variations including associated with the Moon’s phases.
    I discussed these aspects in my latest book [Climate Change and its Impacts: Ground Realities” [2016].
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  17. The beauty of tide gauge charts is that there are plenty of them all over the world, so they can be cherry-picked to find those where local vagaries provide meat for those who seek to mislead.
    The inescapable fact of the satellite record is that the global rate of sea level rise has doubled since the late 20th century – and is accelerating.

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