Singer: The Sea Is Rising, but Not Because of Climate Change

There is nothing we can do about it, except to build dikes and sea walls a little bit higher.

By Fred Singer, WSJ, May 15, 2018

Of all known and imagined consequences of climate change, many people fear sea-level rise most. But efforts to determine what causes seas to rise are marred by poor data and disagreements about methodology. The noted oceanographer Walter Munk referred to sea-level rise as an “enigma”; it has also been called a riddle and a puzzle.

It is generally thought that sea-level rise accelerates mainly by thermal expansion of sea water, the so-called steric component. But by studying a very short time interval, it is possible to sidestep most of the complications, like “isostatic adjustment” of the shoreline (as continents rise after the overlying ice has melted) and “subsidence” of the shoreline (as ground water and minerals are extracted).

I chose to assess the sea-level trend from 1915-45, when a genuine, independently confirmed warming of approximately 0.5 degree Celsius occurred. I note particularly that sea-level rise is not affected by the warming; it continues at the same rate, 1.8 millimeters a year, according to a 1990 review by Andrew S. Trupin and John Wahr. I therefore conclude—contrary to the general wisdom—that the temperature of sea water has no direct effect on sea-level rise. That means neither does the atmospheric content of carbon dioxide.

This conclusion is worth highlighting: It shows that sea-level rise does not depend on the use of fossil fuels. The evidence should allay fear that the release of additional CO2 will increase sea- level rise.

But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating constant rate. The trend has been measured by a network of tidal gauges, many of which have been collecting data for over a century.

The cause of the trend is a puzzle. Physics demands that water expand as its temperature increases. But to keep the rate of rise constant, as observed, expansion of sea water evidently must be offset by something else. What could that be? I conclude that it must be ice accumulation, through evaporation of ocean water, and subsequent precipitation turning into ice. Evidence suggests that accumulation of ice on the Antarctic continent has been offsetting the steric effect for at least several centuries.

It is difficult to explain why evaporation of seawater produces approximately 100% cancellation of expansion. My method of analysis considers two related physical phenomena: thermal expansion of water and evaporation of water molecules. But if evaporation offsets thermal

expansion, the net effect is of course close to zero. What then is the real cause of sea-level rise of 1 to 2 millimeters a year?

Melting of glaciers and ice sheets adds water to the ocean and causes sea levels to rise. (Recall though that the melting of floating sea ice adds no water to the oceans, and hence does not affect the sea level.) After the rapid melting away of northern ice sheets, the slow melting of Antarctic ice at the periphery of the continent may be the main cause of current sea-level rise.

All this, because it is much warmer now than 12,000 years ago, at the end of the most recent glaciation. Yet there is little heat available in the Antarctic to support melting.

We can see melting happening right now at the Ross Ice Shelf of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Geologists have tracked Ross’s slow disappearance, and glaciologist Robert Bindschadler predicts the ice shelf will melt completely within about 7,000 years, gradually raising the sea level as it goes.

Of course, a lot can happen in 7,000 years. The onset of a new glaciation could cause the sea level to stop rising. It could even fall 400 feet, to the level at the last glaciation maximum 18,000 years ago.

Currently, sea-level rise does not seem to depend on ocean temperature, and certainly not on CO2. We can expect the sea to continue rising at about the present rate for the foreseeable future. By 2100 the seas will rise another 6 inches or so—a far cry from Al Gore’s alarming numbers.

There is nothing we can do about rising sea levels in the meantime. We’d better build dikes and sea walls a little bit higher.

Mr. Singer is a professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. He founded the Science and Environmental Policy Project and the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.

Note: a typo was corrected after publication, accelerating was changed to constant, with a strike-through added. -Anthony


119 thoughts on “Singer: The Sea Is Rising, but Not Because of Climate Change

  1. “sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate”…and Bangladesh is sinking at an accelerated rate

    Glaciers, ground water, on and on….if they can add to sea level rise……erosion and sedimentation can add a lot more….there’s not a shoreline, river, stream…..or the entire east coast…..that’s not pumping dirt into the ocean

    If these morons can claim that all the coastal cities are sinking because sedimentation is not rebuilding their land……where do they think all that dirt is going?

      • I think ‘urban’ paving would be more accurate. During my flights, I see little paving of the Earth – other than in cities, and that only in developed countries. At 0.2% of the land surface, it seems small, albeit most of that is near waterways, magnifying the effect. That may be high, as not all of the 33 billion meters of roads are paved. (Seems like very few are paved here in Nevada.)
        In California, there are rules in effect to prevent people who live on the beach from protecting against beach erosion. Exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis, and typically with a clause that indicates only one effort will be allowed. I don’t know what that is about.

      • The water table can also rise underneath paved surfaces due to completely blocking the evaporative pump at the surface.

      • Re: “But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate.”

        Dr. Singer called me today, and he told me that the word “accelerating” in the printed version of the article was an error, which has been corrected in the on-line version.

        That makes sense, because it was inconsistent with several other statements in the article:

          “it continues at the same rate”
          “to keep the rate of rise constant, as observed, expansion of sea water evidently must be offset by something else”
          “We can expect the sea to continue rising at about the present rate for the foreseeable future.”

        Here’s the corrected version:

        Note that the WSJ has taken down the paywall, so you needn’t be a subscriber to read it. If they put it back up and you need to see it, contact me; I’ve saved a copy.

    • Depuis des millions d’années il y a des milliards de km³ d’eaux douces (venus des pluies, des fleuves & des rivières) qui se sont déversés dans les mers & océans… SANS QU’ELLES OU ILS NE MONTENT !!! Çà alors ! Tout simplement parce que l’eau s’infiltre continuellement dans les planchers océaniques et maritimes vers le magma où cette soupe toxique (les poissons chient dans la mer !) y est chauffée/bouillie et remonte donc (comme dans une cafetière électrique) vers les sources (chaudes ou froides suivant l’altitude) et vers les nappes phréatique qu’elle remplit.

      For millions of years there are billions of km³ of fresh water (from rains, rivers & rivers) that have poured into the seas & oceans … WITHOUT WHERE THEY DO NOT UP !! ! That’s it! Quite simply because water continuously seeps into the ocean and sea floors to the magma where this poisonous soup (the fish shit in the sea!) Is heated / boiled and goes up (as in a coffee maker) to the sources (hot or cold depending on the altitude) and towards the water tables it fills.

      [?? Easier to claim “Ocean water absorbs solar energy and evaporates.” .mod]

      • …All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again. …

        Ecclesiastes 1:7

  2. “But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate.”

    No it is not accelerating. Changes in rate, up or down, has happened before in the over all trend of 1.74mm per year. Not one station shows the appearent doubling rate that magically happened in 1995 when sat data started.

    • I believe the truth here Richard is that “there is also good data” that shows that we don’t really have good enough data.

      • Most, if not all, of the reports of “accelerating sea level rise” come from sites located in geologically sinking basins, such as Chesapeake Bay and southern Louisiana. And the people disturbed by that seem unable to understand that there actually is a huge difference between the sea level rising and the land sinking.

      • @ JohnWho:
        There is plenty of excellent tide gauge data that shows no *acceleration*, at all.

        @ wws:
        Land rising or falling makes no difference. The rates are *constant*. There is no acceleration.

        If you want to show *acceleration*, you need to use adjusted GRACE data combined with the isostatic adjustment.

      • “But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate. ”
        “We can expect the sea to continue rising at about the present rate for the foreseeable future.”

        Fred contradicts himself .

      • Sorry, TonyL, but yes: Land slowly subsiding does have an effect. If you have land slowly but surely ‘slipping into the sea’ or slow-scale dropping into a sinkhole like MOST if not almost all cities built on or near water are known to do? Of course it is going to appear that “The sea level is rising!” simply because you are having that settling.

    • Fred, the readers are asking, where is all this good data showing acceleration. Seems like an easy request to respond to. We are all waiting.

  3. In the same way that “the melting of floating sea ice adds no water to the oceans, and hence does not affect the sea level”, heating of water floating on top of colder water will not affect sea level as measured at the coasts.

  4. A great common-sense article by Fred Singer.

    If sea levels are slowly rising, we can protect cities by slowly building sea walls.

    After the devastating hurricane in 1900, the city of Galveston built a 25-foot high sea wall in five years, and earth-moving equipment wasn’t as good back then as it is now. So it should be relatively easy for coastal cities to build a 6-inch high sea wall in 82 years.

    • The Galveston wall was constructed as part of hurricane protection. They also raised 2,000 buildings, plus grade, roads, and utilities, by up to 11 feet. The original wall was 3-miles long…about 10% of the perimeter of Manhattan. It was extended another 7 miles over the next 59 years.

      Sure, a 16-foot tall Galveston seawall (not 25 ft) is much more of an undertaking than a 6-inch high seawall, but there was much more to fixing Galveston’s issues than just the wall itself.

      The real issue with 6-inches of sea level rise has to do with how many recreational beaches it would swallow, how salt water intrusion can affect water supplies, and how much that depth will increase flooding upstream.

      Constructing a seawall seems like peanuts, but New Orleans’ levees obviously have had their issues, and the dramatic and continuing decrease of wetlands, seagrass, marshes, etc, at the mouth of the Mississippi River are showing a losing battle. There are lots of factors beyond just sea level rise for the latter, but if it’s so easy to engineer a fix, why haven’t we done it?

      • Michael Jankowski

        There are lots of factors beyond just sea level rise for the latter, but if it’s so easy to engineer a fix, why haven’t we done it?

        The money WAS appropriated by Congress for numerous repairs to the New Orleans levees and flood control pumps … It was stolen by crooked democrat local politicians.

      • False, RACookPE1978.
        It was not ‘stolen’ by anyone. It was properly disbursed and it turned out that the money that Congress gave New Orleans was nowhere near enough to fix the levee.

      • lerianis the MSM doesn’t agree with your description:



        The Army Corps of Engineers spent more money in Louisiana than any other state, including California, which I think has eight times the population. [b]One of the problems was just that a lot of that money was being spent on navigation projects that had nothing to do with flood protection.[/b] A separate problem is it seems that even where they were spending money on these levees that were supposed to protect the city from a Category 3 storm, the levees were not up to snuff.

        so a lot of the money apparently was spent on stuff other than flood protection/levees. “properly disbursed” isn’t an accurate description.

      • The story of the Galveston seawall is fascinating. Most of Galveston Island is built on silt which was dredged and pumped from of the harbor.

        However, recreational beaches are highly dynamic, and they are not at risk from global sea-level rise. Here’s a classic 1965 educational film from Encyclopedia Britannica Films and the American Geological Institute, courtesy of the LSU Center for GeoInformatics, which explains how sand beaches are affected by the forces of nature, and manmade structures. (Note: It is 20 minutes long at normal speed, but I preferred watching it sped up to 1.5x normal.)

  5. “Recall though that the melting of floating sea ice adds no water to the oceans, and hence does not affect the sea level”
    Melting floating ice – is “fresh” at ±1000kg per cubic meter and salt water ±1028kg per cubic meter – so there is some small increase in volume from melting floating ice – the displacement is not exactly matched – as would be the case in ice melting in a fresh water body.
    IIRC the US Navy survey estimated that if all floating sea ice melted it would cause a rise of 32-35mm at the equatorial (oblate spheriod) bulge.
    So I’m not advocating running for the hills.


    [??? .mod]

    • Kenneth,
      Would it were that things were so simple! First off, Wikipedia says “The density of ice is 0.9167 g/cm3 at 0 °C.” When sea water freezes, the salt in solution is exolved, but largely remains in the bulk ice, meaning that the density is higher than for pure ice, but lower than the salt water from which it was derived, thus it floats. While floating, it displaces a volume of water equal to the weight of the water from which it was derived. Thus, the volume of the ocean neither decreases when the ice freezes, nor increases when the ice melts. Old ice can sublimate at the surface, increasing the density because the salt does not sublimate, but is concentrated. I would be interested in knowing how the Navy explains melting sea ice would increase the volume of the oceans. Archimedes would like to know also.

      • Kristi Silber,

        Thank you for the link with the symbolic prestidigitation. I believe that their analysis is flawed, principally through unwarranted assumptions and a poorly designed experiment.

        First of all, the original statement made by Singer was, “(Recall though that the melting of FLOATING sea ice adds no water to the oceans, and hence does not affect the sea level.)” That is, grounded shelf ice, supplied by glaciers discharging into the sea, is implicitly excluded.

        Let’s conduct a simple thought experiment: Take a volume of sea water in an open container, such as a graduated cylinder; carefully record the height of the meniscus. Place it in a freezer and allow it to freeze. Depending on the temperature, there may or many not be residual brine or solid salt, but it is inconsequential. Now, remove the container from the freezer and allow it to melt, returning to its original temperature. Because of conservation of mass, one should reasonably expect the volume of the melted water to be exactly equal to what it was before freezing. There may be some temporary deviations because of salinity changes (affected by the speed with which the water froze and whether it froze from the top down or froze uniformly), but with complete mixing (such as occurs in the oceans under the influence of winds and currents) one should expect the system to equilibrate to the original salinity and hence original volume.

        I would assign their 2.6% calculated increase in volume to the error in their analysis resulting from assumptions about poorly characterized sea ice properties and what happens at the interface between the ice and liquid. That is to say, freezing from the top down, and driving the salt ahead of the freezing zone, the salinity should temporarily increase. That increased salinity will be diluted by the melting ice during the next thaw cycle.

      • Good example of how many (climate) scientists had it wrong before someone thought about it and even dared to show it by experiment.

    SURE …………’s real…………it’s happening………………..slowly !
    He doesn’t know why……………….neither do I !
    It will NOT be a problem in “OUR LIFETIME” ( selfish bastard ! )
    BUT the younger ( more clever , more well equipped ?? )
    generation will be able to deal with it………..BY ADAPTING TO IT !
    BY THEN it will probably be time for a return to the ICE-AGE and this little
    warm period ( the inter-glacial ) will end and SEA-LEVEL WILL DROP AS
    MORE ICE FORMS and so sea-level-rise will be SELF resolved !

  7. By 2100 the seas will rise another 6 inches or so—a far cry from Al Gore’s alarming numbers.”

    And for those communities terrified that they will be overwhelmed by this rise – just add 3/4 inch of asphalt to your city streets once every 10 years, and you’ll be way ahead of the game.

    • NO!!!
      Do not lay more asphalt. It only increases the subsidence of places like southern Louisiana.
      Also, the subsidence of that place, where I grew up, has been lots higher than 6 inches a century. I am not 100 yrs old for a few more yrs, but since the early 50’s I have seen maybe a foot and a quarter of subsidence. It is clearly visible on the homes that were built on slabs versus the “old” type built on 3 or 4 foot piers, like mine.

      Use storm water run off systems to diffuse the rain and allow it to sink in. Stop diverting streams into canals and allow a certain amount of flooding.


      • Basically the same reason barrier islands like Miami Beach are sinking into the sea. Every time a king tide washes up over the streets and lawns in the city, it brings with it mud, silt, and sand that it leaves behind. This is the sediment that the island is made of, but they wash this sediment out into storm drains instead of allowing it to build up, and then blame trucks and SUVs being driven 1,000 miles away for their problems.

  8. But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate.

    Really? What data is that? In the early ’50s sea level was going up as fast as it is today. Here’s a chart of seven long running tide gauges to illustrate the point:

      • Thanks for the response. Yes, individual tide stations have their idiosyncrasies, but over all, it looks like sea level porpoises over time.

    • Can’t see why oscillating topagraphic change in ocean basin floors can’t produce a mere 1 to 2 mm of surface change, in 1 year. The rim of fire is defined by strong quakes, highest volcanism on planet, much higher geitherm, orogenesis, active-arc building, and compressional tectonism at its margins, and even the MOR extension centers are elevated due to thermal uplift.

      But no, that couldn’t be involved, that minor stuff only makes then alters the shapes of all ocean basin. No chance that might make a diff.

  9. I’m confused. The third paragraph contains this statement:
    “sea-level rise is not affected by the warming; it continues at the same rate, 1.8 millimeters a year, according to a 1990 review…”
    which was followed, in the fifth paragraph, by this statement:
    “But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at an accelerating rate.”

    What did I miss? Are these quotes not contradictory?

    • They are. But the reality is that sea level rise is NOT accelerating when measured by long record diff GPS corrected tide gauges. See guest post Sea Level Rise, Acceleration, and Closure for details and links to original sources. And the 1.8 is off also because of the net vertical land motion problem.the best estimate is 2.1-2.2mm/year (not perfect because of geographical coverage bias, but best that can be gotten with current info).

      • “the best estimate is 2.1-2.2mm/year”….

        Florida is not going up or down…and that’s exactly what every tide gauge in Florida shows
        ….less than 1 inch a decade

    • I think many people don’t know what acceleration means any more. They compare it to the situation of driving their car. To keep the same speed they have to permanently accelerate because otherwise the car would eventually stop.

      (Do I need /s?)

  10. There are literally billions of tons of sediment being swept into the oceans every year. That is ‘filling from the bottom’. Also, we have little knowledge of volcanic action on the ocean bottom, nor how much plates move in response to the water column above. I studied the Amazon river’s discharge a few years ago and was amazed by how much silt it produces, and how far that travels. To all that, add all the trash dumped in the oceans, and the bodies of sea life that drops to the bottom and builds up. They do take drilings in some places, and acknowledge that the layers are present, but somehow fail to recognize that is ‘filling from the bottom’. Of COURSE the oceans will rise, how could it do otherwise? Oh, yes, a new ice age would do it. Pray that does not happen.

    • ..and surprisingly….they are after farmers to improve the way they are farming…..because the farmers are losing so much dirt………….where do they think all that dirt went?

    • Have a look at video of the Yellow River in spring flood. It is a huge river and is almost like mud in places.

    • “Bit by bit the rivers eat away the land and carry it down to the sea” – I still remember that line from a child’s geography book I read over 50 years ago. It gave me nightmares for years!

    • And that is one half of the major global sea level science they never seem to mention. The other half is the deposition of sediment on the coastlines.

      Add everything together and the only way to actually ascertain whether global sea level is rising or falling is by defining three scenarios: rise, fall, or standstill. Rise is when sea level is transgressing upon all coastlines, that is the coastline moves landward and there is less land area. Fall is when sea level is regressing on all coastlines, that is the coastline moves seaward and there is more land area. Standstill is when there is a mix of seaward and landward movement of coastlines, showing a clear dominance of regional effects over global effects, whereas the first two scenarios show a dominance of global processes over regional processes.

      And of course the situation today is that global sea level is in standstill, meaning there is no global change in sea level up or down. There is no other way to study or define global sea level in geology. Claiming that the oceans are rising based on satellite measurement from the center of the Earth is akin to the pseudoscience of attaching monthly thermometer data on to the end of smoothed proxy data.

    • “And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually”
      -Jimi Hendrix

      …and so does everything else.

  11. Most of the scary stories about sea level rise use pictures of places like South Florida, where almost all of the problem is due to subsidence or tides. That never deters the advocates from blaming CO2 caused global warming.

    • Every picture they show…is after a torrential rain….not a one of them show salt water or sea level rise

      • Kip must have just searched the internet for Miami flooding or something….they tried to block out the sky in the famous Miami street flooding picture, but if you look off in the distance you can see the rain clouds still there..that was after a torrential 3 day rain No one is stupid enough to drive their cars through salt water. The picture of the woman jumping the puddle, is not even Miami….that’s a neighborhood in north Key Largo called Twin Lakes…it floods every time it rains hard..and has since the very first day…again not salt water or sea level rise….on and on

    • Hi tom,
      You are right, every effort is made to document the sea level rise, but I have seen almost no effort anywhere to decouple subsidence from eustasy, the combination of both is responsible for relative sea level.

    • Sure – a story about a 70 year old billionaire who made his money in natural gas buying a Malibu property is proof that climate change is a non issue.

      • Instead of an ‘F’ … I’ll give you an INCOMPLETE. But only on the promise that you actually READ past the first paragraph to read:

        Long a local getaway for Hollywood’s elite and, more recently, a favorite haven and investment area for tech entrepreneurs, Malibu continues to open pocket books. If only there were more of it to go around

        Keep reading … and you’ll discover that Leftie, Eco-fakir, Tech-mogul, Larry Ellison (Oracle) … owns two homes directly adjacent to this $110 million dollar OCEANFRONT … BEACH … property.

  12. The remaining explanation is the Earth itself..
    As longterm geophysical data have shown , the basins of the world show a frequent rise and fall of sealevel, with associated cycles of sediment pulses. The cause is believed to be related to pulses in plate movement and an expansion and shrinking of available “basin”, hence a rise or fall of sealevel.

  13. This is a question founded firmly in ignorance, but all my best questions are, so here goes. Water expands as it falls below 39F. What proportion of the oceans is below 39F and would therefore contract as it warms? If it is a significant amount, is it enough to offset the part that’s warming, which I assume is mainly surface waters?

    • Most of the ocean volume is near freezing temps. Even at the equator. Surface temp readings tell us little about overall ocean temps.

    • John harmsworth May 16, 2018 at 8:40 am
      This is a question founded firmly in ignorance, but all my best questions are, so here goes. Water expands as it falls below 39F.

      Freshwater does but saltwater does not, it’s minimum density is at its freezing point.

      [No, the maximum density of all water is near, but slightly above, the freezing point of that specific salinity of water. .mod]

      • John, the coefficient of expansion of seawater does vary significantly with temperature, cold water near freezing expanding far less per temperature increment than surface waters. see:
        So it is necessary to know which layers of the global ocean are receiving what fraction of any putative warming before a good calculation can be made. (I don’t believe they do know.)

        So if Trenberth’s missing heat was indeed located in the deep (cold) ocean then it would also mean that the threat of more rapidly rising sea levels could be safely ignored. He loses either way.

  14. I know this may seem like a simplistic question, but is the apparent rise in global sea levels just an illusion? I understand that water levels in the Baltic Sea are dropping as the underlying plate rises due to glacial rebound. If so, there should be similar increases in average elevation throughout the northern hemisphere where glaciers have disappeared. If the average elevation of “dry” land is increasing due to glacial rebound (plus mountain-building less sedimentation) then a constant solid-volume earth would suggest that low-lying areas would be impacted by corresponding subsidence on a global scale.

    • Rebound also means subsidence in the areas that were elevated when ice bore down on adjacent crust. This is happening in Britain, where Scotland and northern England are rebounding, depressing southern England and Wales.

      In North America, Canada, being freed from the mass of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, is rebounding and the East Coast of the US thus sinking.

  15. “I chose to assess the sea-level trend from 1915-45, when a genuine, independently confirmed warming of approximately 0.5 degree Celsius occurred. I note particularly that sea-level rise is not affected by the warming; it continues at the same rate, 1.8 millimeters a year, according to a 1990 review by Andrew S. Trupin and John Wahr. I therefore conclude—contrary to the general wisdom—that the temperature of sea water has no direct effect on sea-level rise.”

    That is not a logical conclusion. The 0.5 degree rise was the air temperature near the ground. The last sentence should have said:

    “…that the temperature of the atmosphere has no direct effect on sea-level rise.”

    • I expect you are 100% correct about this. Any thoughts on my comment above regarding deep ocean temps and contraction as/if they warm?

      • The deep ocean is cold and has contracted to its maximum point. Any colder, it will expand as it freezes rising to the surface.
        If it warms up, even just a little, it will expand and raise Ocean levels.
        I can’t verify this but it was estimated that if you raise the entire ocean ( 73% of the surface of the planet) temperature just 1°, the ocean would expand 300 feet higher. (covering all of Florida)

  16. Sea rise due to thermal expansion!? In the Arctic where the temperature rise is the greatest(?), this must surely result in a contraction as long as the temperature of the sea is below ~4C. In the deep ocean where the temp is not much above 4C, the expansion coefficient is ~0. And at the surface in the equatorial region the temperature rise is not very great.
    Question: Any documented case of somebody actually putting numbers into the equations and coming up with an estimate of SLR that makes sense? Or is this another case of the attitude that it sounds right so we can say it is? Any reference not behind paywall?

    • You have made the fatal mistake of assuming that sea water density is similar to fresh water. It is not. While freshwater’s density peaks at 5°C, seawater’s density peaks just before freezing.

      • Jeff,
        Sorry, this is not my field. I have been unsure about that, and tried to look it up on the web and found somewhere that claimed that there was not much difference. Any ref. that I can trust? And how much salt do you have to put into freshwater to change the density gradient?

  17. It is recognized that a significant amount of sea level rise can be attributed to groundwater depletion. How significant continues to be a subject of healthy scientific debate. Yes scientific debate is healthy, for the benefit of the climate Nazis out there. Since the subject of attempting to engineer a remediation to climate change comes up from time to time, I have a suggestion that is almost practical. The aquifer in the San Joaquin Valley is seriously depleted. In the meantime, the San Francisco Bay area diverts most of the water from the Tuolumne River and the Mokelumne River for their municipal and industrial use. A simple suggestion is for California to withdraw their water right and require them to go on Seawater Reverse Osmosis as San Diego and Monterey are doing. Keep the water from Hetch Hetchy and the Moke in the Valley. Another suggestion is for the State’s “Locally Preferred Plan” to require restoration of floodplain function in all flood management projects. In other words, divert floodwater to groundwater recharge basins instead of sending all of it out to sea. While we’re at it, the Ogallala Aquifer under the Great Plains is seriously depleted. It is past time to do something about that, perhaps floodwater diversion from the Mississippi, or a Gulf Coast SWRO project. These are expensive but possible solutions to real and pressing problems. Imagine if the money for climate change research had been devoted to aquifer restoration instead. The problem would be fixed…

  18. Fred is correct that thermal expansion of sea water isn’t the cause of rising sea level. I looked at the correlation (or lack thereof) of sea level rise and warm/cool periods back to 1850 and was surprised to see that global climate doesn’t seem to affect sea level at all. Up until 1850, sea went up and down in a somewhat erratic fashion, but since 1850 sea level has risen at a pretty constant rate of 7″/century. Warm periods at 1850-1880, 1915-1945, and 1980-2000 and cool periods at 1880-1915, and 1945-1980 did not seem to affect the rate of sea level rise at all.

    However, his conclusion that the cause of sea level rise is melting of the Antarctic ice is not born out by data. The East Antarctic, which contains ~95% of Antarctic ice, is growing, not melting. Some melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is very likely due to recently-discovered, elevated geothermal heat, unrelated to climate.

    So the question remains, what is causing constantly rising sea level since 1850?

  19. Regarding “I chose to assess the sea-level trend from 1915-45, when a genuine, independently confirmed warming of approximately 0.5 degree Celsius occurred. I note particularly that sea-level rise is not affected by the warming; it continues at the same rate, 1.8 millimeters a year, according to a 1990 review…”:
    The steadiness of sea level rise during intermittently rising global temperature does not necessarily mean that sea level rise is not due to rising global temperature. The thermal mass of the oceans is so great that it can significantly smooth even multidecadal oscillations. If we had temperature measurements over that time for below 100 meters, I expect a warming trend there and for it to be steadier than the surface warming trend.

  20. The Earth’s surface is some 70% (salty) water approximately 4,000 metres deep. Where did that water originally come from, if not the Mantle? Did the Mantle then miraculously stop generating water?

    • Bob Burban,
      Some are convinced that most of the water on Earth came from early asteroid bombardment. However, that begs the question as to whether mantle water or asteroid water is salty to begin with. Clearly, weathering of rocks adds new salt; however, large quantities of halite and gypsum are removed from the oceans as thick evaporite deposits during hot periods, or when basins are isolated by tectonics and don’t drain to the sea.

  21. Perhaps picking up a book on sequence stratigraphy would help them understand the concept of global sea level in the first place. Seems like a good place to start instead of just winging it like most “sea level scientists” seem to do.

  22. I have no data available, but I could read elsewhere that during the peak of Holocene optimum, about 8 to 9 Kyear from now, the seal level was a few meters higher than in our times, while the global average temperature was about 3°C more than now.
    Am I right ?

  23. On a serious note:
    We all know here on WUWT etc. that this is the case. The problem is : How on earth do we get this over to those in power, riddled as they are in their machinations. Meanwhile we indulge in our frustrations and hang on to common sense.

  24. A couple of other considerations: as noted by others, the volumes of each of these basins is also changing through time. To genuinely have a shot at understanding sea level, each basin within the larger Atlantic (and each other ocean) would have to be studied for deltas in:
    1. Rainfall and total river input budget (changes in water input will change over time)
    2. Changes in sedimentation rate and location will change the volume a basin can hold
    3. Coastal subsidence and emergence based on both tectonic and ground water withdrawal causes
    4. Sea floor subsidence and emergence based on tectonics and local volcanism
    5. Ice effects

    Just as a for instance, the 40,000km long mid-Atlantic ridge enlarges the Atlantic basin by 2.5cm per year, or, volumetrically:
    40,000,000m x .025m x 5,000m ( the last is a wild guess at average water column above the ridge)

    Which would mean that just from mid-ocean tectonics, we are increasing the volume of water that could be held by the Atlantic basin by 5 billion cubic meters *each year*.

    This is just a thought experiment, but you see how complex the issue becomes. Is that balanced by contraction of the Pacific basin? I have no idea.. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think this is as simple as just measuring thermal expansion and rainfall. It is probably worthy of some careful study.

  25. Singer is right to report there’s no correlation between temperatures and sea level rise except for cherry-picked decades of the 20th century.

    Sea level should have fallen dramatically , but didn’t during the Little Ice Age as ocean temperatures cooled by almost 1 degree and glaciers grew to their greatest extent in 12,000 years. That paradox can only be explained by a source of water not accounted for in the models. I have shown there is good evidence to suspect ground water discharge.

    Like global warming theorists, Singer resorts to the default suggestion of Antarctica to explain that unexplainable sea level rises, simply because so little is known there, But there is ample evidence to suggest there is a net gain in land ice in Antarctica.

    • There is an excellent paleoclimate paper examining why sea levels oscillated millions of years ago when there were no glaciers.

      They concluded that it was the change in groundwater levels. Based on the premise that fluctuating lake levels were indicators of aquifer levels, and using pollen and sediments to estimate lake level changes, they basically found that sea levels rose as lake water levels fell and vice versa. They concluded “water mass exchange between land and ocean reservoirs is a missing link for reconciling geological records and models for sea-level change during non-glacial periods.”

      And that same dynamic exists today!

      • I tend to favor tectonic control when it is eustatic changes occurring over million year timescales.

      • Many flood control systems work by evacuating precipitation to the sea at the maximum rate that can be achieved. This includes artificially increasing flow velocity by forcing rivers to be more linear and less sinusoidal. The effects include increased erosion of the bed in some areas (and the opposite in others). That impacts on the physical level of the river surface. So river control has an effect on groundwater levels over vast areas, even when there is no abstraction of groundwater for human use. I suspect the overall result is a reduction in groundwater storage.

    • I have read through all the comments but no one has suggested an outside source of water.
      The earth is the gravity well, everything falls in but nothing is getting out. The ocean level works similar to a bathtub, settlement will cause it to rise, earth tectonics will cause it to fall. The source of a consistent ocean level rise in a closed system indicates that it’s not as closed as we think.
      2 1/2% of earths 3% fresh water is found on the continent of Antarctica. After 60 years since the south pole base was established, the old buildings are under approximately 60 feet of ice giving an average of 1 foot per year new ice without any measurable precipitation. (The polar vortex does not allow clouds to Pass over the 3 miles of ice, average height over 10,000 feet) This makes the continent one of the driest deserts on the planet.
      The new buildings have Jack’s that they can raise the buildings up when they need to prevent them from being covered. It’s not a coincidence that the new ice appears about the same time as the “O-Zone hole” in September when the sun returns and the frozen gases of stratospheric clouds melt away.
      When intergalactic clouds from supernovas pass through our system, they are pulled into our gravity well and oxidized in unexpected displays of northern lights while their mass is added to our ocean levels. The same is true during X class flares were large amounts of material is thrown at escape velocity from under the surface of the sun to react with our upper atmosphere with a fire so bright, you can see it from 50 miles away, lighting up the entire sky with millions of tons of new water being created. All adding to our oceans.

  26. Until we can accurately measure the container – the ocean basins – along with its fluctuations, all talk of the ’cause’ of sea level change is GROSS speculation.

    Critical data is missing.

    Until you have the data, the size of the container, all analysis is premature. I’m rather surprised that Dr. Singer would assume a fixed container.

  27. Fred says there’s nothing that can be done except building sea defences. But a certain amount of engineering could be done – eg filling the Qattara depression in Western Egypt (desert land of no value), and refilling the Dead Sea and introducing water to other areas which are below sea level. Such projects can have other benefits besides the lowering of sea level. Of course the amount of lowering would be very small, but maybe worth doing nevertheless.

    • Andrew,
      what is the cost of such projects vs the cost of building traditional sea defenses? I suspect the former is considerably more expensive than the later, hence why we have plenty of examples of the later being done across the world but few (if any) of the former.

  28. Is there any data for tide levels from the late 18thC to the mid 19th? Glacier Bay lost a lot of ice in a short period and it would have to show up.

  29. Jim @9:43AM and one other responder have the correct answer to sea level rise. It is produced ground water from no or slow to recharge aquifers. The amount of this water is 1100 cubic kilometers per year. 22% of the water is used for domestic, 11% for industry and 67% for agriculture primarily for growing food and fodder. It amounts to 3.0 mm per year. Additionally 6% comes from burning hydrocarbons where oxygen is combined with the hydrogen in the process to form water vapor that goes up the flue.

    I sent a report on this the Administrator of EPA in 2009 and never heard a word. I got a signed delivery receipt back. I also got my congressperson to be sure it arrived. It did.

  30. “the ice shelf will melt completely within about 7,000 years”

    We should worry about the return of the Ice Age at that time frame, not warming.

  31. I liked Fred’s article.

    A few thoughts about sea level rise.

    Tide gauge data from around the globe does not show a consistent story. Many show a varying amount of rise, many show little to no change over a long time and many show a varying amount of decrease in sea level. I don’t buy the calculated sea level from the satellite data. Like most things related to climate science – the data is a dumpster fire – not adequate for any scientific endeavor. No engineer with any credibility would ever undertake a design project of any consequence using data as shoddy as the data climate science is based upon. Would you want to fly on the first test flight of the climate-science-airplane?

    On the subject of sea level rise I like the work of Nils-Axel Morner. Nyborg Denmark is the place he prefers to use as the benchmark for sea level changes as it was the “hinge” of plate movement during the last glacial period. This location does not experience any isostatic rebound and provides a stable place to measure sea level over a long time without having to compensate for plate movement. Morner’s assessment is that the eustatic sea level rise is closer to 1mm/yr.

    It is helpful to remind ourselves that ground water accounts for 30% of fresh water on Earth.

    So, ground water is ~ 40% of the water in the ice caps. We know from other analysis that Greenland has 99.7% of its ice mass from 100 years ago, and despite any changes to the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica is unchanged or perhaps has more ice mass now than 100 years ago. We know humans have a huge impact on ground water, yet this gets ignored by alarmists – and the focus is always on the ice caps. Here is an interesting paper claiming that man’s extraction of groundwater globally, makes its way to the seas and might contribute 0.8mm of sea level rise annually. That would be 80% of Morner’s 1mm/yr – but the paper adheres to the orthodoxy of 3.1mm/yr total.

    Sea level rise is not a new thing. Choices to site cities along the coast have been made because of the common human temptation to deal with the current situation and ignore future threats. If we go out far enough in time, then every coastal asset was from the beginning at risk of being drowned – the only variable was how long it would take. I did an extensive Google search a while back and I could not find one city in the US that has a moratorium on building near the sea due to sea level rise fears. Just look at Miami Beach – a bad idea when it was founded in 1915 if you think long term. The building has not subsided. Governments have not intervened. People still shell out money to be near the sea. Insurance companies still write policies for coastal properties. So, I call BS on any claimed panic about sea level rise. When alarmists start to act in alignment with their fears and claims then maybe I’ll pay attention to them.


  32. “But there is also good data showing sea levels are in fact rising at a constant rate. The trend has been measured by a network of tidal gauges, many of which have been collecting data for over a century.”

    Fred Singer, WSJ May 15, 2018.

  33. I wrote Dr. Singer an email, with my comments on his article:
    It’s quite long, so here’s just the first of four points that I made to him:

    Dear Dr. Singer,

    Thank you for your excellent WSJ op-ed on sea-level! I have a couple of comments on it.

    First, all, or nearly all, of the supposed “acceleration” in sea-level rise actually occurred before the mid- or late-1920s. Many (though not all) sites saw a small measurable acceleration before 1930, which added between zero and 1.5 mm/year to the rate of sea-level rise, though it wasn’t evident everywhere.

    The most striking example was at PSMSL tide gauge number 1, Brest, France, which has more than 200 years of sea-level measurement data. Sea-level at Brest rose at a rate of 0.00 ±0.22 mm/year during the 19th century (1807-1900), but has risen at about 1½ mm/year since then.

    Sea-level acceleration at Brest since 1900 = 0.00434 ±0.01175 mm/yr² (i.e., negligible and not even statistically significant):

    …continued here.

  34. We have explored more of Mars than the mid ocean ridge. We view sea level at its surface, but know little of its bottom.

  35. “Physics demands that water expand as its temperature increases.”

    Thing is though, the change in overall ocean temperature since 1950 is barely measurable at all. the OHC estimates are little better than guesswork. And before 1950 we have almost idea what happened.

    Frankly, the only thing less believable than air temperature trend predictions are sea level trend predictions.

  36. Something showed up over at Earth Systems Science Data. Perhaps you might bring it to the attention of Dr Singer and your readers.

    “Ocean thermal expansion, glaciers, Greenland and Antarctica contribute by 42%, 21%, 15% and 8% to the global mean sea level over the 1993-present. We also study the sea level budget over 2005-present, using GRACE-based ocean mass estimates instead of sum of individual mass components. Results show closure of the sea level budget within 0.3 mm/yr. Substantial uncertainty remains for the land water storage component, as shown in examining individual mass contributions to sea level. “

  37. And now for some actual science (hat tip to Eli Rabbett): “Global Sea Level Budget 1993–Present” (WCRP Global Sea Level Budget Group, Earth Syst. Sci. Data Discuss.,, in review, 2018)

    Abstract. Global mean sea level is an integral of changes occurring in the climate system in response to unforced climate variability as well as natural and anthropogenic forcing factors. Its temporal evolution allows detecting changes (e.g., acceleration) in one or more components. Study of the sea level budget provides constraints on missing or poorly known contributions, such as the unsurveyed deep ocean or the still uncertain land water component. In the context of the World Climate Research Programme Grand Challenge entitled “Regional Sea Level and Coastal Impacts”, an international effort involving the sea level community worldwide has been recently initiated with the objective of assessing the various data sets used to estimate components of the sea level budget during the altimetry era (1993 to present). These data sets are based on the combination of a broad range of space-based and in situ observations, model estimates and algorithms. Evaluating their quality, quantifying uncertainties and identifying sources of discrepancies between component estimates is extremely useful for various applications in climate research. This effort involves several tens of scientists from about sixty research teams/institutions worldwide ( The results presented in this paper are a synthesis of the first assessment performed during 2017–2018. We present estimates of the altimetry-based global mean sea level (average rate of 3.1 ± 0.3 mm/yr and acceleration of 0.1 mm/yr2 over 1993–present), as well as of the different components of the sea level budget (doi:10.17882/54854). We further examine closure of the sea level budget, comparing the observed global mean sea level with the sum of components. Ocean thermal expansion, glaciers, Greenland and Antarctica contribute by 42 %, 21 %, 15 % and 8 % to the global mean sea level over the 1993–present. We also study the sea level budget over 2005–present, using GRACE-based ocean mass estimates instead of sum of individual mass components. Results show closure of the sea level budget within 0.3 mm/yr. Substantial uncertainty remains for the land water storage component, as shown in examining individual mass contributions to sea level.

    • Sorry Tom, you mean you couldn’t even bother to read it yourself and write your own comment on the contents? You simply re-posted a lengthy something the Wabbit fed you, and expect readers here give it the attention you didn’t?

      Hint: In “actual science” as you term it, people often don’t read (or write) abstracts so long. I’ve given it about as much time as you did.

  38. Singer’s Nonsense – there are perched heavy mineral deposits on both sides of continental Australia that clearly indicate the sea level was at least 2 metres above the current LWM. Estimated time for these deposits about 8,000 years BP.

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