Jakarta is not an Exemplar of Sea Level Rise

Brief Note by Kip Hansen — 26 January 2020

 

feature_imageTed Nordhaus has an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Ignore the Fake Climate Debate”.

[  It may or may not be pay-walled for you — if it is, try searching the title in your search engine and use the link provided by Google/Bing/whatever — it may let you in or see here. ]

Nordhaus presents a very pragmatic view of the climate debate — one I more or less agree with (devil is in the details…) — and certainly pragmatic solutions — summarized in the last paragraph with this:

“The world will tackle this problem the way that it tackles most other problems, partially and incrementally, by taking up the challenges that are right in front of us—adaptation, economic development, energy modernization, public health—and finding practical ways to address them.”

I write this Brief Note because the Wall Street Journal  illustrates Nordhaus’ piece with a stock photo from Getty Images with the caption of “A man walks on the seawall in Jakarta, Indonesia, built in 2017 in anticipation of rising sea levels. Photo: Anton Raharjo/NurPhoto/Getty Images”  [ you can see the image at this link].

Jakarta, Indonesia, is not an exemplar of rising sea levels    

 Jakarta is a good proxy for many of the problems that Asian cities are having with sea levels — relative sea levels.   Is Relative Sea Level a problem specific to Asian cities?  No, but it is a common problem to Asian mega-cities as can be seen in this figure:

Asian_cities_sinking

The image above is from “Projection of coastal floods in 2050 Jakarta”, Takagi et al. [2016].  Tokyo suffered land subsidence of over 4 meters from 1910 up until 1965 or so, but has stabilized.  Manila and Bangkok are subsiding at the meter range.  Jakarta leads the pack having sunk over 3.5 meters (almost 12 feet) in the ten years between 1990 and 2000.

What’s going on in Jakarta?

An easy summary:

“Jakarta lies in a low, flat basin, averaging 7 metres (23 ft) above sea level; 40% of Jakarta, particularly the northern areas, is below sea level, while the southern parts are comparatively hilly.

Rivers flow from the Puncak highlands to the south of the city, across the city northwards towards the Java Sea; the Ciliwung River, divides the city into the western and eastern principalities. Other rivers include the Pesanggrahan, and Sunter high sea tides.

Other contributing factors include clogged sewage pipes and waterways that service an increasing population, in addition to deforestation near rapidly urbanizing Bogor and Depok in Jakarta’s hinterland.

Jakarta is an urban area with complex socio-economic problems that indirectly contribute to triggering a flood event.”

So,  40% of the city area is below sea level.  How did this happen?

“As a consequence of this rapid development Jakarta has been facing many urban development issues, though the issue of land subsidence appears to have become especially serious over the last couple of decades. In fact, the occurrence of land subsidence was clearly recognized as far back as 1978, when substantial cracks were found in buildings and a bridge in downtown Jakarta (Djaja et al., 2004). In Jakarta, the subsidence rates along the coast vary from 9.5 to 21.5 cm/year in the period between 2007 and 2009 (Chaussard et al., 2013). Land subsidence can be classified into four types, namely: subsidence due to groundwater extraction, subsidence induced by the load of buildings, subsidence caused by natural consolidation of alluvium soil, and geotectonic subsidence. For the case of Jakarta the first type, subsidence due to groundwater extraction, appears to be the main cause for the lowering of the land. In particular, the extraction of water for industrial uses is a widespread practice which can induce rapid rates of land subsidence. Such subsidence can lead to severe damage to buildings and infrastructures, increase the extent of flooded areas, destroy local groundwater systems or increase seawater intrusion (Braadbaart and Braadbaart, 1997; Abidin et al., 2009; Ng et al., 2012).”

North Jakarta has sunk an additional 2.5 meters in the last ten years, according to the BBC.

Jakarta is in serious trouble when it comes to Relative Sea Level — the land is sinking and sea levels in the Java Sea, while they are inconsistent — “rising and falling rate of sea level in the Java Sea are highly related to the events through ONI (Oceanic Niño Index) value.”  [ source ] — we can safely assume that as global sea level will continue to rise slowly as the world’s ocean temperatures rise ever so slowly, at their centuries long rate of somewhere about 2-3 mm/yr.

How much of Jakarta’s problem with the sea is due to Sea Level Rise?

Quoting Takagi et al. [2016],  “Projection of coastal floods in 2050 Jakarta”:

“The simulations demonstrate that by the middle of this century extensive floods could potentially reach several kilometers inland in Jakarta. Land subsidence is clearly one of the major challenges facing the city, as considering only the influence of sea-level rise indicates that such floods may be limited to within a few hundred meters of the coastline. From2000 to 2050 the potential flood extent is estimated to increase by 110.5 km2. Land subsidence is responsible for 88% of this increase.”

Land Subsidence 88%.  And the other 12%?

La Niña events, the 18.6 year lunar nodal high-tide cycle, and other abnormal tide mechanisms —  oh, and a little bit of sea level rise.

Bottom Line:

  1. Jakarta, like many Asian mega-cities, is built on mostly swampy land where several rivers run into the sea. Skyscrapers and mega-cities should not be built on swamps — the soil beneath the city will compact and subside under the weight of modern  development.
  1. Jakarta, like many Asian mega-cities, has been pumping fresh water out of aquifers directly beneath the city for decades. The city is sinking into the void created by this ground water extraction.
  1. The government of Indonesia and the city fathers of Jakarta are fully aware that their problem is not global sea level rise. Only the international press, powered by climate change advocacy, dares make the claim against all evidence to the contrary.

 

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Author’s Comment:

Newspapers, whether printed or online, need images to break up all those boring words, boring words which many readers ignore after the first paragraph or two.  Today’s modern media rely on stock images for many of these photographs and often modify the captions to suit their content.  Such images are often, intentionally or not, propagandistic.

Readers of Nordhaus’ WSJ piece should not get the impression that Nordhaus thinks Jakarta is being threatened by climate change driven sea level rise based on the WSJ’s inserted image.

Some places in the world are threatened by even the small inexorable general sea level rise the world has experienced over the last few centuries.  See the first part of my series here on Sea Level: Rise and Fall and Miami’s Vice.

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69 thoughts on “Jakarta is not an Exemplar of Sea Level Rise

  1. Mexico city is the poster child for land subsidence from ground water extraction allowing the mudstones to dewater and collapse. Over 18m in parts. Though I think even the most ardent alarmist sees that at risk from sea level rise.

  2. Hi Kip,

    Thanks for the ‘here’ link, but I’m not sure I learned anything from the article. ‘Ignore the fake climate debate’ is good advice, but I don’t think we see the same ‘fake debate’. My version is ‘Is CO2 the climate control knob?’. I think that hypothesis has been clearly falsified, but the author does not. He accepts that CO2 controls climate, even if in a luke-warm way, and that 3 Celsius is a minimum expected warming from pre-industrial levels. I accept that the world has warmed since the end of the Little Ice Age, which more or less coincided with the beginnings or real industrialisation, but how much warming has occurred and how much more will come is a crystal ball question to me. I don’t think we understand the climate system well enough to know one way or the other, we do not have adequate data to measure global temperature or its change, and what data we have is ambiguous (even after temperature records are manipulated). Any effect from CO2 on temperature seems to be minor and there is certainly no strong, direct linear relationship. Also, the author attributes recent wildfires in California and Australia to climate change and that is clearly not true and very annoying to someone who just spent months worrying that his hectare might turn to ash.

    Your article on Jakarta, though, was very informative. I had no idea how poorly planned these Asian megacities were (although if you consider places like San Francisco – they certainly built equally helter-skelter in respect to earthquakes). Jakarta should invest in a higher sea wall and stop pumping ground water (they have plenty of rain). Anyway, thanks for the perspective on Jakarta: interesting reading on a rainy Australia Day,

    • Actually what they are doing is moving the capital of Indonesia to the island of Borneo. If they do that, Jakarta may actually sink into irrelevance.

    • DaveW ==> I’m glad Australia is getting a rainy day!

      Ted Nordhaus is at the Breakthrough Insititute — and not everyone agrees with him.

      Glad you liked the bit on Jakarta — where is doesn’t really matter WHY the relative sea level is changing when deciding on whether or not they have a problem. But the WHY leads to possible solutions and mitigation.

      They can’t, however, unsink the city.

      • Kip ==> Well, I’m all for cheap clean energy too. Who wouldn’t be? (Not to answer my own question, but lots of ‘environmentalists’.) Maybe Nordhaus thinks outside the box enough to garner praise from establishment publications on the left and the pseudo-right, but he seems pretty mediocre to me. Using this Wired blurb, though, will set off the ignorant Carson-haters: “the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring”.

        Did you see the paper or hype on human body temperatures cooling over time? Some interesting parallels to global temperature reconstruction:

        https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/are-humans-cooling-probably-not/

        • DaveW ==> Yes –human body temperatures — I am planning on writing a quip on that — it is in interesting though misguided paper — and I very much doubt that the findings are strictly valid.

    • Building on wet, unconsolidated sediments in a high-risk seismic zone is just plain nuts.

    • I left a comment just now (7 hours after your comment Bob) at peakoil.
      I thought so too.

      Many people have no clue what is happening on climate change and HOW they are being lied and manipulated.

    • Bob,

      I did look at the comments. I think this quote by Sowell sums them up quite nicely.

      “It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
      Thomas Sowell

      Clearly, many of those posters are seriously lacking in knowledge and have zero awareness of their own ignorance.

  3. “…subsidence induced by the load of buildings” – that’s the real problem, not sea levels rising.

    As indicated above, you can’t expect to build bazillion tonnage cities on swamp land and not have consequences.

    • Shri Amarnath blog ==> The poor almost always occupy the land not wanted by the wealthier (because it is not really suitable). So the poor live in low-lying areas prone to floods or on steep hillsides prone to landslide.

      It has always been so.

  4. The WSJ article is a classic example of misdirection, setting up a straw-man “debate” while urging continued investment in “clean” energy technology.

  5. Can anyone say New Orleans? Venice? Several hundred years ago it seemed an excellent idea to build in such locations, at least to some, the first massive flood should have opened their eyes. Oh, well. And in Asia they seem to be accelerating building on flood plains and swamps, all the while the environhysterics keep screeching these problems are caused by me using a woodburner and driving a truck. And people keep listening to them. Sweet Bleeding Jeebus!

    • “Several hundred years ago it seemed an excellent idea to build in such location”

      2hotel9,
      After Jefferson completed the La. Purchase, the French told the Americans that NOLA was a terrible place to build a city because the land was below sea level. Americans ignored them. This is probably one of the few times in history the French were right but, that time, they were.

      • Oh yea, Americans were all hepped up to get a ready built city. I believe Slidell was established by Americans after they experienced a flood season in NO, and that others went farther north to build Picayune, Mississippi. Having grown up in the “high” country between the Pearl River and Pascagoula River basins I have seen plenty of flooding.

  6. Rather interestingly, London suffers in part the dewatering problem. It was covered in a paper by Wilson and Grace in 1940. The subsidence is small: about a foot (0.3m). Their paper, in the Proc ICE is only a decade and a bit after Terzaghi’s seminal paper that introduced the appropriate theory.

  7. The Tidewater area of Virginia (Norfolk) is also in the same boat (no pun intended) as Jakarta. They’ve been pumping water out of the aquifers under the city for years, and couple that with sinking coming from other causes are having real issues during king tides and wind caused higher tides.

    Plus the whole mid and lower Chesapeake Bay is actually a meteor crater causing further sinking of land especially on the eastern shore and some islands out in the Bay itself (Tangier Island). I have a house on the western shore where the levels are running about 4mm/year increase by tide gauges, which won’t effect me (or my kids) during our lifetimes.

    Extensive article on Norfolk’s issues including the obligatory climate change graph. http://www.virginiaplaces.org/climate/norfolkdrown.html

    • rbabcock ==> Thanks for the link on Norfolk — which I have written about Norfolk before.

      I have anchored off Hospital Point (Portsmouth side) many times over the years, and have watched as they re-built the bayside road, over and over and over as the tides washed the soil out from under it.

  8. “Only the international press, powered by climate change advocacy, dares make the claim against all evidence to the contrary.

    Which means they continue to destroy any remaining legitimacy they have, and continue to turn themselves into “fake news.” Much of the press is now animated by an agenda-driven ideology, not journalism. I see no way that outlets like the BBC, NPR, New York Times or CNN, being carried away with false reporting for a decade or more now, can salvage themselves in the long-term. They are burning themselves down with a mountain lies built around them like firewoood, and they simply seem to relish and wallow in their own on-going demise.
    Do they really think Global Socialism they are rushing towards will somehow save them and their financial futures?

  9. Kip Hansen

    All these references to places showing either subsidence, like here in Jakarta, or post-glacial rebound, like at the end of the Bothnian Gulf in Northern Europe, are simply useless.

    What matters is a global analysis of all places with sufficient data, by taking into account for example GPS data near enough to such places.

    • Bindidon ==> I think you are referring to “How do we know if the global sea level is rising?” If so, if we wish to use tide gauge data, then we must only use tide gauges that are associated directly with Continuously Operting GPS mounted to the Same Structure. — short hand for that is CGPS@TG (SS).

      Using a CGPS “nearby” deals with continental scale movement but not accurately with structure subsidence.

      • Kip Hansen

        “Using a CGPS “nearby” deals with continental scale movement but not accurately with structure subsidence.”

        Sorry, Mr Hansen, but this is typical ‘pseudoskepticism’.
        Apart from single, on some web blogs widely misused exceptions, the average error is about 4E-3 mm/km.

        This error has been calculated by people who checked the accuracy of the data presented alongside Schumacher’s study:

        https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.889923

        Unfortunately, I can’t find the link back on my browser’s history. Das ist dumm!

        • Bindidon ==> al the major sea Level organizations, including PSMSL, are moving to establishing a reliable network of CGPS@TG(SS).

          In order to get continuously correct comparable data, both the tide gauge and the CGPS must be on the same structure — as it i not only the continental mass that moves, but the structure to which the ride gauge is attached. Tide gauges are by ne essity at the edge of the water — where erosion, settling, etc take place.

      • 2hotel9

        You should perfectly know what I mean when replying to my comment, but do not seem to.

        1. One or two dozens of measurements are no facts, let alone would they reflect reality when there are over 1500 gauges worldwide.

        2. Again: without an accurate VLM correction, gauge evaluation is pure rubbish.

        One of the gauges showing worldwide least level rise is Furuögrund in Eastern Sweden, with a rising trend of -8 mm / year for 1916-2017. But the VLM correction to be applied nearby currently is… +10 mm/year.

        Got it, specialist?

        • Bindidon ==> I am trying to figure out what you point is — you have made several antagonistic comments about sea level rise and tide gauges — but it is unclear what your major point might be.

          Can you try one more time with a single overall statement?

        • So, you refuse to accept the actual records from the real world, instead wanting to create something different with nebulous computer generated measurements, and when your “data” conflicts with actual measurements recorded in the real world you just want to throw them out. OK, got it.

  10. Subsidence. Such a long word, that takes many words to explain. So much easier to use a misleading graphic and a mentally disturbed shouting HOW DARE YOU!

  11. Jakarta officials may be well aware their problems having nothing to do with climate change, but watch them claim it is, if funding is available. (See: Kiribati, Tuvalu, etc)

  12. The only way they can “beat” this is to raise the land levels inside the city. Sea walls will help, but when they fail (and they will due to human stupidity at some point) the city is going to be in a disaster (think New Orleans/Katrina). The government needs to plan ahead, condemn one block at a time, raise the land in the block (or section), then move the next set of people to the new higher area and condemn that next area. Yeah, it will take a lot of time so they need a sea wall in the meantime. Eventually the new higher city land acts as a sea wall as well.

    This all assumes that subsidence cannot go on forever. If soil is compacting, then that’s a good bet. If it’s mostly the withdraw of ground water, then that has to stop. (I wonder if one could inject grit into existing wells to shore up the aquifer?)

    Of course, it is far easier to just blame global warming, wave one’s hands around irrationally, and do nothing because it is beyond one’s ability to control.

    One last note…Tall buildings *should* have pilings driven down to bedrock, so I am wondering if they actually contribute to the load on the soil? I suppose the 1st floor would, but would the rest of the structure? Just a thought.

    • Ya know, some times, no matter how much stone you dump into your repeatedly sunken driveway it just keeps sinking. I wonder just how deep they would have to go to get to bedrock? And lets not forget that entire region has a great deal of tectonic activity.

    • I wonder if one could inject grit into existing wells to shore up the aquifer?
      ≠========
      Mud-jacking. Why not? It works on houses. Why not cities?

      And best of all, one of the main ingredients in mud-jacking is fly ash from coal burning. So as you install coal fired electrical generation you can use the waste to mud-jack the city.

  13. You wrote the magic words –
    “. . .18.6 year lunar nodal high-tide cycle. . .”
    USGS refers to the 18.6-year tidal cycle (Metonic Cycle, after Meton of Athens, 5th century BC) and has published a notification of update.
    https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/press/tidaldatum.html
    Note the reference tide gages and outliers, Juneau AK relative sea level fall and Grand Isle LA relative sea level rise. Overall, a couple of mm per year is the consensus rise according to FEMA, NOAA, Scripps, in their August 2018 report for the US Pacific coast.

    • Neil ==> Thanks for the link to the NOAA notice on changing the tide datums for certain tide stations. surprising few people even know that there are such things as tide datums.

  14. From the Nordhaus column:

    “In the real climate debate, no one denies the relationship between human emissions of greenhouse gases and a warming climate. Instead, the disagreement comes down to different views of climate risk in the face of multiple, cascading uncertainties.”
    He lost me with this because it’s a bald-faced lie.

    • KcTaz ==> You may find it odd, but I agree with Nordhaus — see my two-pat series published here at WUWT: Why I Don’t Deny: Confessions of a Climate Skeptic — Part 1 and Part 2.

      Of course, there are some outlying opinions about CO2 and climate — so it is not strictly true to “no one” denies it — but I’d agree that no one educated in the subject denies that CO2 is a “greenhouse” gas or that human influences have altered the climate.

  15. The current governor of Jakarta seems to be taking his lessons in hydraulic engineering and meteorology from the holy book of that land’s most common religion, so you cannot expect him to do anything serious about the issue.

    • Fabio ==> Well, there are moving the government to Borneo — establishing a new capital there. This might slow the unchecked growth in Jakarta.

    • It depends which holy book one reads. In the Gospels, Jesus did warn against building houses on sand.

      If, according to Boels’ link, Jakarta is subsiding at the rate of 7.5 to 14 cm per year, this is 25 to 47 times the sea level rise rate from tidal gauges (3 mm/yr), so Jakarta’s problems can’t be blamed on “climate change”.

      A “Great Sea Wall” is necessary, which will probably slow down subsidence due to the ocean waves washing away sand from the beaches. But such a rapid subsidence rate could endanger tall buildings, and possibly cause them to collapse. It is subsidence which causes the Tower of Pisa to lean.

  16. One could probably mud-jack a city using fracking technology .

    Sink a deep well at each street corner, pump in high pressure mud and keep pumping until you reach the desired height. Like mud jacking a house you need to monitor and adjust to make sure everything stays level to minimize cracking and structural damage, but the technology certainly seems available.

    A lot of idle rigs in Canada. Maybe Trudeau can sent them off to save the world from sea level rise, by mud jacking all the low spots.

    • You killed your idea by associating it with fracking. 😉 The veritable kiss of death.

      On serious note, wouldn’t grouting to stop subsidence destroy the aquifer they are relying on? I have seen this used to stabilize and lift structures and roadways/bridges, that is done at fairly shallow depth and it caused changes in water movement, locally(effecting drainage around and underneath).

    • Boels ==> Yes, at least they are doing something. There will be serious problems due to the delta nature of the city locale.

  17. Jakarta ancient ruins aren’t threatened by sea level rise.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=indonesia+ancient+ruins&oq=Indonesia+ancient+&aqs=chrome.

    Jakarta ancient settlements, as most ancient settlements world wide, weren’t erected on the coast –
    ancient settlement were located

    – preferably in inland areas.

    – preferably on defensible places, elevated places, even fortified places.

    ____________________________________

    Ancient settlements weren’t erected in earthquake prone zones, avalanche zones, flooding / inundation zones.

    Coastal roads got ubiquitous with tourism, before even fishermen after work returned to high ground settlements.

    Nowadays, after a tsunami the survivors immediately return back to the coasts, in midst of garbage floating in contaminated water.

    On the risk of repeating – Banda Aceh:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Banda+Aceh&oq=Banda+Aceh+&aqs=chrome.

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