The Eleventh Tenth First Climate Change Refugees

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I keep reading over and over about the world’s “First Climate Change Refugees”. As near as I can keep count, we are already up to the Ninth First Climate Change Refugees, and we’ve seen … well … none. Links to my previous posts, each discussing one of the earlier winners of the Annual First Climate Change Refugees Prize are in the endnotes.

So I had to laugh when I saw the following story from the reliably climate alarmist BBC.

Let’s be clear about the violence that they are doing to both logic and the English language. They are declaring people as being “refugees” from a possible disaster foretold for the year 2054! That’s hilarious!

Are these the first climate refugees?, asks the headline … well, no.

I figure we need a new name for people like this, a special class of people who are current refugees from a predicted future disaster. I propose that they be called “prefugees”, to indicate their temporal displacement to a world where the effect precedes the cause … but I digress …

When I saw that, I vaguely remembered seeing something about that village, and a bit of research found the following from the GWPF:

So not only is this the Tenth First Climate Prefugee crisis, but thanks to it being recycled from four years ago by the BBC it’s also the Eleventh Tenth First Climate Prefugee crisis … but what is really happening there?

Let’s start with a bit of history.

Fairbourne was part of the historic county of Merioneth. The area was originally salt marshes and slightly higher grazing lands. Before development began in the mid 19th Century there were three farms on the land. The coastal area was originally known as Morfa Henddol, while the promontory outcrop now occupied by the Fairbourne Hotel was called Ynysfaig.

About 1865 Solomon Andrews, a Welsh entrepreneur, purchased the promontory. Over the next several years he built a seawall for tidal protection and several houses. To facilitate this he built a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge horse-drawn tramway from the main railway to the site in order to bring in building materials.

In 1916, the tramway was converted to a 15 in (381 mm) gauge steam railway. Sir Arthur McDougall (of flour making fame) had been looking for a country estate, but when he discovered this area, he soon conceived of it as a seaside resort. In July 1895 Arthur McDougall purchased a substantial acreage from land speculators, which he enlarged by additional lots the following year. He hired a builder in 1896 who began the development of a model seaside resort.

So it’s a relatively new village, a “model seaside resort”, built on a salt marsh … an inauspicious start. There’s a good description of how it developed with historical photos here. And with the history, let’s take a look at the physical layout of the area.

Figure 1. An overview of the Fairbourne area.

As you can see, it’s built on a slightly raised area in the outflow delta of a river. This is not a surprise. Building on an outflow delta is a common feature of several previous First Climate Change Refugees Prize winners. It’s kind of a double-plus ungood idea because, well, if the area hadn’t flooded in the past it wouldn’t be a river outflow delta, would it …

Plus the delta land is just a loose pile of easily-eroded river-borne silt, mud, and sand. Sketch. Very sketch.

The braided serpentine nature of the river in Figure 1 above as it traverses the delta shows how flat the land is and how easily the river cuts new channels.

Next, here’s a closeup of the village and the “promontory” mentioned above:

Figure 2. Fairbourne village.

The serpentine nature of the drainage channels in and around the village again shows how flat the land is there. Google Earth puts the whole area between seven and ten feet (2-3 m) above sea level.

So why are they said to be time-traveling climate refugees? It revolves around a UK Government fantasy forecast called the Shoreline Management Plan Two (SMP2). That document, written in 2011, claims that sea levels around the UK will rise by a metre (3.3 feet) over the next 100 years (of which 91 years remain), and may rise by two metres.

The SMP2 also says that by 2054 the sea level might rise by a foot and a half (450 mm) and the village will have to be abandoned. As you might imagine, this alarmist prediction has not been good for the local property values …

Now, bear in mind that for the last century and a half, the sea level has been going up at about 8″ (200 mm) to 12″ (300 mm) per century. So their claim is that despite the fact that we have no evidence of any significant acceleration in the rate of sea-level rise, it will accelerate like crazy over the next 91 years.

How much will sea level rise have to speed up to achieve those very large increases? Far more than you’d think. To get to one metre by 2111, at the end of that time it will be rising in 2110-2111 by 27.2 mm per year, nearly ten times the current rate. And to get to two metres by 2111, it will be rising in 2110-2111 by 72.4 mm per year, twenty-five times the current rate. Here’s what those projections look like:

Figure 3. Projected sea level rises in Fairbourne. Blue shows a linear projection of the current rate of rise. Yellow shows a rise of 1 metre by 2011, and red shows a rise of 2 metres by 2011. The dashed orange horizontal line is the 450 mm increase since 2011 that’s said to be where the village has to be abandoned.

Consider those huge annual rises by 2110-2111, 27 mm/yr and 72 mm/yr. By comparison, the fastest rate of sea-level rise in the last 100,000 years was during the time when we came out of the most recent Ice Age. During the period of the fastest melting of the land glaciers, called “Meltwater Pulse 1a”, the rate of sea-level rise is estimated at 47 ± 15 mm per year.

“Meltwater Pulse 1a” was from the rapid melting of the giant continent-wide glaciers of the time. But there are no such glaciers left, so I’m just not seeing the huge annual rates necessary to get to one or two metres of rise.

Is the sea level rise accelerating at all around Fairbourne? Unfortunately, we don’t have many nearby tide gauges that have even forty years of records. Below are the four nearest longer-duration tide gauge records.

I’ve used the method of analysis I described in my post entitled “Accelerating The Acceleration“. That is to use a CEEMD analysis to remove the tidal cycles, leaving just the underlying changes in the trend of the sea level. The next four figures show the nearby sea-level changes.

Figures 4 – 7. Analysis of the changes in the sea level at the four nearest long-term tide stations around Fairbourne, Wales

As you can see, all four of these analyses show the same pattern, the same “s” shaped yellow line showing the underlying sea-level variations. In each case, the sea level is “porpoising” above and below the red trend line. They all cross the red trend line about 1977-79. From the early part of the record to about 1985-1990 they are running more toward level or even downwards. Then they all rise for about 20 years until peaking about 2005-2010. Since then they are all decelerating and dropping again.

The tides are known to have cycles of up to fifty years and more. These cycles in Figures 4-7 are more on the order of forty years. The common nature between the four records shows that at all stations we’re looking at a slow constant sea-level rise overlaid with a slow ~ forty-year tidal oscillation.

More to the point, there is no apparent acceleration in those records, and certainly no sign of the large amount of acceleration that would be necessary to result in a one- or two-metre rise in a hundred years.

So … given all of the above, what would I recommend for the good citizens of Fairbourne?

First, the claims of the SMP2 of a one-metre or a two-metre sea level rise by 2111 are … well … let me call them very unlikely and leave it at that. As that great scientist Freeman Dyson said:

As a scientist I do not have much faith in predictions. Science is organized unpredictability. The best scientists like to arrange things in an experiment to be as unpredictable as possible, and then they do the experiment to see what will happen. You might say that if something is predictable then it is not science. When I make predictions, I am not speaking as a scientist. I am speaking as a story-teller, and my predictions are science-fiction rather than science. The predictions of science-fiction writers are notoriously inaccurate. Their purpose is to imagine what might happen rather than to describe what will happen.

Second, in that regard, until the rate of sea-level rise actually begins to accelerate, I wouldn’t be concerned. I’d just continue to watch it. If there’s no acceleration you won’t get a 1.5 foot (450 mm) rise until the year 2200 … , and currently there’s no sign of said acceleration.

Third, if Google is correct that most of the town is between seven and ten feet above sea level, I’m not seeing that a foot-and-a-half (450 mm) sea-level rise is necessarily catastrophic as the SMP2 claims.

Fourth, I’d look hard at the river side of town. The faster that you can empty out the water from that side the better you are. I’d consider channelizing in some manner the area where the river meets the ocean. In particular, keeping the river out of the big bend right above the village is important. Erosion happens at the outside of river bends, you don’t want that. It looks like you might be able to divert it to the north side of the delta with some encouragement upriver at the fork. See below for a discussion of methods.

Fifth, I’d put in my own tide measuring station. You need ongoing accurate local information. Probably best to see if the Government can assist with this one. To determine the true local sea-level rise, including the generally small but steady subsidence of river delta lands, you need to have a nearby tidal station.

Sixth, when and if the sea level comes to be a problem, we humanoids know how to deal with sea-level rise. The Dutch have been playing this game for some centuries now.

In addition, there are companies like Holmberg Technologies that specialize in working with the ocean rather than against the ocean to extend beaches and to erosion-proof shorelines. Here’s one of Holmberg’s jobs.

Holmberg uses a very simple and inexpensive system. They lay tubes of reinforced geotextile fabric at right angles to the shore, from above high tide out into the deep. Then they pump concrete into the tubes. That’s it. Here’s the inventor, Dick Holmberg, with a single tube (red arrow).

They lay two tubes side by side and pump in the concrete. These set up as two ovals side by side. After they set hard, a third tube is laid on top between the two and pumped full. Repeat at intervals along the beach you want to protect.

What Holmberg realized was that when the water slows down, suspended solids drop out. So he didn’t have to fight the ocean. He didn’t have to stop the ocean.

He just needed to stub the ocean’s toe a little, to slow the ocean down near the bottom. When it slows down, the sand and suspended solids drop out, and slowly, over time the beach extends further out from shore and the tubes will end up being nearly buried.

And it’s an almost irreducibly cheap way to slow the bottom circulation. No forms or excavations are necessary. Nothing but geotextile tubes and concrete. How could it be cheaper? I think they’ve achieved the ultimate basement low-cost for the purpose. They call it the “Undercurrent Stabilizer”. True. It does stabilize the undercurrent.

Here’s a project Holmberg did in Saudi Arabia. A seawall was failing. They ripped out the seawall. They put the geotextile tubes from the shore outwards and pumped them full of concrete as Undercurrent Stabilizers. They walked away. Here’s the result.

Finally, it’s extensible. Over time the area between the groups of three geotextile tubes extending into the ocean at intervals along the beach fill in and will bury the tubes. Of course, the beach won’t extend further out at that point, because there’s nothing to slow the ocean down.

So you lay a fourth tube on top of the existing triangle of concrete tubes and pump it full … this adds a new stumbling block to slow the ocean a bit. As a result, the beach starts extending further out, and the beat goes on.

Now, contrast that to the usual solution, a sea wall. As the name suggests, rather than making the ocean stub its toe and slow a bit, a seawall looks to stop the ocean … in my experience as a long time seaman, I wouldn’t advise that …

And thus concludeth the tale of the time-traveling Eleventh Tenth First Climate Prefugees—not with a bang but with a whimper … and as usual, with nary a climate refugee in sight.

My final conclusion?

Well me, I’m a ridge runner, not a man to buy land in a river delta. However, if I already owned land in Fairbourne, I’d hold on to it. Seaside land is always valuable … and I’d watch the sea level, and if it started to ramp up I’d contact Holmborg. Heck, might do that in any case, get an opinion and a price.

My best regards, best wishes, and best of luck to all those fortunate or unfortunate enough to own land in Fairbourne. It looks like a beautiful location with a stunning ocean.

Here in our house on a ridge which my cellphone assures me is 740 feet (225 m) above sea-level and 6 miles (10 km) inland from my beloved ocean, northern California is dry this year. No rain in February at all, most unusual. The flowers are out way early, the plum trees are in bloom, the redwoods are reaching towards the sun.

A final note. Since the year 1000, California has had a few droughts lasting longer than thirty years … so please, no claims that droughts in California are due to “climate change”. Droughts have been here forever.

Best wishes to all,


PS—My usual request … when you comment please quote the exact words you are discussing. This avoids endless arguments and misunderstandings.

END NOTES: Previous posts on the subject

The Sixth First Climate Refugees 2013-07-02

For years now, folks have searched desperately for the “fingerprints” of human climate change. These are things that are supposed to reveal how and where humans are affecting the climate. One of these fingerprints, which is alleged to be a sure and certain harbinger of the thermal end times, is…

Breaking News! Seventh First Climate Refugees Discovered! 2013-08-09

Well, my heart fell when I saw the recent BBC article which proudly proclaimed that the people of Kivalina were slated to become “America’s first climate change refugees” … Figure 1. The Alaskan native village of Kivalina. SOURCE: BBC My heart fell for three reasons. First, because once again we…

The Eighth First Climate Refugees 2015-12-26

I’ve written before about the crazy claims of “climate refugees”, there’s a list of posts in the notes below. When I set out to write about bogus climate claims, I find myself in what I call a “target-rich environment”. Crazy ideas on the subject…

The Ninth First Climate Refugees 2016-11-30

Well, the claims of the ‘first climate refugees’ are coming up again. I think we’re up to the ninth first climate refugees, it’s hard to keep track. In any case, I came across this: International leaders gathering in Paris to address global warming face increasing pressure to tackle …

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March 5, 2020 10:10 am

I believe the first climate refugees were in Syria after we (USA) armed the rebels (terrorists) beginning in 2011 and much of the the country was wrecked because the climate became intolerable and thanks Obama.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 10:50 am

Sorry and thanks, I always appreciate your articles.

Ron Long
March 5, 2020 10:16 am

Willis, what a great story of stupid piled on top of stupid, or stupid squared. If Ron White/David Middleton can’t cure stupid for sure you can’t cure stupid squared. By the way, Mr. Ridge Runner, can you spell earthquake? Just saying.

Ron Long
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 11:22 am

Thanks, Willis, and sorry it took so long to get back to you. I was listening to one of my old favorite songs, you know the Jimmy Buffet song “Volcano”? It goes like: Where you gonna go when the volcano blow?

Sorry, I lost my place, where were we?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 6, 2020 7:22 pm

Couldn’t been too much left to shake or burn in 1907 could there? : )

John Adams
March 5, 2020 10:20 am

Thank you. I always find your posts interesting and enjoyable. I always learn something. That’s another thing that makes life worthwhile.

Krishna Gans
March 5, 2020 10:27 am

I left Berlin in Germany in 1974 to South of France Mediterranean Coast because of the mostly bad weather in Berlin.
Am I a climate refugee ? 😀

Reply to  Krishna Gans
March 5, 2020 1:32 pm

We have a name for climate refugees in the US. We call them “snow birds”. They flee the north and head south. Most have been doing it for years.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  mkelly
March 5, 2020 2:39 pm

If i remember well, around that time we had a climate shift from more continental to more atlantic climate.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  mkelly
March 6, 2020 3:38 pm

Yup, we get the “snow-birds” in the winter, but when we go north for the summer, we’re “sun-birds”.

Michael Penny
March 5, 2020 10:30 am

Willis, I don’t see why they couldn’t put some Undercurrent Stabilizers along the south bank of the river to create the same effect in the river bed.

Ian Magness
Reply to  Michael Penny
March 5, 2020 10:47 am

See my comment below. There are multiple erosive and sedimentological process occurring at this location. It was doomed from the start. In fact, I think it’s incredible that the settlement is still there.

HD Hoese
March 5, 2020 10:34 am

There is an old mouth-twister about selling seashells by the seashore. As a long time observer of lots of twisted things sold by the seashore, I suggest that someone with poetic talents should work out an appropriate rhyme.

Richard from Brooklyn (south)
March 5, 2020 10:42 am

And of course let us not forget that, due to glacial isostatic rebound, the Welsh side of the UK is rising and the London side dropping so even less reason to panic.
In similar vein I remain amused by the Wellington City Council here in NZ issuing panic maps of low lying harbour areas going to be drowned in 30-50 years. They forget that we have earthquakes and the major ones lift up the land by 300-500mm a time. A local major arterial road only exists because of an 1850 quake. Same with our airport and cricket ground.
BTW love the beach recovery process. I wonder if the older technique of submerged groynes (low walls extending into the sea) did something similar. (same sound as groin but a different thing and less sensitive)

March 5, 2020 10:44 am

Thanks, Willis, for the fun and educational post.


Ian Magness
March 5, 2020 10:44 am

I am very familiar with Fairbourne as I used to have a holiday home a few miles further up the Mawddach (that’s the river) estuary.
A couple of points:
– if you look carefully at the first picture you can see that, incredibly, most of the houses were actually built at sea level (or so close it matters not). The sea wall protects them most of the time because it was built up to several feet above normal high tide level. Many of the dwellings on the ocean side don’t even have windows high enough for the inhabitants to see the sea – they can’t look over the wall! The settlement is sandwiched between moving and unstable estuarine sediments and the Atlantic Ocean and receives the full force of south-westerly Atlantic winds and storms. I never cease to find all this completely barking mad;
– the potential for sediment movement does not stop at fluviatile processes and Atlantic storms. In addition, powerful currents move sediments up and down the coastline in significant quantities. If any WUWT readers appreciate JMW Turner, they might like to view images of his painting of Harlech Castle finished in 1835. Harlech Castle is only around 10 miles north of Fairbourne as the raven flies. That, and other early Victorian paintings, depict the castle having the sea lapping around its base and indeed supply boats coming right up to the castle. Harlech Castle today lies hundreds of yards from the shore with the gap filled in over the years by sand dunes and other longshore coastal sedimentation.
So, Fairbourne really was built in the most ludicrous of locations with very active erosive and other sedimentological processes happening constantly. It is a real wonder that it hasn’t disappeared long before now but when it does return to nature you can be sure it will have had very little to do with anthropogenic climate change.

Reply to  Ian Magness
March 5, 2020 1:21 pm

Ian Magness,

Your last paragraph sums it all up brilliantly.

Willis, as ever, a fantastic & well researched ‘kick-up-the-bum-to-the-BBC’ article which provides both facts & solutions. Plus, it made me smile.

Thank you Willis – and thank you Ian.

Reply to  Ian Magness
March 5, 2020 11:16 pm

Oops! You’ve got the wrong ocean – it’s the Irish Sea, but good anylsis..
I visit that area regularly for its lovely walks and I’ve always observed that the sea and river defences are more tha adequate (have a look at the path from Morfa Station on top of the dyke), BUT Fairbourne is a bit of a dump (except for the railway) so it’s diappeance wouldn’t be a great loss.

Robert W Turner
March 5, 2020 10:50 am

I just want to hear Biggus Dickus try to pronounce the title of this article.

It seems to me that the undercurrent stabilizers are actually stopping the longshore current.

Pillage Idiot
March 5, 2020 10:51 am

I think the WUWT crowd is missing a great land speculation deal here.

1.) As the government proclamations of climate doom push down the property prices, slowly buy up the whole village.

2.) When the government announces that the land must be abandoned, say fine we relieve the UK government of all obligations regarding the future of the village and declare ourselves sovereign.

3.) Retire to a lovely seaside village with no overweening government presence to tax you and tell you how to run your life!

Reply to  Pillage Idiot
March 6, 2020 4:12 am

same thought here some rich dude wants the spot for a golfcourse or exclusive development

James Schrumpf
March 5, 2020 10:52 am

I’m curious about the Holmborg solution. An ordinary jetty sticks out, also in an attempt to “stub the ocean’s toe,” but always end with piling up sand on the up-current side, and eroding it away on the down-current side. As the proud holder of a degree in Geology, I’m very aware sedimentation changes that can occur from even slight changes in the speed of the current. So my question is, why doesn’t the down-current side of a submerged jetty-like-substance do the same thing?

As the current impacts the submerged tubes, it rises and slows on the up-current side, dropping part of its sediment load. So far, so good. As it rolls over the top, however, I’d think a slight horizontal eddy would form, like the hydraulic of water going over a falls, which would prevent sediment deposition from occurring.

What is different in the action of the current around a jetty, and around what is essentially a submerged jetty, that would cause such a profoundly different effect?

Any ideas?

Robert W Turner
Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 5, 2020 12:18 pm

My guess is that these are submerged so they allow some longshore with sediment to pass over them and creates a mixing zone (competing currents) on the backside. A jetty or groin completely stops the longshore, reducing sediment supply on the backside as well as the creation of a undercurrent channel.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 5, 2020 12:38 pm

I imagine that it is the third-member that runs parallel to the beach that makes it different from a simple jetty. That is because the tube breaks the waves away from the erodable sand; it reduces the energy of the waves that would otherwise hit the beach. Therefore, sand is not put into the longshore current and builds up. Now, the downside is that beaches where the tubes haven’t been put may suffer from a lack of sand and start eroding.

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 5, 2020 7:10 pm

I don’t see where there’s a tube parallel to the beach. Willis wrote “you lay a fourth tube on top of the existing triangle of concrete tubes and pump it full.” That sounds to me as if the fourth tube is lain right on top of and in the same orientation as the first three tubes.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 6, 2020 8:35 am

Willis and James,
I stand corrected. Willis, you had written, “They lay two tubes side by side and pump in the concrete. These set up as two ovals side by side. After they set hard, a third tube is laid on top between the two and pumped full. Repeat at intervals along the beach you want to protect.” It was ambiguous to me what the orientation was of the third tube. This misunderstanding was in part because of the mention of yet a 4th tube, which could straddle, but not lie stably on a ‘pyramid.’

California has a history of population explosions of purple urchins, which decimate the offshore giant kelp forests. (As is happening now.) The beaches then start eroding because the full force of the waves can impinge on the beach and are not attenuated by the kelp. Anything that can hydraulically roughen the shore bottom should assist in retaining sand.

Let me offer another suggestion, James. As the sand builds up, upstream of the underwater jetties, it is eventually able to pass over the top of the submerged tubes, unlike with a conventional jetty. Thus, the usual downstream deficit of sand is avoided. It would be interesting to see how this engineering of the coast impacts the seasonal variations and whether or not there are impacts downstream beyond the modifications.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 5, 2020 5:33 pm

Lawyers typically benefit from beach nourishment project similar to those described in this post. Sand artificially deposited in one area is typically robbed from an adjacent area. Although in this case, Figure 1 does not show an aggrieved party, typically there are aggrieved parties with both the interest and financial resources to legally object.

Reply to  PMHinSC
March 6, 2020 6:39 am

From memory the beach project in Ocean City, MD employed giant ships hydraulically pumping sand from a couple miles offshore via big pipes to the beaches.

Reply to  James Schrumpf
March 6, 2020 6:33 am

Seems very similar to the traditional use of groynes.
I assume these run further out to slow deeper water and encourage sedimentation further out.

March 5, 2020 10:56 am


Thank you for the wonderful quote from Freeman Dyson as well as that most elegant beach Restoration technology.
I do hope that Fairbourne will take advantage of this knowledge and start planning for a more certain future.

March 5, 2020 11:04 am

I know fairbourne very well having had a Holiday home close by.

Firstly as has been mentioned a lot of it is marshland. Secondly a lot of the village is at or below sea level with large earth and stone defences protecting them which are in various stages of disrepair.

However, as someone who was on the flood defence committee of the UK environment agency the biggest problem is that this is a very marginal economy with a fairly depressed property market even before this news broke. Therefore it does not qualify under any cost benefit analysis as regards bigger and better flood defences.

If it had been abersoch or Aberdovey the house prices and value of the businesses would mean it would be deemed worth saving.

Fairbourne unfortunately is a fairly depressed area with Low house prices and very few businesses of any value so nfortunately it won’t be protected


March 5, 2020 11:07 am

Willis you have well nailed this old chestnut that crawls out from under a stone from time to time.
The whole fantasy was constructed by local greens who now infest district authorities on the back of the grotesque SMP2. I spent a week holiday in Fairbourne a couple of years ago and walked my dog along the sea wall which stands 6ft atop a pebble bank, also about 6ft above the extensive flat sand beach typical of the irish sea coast. The river Mawddach to the north washes silt from Snowdonia into a wide glacial estuary which is still slowly rising since the ice age. Few of the present inhabitants (or their grandchildren) will still be alive when the rising sea finally floods the salt marsh . The sea wall will still be there.
Saying that, no one will miss the place.
Strange geography on your sea level graphs, Heysham is in Lancashire England and Portpatrick in SW Scotland! Note the northward decline in MSL, the result of the mentioned post glacial isostatic rebound.

March 5, 2020 11:21 am

Climate cooling… warming… change is a first-order rationalization of democratic gerrymandering, redistributive change, and planned population schemes.

March 5, 2020 11:36 am

Sp property prices in Fairbourne Wales might be lower than vendors would like, but it seems they are having no problems selling them.

Maybe some commenters here can shed more light on whether the prices mentioned below are reasonable or not.

What’s the average house price in Fairbourne?
The average price for property in Fairbourne stood at £156,707 in March 2020. This is a rise of 0.61% in the last three months (since December 2019) and rise of 2.29% since 12 months ago. In terms of property types, flats in Fairbourne sold for an average of £88,622 and terraced houses for £127,193. This is according to the current Zoopla estimates.

Reply to  Mr.
March 5, 2020 12:32 pm


There are many substantial Victorian properties on the higher ground just under the mountains nearby. They would increase the value of the ‘average’ price quite substantially as the relatively small houses and bungalows in threatened fairbourne itself would be unlikely to fetch the prices you cite


Reply to  Tonyb
March 5, 2020 1:36 pm

Fair enough Tony. The devil is always in the detail.

(A bit like the average temps increase in Canada where the extreme north regions can show several degrees increase, but still remaining well below freezing. These movements which when factored into the overall national numbers distort the reality of lived experience.)

March 5, 2020 11:38 am

They automatically become honorary citizens of Bloombergia.

Joel O'Bryan
March 5, 2020 11:44 am

“The UK’s First Climate Change Refugees?”

Basic first courses at college-level journalism teaches to never have lede or headline begin with a question.
In most cases, a lede/headline as a question forms a circular logic of “begging the question,” where the truthfulness of the conclusion is assumed at the beginning. There are many knowledgeable journalist-pundits who pan this often used opening device by other journalist, simply because in almost every case that can be pointed to, they can be answered in the negative. Even if they are not outright false, a lede/headline that begins with a question is generally to be avoided because gives little information about the story that follows.

For those reasons, the use by whoever(s) at the BBC penned and then approved that headline skipped, flunked or slept through journalism school. It’s use does not reflect well on a professional journalism-based organization and its editors.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 5, 2020 12:44 pm

An honest technical answer but you overlook just one thing: the BBC aren’t offering news, they’re spreading propaganda. Projection, I think they call it.

It’s out of the reach of any libel or slander laws as it’s lies by inference rather than assertion, and lies by omission, ie omission of the facts that nope, this isn’t the worlds first climate refugees.

Drip, drip, drip goes their relentless climate propaganda, and they’re very good at it.

March 5, 2020 11:45 am

Fairbourne as a ‘ model seaside resort’ never worked, as most people went to the much prettier and larger Victorian resort of Barmouth on the other side of the estuary, which is also served by the railway.

In the 40 years I have known Fairbourne it has always been run down, with low house prices and marred by low quality development and lots of caravan parks.

The town and Barmouth itself is set in some of the most spectacular scenery in Britain, with the beautiful Mawddach estuary, fabulous beaches and the imposing mountain range of Cader Idris looming over it all.

Ironically it is just 5 miles from Harlech where the castle, built in the 1300’s with a Seagate to provision it, was left high and dry as the sea level fell in the colder centuries that followed. deposition took over and the sea castle is now 2 miles from the sea.

If anybody wanted to invest £10 million in an international resort in Fairbourne, the village might become valuable enough to pass the cost benefit analysis tests set by the Environment agency. Some parts of the area will always be marshy but the original flood defences could easily be improved and this beautiful area might then become the model seaside resort it failed to become in Victorian times. So its all possible but down to money

How somewhere with so many natural advantages can so comprehensively fail to capitalise on them is due to it being much visited by tourists from Birmingham, many of whom want a cheap holiday, so the funds have never been available to lift the fortunes of Fairbourne or even its much nicer sister, Barmouth, which today is also pretty run down.

Incidentally the walks in the area are fabulous, with the one from Fairbourne to Barmouth over the railway bridge one of the finest in Britain.


March 5, 2020 12:31 pm

This type of report is ALL about the headlines.
That’s the part the public scan-read, that’s the part that subconsciously consolidates public perception of ‘climate change’.

March 5, 2020 12:31 pm

In my home country forced acquisitions of waterfront land ‘because of sea level rise’ (always projected, of course) are a perennial topic for discussion within some local governments. As always, when the issue arises my first response is to look at who has been buying land one step back from the waterfront and will therefore collect a windfall profit when their land suddenly IS on the waterfront. My second response is to look at who knows whom.
What a beautiful place you have, Willis.

March 5, 2020 12:32 pm

Ah, I was reading along and enjoying the article. Great tone, good writing, intriguing content. I thought, “this guy writes just like Willis.” Uh Duh…

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 3:21 pm

I had much the same experience as TomB. Know what clinched it for me without looking back? The graphs. You always put pretty background pictures in your graphs. Anyway, great article, and thanks.

Michael Fitzgerald
March 5, 2020 12:44 pm

I seem to recall that Dunwich, in East Suffolk, was a rotten borough that still sent two members to Parliament centuries after most of the town had been washed away by relative sea-level rise during the medieval warm period.

Jeroen B.
March 5, 2020 1:02 pm

Willis, small “whoopsie” — your SLR chart lists a year range as 2110-2111 and I don’t think you intended that

…but apart from that, excellent article to deflate these silly hyperbolic claims, thank you for a solid port of lucidity in the storm of climate change nonsense!

Jeroen B.
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 2:53 pm

Yes but …. 2110-2111 isn’t 100 years, it’s 1 year! (unless I’m terribly misreading this and it’s intended as an ambiguous end year – in which case I humbly apologize for my defective observation)

Jeroen B.
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 11:16 pm

thank you, I get it now! Sorry, I guess I brainfarted *really* hard there.

Jeff Alberts
March 5, 2020 1:08 pm

“when we came out of the most recent Ice Age”

We haven’t come out of the ice age. We entered an interglacial period within the current ice age.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 1:44 pm

I think I’m exactly within that demographic.

It’s a nit, perhaps, but I think it’s important to use the correct terminology. Otherwise it becomes another cudgel for alarmists to beat us with “They don’t even know we’re still in an ice age, dummies!”

BTW, I really enjoy your articles, so please don’t view my comments as derogatory, but as (hopefully) constructive criticism.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 10:55 pm

It’s not my interpretation, it’s the geological standard, to my knowledge. Otherwise the term “interglacial” really wouldn’t have any meaning. But hey, I’m just some guy.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 5, 2020 2:20 pm

Re Ice Age. I studied geology in Winnipeg which is situated on the floor of the famous Lake Agassiz, the huge meltwater lake at one time covering much of Manitoba, western Ontario, and parts of Saakatchewan, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Naturally, whatever branch of geology we went into, students all were well grounded in glacial geology and were obliged to go on the fieldtrips. I seem to recall at the time, mid 1950s, that “The” Ice Age” referred to the last glacial maximum.

I believe Louis Agassiz (1840s), who was the first to determine that we even had an Ice Age, was unaware of there having been more than one. All these other ‘glacial maxima’ appear to have been discovered since I studied geology in the ’50s.

Bill Powers
March 5, 2020 1:10 pm

I recommend, playing off the BBC Environmental tree huggers, that we call these prefugee doom saviors Prefuggers. And might i suggest that they all go fug themselves.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Bill Powers
March 6, 2020 1:14 am


Reply to  Bill Powers
March 6, 2020 6:19 am

We wouldn’t have to call them anything if they’d just listen to Tom Petty:
“You don’t have to live like a refugee”

March 5, 2020 1:12 pm

We will cross that Bering Land Bridge when we come to it.

March 5, 2020 1:20 pm

So running concrete out into the water works much better than using it to make a wall. Well I’ll be darned. Very creative solution.

March 5, 2020 1:27 pm

Mr. E writes for me and I have most enjoyed the “Climate Refugee” series. Informative and laced with wry humor. Most delightful.

March 5, 2020 1:28 pm

Can we form a kickstarter funded real estate firm to buy these properties for pennies on the dollar?

Steve Z
March 5, 2020 1:30 pm

From the aerial photographs, it looks like Fairbourne has more of a problem with flooding from the river to the north than from the sea to the west. After a heavy rain, water levels in the river could rise rapidly, and cause flooding to the north of town. What about dredging out some of the sand from the river, and using it to build a dune or berm just east of the beach, to the west of the town?

Of course, if the town is at least seven feet above sea level, at a sea level rise rate of 3 mm per year, the residents of Fairbourne might have to worry around the year 2700, but today’s residents will be long dead by then.

The idea that was used in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia may or may not work in Wales. Ras Tanura is along the Persian Gulf, which is relatively sheltered water (nearly surrounded by land) with only a short “fetch” of open water to the east which could generate waves. Fairbourne is along the west coast of Wales, where strong prevailing westerlies in the North Atlantic probably generate far more waves and beach erosion than at Ras Tanura.

Nigel in California
March 5, 2020 1:32 pm

Can we send this to the people of Fairbourne?

March 5, 2020 2:12 pm

The tidal range at Barmouth (the opposite side of the river from Fairbourne) is 17.7 ft,

So there are almost certainly times where the sea level is higher than Fairbourne, and the tops of the waves on the sea side even higher.

This is allowed for by dikes to keep out the high tide, a big one facing the sea and a small one facing the river. A sluice gate in the low dike allows rain water out at low tide. It might be necessary to raise these dikes if sea level rises, I don’t know the current difference between extreme high tide and the top of the dikes.

I don’t see that raising the dikes by a foot or 2 would be a major expense, sand could be dredged from the river mouth, or material brought in from outside, possibly the slate tailings that litter that part of Wales.

I don’t know the history of Fairbourne, but generally low lying areas like that had local drainage boards that the locals paid to maintain the defences. Recently government has been centralising this function, and I suspect that happened to Fairbourne. In the short term that will have been good for the residents as they would no longer have to pay an additional rate to the drainage board, the problem is that government can now decided not to maintain the defences.

The issue I cannot understand is the legal basis for ordering the residents to leave without paying compensation.

On related issues:

Harlech Castle is about 0.6 miles from the sea and that is all silting, not sea level fall.

Th interesting bit of land reclamation is further north at Porthmadog, where a dike was built all the way across an estuary, turning a huge area of tidal mudflat into farmland as well as supporting a road and narrow gauge railway across the estuary. If it was down to me we would do that at Fairbourne/Barmouth; however, the cuntry is now run my morons, not engineers.

March 5, 2020 2:22 pm

Hi Willis….great article. Just here to second TonyB’s comments – used to go to Fairbourne alot, great windsurf destination. And we used to use the joke about it being a one horse town but the horse died. It was indeed a failed holiday project ghat never took off because of its richer neighbour Barmouth on the other side of the river. The BBC really are scum with the spin they put on the story.

Kevin kilty
March 5, 2020 2:39 pm


Prefugees is hilarious. You should trademark it.

Willard Bascom wrote about working with the ocean to stabilize beaches using those ugly groins and also trucking in sand to feed beaches if needed. This looks like a much cleaner job. However, if Holmberg stops the littoral drift of material, isn’t it possible some other place down shoreline will find themselves deficient in material?

Brian R
March 5, 2020 2:55 pm

“Its been seven years,…” is the line that kills me. Seven years since what? Seven years since the village was founded? Seven years since a record cod was cought off shore? Seven years since Benny Hills ghost was seen at a BBC studio?

Seven years since WHAT?

Pop Piasa
March 5, 2020 2:55 pm

Willis, great article for thinkers. About the title, I think the original climate refugees are making plans for their semi-annual trek between AZ and points north right now. At least the one I know are.
By the way, I always love seeing pictures of your back yard.

March 5, 2020 3:16 pm

Haven’t read the article yet, but does it mention what number “We’ve only got ten years to live!” we are on?

March 5, 2020 3:30 pm

Hold on. 450 homes and only one pub!?! No wonder it’s not habitable.

Don K
March 5, 2020 3:42 pm

Willis. FWIW there is a known 18.6 year cycle (the “nodal cycle”) in tides caused by the interaction of the Earth, Moon, and Sun. I don’t know much about it except that its affect is not large, it is almost certainly real and it is used in computing tide tables. The last nodal cycle peak was in 2015. I took a quick look at your plots and I don’t see how the nodal cycle could account for the roughly 36 year cycle you are seeing. But maybe I’m missing something.

Good article — as usual

March 5, 2020 4:15 pm

Willis – it appears all the links to the CREED method are extinct.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 6, 2020 2:40 pm

Willis – I replied, but when I put all the links in there, it hasn’t posted. You can follow the link you put in your article and see what happens. That’s what I did.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 6, 2020 5:51 pm

Maybe it’s my machine or browser, but I couldn’t get to the code for the CREED method. Oh well, thanks for checking.

March 5, 2020 4:45 pm

“Meltwater Pulse 1a” was from the rapid melting of the giant continent-wide glaciers of the time. But there are no such glaciers left, so I’m just not seeing the huge annual rates necessary to get to one or two metres of rise”

Yes sir.
Good point, well made.
Some details on the EHSLR (early holocene sea level rise)

March 5, 2020 4:47 pm


I wish I could be half the wordsmith that you are… Brilliant post!

Christopher Chantrill
March 5, 2020 5:10 pm

Don’t forget the good old British song, “Oh I do like to be beside the sea-side.”

Brits like the seaside and the oughta be able to enjoy it.

Just tell Climate Change to stop it.

John F. Hultquist
March 5, 2020 9:06 pm

Thanks Willis. Google Earth and street view are favorite things on the web.

the fastest melting of the land glaciers

I don’t claim “the easy ice is gone” phrase as used initially by me, but several years ago I used the phrase in multi-word explanations of that fast melting ice, now slowed.
The explanation includes latitude, elevation, and rain.
There is much written about “rain on snow” events, and while snow is ice it is not hard compressed “blue” ice. Rain erodes.
I think rain has a lot to do with rapid melt of land glaciers.

Matthew Sykes
March 5, 2020 11:34 pm

This town was created only a century or so ago as a collection of sea side huts by some local land owner and was built very low down, on a sand bar, and close to the sea, very close. So it was never a real town anyway, and if the locals wanted they could just move inland a half mile and up the hill onto solid rock.

March 5, 2020 11:52 pm

Well done.
The ordinary sea level gauges as NOAA provide us with are showing 50 Years change of change at some stations:
As this:

March 6, 2020 6:06 am

The same thing played out in Australia some progressive councils wanted to change zoning regulations. The councils lost every step of the way thru appeals all the way to high court. Now all councils do is offer advice on what climate scientists say to protect themselves from future litigation concerns and they have a council strategy such as managed retreat. That way they can say the buyer was informed and elected to ignore advice not to build there.

That status had been fine and gone along for a couple of years but the left/green got inspired after a recent Dutch legal finding about the Paris agreement. It’s easier to follow the background from the lefties themselves so look at the Melbourne University Law Review and the planned “next generation” of legal actions

The individual States have most of the power in this area not the Federal government and many of them are drafting preemptive legislation to cut off legal challenges like used in the Dutch case.

Murphy Slaw
March 6, 2020 7:55 am

That piece was informative and fun to read. Thank you.

March 6, 2020 8:24 am

Wow, Willis, what a gift to have those awesome redwoods nearby….

Roy Mc
March 6, 2020 9:14 am

Thank you for another excellent article.
Absent a local tide gauge see figure 1 at
That shows that the net balance between sea level rise and land level rise in that part of the world is 0.0mm per year.

Mary Catherine Sears
March 6, 2020 11:03 am

“(but I digress…)” You frequently do. That’s one of the reasons I fell instantly intellectually in love with you the first time I stumbled onto something you wrote on WUWT. I think it was one of the travel stories, maybe the one where you first met your gorgeous ex-fiancee.
You don’t neeed to notify me of future poata–I always check WUWT, and my computer notifies me of any new posts on “Skating Under the Ice”, which seems to be as close as they can get to your original title for that one.

March 6, 2020 12:24 pm

Willis – you referred us to the article for the CREED method:

That article in turn referred us to here:

In that article we find:

The details of EEMD are laid out by its developers in a paper called “Ensemble Empirical Mode Decomposition: A Noise Assisted Data Analysis Method”

One of the links in that paper is 404 …

The other one doesn’t seem to want to open …

So, no code is available. I should think you would check that your references are working.

March 6, 2020 12:33 pm

I think everyone has missed the brilliant part, which is coining the word “prefugee.” A policy atrocity for sure. We also need “preendangered” like the polar bear.

Bill Parsons
March 7, 2020 2:46 pm

the violence that they are doing to both logic and the English language…
Are these the first climate refugees?, asks the headline … well, no.

… the “violence” to history just as profound:

Even light rain caused problems because of the excessive amounts of mud produced!’ whilst great deluges of rain resulted in severe flooding of buildings as well as fields full of crops.” Paris describes how rivers overflowed their banks and bridges and fords became impassable.!6 He gives an account of how boats were used in places which did not usually have water and that people were forced to ride on horses in the Hall of Westminster because the depth of the flood water was so great.!’ Paris also details the problems of coastal and sea-storms, retelling how ships were driven from ports and people and cattle were drowned by the inundations of the seal’

Matthew Paris, a 13th century monk, on one of the storms in England. He, too, foresaw the end of the world.,_Tales_of_Wonder_in_the_Chronica_Maiora_of_Matthew_Paris.pdf

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