False, Washington Post, Climate Change Isn’t Forcing Retreat From Hog Island

From ClimateREALISM

By H. Sterling Burnett

Recently the Washington Post ran a story titled, “On the edge of retreat,” ascribing climate change induced sea level rise as the reason many of the remaining residents of Hog Island, Virginia are relocating to the mainland. This is false. The residents of Hog Island may be leaving their homes in the face of inexorable, long-standing sea level rise, erosion, and land subsidence on this barrier island, but there is no data supporting the claim that coastal Virginia has experienced an increasing rate of sea level rise over the past century’s modest warming.

The Washington Post (WP) gets some of its facts right, writing:

A century ago, about 250 people lived on Hog Island, a seven-mile expanse off the Virginia coast.

But that was back when there was still soil beneath their feet.

Historical maps show Hog Island’s shoreline was already retreating over a century ago. Seas were rising slowly then, in part due to sinking land, the legacy of the last major ice age.

At this point, however, the WP makes begins making claims refuted by available data, leading to gross speculation about future rates of sea level rise.

The menace today is different: human-caused climate change. Historically, the ocean has risen about a foot in a human lifetime, said John Porter, a University of Virginia scientist who studies the barrier islands. But because of climate change, that will be considerably higher going forward.

This is false, sea levels have not risen uniformly at a foot per century globally or in Virginia. Rather, they have risen at faster rates than at present for most of the past 12,000 years since the end of the ice age. Research shows, over the past century, some areas have experienced rates of measured sea level rise faster than a foot per century. Other areas have experiened slower rate rate of sea level rise, and still others have experienced a decline in sea levels.

Tide gauge data show no measurable increase in the rate of sea level rise in recent decades along coastal Virginia. As discussed in previous Climate Realism posts, here and here, the measured rate of sea level rise from locations along Virginia’s coast with long-term records show a steady, not accelerating, rate of rise. (see the figures below).

Each of these three locations are less than 50 miles from Hog Island, with one being just over 20 miles away. None of these tide gauges have seen an increase in the rate of sea level rise over the period of record keeping. The rate of rise at the site with the steepest rate would only produce an increase of 18 inches over the next century, not the 2 or three feet speculated in the Washington Post story. The rate of rise for the station nearest Hog Island, Kitopeke, would deliver 15 inches of sea level rise, about what the island experienced in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Of course, the residents of Hog Island might have experienced a greater perceived rate of rise over the past century than has been measured at official tide gauge stations. If so, that is likely due to it being a barrier island where lands and coasts shift due to the tides and storms resulting in erosion that is higher than that experienced on the mainland that barrier islands insulate from storms worst effects. In addition, as with nearby Chesapeake Bay, land is likely subsiding. Land subsidence has been observed since the 1940s in the southern Chesapeake Bay region at rates of 1.1 to 4.8 millimeters per year (mm/yr), continuing to today.

The authors of the Washington Post story are well aware of the myriad factors contributing to the decline of Hog Island, and that Hog Island was shrinking long before humans began contributing to climate change. As proof, they mentioned each factor in their story. Yet, data be damned, they still tried to link the woes of Hog Island’s residents to climate change. This is the sorry state of affairs for much of modern journalism. Writing a story to fit the preconceived narrative that humans are causing a climate crisis, while ignoring facts that undermine the narrative; in this case, hard tide gauge data.

H. Sterling Burnett

H. Sterling Burnett

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News. In addition to directing The Heartland Institute’s Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, Burett puts Environment & Climate News together, is the editor of Heartland’s Climate Change Weekly email, and the host of the Environment & Climate News Podcast.

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Tom Halla
December 10, 2022 6:08 pm

The WaPo does not want to consider subsidence, or anything other than the Narrative. Repent, you peons! Your presumptuous use of fossil fuels is causing damage, so go live in a mud hut! Your betters are watching out for you getting uppity!

Steve Case
Reply to  Tom Halla
December 10, 2022 6:47 pm

“The WaPo does not want to consider subsidence, or anything other than the Narrative.”

The IPCC doesn’t either. Their charter says:

 Today the IPCC’s role is as defined in Principles Governing IPCC Work, “…to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.  LINK

In other words, natural induced climate change is to be ignored.

John Hultquist
December 10, 2022 7:29 pm

From the Wiki entry for Hog Island: ~~> 1853
President Cleveland returned to the Broadwater Club the following summer to go fishing. While on the island Cleveland visited lighthouse keeper George Doughty and inspected the 1853 Hog Island Light that was by then threatened by shoreline erosion. “

abolition man
Reply to  John Hultquist
December 10, 2022 8:10 pm

Umm, John,
Cleveland served as president from 1885-1889 and from 1893-1897. He was only 16 in 1853.

Reply to  abolition man
December 10, 2022 9:39 pm

The lighthouse was built in 1853, seems to have been a typo as Cleveland visited in the 1890s

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  abolition man
December 10, 2022 10:19 pm

It says he inspected the 1853 Hog Island Light, not that he visited in 1853.

Bill Powers
Reply to  abolition man
December 11, 2022 6:11 am

Is it true that the lighthouse was threatened by erosion over a century ago? Focus, men. Focus.

December 10, 2022 8:22 pm

The WAPO? Consider the source of the info. Sez it all. Not credible.

Paul Johnson
December 10, 2022 8:58 pm

By 2100 this prime waterfront real estate will have been redeveloped at least twice and more resilient structures built, regardless of real or imagined sea level change.

Reply to  Paul Johnson
December 10, 2022 9:40 pm

Obama or Biden will have a holiday home there

December 10, 2022 9:51 pm
John Hultquist
Reply to  Duker
December 11, 2022 8:42 am

Jeff Bezos bought the paper a year later — so he could correct these sorts of mistakes. 😂

Mavis Weld
December 11, 2022 1:29 am

Using Sea Level Info (in sidebar of this blog) “the mean sea level trend at Sewell’s Point Virginia is 6.35mm/yr based on monthly mean sea level data from 1990/1 to 2022/10 That is equivalent to a change of 2.08 feet in 100 years”. This is for NOAA site 8638610.

Citizen Smith
December 11, 2022 8:30 am

Why does this author and so many others conflate sea level and land level change? Sea level rise has been fairly constant in the last 150 years at 1.7mm / year or about 8″ per century. It is easily measured anywhere from Virginia to the Gulf of Suez to the Black Sea or McMurdo Station. It’s all connected. Water seeks its own level. Land dose not. The causes for land rising or falling are almost completely separate. The exception being in tectonic plate movement but that’s a different time scale. So what if an island sinks in Virginia. Its a local problem. Sea level is not the cause. Meanwhile, the Maldives islands are rising.

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