SEA LEVEL: Rise and Fall – Part 1

By Kip Hansen – Re-Blogged From

In remembrance of the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma:  I have held off publishing this essay until after the damage from Hurricane Irma could be determined hoping not to add to the fears, angst and now sorrow experienced by both victims and their relatives.  My prayers and sympathy go out to all who have suffered losses.

Sea Level RiseIs it the greatest threat the posed by Climate Change today?


The press tells us it is:

“The current best estimates predict that sea level will rise up to 6.6 feet, or 2 meters, by the year 2100.” —  The Climate Institute, “Sea Level Rise: Risk and Resilience in Coastal Cities” by Erin A. Thead

“A rapid disintegration of Antarctica might, in the worst case, cause the sea to rise so fast that tens of millions of coastal refugees would have to flee inland, potentially straining societies to the breaking point. Climate scientists used to regard that scenario as fit only for Hollywood disaster scripts. But these days, they cannot rule it out with any great confidence.   The risk is clear: Antarctica’s collapse has the potential to inundate coastal cities across the globe. … If that ice sheet were to disintegrate, it could raise the level of the sea by more than 160 feet — a potential apocalypse, depending on exactly how fast it happened.” —  The NY Times, Looming Floods, Threatened Cities, a three part series by Justin Gillis

But is it, really?

“Sea level has been rising for the last ten thousand years, since the last Ice Age…the question is whether sea level rise is accelerating owing to human caused emissions.  It doesn’t look like there is any great acceleration, so far, of sea level rise associated with human warming.  These predictions of alarming sea level rise depend on massive melting of the big continental glaciers — Greenland and Antarctica.  The Antarctic ice sheet is actually growing.  Greenland shows large multi-decadal variability. ….  There is no evidence so far that humans are increasing sea level rise in any kind of a worrying way.” — Dr. Judith Curry, video interview published 9 August 2017

# # # # #

Sea Level Rise (SLR usually hereafter) is being characterized in the press — newspapers, magazines and television reports — as the latest and greatest threat to mankind from human-caused climate change.

Why?  It is always difficult to assign motivation to social memes but it is not disallowed to speculate.  The Global Warming threat has lost much of its appeal with the general public — air temperatures simply have not risen as threatened 30 years ago by James Hansen, despite the changing metrics used to measure and promote it, and, quite frankly, it no longer looks like they are going to.  I needn’t repeat the story of IPCC model prediction failures and the shortfall of actual global temperatures to match their alarming projections.  As we know, the public face of Global Warming shifted from Dangerously Rising Air Temperatures to Climate Change (including Extreme Weather, and Sea Level Rise)  over the last 20 years — though the scientific community has always used both terms interchangeable (for the most part).  But we see fewer magazine covers featuring a flaming Earth — instead we more often see images super storms and NY City underwater with the Statue of Liberty half submerged.

I have written about sea level rise here:  here, here, here, here and here.  The previous essays are not prerequisites but are interesting specific examples.

There are two important points which readers must be aware of from the first mention of SLR:

  1. SLR is a real imminent threat to coastal cities and low-lying coastal and near-coastal densely-populated areas.
  2. SLR is not a threat to anything else — not now, not in a hundred years — probably not in a thousand years — maybe, not ever.

The first of these two facts is a convenient tool for propagandists — those wishing to raise public alarm about “climate change” as a currently-ongoing disaster.

It is easy enough to find some place on the planet foolishly built and occupied within a few feet of local relative sea level at some time in the past which is now flooding at Spring Tides [sometimes referred to as King Tides] or during periods of storm surge.   Given that the average rise of the seas over the last century or so (the total length of our dependable instrumental record) has been about 8 to 12 inches, the chance that occasional tidal flooding will occur in these locations is almost 100%.

The propaganda opportunity is so great that a PR firm has created the King Tides Project to use these naturally occurring “highest tides” to raise the alarm about global SLR.


SLR is a real threat to coastal cities — today

First, let’s not kid around — The sea itself, whether rising or not, is a real imminent threat — a clear and present danger — to the many coastal cities and highly populated areas of the world that lie at or very near local mean sea level.

My recent essays on Miami Beach and Guangzhou–Canton point up real-life present-time examples of entire cities at risk from today’s sea level, today’s tides, and already experienced storm surges.  Streets and neighborhoods have been built below Mean High High Water (highest normal tides) and below-ground infrastructure (water and sewage pipes, underground utilities, parking garages, subways) built many feet below sea level requiring them to have pumps to keep things dry and working.

There are not only cities currently below sea level (New Orleans, Amsterdam, Georgetown [Guyana]) but also major portions of whole nations (the European Low Countries and parts of the UK and Ireland among them).  In Asia, Bangladesh, most of which is made up of river delta  less than 12 m/40 ft  above sea level, about 10% of its land would be flooded by 1 m/3 ft of SLR or storm surge.

Any sea-side or estuary-side city with major assets within ten feet of current sea levels are at risk now and those not taking active measures to mitigate those risks are placing losing bets on their futures. The tendency of societies to allow building in harm’s way seems inexhaustible — and to me, inexplicable.

An Example

The megapolis of Los Angeles, California is one of the country’s largest cities (and place of my birth, these many long years ago).  It is nestled in the Los Angeles Basin, surrounded by coastal mountains.


An inundation of greater Los Angeles would be a truly world-class disaster.  It is home to over 18 million people.

The NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer, designed to inform us of the threat of sea level rise, allows us to map the inundation that would be caused by up to 6 feet  (2 meters) of sea level rise.  Let’s see what that would look like if it happened to LA — here is Los Angeles Basin, with six feet of extra sea level:


Now look at that — almost nothing happens.  From Santa Monica in the north all the way down to San Pedro, almost exactly nothing.  Up near the top , there is the bright green “low-lying area”. Primarily a section called Venice (you guessed it — a developer built canals lined with houses – waterfront homes)  and a little flooding near the Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Rey (the King’s Beach in English).  Marinas are built more-or-less at sea level by necessity — Marina Del Rey in the mouth of a river estuary and a small slough or brackish wetland.  Then absolutely nothing until one rounds the Palos Verdes peninsula (Green Hills) and comes to San Pedro, the seaport of Los Angeles.

Let’s enlarge that portion of the map:


Pushing the sea level rise viewer slider all the way up to 6 feet gives us some flooding in the sea port — here there are the docks and warehouses, built intentionally just a few feet above MHHW (mean high high water) so that vessels can be unloaded conveniently.  Circled in RED is an area of light industrial buildings associated with the docks and shipping industry, located along a sea-level river.    The newer Long Beach Harbor area is unscathed.

There is bad news further south-east.  Circled in YELLOW are areas of single-family homes built on what were salt marshes and a sandy, brush-covered sand bar, outfitted with canals so more homes could have their own docks on the water. Leisure World, a huge mobile and manufactured home park, also built in a filled salt marsh is entirely flooded out at six feet.   Sunset Beach is a Miami-like development of canals and water-front homes built just above mean high high water.

naval_stationThe Naval Weapons Storage facility, built at sea level to accommodate loading munitions onto naval vessels, gets flooded, but not the storage areas themselves. The flood-prone portions make up an associated,  not always open-to-the-public, nature preserve.  Close-up views show the munitions storage bunkers built on raised-out-of-harms-way leaf-like islands, far from civilian populations.



The area circled in ORANGE is shown as already flooding at King Tides.  Let me add that image once more, to keep it in view:


Right on the coast in this section is a State Marine Conservation area, but inland in deep water (at six feet of SLR) are literally thousands of single-family homes, cheek-to-jowl.

Just to the south, one half of Huntington Beach is flooded out.  The area now covered with homes was in the 1920s and 1930s part of the great California Oil Boom, and looked like this:


By the 1950’s, the oil boom had moved on, and the low-lying lands were cleared for home-building to accommodate the post-war families cranking out the baby boom.    As we can see from the flood map, little attention was paid to elevation or concerns about the sea.   Riverbeds connect to the sea and bring the rising tides inland where the land is not protected by bluffs — one can see the bluff in the right hand side of the photo above….but further north (left hand side) the bluff doesn’t exist).


What has happened here?

Let’s try to be very clear about what has been allowed to happen here.  Humans have been able to measure relative elevation for at least 150 years, since about 1850 when spirit leveling first came into use.

This means that when land is developed near a body of water, like the Pacific Ocean or its connected estuaries, it can be assumed that it was possible to know the differences between the elevation of the water (sea level) and the elevation of the land.  Any time that modern infrastructure — buildings, homes, factories, warehouses — was built, the builders knew (or certainly were obligated to know) the elevation of the land above sea level.

Sea level, worldwide, is understood to have generally risen 8 to 12 inches over the last century.   So all of the areas shown as flooding at six feet of SLR have been built on and developed despite their being 5 feet or less above expected levels of the sea on the day construction was started.

Terminal Island (in Long Beach, the port of Los Angeles) has a tidal range of 5.5 feet (1.7 meters), with Mean High High Water being about 2 ½  feet higher than mean sea level.  The NOAA Sea Level Viewer adds “sea level rise” to Mean High High Water — which can be considered the same as Spring or King Tide.

Mean High High Water is not to be confused with the tidal datum known as “Maximum — Highest Observed Water Level”.   The tide station at Los Angeles, located in San Pedro Bay,  has an historical Maximum that is another  two and a half feet higher than MHHW, meaning that many of these flooded areas have already been flooded at existing sea levels.


The Bottom Line for Los Angeles:

Most of the megapolis of Los Angeles is protected from any threat from the sea by the bluffs along its coastline, with some minor exceptions at river estuaries, where some incursion could take place if there was to be six feet/two meters of sea level rise.

Where the greed of developers and lack of foresight by city planners (under the assumption that there was anyone doing city planning) has allowed thousands upon thousands of homes to be built in harm’s way in Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and other low-lying beach communities at the southern edges of the LA Basin.  These homes stand at risk under present sea levels, requiring only King Tides and Storm Surges to inundate them with as little as six feet of extra sea level.  As a comparison, Los Angeles has already historically experienced high water half of that in the past. As a reminder, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy recently pushed 13 feet of storm surge into New York Harbor.


How much SLR can we expect?

What can we expect from rising seas?  The generally accepted guess is “more of the same” — about 1 foot per century.  If the temperatures rise a bit more, as expected by the luke-warmers in Climate Science, this could increase to about 18 inches over the next 100 years.

Los Angeles, though founded in 1781, did not become a mega-metropolis until after the 1920s, about a hundred years ago and may have seen the one foot of SLR over the last 100 years but it will not see 6 feet of SLR  in the next few hundred years, so they have plenty of time to adapt and prepare.

The situation in LA’s low-lying, at-risk areas will not get much worse due to actual rising seas within a reasonable time scale.  But, with the understanding that some areas are already at risk at current levels, anything other than a sea level drop will make a bad situation worse in those areas.

Neighborhoods built on sea-level canals with only a foot or two of freeboard (the  factor of safety, usually expressed in feet above a sea level or MHHW) will probably have to be abandoned over the long term.  Building codes will need to be enacted forbidding building on low lying areas prone to sea water inundation. All new homes built in flood-prone areas should be mandated by code to be built on “stilts” or with living spaces raised on eight to ten foot foundations as they are now in some East Coast areas.  Existing homes in many areas will have to be raised or when next flooded, abandoned.

Southern Florida has been making these types of changes in building codes and development requirements for the last ten years, along these lines, requiring new homes to be at least a foot above FEMA flood map levels.  Sea walls, when newly built or repaired are required to be raised to match expected flood levels.  New homes in the Beaufort area of North Carolina (and all throughout the low country as it is called)  can be seen going up in compliance with codes requiring living areas to be raised — most often ground level is dedicated to  garage and storage space, and the living spaces up one floor.    The following image shows (in light blue) how much land would be flooded by 6 feet of SLR or storm surge.


As a personal note, my wife and I sat out Hurricane Irene in August 2011,  near Beaufort, NC, in a tiny marina along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, about three miles inland.  There we had over 8 feet of storm surge.  We watched as the docks and the pilings disappeared under the rising waters.  We had our car parked on a hill 10 feet above MSL, it was touch and go through the night whether the hill too would be flooded.  (On the map above, Beaufort is just south of the “ville” portion of the city name for Jacksonville.)

The Future

The Low Countries of Europe have long ago developed the engineering skills necessary to deal with and mitigate past errors of building too close to sea level. The rest of the world’s nations and cities each need to carry out an exercise similar to the one above — and as was done in Dade County — much more detailed and exacting on the level of professional civil engineering and develop mitigation plans for their current situation and for the expected continued rise in sea levels over next century — mitigation plans that will correct for past errors and oversights and protect them in both the short term and the long term.


9 thoughts on “SEA LEVEL: Rise and Fall – Part 1

  1. Sea level rise? Complete CRAP!!!!
    Sea levels rising – NOT happening FAKE news.
    Open this link and a map will appear with numerous multi colored arrows. Click on an arrow and the data for that location will appear, e.g. Miami. In the pop up window select “linear trend”.
    2.39 mm/y, that’s 0.094” 3/32 of an INCH each year!!!! OOOOHHHHH SCARY!!!!
    Which is NOT actually measured but computer MODELLED!!!!
    0.78 ft over 100 YEARS or a WHOPPING 9 inches!!!!
    Alarmists pushing the dangers of sea level rise are nothing but a pack of lying weasels!!!

    K-T and assorted clone diagrams of atmospheric power flux balances include a GHG up/down/”back” LWIR energy loop of about 330 W/m^2 which violates three basic laws of thermodynamics: 1) energy created out of thin air, 2) energy moving (i.e. heat) from cold to hot without added work, and 3) 100% efficiency, zero loss, perpetual looping.

    One possible defense of this GHG loop is that USCRN and SURFRAD data actually measure and thereby prove the existence of this up/down/”back” LWIR energy loop. Although in many instances the net 333 W/m^2 of up/down/”back” LWIR power flux loop exceeds by over twice the downwelling solar power flux, a rather obvious violation of conservation of energy.

    And just why is that?

    Per Apogee SI-100 series radiometer Owner’s Manual page 15. “Although the ε (emissivity) of a fully closed plant canopy can be 0.98-0.99, the lower ε of soils and other surfaces can result in substantial errors if ε effects are not accounted for.”

    Emissivity, ε, is the ratio of the actual radiation from a surface and the maximum S-B BB radiation at the surface’s temperature. Consider an example from the K-T diagram: 63 W/m^2 / 396 W/m^2 = 0.16 = ε. In fact, 63 W/m^2 & 289 K & 0.16 together fit just fine in a GB version of the S-B equation.

    What no longer fits is the 330 W/m^2 GHG loop which vanishes back into the mathematical thin air from whence it came.

    “Their staff is too long. They are digging in the wrong place.”
    “There is no spoon.”
    The up/down/”back” GHG radiation of RGHE theory simply:

    Which also explains why the scientific justification of RGHE is so contentious.


    • Sea levels are rising, but as you say, they’re so little today that it’s no big deal. When the last glacial ended 10-12,000 years ago, the ice that covered much of the temperate zone melted very quickly (in geological time scales) but since most of the ice already has melted, the rate is tiny by comparison.

      What makes the melting open to scariness is that some land is sinking while other is rising, so the apparent rise can look like a lot more.

      On heat transfer, I think you’re not getting the point. Suppose you have a ‘sealed’ room with two items in it: a major heat source and a glass of water. We can see that the heat source throws off energy, but what we usually don’t consider is that the glass of water also throws off energy (so long as it’s above absolute zero. Obviously the heat source throws off more energy than the glass of water, but that doesn’t change anything. Both emit energy.

      Now, since every body above 0 K emits and receives energy, both emit and receive energy from the other. The amount of energy the glass of water receives is much more than it emits, while the energy emitted by the heat source is much greater than it receives. The heat source will cool, while the water heats up, but that doesn’t change the fact that both emit and both receive energy.

      That’s the physics of the situation with re-radiated heat from the earth and the GHGs in the atmosphere. Where the Alarmist nuts make the mistake is in how much they say that CO2 can and does receive and emit.


      • “..that doesn’t change the fact that both emit and both receive energy.”
        Rubbish!! Energy goes ONE way – hot to cold.
        Energy flows from the hot to the cold until equilibrium – when flow stops.
        When I unplug that refrigerator there is zero energy flow from the cold inside to the warm outside.
        Measure your cold to hot flow. Without numbers it’s just talk.


      • The notion that a cold surface “radiates” towards a warm surface and a warm surface “radiates” towards a cold surface and somewhere in la-la land between these two energies “POOF” “net” out like matter & anti-matter is handwavium nonsense.

        Maybe the equations look enticing on paper, but reality is different.

        There is ZERO evidence of this “netting” between the sun and earth or moon and earth or anywhere else. (You have some/any evidence???)

        BTW the atmosphere cools the earth, aka reduces warming, by reflecting 30% of the irradiation. The notion that the atmosphere warms the earth ala greenhouse is bunk!

        The up/down/”back” radiation GHG energy loop – DOES – NOT – EXIST!!
        When that loop fails so does radiative greenhouse effect theory.
        When RGHE fails, man-caused climate change vanishes.


      • Let’s look at those equations, in their COMPLETE form:
        Qhot = σ * εhot * Ahot * Thot^4
        Qcold = σ * εcold * Acold * Tcold^4
        What does the difference look like?
        Qhot – Qcold = (σ * εhot * Ahot * Thot^4)- (σ * εcold * Acold * Tcold^4)
        Qhot – Qcold = σ * ((εhot * Ahot * Thot^4)- (εcold * Acold * Tcold^4))
        If ((εhot * Ahot * Thot^4)- (εcold * Acold * Tcold^4)) is positive, energy flows from Qhot to Qcold.
        If ((εhot * Ahot * Thot^4)- (εcold * Acold * Tcold^4)) is negative energy, flows from Qcold to Qhot.
        There is a whole lot more to it than the two different temperatures.
        If T1 is greater than T2 energy flows from Q1 to Q2. If T1 is colder than T2 energy flows from Q2 to Q1. Hot to cold!! (Changed the nomenclature to generalize.)
        What if Ahot is miniscule compared to huge Acold?
        The equations suggest that energy would flow from large cold area to small hot area. This would be pie simple to confirm in the lab. Have you seen any reports? If this were so there would be systems and equipment applying it. Know of any examples?
        What if Ahot is highly reflective and εhot is low while Acold is flat black and εcold almost 1.0?
        The equations suggest that energy would flow from flat black cold surface to reflective hot surface. This, too, would be pie simple to confirm in the lab. Have you seen any reports? If this were so there would be systems and equipment applying it. Know of any examples?

        Yeah, reality bites.


  2. The NET flow of energy is from hot to cold. But, when energy leaves the colder object, it doesn’t know what direction it’s headed. That the hot object emits more energy than it receives from the cold object only means that the NET flow is hot to cold.

    BTW, if only the glass of water were in the sealed room, would it lose energy to the walls? Of course it would! All bodies above absolute zero emit energy – colder ones less than hotter ones – but all emit energy. It’s unfortunate that your physics teacher didn’t make this clear enough.

    Once equilibrium is reached, NET flow between two objects stops. However, energy still is flowing from each object to the other (and also in every other direction). Each of the two objects, being at the same temperature at equilibrium, emits the same amount of energy in the direction of the other, and the net effect is that neither one heats or cools the other. The net flow is zero.


  3. OK, so using your example of an electrically heated energy source, I agree that it emits heat toward the cooler object. Now, suppose that heat source were exposed to the sun. Would your heat source radiate heat toward the sun? Of course! Just because there is a warmer (sun is MUCH warmer) object in its path does not stop the heat from going in that direction. To the minuscule extent that the heat from your heat source reaches the sun, the sun will be ‘heated’ by it. Or, the sun will lose less heat than otherwise.

    You agree that the earth radiates heat to outer space. Does the heat emitted in the direction of the sun all of a sudden stop going toward the sun? Of course not. The net effect is that, since the sun radiates more heat toward the earth than the earth radiates toward the sun, the earth warms and the sun ‘cools.’

    Though I think that Alarmists are nuts and liars, I still understand the physics behind greenhouse gases. And perhaps a better way to say it is, rather than CO2 warming the earth, it just slows the earth’s cooling. This can be seen by considering the atmosphere-free moon compared to the earth with an atmosphere. The earth, including its CO2 and other GHGs allows the surface to be warmer at nighttime than it otherwise would be, even though they don’t heat the earth. The moon at night gets much colder than the earth.

    With no atmosphere, the moon gets much hotter on the day side than the earth does. Since emissivity is related to the 4th power of the temperature, the earth during the day loses less of the sun’s warmth than the moon does. The result is that, looking at both the day and the night, the earth is a warmer place than the moon on average, and this is all due to the atmosphere containing GHGs.


  4. “What does the difference look like?
    Qhot – Qcold = (σ * εhot * Ahot * Thot^4)- (σ * εcold * Acold * Tcold^4)
    Qhot – Qcold = σ * ((εhot * Ahot * Thot^4)- (εcold * Acold * Tcold^4))”

    Look at what you’ve written! You DO agree that both bodies emit radiation. You DO admit that there is a NET effect out of it. The NET effect is that the warm body always heats the cool body and the cool body does not heat the warm body. Again, look at what you’ve written. The cool body DOES make the warm body cool off less than it would have if the cool body were absent. The NET flow is warm to cool, but energy does flow both ways, just as your equations demonstrate.


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