Climate at a Glance: Sea Level Rise

New York City, Manhattan. Photo by Chris Schippers. Image licensed from pexels.com.

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Bullet-Point Summary:

  • Global sea level has been rising since at least the mid-1800s, and data show there has been only minor recent acceleration.
  • NASA satellite instruments, with readings dating back to 1993, show global sea level rising at a pace of merely 1.2 inches per decade.
  • Isolated locations with more accelerated sea level rise reflect local conditions, such as tectonic plate movement and withdrawing underground freshwater reserves, rather than climate change.
  • Human civilization successfully dealt with sea level rise utilizing nineteenth and twentieth century technologies, and it will be able to adapt to rising sea levels even more successfully in the coming decades by utilizing twenty-first century technologies.

Short Summary: Global sea level has been rising at a relatively steady pace of approximately one foot per century since at least the mid-1800s. There has been very little recent acceleration in sea level rise. Assuming all of the modest increase in sea level rise is due entirely to alleged human-caused global warming, that amounts to an acceleration of only 0.3 inches of sea level rise per decade on top of the preexisting 1.2 inches of sea level rise per decade.

Figure 1: Tidal Gauge Readings at the Battery, New York

Figure 1: (click to enlarge) Tidal gauge measurements at the Battery in New York City illustrate there has been a steady, modest pace of sea level rise of just less than 1 inch per decade. This rate of sea level rise goes back more than a century. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?id=8518750.  

Figure 2: Steady, Modest Pace of Global Sea Level Rise Measured by NASA Satellites

Figure 2: (click to enlarge) Global sea level rise remains modest and relatively steady, at a pace of 1.2 inches per decade. Source: NASA satellite measurements as reported by the University of Colorado. Accessed November 3, 2019: http://sealevel.colorado.edu

Figure 3: Very Modest Human Impact on Long-Term Sea Level Rise

Figure 3: (click to enlarge) This figure shows sea level rise dating back to the late-1800s. The very modest recent increase, even if it is due entirely to humans, adds up to merely 0.3 inches per decade of added sea level rise. Source: Church, J.A. & White, N.J. Surveys in Geophysics (2011) 32: 585: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10712-011-9119-1. Graph by Dr. Roy Spencer.

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