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For years now, President Joe Biden has been sounding the alarm on sea-level rise, supposedly the result of humanity’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Like other climate change activists around the world, Biden expects us to believe that emissions of this beneficial gas are warming the Earth and melting the ice, which will result in oceans rising to dangerous levels.
“My state is three feet above sea level,” Biden told a CNN town hall on climate change when campaigning to be the Democratic presidential candidate. “And guess what? We know what is going to happen if we don’t make significant change.”
“It’s affected my family, and it’s affected my state in a way that’s been real,” Biden added.
But fundamental data and facts do not support Joe’s worries. For example, in Figure 1 below, we see that the oceans have risen only about nine inches in the last 140 years, a rise equal to the thickness of several pieces of paper per year.
Compare Figure – 1 to Figure – 1A and see the close correlation between the rise in ocean level and the increase in known ocean temperatures. When we consider water’s physical properties shown in Figure 2, we see the volume of water increases with a temperature rise. This data illustrates that the sea level has risen at about the same rate as the oceans have been warming. Thus, when we deal with the huge volume of water in the oceans, even a slight temperature rise can cause a measurable ocean level rise.
The assertion that the melting of polar ice is the cause of the ocean level rise is contradicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC). Its Fifth Assessment Report stated:
“Water volume rises with temperature because of thermal expansion—another primary driver of sea-level rise.”
There are differing positions on the causes of sea-level rise because estimating the many parameters involved is not an exact science. There are many unknowns, including the volume of the Earth’s water, its temperatures, its densities, the influence of the many ocean bottom volcanic and tectonic events, to name a few. In Figure 2A, we see one such example. It is estimated that 85% of all volcanic and tectonic activities are found in the deepest oceans. Many new and significant papers are emerging and appear to demonstrate that these undersea volcanic activities significantly impact heating the deep ocean waters and can have a notable effect on climate change. The margin of errors in these assumptions results in wildly inaccurate discrepancies. Recent discoveries have also been made that reveal that many massive volcanoes have been quietly erupting and melting the ice sheets and glaciers that have been covering them up. These volcanoes also contributed to the rise of CO2 unseen and unaccounted for until very recently.
Can melting sea ice cause ocean levels to rise? Not really. In grade school, we learned that 90 percent of an iceberg or any floating ice is below the waterline while 10 percent is above the water. This happens because when water starts to freeze, it expands, becoming 10% less dense and floats upon the water that made it up. When the ice melts back into the water, it shrinks by the same 10 percent. So, when sea ice melts, the 10 percent floating above the water combines with the 90 percent under the water, occupying the same original water volume. You can check this out next time you have a glass of ice and water. Mark the water level on the glass with a grease pencil and then wait till all the ice is melted, and you will find the water level remains at the grease mark line.
What about the melting of the land glaciers? The Antarctic contains about 90 percent of the world’s ice mass. About 44 percent of that Antarctic ice is in the ice shelves (floating) and coastal ice (not floating), mainly in the western regions of the Pacific Ocean. More than 50 percent of the Antarctic sheet is land-based and can be several miles thick. Historical data confirms that there are few days per year when the temperature is above freezing, and then only a few hours per day and only along the coast. Consequentially no continental Antarctic ice water ever reaches the oceans.
During bright and sunny days, a small amount of the continental and shoreline ice surface is destroyed by infrared rays from the sun. But this ice does not melt into the water; rather, it sublimates directly into water vapor. Sublimation means that the ice goes directly from the solid to the gaseous phase (water vapor) without ever going through the liquid phase. When the sublimated water vapor reaches the cold Antarctic air, the vast majority of it quickly turns to snow and falls back on the glacier. The winds may blow only a tiny amount over the Antarctic Ocean. Nearly zero goes into the oceans as water.
Coastal Antarctic ice, dramatized with films, photos, and articles in newspapers and TV, shows large ice chunks tumbling into the ocean. These dramatic falling cliffs are not caused by warm air. Instead, the melting is occurring at the water level by the warmed Pacific Ocean. Here the water splashes and melts and gouges caverns in the ice, forming large ice shelves or overhangs. This process continues until the overhang’s weight is big enough to cause the overhung ice to break and tumble off. That is when we get the stunning pictures. So yes, some of this ice will melt into the oceans and cause some levels to rise, but the volume is unmeasurably small.
Still, 90% of the coastal ice is submerged in the freezing ocean depths (up to 2,000 meters), so practically only a tiny percent of the shelf or coastal ice actually melts.
NASA published a study on October 30, 2015, saying that Antarctica is accumulating ice at a rate of about 112 billion tons per year. It has already replaced all the ice that melted in the previous several decades. Another NASA study reports an increase in the rate of Antarctic snow accumulation. Currently, enough continental ice is accumulating to outweigh the losses caused by its shrinking coastal glaciers.
There was indeed substantial glacial melting in Greenland, Alaska, and other northern hemisphere locations, which added some waters to the oceans during the warming of the past several decades. However, these glaciers tend to melt and then increase in about twenty-year cycles, depending on the local conditions. Many of these glaciers are now growing at a significant rate, like the famed Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland. A world scorecard has been kept that shows which glaciers are melting and which are growing and, overall, about half are growing and half shrinking. Over a decade ago, signs were erected in Montana’s Glacier National Park forecasting that the park’s dense ice formations would be gone by 2020. They had to remove them last year as the glaciers are still intact.
Besides water temperature, other factors need to be accounted for when we say the ocean level is rising or falling. For example, at the local level, the ocean can appear to “increase” or “decrease” due to changes in the land caused by land settling, such as we see in downtown Boston, where the landfill of 150 years ago keeps on settling, giving the appearance that the ocean is rising.
At the local level, there is also the sedimentation effect. For example, the sand and soil of the Mississippi valley are continuously eroding and are carried into the streams, then rivers, the Mississippi, and finally to the Gulf of Mexico.
Another significant factor is the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. The Earth’s crust floats on top of molten lava and is about eighteen miles thick. But the crust is not a solid piece. Instead, it’s made up of “plates,” which keep floating and moving around. So, for example, when two plates meet, like at the infamous San Andreas fault line, unpleasant things start to happen. In India-Nepal-China, they meet head-on, where the tectonic plate of the Indian subcontinent crashes into the massive Asian continent. There it meets incredible resistance, and voila! Mount Everest, K2, and the other mountains and countryside keep growing about half an inch per year.
One last item is “the spring back effect.” During the last ice age, parts of North America, Europe, and Asia were covered by ice as much as one mile thick or more. It sucked so much water out of the oceans that it created a land bridge from Asia to North America. The weight of this massive ice crushed and compressed the Earth for tens of thousands of years. But, like a spring, the land is still recovering from the disappearance of the glacial mass and slowly expanding and springing back up, affecting local sea level.
Scientists trying to figure out sea-level changes have to sort out all of these factors. This is compounded by the fact that tidal gauges also get banged around by novice boat captains like us. Fortunately, more reliable satellite data of the last forty years confirms this rise of about one to two millimeters per year before any complex adjustments are made.
THE BOTTOM LINE? CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVISTS GROSSLY DISTORT AND EXAGGERATE THE EFFECT OF HUMANKIND ON SEA LEVEL.
If Biden’s intention in promoting the sea level scare were simply to boost his popularity among the extreme left of his party, his misguided concerns wouldn’t be much of a problem. But the president’s goal is clearly to stop all fossil fuel use and ultimately subjugate us with flimsy and environmentally damaging wind and solar power, requiring energy rationing for everyone except the very rich who can afford to generate their own power. THAT is a big problem and one all thinking Americans should vehemently oppose.
Note: Portions of this article were contributed by Terigi Ciccone, who is the author of the 2020 book A Hitchhikers Journey Through Climate Change. The book is the best possible source for parents and grandparents to explain climate change reality to their children.
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