Melting Ice – Rising Oceans

Global warming is a popular top these days. It’s not hard to find someone who will tell you that there is scientific consensus that it is happening and that it is man-made, but it’s also not hard to find evidence to the contrary.

The real problem is oversimplification. We are trying to take a whole plethora of changes we are making to our environment, of which increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations is only one, and ignore all other changes except that one. We are trying to take a whole plethora of effects the changes we have made and are making to our environment, and ignore all but one, average global temperature, and perhaps one specific consequence of that, a conjectured rise in sea levels.

I think I’ve said this before, but for those who don’t know, I’m a very big fan of a statement Richard Feynman once made regarding theories. Paraphrased, “If the theory isn’t consistent with the data, no matter how elegant, it is wrong.”

We keep hearing about global oceans rising in response to global warming. The idea is warmer temperatures melt ice melts increasing water volume, ocean levels rise. There is a whole multitude of problems with this theory, not the least of which is agreement with observed facts.

When I was in high school, I ran a pirate radio station, some friends of mine ran pirate radio stations. One of them, Jim Dolan, ran a pirate Shortwave Station he called the Voice of Clipperton, a pun on the Voice of America. Clipperton Island, at the time, was a little coral atoll that barely rose above sea-level. It had relatively little vegetative cover, no population, save for birds which nested there and a few scientists that visited to observe them.

A while back doing a web search to see if I could find anything on the Internet relating to that pirate radio station, I ran across some modern photos of the Island. It was visibly far higher than it had appeared in the 1970’s, had quite a few trees, and generally quite a lot of vegetation, some buildings, not at all like what I had seen in the 70’s.

Well, this lead me to search for more pictures throughout history recent enough to have photographs and I’ve found that the state of the island seems to vary quite a lot, it’s been claimed, possessed, and occupied by the United States on at least two occasions, the French, and by Mexico. Presently, it’s a French possession.

Despite rather dramatic variability over a period of thirty years, after looking at a longer time frame it becomes clear that the changes over time average out and the Island over a longer time frame oscillates, but on average remains pretty much the same.

Presently, it’s about ten feet above the ground at the higher spots, except for a 70 meter volcanic rock at one end, Clipperton Rock. If oceans were rising significantly this puppy would be way under water by now.

And then there are places nearby that I like to go, Ocean Shores, Westport, and the local beaches. The only changes that I see that are real visible are developmentally related. Ocean Shores used to be a nice place now it’s a rich peoples retirement community complete with all the anal rules and regulations that come with it, but the beach is still the beach, still looks pretty much the same if you don’t look inland and ignore all the seaweed and algae that didn’t used to be nearly as abundant before we started dumping so many nutrients into the water.

Birch Bay up by Bellingham, there the Beach has an extremely low grade and when the tide goes out the beach can extend out a mile, when it’s in, you can walk half a mile out and still just be up to your knees in water. If there is a place where rising oceans should be obvious, it is there.

Well, this gets me wondering, just how much HAS the oceans risen? The information I am able to find states, without saying how this was measured, that the oceans have risen .1-.2 millimeters per year for the last three thousand years up to the 19th century, and then they’ve risen 1-2 millimeters per year. And to get an idea just how accurate that data is, one ground based measurement says they rose 1.7 mm in 2006, another satellite measurement says 3.1 mm. Now those two measurements are in disagreement by a factor of almost 2x, that should tell you something about margin of error, and that really has to throw some serious doubts on the .1-.2mm figure.

Can anyone REALLY discern 2 mm difference in ocean depths over a year given all the other variabilities, the tides, the effect of Earth’s orbit around the Sun, and when you’re talking THAT small of a difference, perhaps even the other planets, underwater volcanic activity, changes in the plates below, etc? I don’t think so. I’m highly skeptical to say the least.

Let’s look at some complicating factors. Warmer temperatures will melt ice on land if, and only if, temperatures exceed the melting point of ice, 32°F. Any temperature increase also leads to increased evaporation, more water in the air. And some of that water is going to fall as, guess what? Snow!

What we seem to be seeing in fact is a mixture of effects; in the Arctic, we are seeing a lot of melting of ice, but this is ice already in water so that melt does not raise ocean levels. Further, the Eskimo’s oral tradition goes back 30,000 years, and they have stories that involve much warmer temperatures, apple trees where there was once only ice, and we do find evidence of that. 30,000 years ago I don’t think man’s contribution to carbon dioxide levels amounted to much but I could be wrong, there are global mythologies of advanced societies that may have existed before the last ice age and some hints of the existence of a prior global civilization. The point being that in the arctic, this is not the first time it’s gotten warm and floating ice melting isn’t going to raise the ocean depth although thermal expansion may to some degree.

Greenland however, now there you have a bunch of ice on land, that could become water in water. Hard to say though, the following is taken from an article on Wikipedia concerning Greenlandic Ice:

IPCC[2] estimates in their third assessment report the accumulation to 520 ± 26 Gigatonnes of ice per year, runoff and bottom melting to 297±32 Gt/yr and 32±3 Gt/yr, respectively, and iceberg production to 235±33 Gt/yr. On balance, they estimate -44 ± 53 Gt/yr, which means that on average the ice sheet may currently be melting, though it can’t be determined for sure.

This gives you a bit of idea with respect to the uncertainty of the data. The error margin is greater than the estimated rate of ice loss! Again, am I saying we should just keep dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Not only no, but hell no! We’ve got issues relating to carbon dioxide that go beyond global warming, which I think should be more appropriately called global climate change. What I am saying though is our data is very shaky, both with respect to what is happening and what is causing it.

So what about Antarctica? The central ice cap is growing, you can read about it here. Yes, we all hear about the collapse of the Larsen-B ice shelf, but what most people don’t realize is that this is the way the whole system works, you put snow on the middle, it compacts into ice, spreading laterally as it does, pushing the ice off the edge. Even though parts of Antarctica have been covered in ice for 80,000 years, cores drilled don’t get more than about a million years old, because this mechanism keeps moving the ice off the continent laterally over time.

If all of the ice melts, is water really going to rise 200 meters? That’s what about 650 feet. The average depth of ice on Antarctica is 7000 feet, the total surface area of Antarctica is 13 million kilometers. The total surface area of the worlds oceans is 361 million kilometers. Let’s see that’s a ratio of about 30:1 ocean to antarctic surface area. If we divide 7000 feet by 30 we get 233 feet, well, that’s a bunch but it’s about a third of the predicted 200 meters and that’s if all the ice on Antarctica melts, an extremely unlikely scenario. The total amount of ice on Greenland is about one tenth that so add another 23 feet for Greenland, if it all melts.

This all assumes a few other things; one is that the Earth’s mantle and crust are solid and not plastic; but we already know this to be not true; we know the weight of the large ice packs depress the bedrock. When all this weight transfers to the ocean floor, which we know is thinner than the continental crust, it’s going to push that down and the weight removed from the land will allow it to rise. What effect will that have on global ocean levels?

More water will be in the form of vapor at any given time. One very clearly measurable change over the years is an increase in water vapor in the atmosphere.

Water Vapor

It’s a matter of debate what the cause of this increase is. The temptation would be to argue global warming again but we’ve also made greater use of irrigation. When we burn hydrocarbons, it’s not just carbon dioxide that is released, it is also water vapor. In fact, on the whole more water vapor is released than carbon dioxide, and yet, we don’t seem to be concerned about that even though water vapor actually accounts for the largest portion of the natural greenhouse effect.

So that water that is not in the oceans, but is in the atmosphere, or is rained down and is currently on land, taken up by plants, ground soil, lakes, rivers, not yet in the ocean, how does that affect the ocean level?

I know I sound like I’m trying to dismiss global warming, I am not; what I am trying to do is point out just how uncertain the data is, and some of the other factors involved. We keep hearing about carbon dioxide, but we don’t hear about water vapor, also a product of combustion and other activities, and yet, water vapor is by far a stronger contributor to the greenhouse effect. We don’t hear about methane, and even though it’s present in a much smaller concentration than carbon dioxide, it’s also about 100x as potent in terms of greenhouse gas effects, but we don’t here much about methane as a greenhouse gas either.

We also don’t hear much about the whole global warming thing when it fits certain agendas. It’s bad for us to use fossil fuels, but it’s ok to eat meat and dairy? Meat production is a primary contributor to methane. Yes, cow farts are actually altering our environment, perhaps as much as our automobiles and power plants.

If we really want to save our planet, we have to have the whole picture and plan for contingencies. I know this will be blasphemy, but ya know nature might even be a part of all this! Yes, and does that mean we shouldn’t worry then about our emissions? No, it means we should be even more concerned, because then it means we can only control a smaller percentage of total contribution to climate change so we have to work even harder to effect that which we can control. It also means that nature may do things that aren’t convenient so we must be prepared to adapt and being prepared to adapt means we’re going to need to have large amounts of energy at our disposal, amounts that simply can not be provided by combusting hydrocarbons.

Let’s talk about some examples of how nature might be involved. I’ve seen a number of clues but most people are clueless so I’ll share mine. I’ll start with some deep earthquake anomalies a few years back. Now there is something extremely odd here, because the original database which I mined for this information no longer has data past 1985, but it did have data through the 1990’s at one time.

Trying to find the same data in other databases has been non-productive, it’s not there, although there are some anomalies around the same time frame. This started with my noticing a news report about a quake off the Oregon coast being more than 300 miles deep, I think closer to 500 miles, and it was unusual because the mantle believed to be more fluid at that depth and not capable of generating strong quakes. But this came about two weeks after another report of a deep quake.

Now the odd thing was there were more than ten, something like eighteen of these deep quakes in one year, I think is was 1994, that were 6.0 or more in magnitude, and very deep, 500 or 600 miles. The years before and after at the time only one or two. And those quakes were all over the world.

But when I search databases available to me today, that data is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, the data that is to be found is very much centered around the American Samoa and Fiji islands, but it was widely distributed in the data I was able to obtain back then. It might be that I am mistaken about what database I searched, I thought it was USGS. I believe the year was 1994, it’s still anomalous in that there is an 8.4 magnitude deep quake in that year and nothing like that with depth and magnitude before or since, but the large numbers, not there anymore. So now I’m wondering, if this isn’t a classic case of data that isn’t fitting current theories being discarded. At any rate; whether or not it’s in the databases now, it was there at the time.

Now, coincident with this there was also an increase in the magnetic north pole drift and a number of sudden jags. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean anything sinister; the Earth’s magnetic field is strongly influenced by the solar cycle and various solar magnetic events, but it was coincident with the quake activity which I thought pointed to something happening deep in the Earth’s interior.

Then we’ve got this neighbor that fishes off of Sitka Alaska. He told us recently that the water temperatures there were crazy, they measured them at 60°F at one point. Compare that to the 34-36°F off of the Washington coast and you’ve got quite a mystery. Clearly global warming can’t cause water to be 25° warmer near the arctic circle than it is here.

What could cause that kind of heating? Underwater volcanism. Either that or some alien species is terraforming the planet out from under us. I favor the former explanation. In part because of recent surveys of under water volcanism. A few decades ago it was believed there were 10,000 or maybe 20,000 undersea volcanoes. Now we know there are more than two million. What’s more, a non-trivial percentage are not associated with any known heat source. That is they’re not at a mid-ocean rift, they’re not at a subduction zone, and they’re not associated with any known hot spot. Given that the number of undersea volcanoes is 100x what we thought it was just a few decades ago, it seems very plausible to me that their contribution to greenhouse gases might also be much greater than previously estimated.

Then there is the sun; there is a historical connection between Earth temperatures and solar activity, and last solar cycle’s peak was the largest ever recorded. And that ties in with the ozone levels that we keep hearing about, they also fluctuate with the solar cycle.

Am I saying discount man? No, I’m saying don’t discount nature, she is far more complex than we know. And here is the real jest of it; global warming tells us we should be doing something for energy other than burning hydrocarbons, but if this is due to natures whim, we can’t relax, it’s even more so because adapting to climate change will require more energy than burning hydrocarbons can deliver. For that we need large scale solar, wind, geothermal, ocean tidal, ocean thermal, ocean wave, ocean current, nuclear fusion, even advanced nuclear fission if we do it right (but I don’t think we can), everything, and we should start implementing these things on a massive scale yesterday and eliminate our use of natural hydrocarbons as a fuel.

With energy we can adapt, warm our dwellings where we must, cool them where we must; move when we must, water desalinization and vertical farming can solve global water and food shortages that will emerge with massive climate change. If we burned enough hydrocarbons to meet these needs we’d all suffocate and turn our lakes into battery acid.

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth, keep an open mind, research, don’t throw out data because it happens to fly in the face of popular theories. We’ve got to work together, adapt, make the world a better place.

1 thought on “Melting Ice – Rising Oceans

  1. I searched for “How much have oceans levels risen” and found your site. I like the fact that you are questioning the analysis, data and accuracy. I am not a scientist, but an observer of environment. I think there are no real long term complete accurate data that you can “hang you hat on”. Thanks again for your insight on trying to look at the big picture and all potential elements that have and are contributing to our planet’s journey through the cosmos. And remember that the only think that is constant on the planet is change.


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