Land and Sea Go Up and Down

By Pamela Matlack-Klein

For decades now the IPCC and other alarmists have been threatening us with the ugly spectre of hugely accelerated sea level rise (SLR). Fortunately, none of their dire predictions have come to pass yet this has not caused them take a look at just how ludicrous their predictions really are.

During this time, sea level has continued to putter along just as it has for the past 150 years, at a minuscule rate of about 1-1.5mm/year. This is a very tiny amount of SLR, not even noticeable by the average human. In fact, a person living on the coast of almost any country for 80 years would not notice any change in sea level, from childhood through retirement.

Given that the majority of people tend to live in coastal zones, it is baffling how anyone can give credence to any of the wild claims of METERS of SLR by the end of this century. A rise of 0.30m would be very obvious if it occurred in a matter of just a few years. But when it is spread out over 100 years, with the natural ebb and flow of the tides, it just looks like business as usual.

Several factors affect the apparent rise or fall of local sea levels. In the northern hemisphere, the land has slowly been rebounding from glacial loading during the last major glaciation. As the glaciers retreated, the depressed crust has slowly risen, negating the tiny SLR and taking the land higher, resulting in an apparent fall of sea level.

land and sea
A Stranded Beach – Coastline east of Prawle Point, South Devon England – shows an old beach now well above current sea levels © Copyright Tony Atkin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The same glacial loading that depressed some parts of the crust also caused other parts to bulge up. Now that the mile-thick ice sheets are gone, that bulge has been subsiding, resulting in an apparent SLR of more than 1-1.5mm in some locations such as the Netherlands and the east coast of North America.

When coastal wetlands are filled for the building of massive port constructions, docks, container terminals, and warehouses, this weight slowly depresses the fill, causing the appearance of SLR. In fact, it is the land that is sinking faster than the tiny amount of natural SLR.

Another factor that gives the appearance of SLR is the coastal erosion caused by the construction of groins, jetties, and sea walls, ostensibly to protect the beach or inlet. However, what happens is that the ocean, unable to spread out gradually inland during storm events is forced to batter against an unnatural coastal feature. This often causes accelerated erosion that is then blamed on SLR.

A useful way of thinking about sand and beaches is to imagine a mighty river of sediments moving along the coast.

The river contains the sediment budget for the entire coast. However, the construction of groins and jetties interferes with this river of sand and actually causes erosion rather than preventing it. The crescent-shaped beaches that result from groin-building are very obvious. What is happening is that sand is moving but the sea level is staying about the same. Jetties used to stabilize inlets also interfere with the natural movement of sediment, necessitating the pumping of beach sediments from the up-stream side to the down-stream side. Failure to do this will eventually result in the silting of the inlet while the beaches below the inlet are starved for sand.

Sea walls constructed to protect coastal development will eventually result in the total loss of dry beach at high tide. This is not because of rapid SLR but because the force of the waves tends to entrain beach sediments and carry them offshore. This process can be seen around the world, wherever a sea wall has been constructed to “protect” some hotel, condo, or private home. The next step in this process is to spend millions to “re-nourish” the affected beach. The life span of a re-nourished beach is short and brutal. And the consistency of the dredged sediments is never like the original beach – they tend to be hard and prone to cementation. As the beach erodes, steep scarps form at the high-tide level, some as steep as 3-4M. Sea turtles and beach goers find it difficult to get to the water or onto the back beach. This is not caused by SLR but by humans building things and trying to control natural events. If the natural barrier of dunes were allowed to remain in place, the beach would also remain, subject only to seasonal waxing and waning.

The Science Behind it All

When I first became interested in the science of SLR, I was a graduate student in SE Florida, USA. My classroom was literally on the beach and I spent hours and days in the field, watching the interactions between ocean and land. When my study beach was slated for re-nourishment, I was able to observe at first hand the effect dredging offshore sediments had on the existing beach.

One of my mentors was Rhodes Fairbridge who had a lifetime studying sea level, and I have been very fortunate to work with Nils-Axle Mörner, a world expert on sea levels.

Today we have tide gauge records from around the world, some with impressively long histories of several hundreds of years. Most of these are attached to nearby GPS stations now. But in the hundred+ years that are covered by the work of Rhodes Fairbridge, Nils-Axle Mörner, Klaus Puls and others, the results have been remarkably unchanged. Sea level has been rising an average of 1-1.5mm (possibly as little as 0.0-1.0mm) per year since the end of the Little Ice Age. Modern sensing technology has not revealed any hugely increased rise, the average SLR has not changed.

So, where are these predictions of massive SLR on the order of tens of meters coming from if field observations do not reveal massive sea level rise? Have any island nations actually suffered inundation resulting in thousands of “climate” refugees?

No! The computer model predictions of rapidly rising sea level are not happening anywhere. There are no “climate” refugees. And these island nations do not require massive amounts of money to avert disaster. There is no disaster to avert.

Tuvalu, in the South Pacific, is an island nation that was supposed to vanish under the waves years ago. It is still there and has actually become larger. It is a popular tourist destination and they recently built a modern airport to accommodate their tourist influx.

The Maldives (another nation that should have vanished, according to Al Gore), is also doing just fine and experiencing a resurgence of popularity as a tourist haven. N.A. Mörner visited the Maldives a total of six times between 2000-2003, conducting extensive field research. He determined that there is no accelerated SLR in this area. He also did field work in Goa and Bangladesh, with the same result – no accelerated SLR.

More recently, in 2017, I accompanied Mörner to Fiji. We spent three weeks measuring beaches and inspecting wave-cut notches and corals. Our conclusions agree completely with his earlier work in the Maldives, Goa, and Bangladesh. Mild fluctuations of local sea level in the order of centimeters are clearly seen in the growth of mini-atolls in the reefs. The Fiji government, however, is insistent that their little island nation is in danger of washing away and point to a few areas of erosion that can be attributed to human constructions and poor coastal management. There is zero SLR causing any of these problems.

Most recently, late 2018, Mörner did more field work in New Caledonia. His conclusions agree with our Fiji work and his earlier work in the Maldives, Goa, and Bangladesh.


The main conclusion from all of this is:
there is no rapidly increasing rise of sea level.

The predictions of many meters of destructive SLR by the end of this century are pipe dreams, generated by alarmist determination to create fear. There is no science that supports these wild claims. Draconian (and expensive) measures to protect the infrastructure along the coasts from this purely imaginary SLR are a waste of resources and an insupportable burden on the residents of coastal areas.

The so-called Precautionary Principle is just an excuse to impose new taxes on already over-burdened citizens. And the island nations do not need funding to protect themselves from something that is not happening.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
February 2019

Additional Reading

N.-A. Mörner (2007), The Greatest Lie Ever Told. PandP Print, 20pp.

N.-A. Mörner, and P. Matlack-Klein, “New records of sea

level changes in the Fiji Islands”. Oceanography and Fishery,

Open Access Journal, 5(3): 555666, 2017.

Thomas Wysmuller, Presentation at 2018 EIKE Conference, Munich, Germany.

Sea Levels are always changing:

Pamela Matlack-Klein was born in USA and now lives in Portugal. Her primary interest is coastal zone studies, rocks, plants, animals, ocean, weather, and their complicated interactions. She has taken a special interest in sea levels over the past 40 years, their natural rise and fall, and has concluded there is nothing catastrophic going on there. She is currently involved in a survey of the Portuguese coast, tracing past sea levels as recorded in the rocky coastline. She is entirely self-funded and has no conflicts of interest.

3 thoughts on “Land and Sea Go Up and Down”

  1. I live on the coast so have sent this article to all local, state & federal politicians in my area. Will be interesting if I get replies as they all live coastal as well

  2. An excellent analysis. Send a copy to ‘their ABC’ and observe whether anything of it is reported by the utterly unbiased and independent media professionals and their consensus scientists.

  3. The ice in Greenland goes 3 miles deep. For this ice to thaw it would take a dramatic shift in the earths axis and we wouldn’t know about it anyway.

    Hypothetically if the ice in Greenland did thaw we would end up with a 3 mile deep freshwater lake and no increase or decrease in sea level.

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