Ocean Will Rise 23ft–Or Not

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An article in the Guardian is misleading at best, claiming that the oceans will rise 23 feet if the earth warmed 2-7 degrees Celsius. (link) Here’s the money quote:

[Dr. Meunchow] also argued that much remains unknown about the interaction between Arctic sea ice, sea level, and temperature rise.

Run for the hills! New Orleans is going to sink below sea level!

Oh wait… New Orleans is already below sea level.

A couple of complicated things make determining how the atmospheric temperature relates to sea level difficult. These things mean that we don’t know any better than Dr. Meunchow, who has been measuring ocean temperatures for a few days. (See the article.)

First, when ice melts, the resulting water occupies less volume. Ice, as we know from practical experience, is less dense than liquid water. Water expands as it freezes, and contracts as it melts.

Second, ice formed from snowfall is likely even less dense than normal ice because it is compressed snow with lots of air inside.

Third, the water displaced by an iceberg weighs as much as the iceberg itself. That is, melting ice doesn’t raise the sea level even a micron. Archimedes could’ve told you this a few thousand years ago.

Fourth, as the air warms, it can store more water in the atmosphere. That’s why heat and humidity go together. Not only is water stored in the atmosphere, but water affects the temperature to a much greater degree than CO2 ever could hope to. We know this because clouds (water vapor) affect the temperature. When it rains or snows, the temperature is dramatically different than it would be without rain or snow.

If you think about it, the amount of water in the ocean is the amount of water in the entire earth minus the water on or in the land minus the water in the air. If the earth got warmer, not only would the water in the air increase, but the rainfall and snowfall would also increase, meaning more water would be in the air or on the land. That would translate to a lower sea level, not a higher one.

It would also mean that the world would be wetter, meaning deserts would turn back into jungles.

Global Warming may be a very good thing, and it could be so good that we should do everything in our power to force it to occur.

Regardless, all of this is speculation. Without any practical experiments, we can’t determine how temperature relates to the sea level.

And anyone who goes around prophesying that New Orleans is going to be buried under water is exaggerating.

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5 Responses to “Ocean Will Rise 23ft–Or Not”

  1. demo kid Says:

    These things mean that we don’t know any better than Dr. Meunchow, who has been measuring ocean temperatures for a few days.

    That’s a lie… he’s only had the funding to measure ocean temperature in a specific spot for three days.

    If the earth got warmer, not only would the water in the air increase, but the rainfall and snowfall would also increase, meaning more water would be in the air or on the land. That would translate to a lower sea level, not a higher one.

    Not everywhere… “climate change” means that weather patterns will change; some places will get much wetter and warmer, some places will get drier, and some places might even get colder.

    Regardless, all of this is speculation. Without any practical experiments, we can’t determine how temperature relates to the sea level.

    We have had little in the way of “practical experiments” about the impacts of solar flares on the Earth, but it didn’t stop you from ranting on about the end of civilization several weeks ago.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      “climate change” means that weather patterns will change;

      How does the Kool-Aid taste? Seriously, why do you buy into these things?

      We have had little in the way of “practical experiments” about the impacts of solar flares on the Earth,

      On the contrary, we’ve seen Canada’s electric grid get wiped out, and we’ve designed weapons that would purposefully wipe out electric grids with an EM pulse. There are also weapons built for a smaller scale EM pulse to target specific vehicles. EM is one of the few areas of physics where we really understand what we are doing and how things behave.

  2. demo kid Says:

    On the contrary, we’ve seen Canada’s electric grid get wiped out

    Ugh… I’m sorry, but that comment is just made of stupid. Canada doesn’t have a completely Canada electric grid linking Victoria to St. John’s. The systems are interconnected regionally, and are tied in pretty tightly with the US. Note the blackout in 2003 that affected Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, New York City and Toledo — which, interestingly enough, had nothing to do with solar flare activity.

    Not to mention that there are protocols in place for managing solar flare effects on power grids. The physics are known… and electric utility operators know them well-enough to consider them in planning.

    So did you think that all of Canada (and none of the US) was without power for weeks because of some event like this? Perhaps you’d care to refine your statement?

  3. demo kid Says:

    From your link:

    The variations in the earth’s magnetic field also tripped circuit breakers on Hydro-Québec’s power grid. The utility’s very long transmission lines and the fact that most of Quebec sits on a large rock shield prevented current flowing through the earth, finding a less resistant path along the 735 kV power lines. … The power failure lasted 9 hours and forced the company to implement various mitigation strategies, including raising the trip level, installing series compensation on ultra high voltage lines and upgrading various monitoring and operational procedures.

    So “Canada’s” powergrid was “wiped out”… for a whole 9 hours. Note again that the power was out for longer in many locations during the blackout in 2003, and that wasn’t caused by solar activity.

    Also note that in even in the case of the 1859 event, there were warnings beforehand. This isn’t the first time at the races for electric utility companies.

    There’s certainly a risk, and there is economic damage associated with any geomagnetic storm. Will the planet turn into the libertarian paradise you want when our technology is completely destroyed? Not very likely — on either count.

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