Going Up or Going Down?

Our dynamic planet changes in ways that cancel out.

By now, most every halfway literate Westerner has reached an opinion on global warming, climate change, climate disruption, or whatever it's called this week.  Just about every well-known voice says it's happening and it's all our fault; just about every individual person, themselves included, lives their daily lives as though they recognize these "The End is Nigh!" claims for the hooey they are.

The day of the climate-fraud billionaire may be neaerly over, but there is still good money to be made through research grants pushing The Cause.  Most of these polemics simply plow well-trodden ground, but every so often we see something so new and startling as to be worthy of your attention.

And so it is with researcher Thomas Frederikse's study.  Tech Times reports:

Melting glaciers have long been linked to rising sea levels but the melting ice has also added so much water to the world's ocean that the seabed now sinks underneath the increasing weight.

The enormous mass being added into the ocean also causes the seafloor to warp and deform and this can disguise the actual rise of sea levels in some parts of our planet and even cover up the actual extent of sea level rise. [emphasis added]

Weighed in the Balances

It may seem like a simple matter to define and measure the "sea level," but nothing could be further from the truth.

When you're vacationing at the beach, the sea level appears obvious, as the tide goes out and comes back in again - in the morning it's a hundred yards away, and in the afternoon it's lapping at the back fence.  In reality, though, all you are noting is the level of the sea by comparison with your cottage.

It's not normally as obvious as the changing tides (unless you live in California), but the ground goes up and down too over time.  The earth's crust floats on the layer of semi-liquid plastic-like magma that makes up the earth's mantle.  Like anything else which floats, the crustal plates rise and fall depending on a number of factors - changes in their weight, changes in the weight on their neighbor, thermal movement of material in the mantle itself, and even the effect of the moon's gravity.

As we all know, water is heavy.  Being a liquid, it also can move very rapidly around the globe; rocks and earth are even heavier, but can't move nearly so far so fast.

And, as the warmists never cease to remind us, there are many glaciers which are melting and shrinking.  There are also other ice caps which are growing, not shrinking - but they're in different places.

Every giant ice cube which once was here and now is there, represents billions of tons of water moved from one location atop the crust to another location elsewhere.  And just as moving from one end of a canoe to the other makes it tip in that direction, so do the crustal plates.

The effect is subtler but just as forceful when glaciers melt into the ocean: the ocean has more water in it, so it is not only deeper, it weighs more.

What happens when you are lying on an air mattress and your partner joins you?  You rise up as your bedmate compresses their side.  As Frederikse has pointed out, that's just what the oceans are doing to the continents.

Now, if you just calculated the volume of glacier water that you think is going to melt, and divided by the surface area of the ocean, you'd get the obviously absurd predictions of sea-level rise which we see on the news.  But these predictions are based on a faulty premise - that the bottom of the ocean is at a fixed level, and so is the land.  It's the same calculation you'd get when you dump a truckload of water into a swimming pool - neither the pool nor the patio surrounding it are going anywhere, so the patio will flood if you put too much water in the pool.

In the infinitely complex reality that is our Earth, though, that's not true at all: the floor of the ocean, pressed down on by extra weight of the melted ice, descends.  In turn, the plastic mantle beneath gets squeezed to the side like the air in your mattress, to push back up again in some other region - namely, the continents.  The sea bottom goes down and the continents go up as the glaciers melt.

The result? The "actual extent of sea level rise" is "covered up" - or, put another way, from the perspective of your beach house, it doesn't exist.  The extra water pushes the sea bottom down, which pushes the land masses up just as someone else jumping on your air mattress pushes you up.

And Found Wanting

Modern scientists measure the sea level from satellites because it's quick and easy.  But does anybody really care what the level is from that perspective?  Not really, any more than you care whether your beachfront house is 3959 miles from the center of the earth or 3959.1.

You only really care that you're a suitable distance above the water which otherwise would flood your living room.  Al Gore famously predicted the imminent and permanent flooding of our cities decades ago; it simply hasn't happened, and as this research illustrates, it won't no matter how many glaciers melt.

The reason is as straightforward as it is hard for today's warmists to accept: the earth is largely a self-balancing system.  If you try to tip it too far in one direction, you'll set up a feedback reaction that tips it back towards the median.

Of course there's a lot of possible range in between, and climate does go up and down - both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, when the Thames froze so hard you could erect structures on it, are part of the historical record.  And it's certainly possible to overturn the climate through an extreme event like an asteroid strike or nuclear war.  But barring something like that, it is irrational and unsupported by evidence to expect our climate going too far out of whack - there's no need for an expensive panic.

Which, of course, is why you are reading about it here, and not splashed all over the nightly news.  Spreading news of the fact that we don't have to worry about a phony panic doesn't make our elites any richer or more powerful.

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for Scragged.com.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments

Does this article indicate that Scragged has evolved from “global warming doesn’t exist” to “global warming doesn’t matter”?

January 20, 2018 5:06 PM


Scragged has always believed in "climate change." We know that in the past, it was colder than it is now, and that in the past it was also warmer.

Most warmists believe, for example, that during a past cold spell, so much water was locked up in ice that future Native Americans could walk from Siberia to Alaska. That implies that the earth was a lot colder then. If so, it's been warming ever since however long ago people could walk from Alaska to Siberia.

Having read Kon Tiki, however, Scragged believes that long-ago people were far better able to navigate oceans than we moderns believe. It isn't at all necessary for Siberians to have walked to Alaska; a journey by kayak would have been shorter than the well-attested voyages of the Polynesians. Nobody believes that it was ever possible to walk to Easter Island, for example.

In any case, it's generally agreed that the earth was a lot colder a while ago. If so, "global warming" has been going on for a very long time. It started LONG before the industrial revolution started putting human-generated CO2 into the atmosphere.

Here's the real stinker, though. Assume for purposes of discussion that warmists such as Al Gore are correct and that we're headed for disaster. Do you trust our government, which couldn't field a relatively simple insurance web site and can't keep the VA medical system operating decently or keep the New York subway operating could have a positive effect on climate?

Government did good things in the past - interstate highways, Apollo project, etc. However, they've become so absorbed in regulatory overreach and other obfuscatory issues that they cant get anything done any more.

They'd spend tee money for sure, but fix the climate? Forget it.

January 20, 2018 5:55 PM

As one would expect, sea level is a LOT more copmlicated than we'd intuit.


The gravitation mass of the Greenland glaciers is large enough to pull water closer to Greenland. This raises sea levels near Greenland and out to around 2,000 miles away. Thus, the Dutch have no reason to worry about Greenland melting - the water won't be as attracted to Greenland as it was. The increase will come elsewhere.

The article also ways that the earth's rotation has slowed by about 4 hours in the last 2,500 years and explains why. We can't project that back billions of years - the earth would spin so fast that it woudl fly apart.

Q: Is water moving off glaciers, slowing the Earth’s rotation, this time analogous to a figure skater putting arms out?

A: Right. Glaciers are mostly near the axis. They’re near the North and South Poles and the bulk of the ocean is not. In other words, you’re taking glaciers from high latitudes like Alaska and Patagonia, you’re melting them, they distribute around the globe, but in general, that’s like a mass flux toward the equator because you’re taking material from the poles and you’re moving it into the oceans. That tends to move material closer to the equator than it once was.

The article also talks about continents going up and down, which would affect the PERCEIVED sea level, as the article says:

Q What is the explanation?

A Some said it was some ice effect, that ice volumes had changed. More often people thought that it was linked to changes in the rate at which tectonic plates were created. But in my work and that of some colleagues we’ve shown that those sorts of events when continents flood typically are due not to some global change in sea level. Rather, it’s due to the vertical motion of the continent itself reacting to the flow that’s driving plate tectonics and driving continents up and down.

November 24, 2019 1:16 PM
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