The Hugo Awards are presented annually to the best science fiction. Science fiction is defined by Wiki as: a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes and extraterrestrial life. Their September 2013 issue featuring “Rising Seas” would probably qualify for the Hugo.
The NG cover illustration of the Statue of Liberty waist deep in water resulting from sea level rise was a major, imaginative exaggeration. The statue’s waist is more than 200 feet above sea level at present. Using the actual rate of sea level rise at Battery, NY since 1850 to calculate how long it would take to match the waist water level, resulted in a figure of about 23,500 years or so. (See the calculation by clicking here.)
Over the past 500 thousand years, glaciation cycles have run roughly 100,000 years, with 80,000 of those years with glaciers moving across the Northern Hemisphere and 20,000 years of interglacial periods such as we are now enjoying. The current interglacial period began about 11,500 years ago, so we may not have enough time do enough 23,500 years of warming before those pesky glaciers come our way again. (Click here to review glaciation periods.)
The most recent NG exaggeration comes again using global inundation based upon a sea level rise caused by global temperatures rising some thirty degrees above the current average temperature.
The NG entry is pure and simple alarmism. Even when they had some science to use, they took the most extreme of any set of climate computer projections.
In a guest posting on WUWT by Dr. Don J. Easterbrook titled “National Geographic rising sea level prophecy – cause for concern or absurd fairytale?”, he provides the factual data that shows how weak are the premises used by NG.
The majority of the posting by Dr. Easterbrook follows. It is rather long, but for those that only get their information from Alarmist pronouncements in the media without any backing scientific data, this is an opportunity to see why skeptics are skeptics. (Not all of the Figures will be seen in the following. See the above link to see the rest.)
NG premise: Carbon dioxide warmed the Earth by more 1º F over the past century.
DJE response: Carbon dioxide is a trace gas that makes up only 0.039% of the atmosphere, accounts for only 3.6% of the greenhouse effect, and has increased by only 0.009% since 1950. By itself, it is incapable of warming the climate by more than a fraction of a degree. With no physical evidence that CO2 causes significant atmospheric warming, the IPCC rely solely on computer models, but because the effect of CO2 is so small, they introduce an increase in water vapor (which is responsible for 95% of greenhouse warming), claiming that as CO2 goes up so does water vapor. For models to be valid, a real-world atmospheric water vapor must go up, but just the opposite is true—water vapor has gone down since 1947 (Fig. 2). Thus, climate models have been an utter failure (Fig. 3)
Conclusions: National Geographic’s statement that CO2 caused 1º F of global warming this century is contrary to scientific evidence and is thus false.
NG premise: “the big concern for the future is the giant ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.” “If the Thwaites Glacier breaks free from its rocky berth, that would liberate enough ice to raise sea level by three meters—nearly ten feet.”
DJE response: That this is not going to happen is shown by (1) there is no evidence that this has ever happened in the past and several factors insure that it won’t happen any time soon, (2) Antarctic glaciers are frozen to their base and move by internal flowage of ice, not by basal sliding, (3) these ice sheets lie in basins, and (4) the Greenland ice sheet is behaving just as it has in the geologic past and there is nothing unusual happening to it now.
Conclusion: The likelihood of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic sliding into the sea is essentially zero.
NG premise: “by the time we get to the end of the 21st century, we could see sea-level rise of as much as six feet globally instead of two to three feet. Last year an expert panel convened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) adopted 6.6 feet (two meters) as its highest of four scenarios for 2100. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends that planners consider a high scenario of five feet.” “we’re already locked in to at least several feet of sea-level rise, and perhaps several dozens of feet.”
DJE response: How realistic are these predictions of sea level rise of six feet to several dozens of feet? To answer that, all we have to do is look at the sea level rise for the past century and compare it with the National Geographic projection. Sea level has risen 7 inches in the past century at a relatively constant rate of 1.7 mm/yr from 1900 to 2000 (Fig. 5) and has actually shown signs of decline in the past few years (Fig. 6).
Figure 5. Sea level rise of 1.7 mm/yr from 1900 to 2000.
Figure 6. Sea level rise since 1993.
Figure 7. Sea level rise over the past century (lower left), sea level rise projected at this rate (black line, lower part of graph), and IPCC predicted sea level rise (red).
The difference between the sea level rise projected from actual rise over the past century and the catastrophic scenario of the National Geographic is 15 times the rate of sea level rise over the past century! Two questions immediately arise: (1) what is going to cause such accelerated sea level rise and (2) where is all the water going to come from? The accelerated rise is based on postulated accelerated warming but there has been no warming in the past 15 years (in fact, the climate has cooled during that time (Figure 8). So no climatic warming means no accelerated sea level rise as postulated by the National Geographic. (See “Global Temperature Data Shows No Rise For 17 Years—Meets Warmist’s Criteria For Proof Of No Man-Made Forcing”)
In order to get the accelerated sea level rise postulated by National Geographic, much of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets would have to melt. However the Antarctic ice cap is growing, not melting, and the Greenland ice cap was about the same size as at present during the Holocene Climatic Optimum. Morner (2011) has pointed out that, even during warming 20 times more intense than recent warming, melting of the massive Pleistocene ice sheets that covered vast areas resulted in sea level rise no greater than one meter per century. Thus, now that these great ice sheets are gone, there is no source of water for sea level rise even approaching one meter, so any prediction of sea level greater than that cannot be considered credible. The National Geographic scenario of the rate of sea level rise of six feet would require a rate of sea level rise of 20 mm/yr. in contrast to the rate of 1.7 mm over the past century.
Conclusion: These data demonstrate that the scenario painted by the National Geographic of very large rise of sea level by 2100 is contrary to all physical scientific data and therefore its credibility must be totally rejected.
NG premise:. “Inexorably rising oceans will gradually inundate low-lying areas” “By the next century, if not sooner, large numbers of people will have to abandon coastal areas in Florida and other parts of the world.” “With seas four feet higher than they are today—a distinct possibility by 2100—about two-thirds of southeastern Florida is inundated. The Florida Keys have almost vanished. Miami is an island.”
DJE response: How credible is submergence of two thirds of Florida by 2100, leaving Miami as an island? Projection of that rate to 2100 (Fig. 9) would result in a sea level rise of 6 inches by then. Contrast this with the National Geographic projected sea level rise of 21 mm/yr. What could possibly cause such a huge, sudden change in the rate of sea level rise? The answer is that it is not even close to being credible because (1) with no global warming in the past 17 years there is no reason for such a change, (2) there is no source of water–the East Antarctica ice sheet is not melting and Greenland has been warmer for thousands of years in the past without melting its ice sheet, (3) Antarctic sea ice is increasing, setting records, and (4) even during the rapid, intense melting of huge ice sheet at the end of the last Ice Age, sea level didn’t rise this fast. Continuation of sea level at the constant rate of the past century would result only in a sea level rise of about 3-4 inches per generation.
Figure 9. Sea level rise at Key West, Florida from tidal gauge records (Blue curve); sea level rise projected to 2100 at the rate over the past century; sea level rise postulated by National Geographic (red line).
Conclusion: The National Geographic projection that two thirds of Florida will be submerge by 2100 is contrary to data and lacks any possible mechanism to increase sea levels more than a few inches. The National Geographic scenario is therefore totally without any credibility.
NG premise: “…higher seas will extend the ruinous reach of storm surges.” and “By the end of the century a hundred-year storm surge like Sandy’s might occur every decade or less.”
DJE response: There is no scientific evidence that storm frequency or intensity has increased over the past century. Figure 10 shows no increase in hurricane power dissipation index since 1900 and the US has experienced the longest period with no hurricanes making landfall (the Sandy storm was not strong enough to be considered a hurricane).
Conclusion: The National Geographic conclusion that higher sea levels “higher seas will extend the ruinous reach of storm surges” is not credible because (1) sea level rise is too small to significantly affect storm surges, and (2) the hurricane strength index is now lower than it was earlier in the century.
NG premise: “by 2070, 150 million people in the world’s large port cities will be at risk from coastal flooding, along with $35 trillion worth of property.”
DJE response: As shown in the data presented above, none of the National Geographic sea level projections are even remotely believable and sea level projections based on tide gauge records for the past century indicate that sea level will most likely rise 4-6 inches by 2070.
Conclusion: The National Geographic contention that 150 million people and $35 trillion worth of property is nothing more than a fairytale, totally contrary to data that indicates that sea level will rise only a few inches by 2070.
NG premise: “…carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach around a thousand parts per million by the end of the century,” “According to the U.S. Geological Survey, sea level on an iceless Earth would be as much as 216 feet higher than it is today. It might take thousands of years and more than a thousand parts per million to create such a world—but if we burn all the fossil fuels, we will get there.”
DJE response: . The National Geographic issue contains many elaborately constructed images under the header of “If all the ice melted,” depicting submergence of extensive coastal areas all over the world and contending that “if we burn all the fossil fuels, we will get there.” What’s wrong with this? For openers, it would require melting of the entire Antarctic ice sheet, the Greenland ice sheet, and all of the world’s ice caps and alpine glaciers. Is this possible? Considering the data presented above, it is, of course ridiculous with no trace of credibility. In addition, the Antarctic ice sheet has not melted in 15 million years, including during many interglacial periods when global temperatures were significantly higher than at present for thousands of years.
Summary of conclusions: From the evidence presented above, the obvious conclusion is that the National Geographic article is an absurd fairytale, completely unsupported by any real scientific data and directly contrary to a mountain of contrary evidence.
I recommend that you read the full posting by Dr Easterbrook.