Foreword: I have used as a primary reference a Russian Senior Scientist/Hydrologer – Vladimir Ivanovitch Babkin, Chief Hydrologist of the Russian State Hydrological Institute, St Petersburg. My article is not a scientific paper. I express my opinion formed from research, experience and the application of commonsense. I have also used as a secondary reference a sensibly peer-reviewed. paper published in 2020 and updated in 2021, by a US government agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a link to which appears at the end of this article.
Why refer to the Russian? Simple. When you initiate your search engines for references on this matter, you immediately become involved in the general Western political nonsense of the highly emotional climate change debate.
Hysterical nonsense pervades even the most prestigious papers from Western academic institutions, and for every scientific comment on the positive, you can find one in the negative. For example, we accept that the evaporation of water from the oceans is a fact. I found one paper from a European Institute that specifically excluded ‘evaporation of water from the oceans’ because, they say, “it was not relevant to climate change.”
The Russian scientist Vladimir Babkin has been at the St Petersburg Institute for many, many years and his papers seem to be quarantined from the squabbling babble of Western Universities. Hence the Russian.
So, are the oceans rising or not?
Many factors apply, and many opinions are advanced, but some facts point to conclusions.
Some of those facts are:
The rate of evaporation from all oceans is averaged out at 1130mm per year; this means that for the oceans to rise measurably, there must be an annual rise of ocean level greater than 1130mm per year.
NASA papers state that there is an average ocean rise of 3.6mm per year.
Ocean temperatures vary, warm oceans expand and cold oceans contract, thereby affecting the mass of water.
As does the effect of rotation of the Earth. There are slight bulges, immeasurable to our eyes, at the Equator. Still, these remain constant and therefore do not affect ocean levels generally.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a fair indication of the case's complexity.
What is evident is that unless you are constantly involved with marine science and instrumental in experimental measurements of the ocean's movement – all you have to rely upon is the information provided by mainstream media. And therein lies an enormous problem.
Mainstream media run on ratings and Good News does not rate. Frightening News does. Sensational News does. Doomsday scenarios rate, as do timeline predictions, such as, "we only have a few years left, "and so on.
So the difficulty lies in finding some credible science to study and then form an opinion. What I can establish is that the rate of ocean level rise is very, very slow, in some places immeasurable. And it is very, very small – an average of 3.6 mm per year. But no mention is made of the factor of evaporation, so it is difficult to judge just what is meant by that figure.
I have been involved with the ocean, in some form or other, since my teenage years. Firstly as a Surf Lifesaving Instructor in South Australia in the early 1960s, and later as an Advanced Scuba Rescue Diver for many years. I know the ocean. I respect its moods and its power.
We have an example right here on Bribie Island. The North End of the Island is succumbing to high tides. Eventually, significant ocean breakthroughs will occur – making the beaches located behind the North End of the Island much more interesting.
What you can say is that this is a natural process and has been occurring for many, many years.
But is this happening because of ocean levels rising?
I can find no significant evidence of rising ocean levels in and around the Moreton and Stradbroke Islands.
So why then is this matter so highly political and emotional? I don't know that, either.
The ocean is either rising or it is not; there cannot be any qualification about this. Yet, there is confusion and misinformation aplenty in the public forums.
We know, because some ratepayers are affected directly, that some Local Governments have declared land and houses close to ocean fronts "subject to inundation." This has a highly detrimental effect upon the value of the property – and the so mentioned ‘inundation’ may never, ever, occur.
If we accept that there is an ocean level increase of 3.6 mm per year for the next ten years, that means we are dealing with an ocean level rise of, say, 30.6 mm, just over an inch in old terms. Over ten years? Hardly inundation!
Much of the Doomsday comments stem from the premise that the ocean level rise will dramatically increase quite suddenly due to the increased temperature of the atmosphere and the subsequent increased rate of ice and glacier melt in the Arctic and Antarctic regions of the globe.
That premise has yet to be established as scientifically sound, although specific media organisations run the story as if it is from the Gospels.
After wading my way through about five thick scientific papers published by Institutions that have credibility, of which the St Petersburg Hydrological is one, I have concluded that yes, there is a measurable rise in the levels of the world's oceans. It is so tiny, 3.6mm per annum, as to almost be irrelevant.
And that conclusion is not qualified by the evaporation rate – so I don't really know what that means; except to say, that I don't really know!
An Elephant Named Plastic
But there is one elephant in the room when we discuss oceans and their condition. That elephant’s name is Plastic.
Our oceans are disgracefully polluted, almost poisoned by the human garbage of plastic. Small pieces of coloured plastic are seen as food by many small fish – they swallow, they die! Walls of death float across kilometres of seas as abandoned fishing nets float their deadly way along in the currents.
You can wander along the ocean beaches of Bribie Island or the shores of the Pumicestone Passage to witness the extent of plastic garbage pollution in our oceans. It is there for you to see any time you wish.
I know that many groups are constantly working to remove this garbage from the oceans; it is a worthwhile endeavour and well worth being supported.
It is a puzzle to me that we can have highly emotional, indeed, irrational screeching public debates, if we can call them that, about ocean levels and climate change but rarely do we make much noise about plastic pollution in the oceans.
I think that plastic pollution and the subsequent threats to the lives of creatures in our oceans is far more threatening and urgent to the health of our planet than the idea of a 3.6mm ocean rise each year, maybe.
Ocean creatures are swallowing plastic, being entangled in plastic every day.
They are dying. All_The_Time.
Reference: NOAA Report on Sea Levels: www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level