Common Fallacies: The Sea

Fallacies Related to the Sea Level

Fallacy:

The Sea won't rise much.

Chances are that the individual is looking at what we have seen in the twenty-first century we haven't seen that great of an increase in sea level.

Basic Response:

The majority of the rise in sea level in the early part of this century has been small, but there are reasons to expect this to change.

Additional Points:

  1. Thermal Expansion So far what we have seen in terms of the rise in sea level has been due to the thermal expansion of the ocean.
  2. Arctic Melt However, as the Arctic sea ice melts, it will tend to diminish the albedo of the Arctic region, resulting in more sunlight being absorbed rather than scattered back into space.
  3. Rising Arctic Temperatures When the sunlight is absorbed, this raises the temperatures of the Arctic.
  4. The Glaciers of Greenland As arctic temperatures rise, these glaciers could raise the sea level considerably.
  5. Increasing Instability in Greenland Greenland has been experiencing more ice quakes in recent years and they have been growing in intensity.
  6. The Glaciers of the Western Antarctic Peninsula Glaciers in the the Antarctic are picking up speed as well.
  7. Positive Feedback Between Greenland and Antarctica As sea levels rise as the result of melt in either Greenland or Antarctica, the rising sea levels in both regions will tend to melt glaciers in the other or even lift them off their foundations, resulting in an accelerating process of glacier loss.
  8. Early Estimates of Ice Melt have been Largely Linear The early estimates of ice melt have been assuming a gradual melt. However, the melting process in both the Arctic sea ice and in glaciers is proving to be non-linear, involving a variety of positive feedbacks.
  9. Ice Melt Darkens the Ice Darker ice results in increased sunlight absorption which will cause ice to melt more quickly.
  10. Rising Arctic Sea Temperatures As more ocean is exposed, the water becomes warmer, leading to increased sea temperatures which cause sea ice to melt more rapidly.
  11. Glacier Drain As glaciers melt, drainage channels will for which find cracks and enlarge them.
  12. Lubricated Glacier Foundations As some melted water drains down to the foundations of glaciers, this will tend to lubricate the glaciers so that they will tend to descend to the sea more rapidly.

Fallacy:

Not that much land will be affected by the rise in sea level.

Looking at a map, it would appear that not that much land will be affected.

Basic Response:

It is true that the proportion of land that will be affected is relatively small. However, this is also where populations tend to settle - near the coasts.

Additional Points:

  1. Several meters can affect many people. Roughly half the world's population lives within fifty miles of the ocean, and our biggest cities tend to be port cities.
  2. Many places are relatively flat. Much of Florida is quite flat. The same is true of large parts of India and many other parts of the world.
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