Energy

Tidal Gauge Shows Marshall Islands Aren’t Being Drowned By Rising Sea Levels

REUTERS/U.S. Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Scientists and activists have warned for years that Pacific Islands were sinking because man-made global warming was accelerating the rise of sea levels, but that’s not the case for the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Marshall Islands government officials have been sounding the alarm on sea level rise, even claiming the dead bodies of World War II veterans have washed ashore after being disturbed by the rising water. Indeed, the tidal gauge on Kwajalein showed a sharp acceleration in sea level rise since 2000.

Everything seemed to confirm alarmist claims that sea level rise was accelerating and overtaking low-lying Pacific islands. But the sharp acceleration seemed to be an anomaly in the data, as sea level rise has drastically slowed and returned to normal in the last few years.

“It’s obvious that the apparent acceleration in sea-level at Kwajalein was transient, and did not indicate the beginning of an accelerating trend in sea-level rise,” Anthony Watts, a veteran meteorologist, wrote on his science blog Watts Up With That.

Watts also pointed out the acceleration was inversely related to El Niño, meaning the sea level is actually lowering around Kwajalein when the naturally-occurring warming event heats up the tropical Pacific. Aside from that, there’s been no acceleration in rise, despite claims human-caused warming would do so.

“To me, it looks like sea-level at Kwajalein is inversely correlated with ENSO. When the current El Niño ends, so will the current dip in sea-level at Kwajalein, probably,” Watts wrote.

“Over the long term, the sea-level trend at Kwajalein will prove to be approximately linear, just like it is at every other high-quality, long term coastal tide gauge in the world,” Watts wrote. “Seven decades of heavy GHG emissions have caused no increase at all in the rate of coastal sea-level rise.”

Watts’ blog post comes after years of Marshall Island officials claiming their island was sinking due to global warming. Islanders have been calling for aid from the United Nations and been the poster children in efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“These last spring tides in February to April this year have caused not just inundation and flooding of communities but have also undermined regular land, so that even the dead are affected,” Tony De Brum, the Marshall Islands’ foreign minister, told the BBC in 2014 during United Nations climate talks.

“There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves, it’s that serious,” De Brum said of the bodies of World War II veterans washing ashore.

The U.N. claimed at the time “sea level is rising in the Pacific around the Marshall’s at a much higher rate than elsewhere in the world,” according to BBC. The Marshall Islands say 12 milimeters of sea level rise per year between 1993 and 2009 while the rest of the world only saw 3.2 millimeters per year.

But the Kwajalein tidal gauge operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the mean sea level rise for the atoll is only 2.32 millimeters per year, which is equivalent to just 0.76 feet of sea level rise over 100 years.

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