Sea Level

In the torrent of gossip and nonsense that besets the climate change issue, sea level is one of the issues that has "gone off the rails", so it will presumably be of some value for it to be put in perspective. Nautical charts show sea level as "HWOST" – high water, ordinary spring tides. The "O" is a give-away; in most coastal areas, tides are almost never ordinary. In England, Holland and Belgium in 1953, there was a real catastrophe – not the scaremonger kind. More than 1500 people were drowned by rising sea level, not because of Al Gore’s upward creep of a few millimeters per year but because a high tide was about two meters – not millimeters – above "ordinary", and it did not take years, it rose in a few hours. There was a storm surge. By chance, gales blowing into the North Sea coincided to push water in from both ends. This kind of mishap can easily arise in many parts of the world, notably including the east coast of the USA. A somewhat similar risk exists to varying degrees in other areas: that is, the tsunami, a very long, slow wave resulting from an earthquake which can travel thousands of kilometers and, in effect, raise high tides by meters. Compared with these two pieces of natural nastiness, the climate-change millimeters present no difficulty for the engineers who are responsible for managing the world’s coastal sea walls and dikes as they have been doing for many centuries and who planned and built the Thames Barrage to give protection in one particular area.

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