Learn how plants respond to higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations

How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic


Problems Encountered in Assessing the Sea Level Problem
Reference
Diez, J.J.  2000.  A review of some concepts involved in the sea-level rise problem.  Journal of Coastal Research 16: 1179-1184.

What was done
In introducing the subject of this review paper, the author says that early analyses of rising sea level trends "created panic that led to risky conclusions and reckless efforts to remedy the surmised problems," an opinion that is shared by other analysts who question the statistical meaning and geographical representation of the available data, as well as their quality.  In support of this assessment, the author reviews several important factors that are not dealt with adequately in both the evaluation and interpretation of sea level trends that have been reported for the Holocene.

What was learned
Mean sea level is affected by a host of eustatic and isostatic factors, "all of which," in the opinion of the author, "have a great local and/or regional variability, suggesting modifications are required in current gauges to accurately determine the actual value of global sea level change."  In addition, the author notes that no corrections or allowances are made in the data for short-term natural processes such as ENSO, storm surges, tides and tsunamis, or for anthropogenic-induced land subsidence caused by the removal of oil and natural gas, or for the irregular placement of gauges and the influence of dikes and other maritime structures that can all influence local sea level readings.  As a result, the author felt compelled to state that "the consideration of all these sources of possible inaccuracies in the gauge data system firmly undermines the principal support for the present quantitative prediction of current and future sea level rise trends."

The author rightly criticizes current sea level models for their inadequacies and asserts that the "simplicity of their structure leads to conclusions with only a relative accuracy."  Most such models, the author continues, "have completely refused to consider the possibility that the world's oceans may be capable of completely eradicating carbon dioxide from the atmospheric-lithospheric system; some have even completely ignored or underestimated the oceanic solubility of CO2."

What it means
In light of the many demonstrable deficiencies in our knowledge base and modeling capabilities, it is clear there is much work to be done, including the collecting of large amounts of additional accurate data, before reliable quantitative assessments of future sea level trends can be made.  Reliable estimates of how sea level might be affected by future increases in the air's CO2 concentration are even further down the road.