Sunday, May 21, 2006

An Inconvenient Unit Of Measure

It's wise to double-check your prejudices from time to time. I did this when I googled "How much have sea levels risen?"

I was rewarded with this link that graphically shows how sea levels have risen over the last 120 years. If you click the link you'll see a curve with the sea level inexorably and relentlessly rising. The article says this:

"From 3,000 years ago to the start of the 19th century sea level was almost constant, rising at 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr; since 1900 the level has risen at 1 to 3 mm/yr ; since 1992 satellite altimetry from TOPEX/Poseidon indicates a rate of about 3 mm/yr. This change may be the first signs of the effect of global warming on sea level, which is predicted to cause significant rises in sea level over the course of the twenty-first century."

You've perhaps seen the movie "Waterworld" where the entire planet is flooded.

However, when you look at size of the numbers something startling appears: that is not 3 meters/year. It's 3 millimeters/year. By fortuitous coincidence, I have had to make some close measurements that reminded me how small a millimeter actually is. 3 mm is width of a capital letter E on the printed page. During the entire modern era, sea level has risen 7.87 inches.

Mt. Everest is 8,850m (29,035 feet) tall. If present trends continue, it'll be underwater in less than 3 million years (2,952,339 AD)!


Uncle Aron said...

But that is 1.18110236 inches per decade and a foot in a century... so the 2 foot rise that they predict would take 200 years... Paul says that those who don't take care of their own houses are worse than infidels, but do we have to care about our children's children's children's children (x2 for 200 years...)?

steve poling said...
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steve poling said...

Grand Rapids is 610 feet above sea level. That's 185928mm. If present trends continue, we'll be under water before 63,982AD!