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UK Sea Levels–No Increase In Last 10 Years

May 6, 2013

By Paul Homewood




With all the talk about global sea levels, it is easy to lose track of what is happening all around us, in the places where we actually live.

Here in the UK, back in 2009, the government organised a series of Regional Climate Adaptation Studies, that warned us to expect sea level rises of 0.35 metres by 2050. But what has actually been happening in recent years?



John Church and Neil White, sea level experts from CSIRO, published a detailed study of global tide gauge records for the period 1880-2009, a couple of years ago. They used 290 stations, not all current, which were allocated to “1 degree x 1 degree grids”, to provide proper weighting. An estimate for the GIA, or Glacial Isostatic Adjustment, was given for each grid cell – this took into account how much of the sea level rise was due to land rising or falling.

The stations they used were fully vetted to ensure accuracy.

Full details of their study is here.

Included in their study were a number of UK sites, spread over nine grid squares, or zones. I have used their selected sites to calculate sea level changes for the period 2001-11. Many stations used in the Church & White analysis stopped recording many years ago, but there are still ten sites with records for the latest period, and they cover seven of the original nine grid squares. We should therefore have a fairly representative picture of the UK as a whole.

Using the tidal gauge records, available from PSMSL, sea level changes between 2001 and 2011 are shown in Figure 1, and the average of all seven zones in Figure 2.




Figure 1



Figure 2


  • Overall, across the UK as a whole, there has been a very small drop in sea level over the ten year period of 4mm.
  • The figures for individual stations range from a fall of 78mm at Weymouth, to a rise of 31mm at Leith.
  • Excluding Weymouth, as a possible outlier, the national total changes to a fall of just 1mm.


For comparison with the longer trend, Figure 3 shows the sea level changes between 1981 and 2011. The three sites shown are the only ones with records back to 1981.



Sea Level Changes 1981-2011
  Inc/Dec Before GIA
mm pa
Inc/Dec After GIA
mm pa
Newlyn 1.26 0.86
Lowestoft -2.92 -3.14
North Shields 1.23 1.26

Figure 3


And according to the UK Environment Agency, after adjusting for GIA, the long term trend in the South East has been 0.9 to 1.2mm p.a. There is, therefore, nothing to suggest that there has been any acceleration in sea level rise in recent years.

How do these numbers compare with global ones?  Church & White themselves tell us that the global sea level rise between 1880 and 2009 was about 210mm, or 1.6mm p.a., see Figure 4, so UK figures are fairly consistent.



Figure 4



It is dangerous to draw conclusions about sea level changes from just a ten year sample. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that the claimed acceleration in sea level rise has not materialised in UK waters.

I am not suggesting these figures prove anything one way or the other about global sea levels. But they are highly relevant to projections made by the UK Government and discussion about the effects of “climate change” in the UK.

Discussing sea level rise up to 2100 in their UK Climate Projections, DEFRA say:-


The mean sea level estimate for around the UK is 93 to 190 cm, but please note that the top of the range is very unlikely to occur in the 21st century.


Maybe it is time they took a look at the actual numbers, and had a rethink.

  1. Jeffery permalink
    May 6, 2013 12:43 pm

    When I went to the cited study, the conclusion was that global sea levels were rising at the upper end of the range estimated by the IPCC. Do you agree that’s what the cited study stated? I was under the impression that sea level changes were minimal, but this study appears to contradict that.

    • May 6, 2013 3:21 pm

      Is that the Church & White study?

      Their tide gauge figures since 1993 suggest about 2.8mm p.a., i.e. a bit higher than the 20thC figure, but way down on the IPCC’s more alarmist claims.

      However, the choice of 1993 (which is picked to coincide with the start of the satellite record) has one big drawback. It follows on from Pinatubo, about which C+W admit

      ” However, the reconstruction indicates there was little net change in sea level from 1990 to 1993, most likely as a result of the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.”

      In other words, they start from an artificial low point.

  2. May 6, 2013 2:28 pm

    The Proudman Oceangraphic Institute in Liverpool which has been monitoring tides all over the world for the last 100 years or so, records that for Antarctica, the mean sea level trend with a 95% confidence interval is 1.72mm +/-0.49 mm per year from1958-2006 which according to NOAA is equivalent to 0.56 feet in 100 years. Similar results are available for the Arctic and numerous other places on the globe including the tropics.

  3. May 6, 2013 8:51 pm

    From satellite data, regional mean sea levels show significant variations with many apparently levelling out. Just over half the regions have experienced, over the last 10 years, a lower increase than the official global value averaged over 19.5 year satellite era of 3.1mm/year. Of those about a third has seen decreasing sea levels. If the regions are considered with weighting by area then the majority of the world has seen less than 3.1mm/year sea level rise over the last 10 years, i.e. a deceleration in rise, contrary to most computer models and media alarmism.

  4. May 8, 2013 4:47 am

    I found a similar trend from the US west coast tide gauges. Details at

    San Francisco has the longest record on the US west coast.

    When will people understand the difference between measured data and computer generated climate fiction?

  5. Sven permalink
    May 8, 2013 9:31 am

    Cuxhafen is monitoring the sea level since 1847:

    Result: 355 mm / 163 Years => 2,1 mm / p.a.


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