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UK Sea Level Trends

January 22, 2015

By Paul Homewood


A lot is said about sea level rise, much of it nonsense. But what really matters is its impact on local areas.

With that in mind, let’s do a round up of the situation around the UK’s coast.


We have nine tidal gauges with records over the last 30 years, and we can compare the changes since 1983 with the changes in the last decade. ( Data is only available up to 2013 – it is likely to be July before last year’s numbers are uploaded at the official PSMSL site).




Figure 1


Figure 1 gives the relative sea level rise, expressed as mm/year. In seven out of nine cases, the rate of rise in the last decade has been less than over the full 30 years.


Since the end of the ice age, parts of the British landmass have been rising, as the weight of the glaciers was lifted. This is typically the north west of the country. Conversely, the rest of the country has been tilted down, and is consequently sinking.

There is a good article here, describing work by scientists from Durham University, which includes this map.



Long term rate of relative land- and sea-level change in the British Isles. Rates in mm, showing land uplift as positive and subsidence as negative.


In their reconstruction of global sea levels up to 2009, Church & White produced much more detailed estimates of vertical land movement, based on GPS measurements and other methods (details here). Using these, we can calculate what is known as the absolute sea level rise, as opposed to the relative sea level rise, which is what the tide gauges measure, as in Figure 1.

[All tidal gauge data and GIA numbers are in the Appendix]




Figure 2


The highest rate of ASLR in the last decade is at Devonport, amounting to 2.83mm/year. At the other sites, the rise is much less, and in five cases negative.

The crude average rate of rise is 1.26mm since 1983, and a fall of 0.54mm/year in the last ten years.


Two sites, Newlyn and North Shields have records back to 1923 and earlier. The relative sea level rise for the 30-year periods are:-



Figure 3



Figure 4


In both cases, sea level rise in the last 30 years has been well below earlier periods.

The conclusion, as far as the UK is concerned, is clear. Far from accelerating, as we are told global sea level rise is, sea level rise has actually been decelerating in both the last 30 years, and in the last decade.

Certainly around the south and east coasts, it is the effect of the land sinking which is the principal problem. Where the land is actually rising, there is little or no relative sea level rise at all.

Rack my brain as I try, I cannot remember DEFRA, the Met Office or any other official body telling us this.




1) All tidal gauge data is from the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level, PSMSL.

2) No actual data for 1983 was available for North Shields or Stornaway. Estimates have been made from the average of 1982 and 1984.





Annual Mean Sea Level Data – mm

1983 2003 2013
Aberdeen 7024 7076 7026
N Shields 6963 7045 7015
Lowestoft 7045 7108 7104
Portsmouth 7087 7083 7068
Devonport 7023 7061 7092
Newlyn 7091 7139 7140
Ullapool 7133 7146 7151
Stornaway 6990 7068 7065
Holyhead 7013 7028 7043




Global Isostatic Adjustment per Church & White

GIA falling/(rising)
Aberdeen -0.26
N Shields -0.03
Lowestoft 0.22
Portsmouth 0.14
Devonport 0.27
Newlyn 0.4
Ullapool -0.38
Stornaway -0.38
Holyhead -0.11




Annual Mean Sea Level Data – mm

1923 1953 1983 2013
N Shields 6784 6918 6963 7015
Newlyn 6927 6998 7091 7140
  1. January 22, 2015 8:36 pm

    In reality: we are governed by the gleissberg cycle: 44 yrs of warming folllowed by 44 yrs of cooling (since 1995)

  2. January 22, 2015 10:40 pm

    ” I cannot remember DEFRA, the Met Office or any other official body telling us this.”

    Thats because they believe the models for seal level rise

  3. stuartlarge permalink
    January 22, 2015 11:50 pm

    Nice article. I still wonder how so many people believe the satellite measurements of 3.2mm when all the best tide gauges show approx 1.7mm.

  4. January 23, 2015 2:49 am

    Nice map Paul.

    Met Office on sea level?
    Go into denial after getting their extrapolation date wrong.

    Snag is that our forefathers were fed up with tide gauge nonsense so they put a pin in granite at Newlyn.

    Start here
    or update here

    And follow to gardenpond where Betts makes an appearance.

    • January 23, 2015 4:32 am

      Ah but you are cherrypickomg Paul
      Being based in the UK Im sure you first went thru the stats for Cuba, Falkland Islands, Lalaland, Lilliput ..found all their data showed accelerating levels.
      And the finally found confirmation bias in the UK levels.
      It’s not like the UK is the first place you looked.

  5. Trachy permalink
    January 23, 2015 5:00 am

    From (my) current Scottish Gov (2008 – present):


    Future climate change can be predicted using global and/or regional climate models using estimates of the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases. As this is uncertain and depends upon society’s response to the concerns about climate change, predictions based on a number of different future scenarios are often presented.



    There is strong evidence that anthropogenic inputs of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are the most likely cause of the observed average increase in global temperatures over the last 100 years. The rate of change in temperature appears to have increased in recent years such that the linear trend from 1980-2006 in Scottish waters equates to 0.24°C per decade.

    This is unequivocal evidence that we are currently within a deep and dark overtly politicised un-scientific deliberate dis-enlightenment. Stand firm.

    Thanks, Paul.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 23, 2015 11:56 am

      How is Nicola Sturgeon shaping up on the renewables front? Not seen much in the news.

      • Naughty Dave! Mind your manners !! permalink
        January 23, 2015 2:35 pm

        It’s possible that Nicola’s renewables are quite shapely. Difficult to tell in those power suits that she wears

  6. January 23, 2015 7:33 am

    Interesting aspects, I enjoyed reading this article. I guess that the sea leel rise duriing 1923-1953 was also influenced by the war at sea, at least during the two World Wars. This effect definitely lasted for many years and influenced the sea and the climate. Here are some interesting facts, you might be interested in them:

  7. Bloke down the pub permalink
    January 23, 2015 12:11 pm

    As both the English Channel and the St George’s Channel funnel wind driven water, might part of what we are seeing at Devonport and Hollyhead be due to a change in the frequency of westerly winds?

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