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UK Sea Level Rise Not Unprecedented, Nor Accelerating

September 3, 2020

By Paul Homewood


See the source image

Newlyn Harbour

We are probably familiar with sea levels charts for Newlyn and North Shields, the main two long running tidal gauge sites in the UK;






Both show a steady rise around the long term trend, but with often large monthly variations. To get a better idea of long term trends, I have calculated decadal averages from the monthly data supplied by PSMSL.

North Shields only has full data up to 2017, so I have used 2008-17 as the current decade there:




We can see that sea levels actually fell in the middle of the last century, though curiously the drop occurred earlier in North Shields than Newlyn.


We can get a clearer picture though from the changes from decade to decade:




At Newlyn, there was a sharp rise in sea levels during the 1980s, but this presumably must be seen in context with the fall in the 1970s.

Similarly at North Shields, the fall in the 1960s and rise in the 1970s.

At both sites, sea level rise has actually slowed in the last decade. (The data available at North Shields, though not complete, shows a continued drop in sea level in 2018 and 2019).

And in both cases, the latest decadal rise is less than seen in some decades in the 20thC.

It is fair to add that the rise post 2000 is connected to the pause in sea level rise in the 1990s. The latter was of course the direct consequence of the Pinatubo explosion, which led to several years of global cooling.


This pattern of a slowdown or fall in sea levels in the 1960s and 70s is seen at many other sites around the world, as are rates of rise as high as now in the decades prior to that.

Both phenomena are, of course, consistent with warming in the Arctic in the 1920s and 30s, followed by the much colder interlude there, which ended in the 1990s. Global temperatures followed the same pattern too.

Although the overall rate of rise is around 2mm a year, because of periods when there was no rise at all there have been other periods when sea levels have been rising faster.

Annual sea level rise of around 3mm a year was typical prior to the cooldown, and is similar to what is being reported now by satellites.


Whether we enter another period of AMO related cooling in coming decades remains to be seen. But what the data conclusively shows is that, as far as the UK is concerned, the recent rate of sea level rise is not unprecedented, nor is there any evidence of it accelerating.

  1. Tim Spence permalink
    September 3, 2020 9:51 pm

    Same in all the world, why is London building London Gateway port at sea level, why did the Maldives build 17 airports when they were supposed to be under water in year 2000, why are China building artificial islands in the South China Sea, Why did Obama buy a $11m mansion at sea level, and Al Gore ???

    Because the money men know they’re safe and insurable. The bookies know the odds.

    • Henning Nielsen permalink
      September 4, 2020 9:57 pm

      Tim, have you ever reflected on why there are no scare stories about Diego Garcia? Part of the UK overseas territory, this atoll is situated well to the south of the Seychelles, and is as low as that perennially sinking island state. Diego Garcia is usually in the news because of the large US air base there, used also by long-range B 52 bombers. So why are we not being told of the soon to come demise of this British possesion? Well, because…where is the money to come from? It makes no sense for the UK to wring guilt payments from, and back to, its own coffers, does it? So, no blackmail, no drowning atoll, and no Diego Garcia climate scare news, because no news is good news.

  2. September 3, 2020 9:52 pm

    What if you were to compare these to CO2 levels? Would they show that despite rising CO2 levels rising sea levels have not accelerated.

    • Broadlands permalink
      September 4, 2020 12:06 am

      Where is any evidence that the AMO, the NAO or the ENSO has been correlated with and influenced by the human addition of CO2? Both are entirely part of natural variability, events that have taken place for thousands of years.

  3. Philip Mulholland permalink
    September 3, 2020 10:03 pm

    The most accurately measured geophysical parameter for the body of the Earth by far is variations in the Length of Day (delta LOD). Modern atomic clocks measure this planetary rotation rate to an astonishing degree of accuracy and it is a number that cannot be fudged

    Short term changes in LOD are caused by fluid movement over the surface of the Earth and in particular the movement of water in the oceans. Melting ice at high latitudes travels as liquid water to low latitudes and in doing so this water mass moves away from the spin axis of the planet. (Think of a spinning ice skater moving her arms away to slow down).

    If a catastrophic change in sea level was occurring we would see this (with a small lag) as an increased slowing in the rate of rotation of the Earth. No such effect is observed in the LOD. So the imputed acceleration in sea level rise is a phony.

    • Harry Davidson permalink
      September 3, 2020 10:43 pm

      Now that is interesting.

    • OldCynic permalink
      September 3, 2020 11:37 pm

      ” If a catastrophic change in sea level was occurring we would see this (with a small lag) as an increased slowing in the rate of rotation of the Earth ”

      Philip; that is an intriguing hypothesis, but the obvious (to me) concern is that perhaps even a major melting of polar ice might generate a decent rise in sea level but might not release enough water to slow the rotation of the planet. Like the ice skater moving her arms out by just a couple of inches.

      Do you have any calculations about how much water would be needed to change LOD by a measurable amount, and its impact on sea levels? Even back of a fag-packet figures would be interesting.

      • Philip Mulholland permalink
        September 4, 2020 12:32 am

        “Do you have any calculations about how much water would be needed to change LOD by a measurable amount, and its impact on sea levels? ”
        Short answer – No. LOD is a complicated subject, so I am going to have to think about it. Just to start you off however, the #1 take home message is that LOD is a measurement science and not a modelling science.

        LOD is a rich source of information on many levels with different frequencies, amplitudes and hiatuses. It is the hiatuses that are the most intriguing as they appear to be long-term predictors of the natural 60-year climate cycle, I used the recorded delta LOD hiatus in 2005 to look in the following years for changes in the weather cycle associated with the switch to meridional weather patterns (north-south) that we are now experiencing.

        See West African Monsoon crosses the Sahara desert

      • dave permalink
        September 4, 2020 10:47 am

        “…any calculations…”

        ‘Rotational eustacy.’ One can start with:

        (Morner is a well known scientist, who has now received the usual vile treatment from the denizens of the academic swamp. Somewhere on the internet there is an interview with him.)

        Although Morner claims it as a novel concept, I remember seeing something similar, set as an end-of-chapter problem in a nineteenth century treatise* on Dynamics!

        * Might have been this book:

      • Philip Mulholland permalink
        September 4, 2020 6:31 pm

        “Like the ice skater moving her arms out by just a couple of inches.”
        The following is work in progress, but I want to clarify a point about the scale of the effect we are discussing. It is not that sea-level is being raised by a couple of inches (which it is), it is that the water required to do this moves from a high latitude to the Equator.. The rotational distance involved for this translation is measured from the spin axis and not from the centre of the Earth.

        While no one can stand at the centre of the Earth, it is absolutely possible to stand at the locus of the spin axis (aka The South Pole).
        The radius of the Earth at the equator is 6,378 km, so if we melt a mass of ice from the South Pole and move it to the Equator then the water moves a distance of 6,378 km away from the spin axis of the planet.

  4. September 3, 2020 10:29 pm

    ‘Unprecedented’ assertion is not science, it’s the work of charlatans.

    • September 3, 2020 10:59 pm

      I agree. So many things are falsely described as being unprecedented when the writer is looking back only 150 years.

  5. I_am_not_a_robot permalink
    September 3, 2020 10:33 pm

    The often raised confounding factor of post-glacial rebound (or pivot) doesn’t seem to be a factor in each case, Newlyn Harbour ostensibly sinking and North Shields ostensibly lifting:

  6. Jackington permalink
    September 3, 2020 11:09 pm

    Thanks for that Paul – you never fail to lift my spirits.

  7. Mack permalink
    September 3, 2020 11:40 pm

    The bottom line is: nothing to cause any alarm is going on, nor unprecedented, and there’s no evidence that global man made activities have made the situation worse than it would be naturally, aside from very localised land management and abstraction activities. Natural sea level rise is perfectly manageable with proper mitigation efforts. A fact that none of our government agencies want to recognise. ‘Climate change’ tends to be the ultimate excuse for official inaction.

  8. Graeme No.3 permalink
    September 4, 2020 12:28 am

    The Romans built Pevensey castle on a peninsula, with water on 3 sides.
    William the Conqueror moored his invasion ships in the Harbour.
    So a thousand years (plus) of rising sea level would show the sea even closer to the castle walls .

    • Mack permalink
      September 4, 2020 1:30 am

      Indeed Graeme, in 300AD the sea lapped the walls of the original fort in a period, once known, and now forgotten by the media and climate alarmists alike, as the ‘Roman Warming’. As you say, William the Conqueror was able to harbour his invasion fleet adjacent to the fort over 700 years later in a period, similarly erased by doomsters, once known as the ‘Medieval Warming’. Now, if you were a climate alarmist wanting to besiege Pevensey Castle from an invasion fleet from France, you’d have to moor your bloody ships a fair distance away in the English Channel and march at least a mile inland to reach the once coastal redoubt. That’s catastrophic modern man made sea level rise for you!

      • norman paul weldon permalink
        September 4, 2020 11:44 am

        I was in Zanzibar last winter, the island is made of old coral. When I told the locals and ‘green’ holidaymakers that meant that Zanzibar was once under water, and therefore the temperatures higher than today, they looked totally shocked. On one eroding coastal structure the embedded shells looked remarkably fresh. Would love to know during which warm era they were formed. Wish also that I could enclose a photo of this, it shows how little they have fossilized.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        September 5, 2020 3:10 am

        What are the tides like at Pevensey? From memory they can be about 4 metres which (with a small sea rise) be enough to isolate the castle and the Saxons give it a name indicating an island.

      • dave permalink
        September 5, 2020 8:41 am

        It makes me a little uneasy when Pevensey Castle is invoked as evidence of global sea-level changes. From the time it was first constructed as Anderida – one of the Roman ‘Forts of the Saxon Shore’ – a lot has happened with the local geology. The first thing is that Beachy Head has eroded, and the long-shore drift of the cobbles and shingle from this has built up the land all the way to Bexhill (the Crumbles shingle). The second thing is that there has been continuing reclamation work, the details of which are lost.

        Much of the Pevensey Levels area IS significantly below high-tide level, being 2 meters above mean sea level compared to maximum tides of + 4.2 meters.

        The standard geologist’s view of the local sea level is that it rose 90 meters from 18,000 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. and has stayed the same ever since. Of course a few centimeters more or less in modern times or the rest of this decade is completely inconsequential, compared to the main rise. The sea is now lapping at the base of high cliffs in most places and will have to erode before it can encroach.

        How much would it cost to build the sea-walls of Britain a foot higher? A lot less than building a silly railway to Birmingham.

    • Phillip Bratby permalink
      September 4, 2020 6:51 am

      It’s the same at Harlech Castle. It was built next to the sea so that it could be supplied during a siege. Now it is a long way from the sea (or should that be the sea is a long way from the castle).

      • September 4, 2020 8:44 am

        Harlech foreshore is accreting with material transported from Fairborne (the Victorian holiday village ) by long-shore drift.

        Harlech Castles dock/water gate is next to the road/rail level crossing at Harlech station.

    • John Palmer permalink
      September 4, 2020 7:51 am

      Completely OTT, but has anyone any info on the rather pleasant music accompanying the video please?

      • September 4, 2020 8:33 am

        ‘Laid Back Guitars’ ~ Kevin MacLeod

        4mins … enjoy

    • Pancho Plail permalink
      September 4, 2020 8:34 am

      There is an interesting series of maps of Pevensey and the effects of higher sea levels here:

      • John Palmer permalink
        September 4, 2020 11:34 am

        To save energy…. may thanks!

  9. In the Real World permalink
    September 4, 2020 11:07 am

    The 60s /70s were when the ” Scientists ” were telling us that a new Ice Age was coming , so might explain the drop in sea levels at that time .

    I remember seeing photos of a tree on the shore in India ? , which showed the tide levels were no different from over 100 years ago . That tree was then destroyed by Green Loonies because it showed up their rising seas story as lies .

    And then there is the lies about sea levels rising if the Arctic Ocean melted . As the North pole is all floating ice , melting there would have no effect on sea levels .

    But you can be sure the AGW crowd will continue their desperate lies .

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      September 4, 2020 12:19 pm

      In the Real World:
      I think you will find that this was in The Maldives and that the Green Loonies were 3 australians upset that the 1988 ‘prediction’ of The Maldives being submerged by 2018 wasn’t happening. Around 10 years ago..

  10. Mad Mike permalink
    September 4, 2020 11:20 am

    Off topic but our old friend is at it again upsetting his green friends, or ex-friends by now, and promoting nuclear. He briefly mentions that the UK, and by inference the rest of the world, cannot use renewables entirely for electricity generation.

    Perhaps Shellenberger might contribute here one day.

    • In the Real World permalink
      September 4, 2020 12:04 pm

      It does get quite complicated , but it is just about impossible to run a grid on non/ synchronous generation ,[ wind & solar ].
      Depends on the load variations , but a figure of 30% to 40 % wind / solar is about the max possible before the frequency becomes unstable & the automatic controls will shut down .
      [ Ref Aug 9th ? , last year, blackouts ].

      So , for the idea of electric cars & home heating , the country will need something like another 20 to 40 Hinckley C power stations plus massive upgrading to the grid .

  11. Vernon E permalink
    September 4, 2020 11:58 am

    Every time the eco-loons try to defend their claims of sea level rise they fall back on Bangla Desh. This is just one huge delta for some of the largest rivers in Asia and, like all deltas , its levels go up and down erratically. Bangla Desh is really on the Bay of Bengal for which the records show absolutely typical sea level changes of 1 – 3 mms per year. If it were not thus miilions would be dying in Calcutta.

  12. jack broughton permalink
    September 4, 2020 1:11 pm

    The definitive source for tidal gauges is NOAA and their Tides and Currents department. They publish data for the 366 long-term tidal gauge stations, which show a wide range of variance around the world as land moves as well as increased ice melt affect regions. The rates of rise very from rapid rise to large falls. Source is :–

    The IPCC report gives a mean since 1901 of 1.7 mm /year. They noted that the rate between 1993 and 2101 had increased to 3.2 mm/y but that this rate had occurred previously (1920 – 1950) and so was of limited significance.

    Some people claim that the increased rates between 1993 and 2010 were significant, but the rate of rise since 2010 is zero. Any trend over less than 30 years should not be considered as significant according to the WMO.

  13. September 4, 2020 1:28 pm

    “We are probably familiar with sea levels charts for Newlyn and North Shields, the main two long running tidal gauge sites in the UK. Both show a steady rise around the long term trend, but with often large monthly variations. To get a better idea of long term trends, I have calculated decadal averages from the monthly data”

    A  consideration in the study of sea level rise is the complexity of ocean dynamics that creates spatial and temporal differences that are natural and that therefore have no interpretation in terms of an external or artificial cause. AGW does not force SLR at the same rate everywhere. Rather, there are spatial variations of SLR superimposed on a global average rise. These variations are forced by ocean circulations, variations in temperature and salinity, mass re-distributions, changing gravity, and the Earth’s rotation and shape. These effects form unique spatial and temporal patterns in SLR that appear to be random” (Landerer, 2007) (Levermann, 2005) (Schleussner, 2011).

    Therefore no single tide gauge time series data has an interpretation in terms of a trend in global mean eustatic sea level. 

    Pls see

  14. Richard Hill permalink
    September 4, 2020 4:36 pm

    Sea level rise is the parameter that all sceptics should concentrate upon. It aggregates the melting of ice crystals all over the planet into one readily understood measure, a float gauge. No UHI, no homogenisation, just the physical property of heat required to melt a crystal. This is a true measure of change in retained energy of the surface of our planet.

    The alarmists do understand this. In their headline articles NOAA now splice the satellite record onto the sea level gauges from 1993 onwards to claim ‘acceleration’ of ice melt. It’s comparing apples and oranges of course because the satellites measure the entire sea surface, therefore measuring a greater depth of warming water which likely expands more than the shallow waters of the coast. Not science, just propaganda manipulation of those who might think a satellite is bound to be ‘better’ than a float gauge. Satellites are of course an order of magnitude less sensitive ATM as is often the case with immature tech.

    The absence of a change in rate of sea level rise pre and post industrial revolution in the long term gauges that Paul quotes and others including The Battery on Manhatten Island is the clincher, along with supporting evidence from all the other gauges in the PSMSL. No change in acceleration = no response to CO2.

    As simple as ‘97%’ to explain to your friends who’ve never thought to question the dogma. Best of all graphs are available at the touch of a smart phone screen to illustrate the point.

  15. September 4, 2020 5:10 pm

    BBC Newsround page : viewer comments

    Cheryleene 11:21
    are you serious, im upset that no one listens to climate change 😭

    Message from NewsroundNewsround
    We’re sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult time.
    It could really help to talk to someone about how you are feeling.
    You can confide in any trusted adult such as a parent, relative or teacher,
    but if there is no one you feel you can speak to, you can call Childline on 0800 11 11
    – calls are free, confidential and won’t show up on any bill.
    You can also visit the Childline website at,
    and there is a free Childline app you can download called For Me.

    Do try to speak to someone as soon as possible.
    You might be surprised to find out how much better you feel when you share your feelings.

  16. September 4, 2020 8:51 pm

    Nottingham council ‘sorry’ as Robin Hood Energy collapses
    (Red Robbing council closed bankrupt Robin Hood Energy dream)

    A council has apologised after losing millions of pounds of public cash in the collapse of an energy company it started.
    Robin Hood Energy (RHE) is shutting with the loss of 230 jobs despite millions poured into it by Nottingham City Council.
    British Gas will take on its customer base of thousands of homes in England.

    The council said the sale will not make up all its losses,
    which leaked documents suggest are £38.1 million.

    • September 4, 2020 8:52 pm

      Oh BH Unthreaded for list of similar council corp cockups.

  17. john cooknell permalink
    September 4, 2020 9:14 pm

    The official Gov.UK sea level is here

    The National Tidal and Sea Level Facility (NTSLF) is the UK centre of excellence for sea level monitoring, coastal flood forecasting and the analysis of sea level extremes.
    It is the focus for sea level research in the UK and for its interpretation into advice for policy makers, planners and coastal engineers.

    it gives 1.4mm +/- 0.2mm per year rise.

    What I find interesting and not explained, is the extreme tidal ranges in the early years of the 20thC which indicate, standard deviations 3 or 4 times the SD in the later record. This means high tide levels at start of 20thC often exceeded high tide levels of today. So actually we are less at risk.

  18. europeanonion permalink
    September 5, 2020 10:33 am

    What part do the accumulation of sediments contribute to any sea level rises? When you have a collection of mighty rivers discharging a phenomenal amount of land into the world’s oceans I could not imagine that discharge not making a difference.

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