That Sinking Feeling

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Our local media is up to their usual alarmism. From the San Francisco Chronicle (paywalled, so I quote). Emphasis mine.

This part of California has the fastest sea level rise on the West Coast. Here’s what’s at stake

ARCATA, Humboldt County — Anchored by the cities of Eureka and Arcata and known for its redwood forests, cannabis tourism and cool, misty beaches, Humboldt Bay also has an unwelcome distinction: It has the fastest rate of sea level rise on the West Coast.

Tectonic activity is causing the area around the bay roughly 300 miles north of San Francisco to sink, which gives it a rate of sea level rise that is about twice the state average. Compared to 2000, the sea in the area is expected to rise 1 foot [305 mm] by 2030, 2.3 feet [700 mm] by 2050 and 3.1 feet [945 mm] by 2060, according to California Ocean Protection Council.

I saw that prediction for 2060 and I laughed. Three feet in forty years? No way. But the entire prediction turned out even worse than I thought.

Humboldt Bay is on the California coast a couple hundred miles north of where I live. So, what does Humboldt Bay look like? Here’s an overview. The main towns are Eureka in the middle and Arcata in the north.

Figure 1. Aerial view, Humboldt Bay. It’s divided into Arcata Bay in the north and South Bay in … yes, you guessed it.

Note that the outer side of the bay is made up of two spits of land, the North Spit and South Spit. The entrance channel into the bay is between them. The town of Fairhaven is on the North Spit. These are sand spits that were piled up by the endless action of the waves and the storms. Here’s a clear description:


So this is not solid ground as we understand it. It is a shifting pile of sand, alternately built up and eroded away by wind, wave, and current.

But wait, it gets worse. The nice neat entrance you see below hasn’t always been there.

Entrance to Humboldt Bay, showing the North and South Spits, the two jetties, and the channel.

Originally there was a shallow, ever-shifting channel in that general location. It was in a different location after each winter and indeed after each storm. It was hard to find from at sea and harder to navigate. Here’s the history.

SOURCE: Humboldt Baykeeper, fascinating article.

Note that as soon as they put in the south jetty, the North Spit started to erode and change shape. And even now, annual dredging is required to keep the channel open—currents and storms move millions of cubic meters of sand/sediment every year. In addition, there’s the sediment coming from the land, which you can see clearly in the photo above.

I bring all of this up to point out that it is no surprise that the south tip of the North Spit is subsiding. It’s an artificial cut through a skinny strip of sand, and sand and sediment is constantly being removed from around the base..

And to add to that, the whole area is at the intersection of three tectonic plates, so there is unequal subsidence everywhere.

Being somewhat obsessive, I went and got the GPS-determined subsidence rates around the Bay and I mapped them up. As always … surprises, the best part of science.

Dang … didn’t expect that. Near the south end of the North Spit, where the North Spit tide gauge is located, it’s dropping (relatively) fast. Subsidence of 2.33 millimeters per year is about the same magnitude as the global average sea level rise. So the relative rise there is way above the true rise.

But merely four miles (six km) up the North Spit in Samoa, it’s only subsiding at a tenth of that rate, 0.25 mm/yr. Go figure.

South Bay is also subsiding. I suspect this is because it was originally marsh. Since back in the 1890s, it has been extensively diked and drained for agriculture and grazing, and drilled for wells. So subsidence is to be expected.

Moving on, how do the subsidence and the sea level rise average out in the North Spit tide gauge record? Here’s NOAA on the subject.

Note that there is no sign of any increase in the rate of sea level rise at North Spit. It’s been rising steadily at ~ 4.9 mm/year since 1979.

Given all that as prologue, I return to the original COPC claim, viz:

Compared to 2000, the sea in the area is expected to rise 1 foot by 2030, 2.3 feet by 2050 and 3.1 feet by 2060, according to California Ocean Protection Council.

Here’s a graph showing the same historical observations we see in the NOAA figure above (thin black line). In addition, the graph includes several extrapolations to the year 2060—straight line (dotted red), exponential growth (yellow), and the COPC prediction above (blue).

The California Ocean Protection Council (COPC) projection shown in blue is a sick joke. It would require a huge unheard of immediate change in the rate of sea level rise … and then it assumes that the new very rapid rate of rise would remain unchanged for 38 years.

Riight …

Seriously? What huge new source of water are they thinking will suddenly turn on tomorrow and then maintain that tremendous flow rate for the next 38 years?

And there’s a further problem. IF (and it’s a very big if) the rise is to get to 3.1 feet (945 mm), it will do so gradually, in some form similar to the yellow line. But the problem with that is that if the change is slow, by the end it has to change a lot every year. So at the end of that rise shown by the yellow line, the annual increase would be 47 mm per year, well beyond anything believable.

How unusual would this 47 mm/year rate of sea level rise be? We’ve not seen a rise that rapid in 100,000 years. The fastest sea level rise in that time occurred as the miles of ice from the last glaciation were melting into the sea. The peak was in a period called Meltwater Pulse 1A … and during that time, the rate of sea-level rise was 40 mm/year.

Not only that but there’s no miles-thick ice over the Canadian shield to melt anymore. Other than some glaciers it’s all gone. So just where is the water supposed to come from to raise sea levels by 47 mm/year?

And lest you think this is just NGO people saying this, here’s the University view, from the Cal Poly Humboldt Sea Level Rise Institute on the subject:

Sea level in Humboldt Bay is projected to rise as much as three feet by 2060, which could lead to severe social, cultural, economic, and environmental consequences without an effective adaptive response. Other coastal areas in the North Coast region face similar risks.

I gotta say, I am continually astounded at the unquestioned credulity of climate activists. The cycle goes like this.

Some “scientist” makes an outrageous prediction. Then NGOs, and government officials, and the media and other activist scientists, and the media take it as gospel. Soon, it is an unquestioned part of the climate narrative.

The rest of the cycle is that some joker like me comes along to point out that their prediction is garbage, and people attack me for being a “climate denier” and not having a Ph.D. …

And tragically, that’s modern climate “science” in a nutshell.

If there is any message from this, it reinforces what I modestly call Willis’s First Rule of Funding, which states:

Claiming DANGER! increases funding.

Seriously. If there’s no threat, the funding dries up. These Councils and Institutes would be out of a job if they were saying “Well, as best as we can tell there’s been no significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.” The Humboldt Bay city officials aren’t going to hire someone to do some deep study of a continuation of past trends.

The same thing is true with the whole climate hype. Climate Alarmism is a giant industry at this point, employing thousands and thousands of people around the planet. And as Upton Sinclair presciently noted,

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary

depends on not understanding it.”

In any case, I’d advise the good city folk of Eureka and Arcata to ignore what the California Ocean Protection folks and the Cal Poly folks are saying. Their predictions are simply not possible. And the fact that they haven’t questioned that ridiculous prediction, when I knew it was not possible as soon as I read it, speaks very poorly of their attention to detail.

And my advice in general?

When there’s both uncertainty and big money at play, don’t trust anyone, “expert” or not.

Including me.

It’s why I link to my data sources—so you can check on what I’m saying.

What more can I tell you about Humboldt Bay, and why I’m fond of the place? Well, one winter back around 1970, I spent a week commercial fishing out of there, setting out and running crab pots. The crab fishing boats on the North Coast are much smaller than those you see on “Deadliest Catch“. Many are on the order of 30 feet (9m) or so. As a result, you can only load a small number of pots on them.

So on the opening days of the crab season, it’s a crazy race to get all your pots in the water. Up at 4:30, down to the boat. Cold. Pots already loaded, jump aboard, leave the dock. December dawn, a bleak but stunning vista. Start breaking up blocks of frozen squid for bait. Fingers numb with cold. Motor across the bay and into the channel to the ocean (center left above). The first day it was fairly calm, looked kinda like this view south from the Humboldt entrance south jetty:

Bait pots and dump them overboard, one after another. Then go back for another load. Back and forth all day. Home after dark.

Up again at 4:30. Windy. Most harbors have a “bar” where the outgoing river water drops its load of sediment. The Humboldt Bar is famous because waves can break all the way across the channel, preventing any boats from entering and leaving. Lots of boats have died there, people too.

SOURCE: North Coast Journal That’s a 44-foot Coast Guard Lifeboat that can survive a 360° roll. Don’t want to see that.

But that day the swells were big, but not breaking. Once again, icy fingers from handling frozen squid. Bait pots and dump them. Then go run the pots from yesterday. Take out any crab, rebait the pots, overboard again. Run back in for another load. From there, “lather, rinse, repeat”, as they say.

And since I was only hired for the opening of the season, to help get all the pots into the ocean, once that was done I was free to once again live out another chapter in my lifelong goal …

Retire Early

And Often

Best thing about commercial fishing?

If I gotta have an office, it’s the most awe-inspiring office I know of. Here’s the Humboldt Marina.

Best of this amazing life to you, dear friends. I can only wish that you take more chances, live out more of your dreams, and question all experts.


via Watts Up With That?

October 3, 2022 at 12:51PM

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