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HomeFact CheckViralSea Level Rise A Myth? No, Viral Photos Of Statue Of Liberty...

Sea Level Rise A Myth? No, Viral Photos Of Statue Of Liberty Misleading

Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Claim
Two photos of Statue Of Liberty, taken in 1898 and 2017, disprove sea level rise

Fact
Viral images do not account for tidal fluctuations, while New York’s sea level rise has been documented

Two photos of the Statue of the Liberty, purportedly taken more than 100 years apart, are circulating with social media users claiming that they were evidence enough to prove that there has not been any significant sea level rise, a known consequence of climate change.

The archived versions of the tweets can be seen here.

Also read: Nashville Shooting: Did Victim’s Father Vow To Fight ‘Trans Evil’? No, Viral Tweet Is Fabricated

How are sea levels linked to climate change?

According to the US government’s National Ocean Service, sea level can rise by two different mechanisms with respect to climate change. First, as the oceans warm due to an increasing global temperature, seawater expands—taking up more space in the ocean basin and causing a rise in water level. The second mechanism is the melting of ice over land, which then adds water to the ocean.

Fact check

Newschecker noticed that although the sea level in both the photos seem to be similar, the images of the iconic New York city landmark were clearly taken from different angles, indicating that it would be incorrect to infer that there has been no sea level rise in the past 100 years. A reverse image search revealed that the “1898” photo is from the New York Historical Society/Getty Images, while the image labelled “2017” seems to be from around 2012, considering the blue tarpaulin and green fences at the statue’s base.

Newschecker ran a keyword search for “Statue of Liberty sea level rise”, which led us to this report, titled “New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019”. According to the report, the local or relative sea level rise in New York City had averaged 0.11 inches per year from 1850 to 2017, as measured by The Battery tide gauge.

Viral photos of the Statue of Liberty taken more than 100 years apart do not disprove sea level rise as they don’t account for tidal fluctuations, even though a global increase in sea levels has been documented.

We then came across this AP report, dated March 21, 2023. “The global average sea level has risen 8 to 9 inches, or 203-228 mm, since 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while NASA estimates that the average sea level has risen roughly 3.8 inches, about 96.7 mm, since 1993. And the sea level at The Battery on the southern tip of Manhattan, around 1.7 miles from Liberty Island, has risen at a rate of almost a foot, or 304.8 mm, per 100 years, according to the NOAA,” read the report.

Viral photos of the Statue of Liberty taken more than 100 years apart do not disprove sea level rise as they don’t account for tidal fluctuations, even though a global increase in sea levels has been documented.

A similar article by USA Today, dated July 20, 2022, quoting climate scientist Robert Kopp, stated that sea levels around the Statue of Liberty have risen more than a foot since 1900. Kopp also pointed out the importance of tidal information, which we saw was not mentioned in the viral photos.  “You cannot make inferences about average sea level changes from these photos without correcting for the tidal cycle – and other forms of variation,” Kopp told USA Today. Because area tides fluctuate by five or more feet and sea levels have risen less than two feet, an average high tide in 1900 was still higher than an average low tide in the present day, the report read. “The human impact, of course, comes from the fact that sea level at a typical high tide in 2020 is 1.3 feet higher than in 1900,” said Kopp. Similarly, Jennie Lyons, a spokesperson for NOAA, told AP, “What these pictures don’t show is the tide height when these pictures were taken. Mean sea level, which is based upon long term averages not aliased by tide or weather, is the best way to measure long term changes.”

Conclusion

Viral photos of the Statue of Liberty taken more than 100 years apart do not disprove sea level rise as they don’t account for tidal fluctuations, even though a global increase in sea levels has been documented.

Result: False

Sources
USA Today report, July 20, 2022
AP news report, March 21, 2023
New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019 report


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Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Kushel HM
Kushel HM
Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

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