A meme comparing two images of water and ice does not prove that rising sea levels are a hoax and misrepresents the physics behind the phenomenon. Users shared the meme as proof that melting icebergs have a negligible impact on sea levels. However, it does not accurately reflect what occurs when land ice, such as glaciers, icebergs and ice sheets, melt into the ocean.
The meme compares images of two jugs, one with ice and water and the other without ice, with text above the images that reads: “A little science lesson for the #IDIOTS at the global warming conference.”
The image on the left shows a jug filled with water and ice meant to represent the ocean and an iceberg respectively. The same jug is also seen on the right, but in this instance the ice has melted, and the water level has stayed roughly the same. Therefore, the suggestion is that melting ice has little to no impact on ocean levels.
One user shared the meme on Twitter with a caption that reads: “Are you awake yet?” The post gathered more than 3,700 likes and 1,400 shares at the time of writing ( here ).
Other examples of the image can be found ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).
The meme is not proof that melting ice sheets do not cause sea levels to rise, however, and does not accurately represent the change in volume when land-based ice melts into the oceans.
Sea ice is formed from frozen ocean water and will contain a higher degree of salinity than land ice. By contrast, land ice such as glaciers, ice bergs and ice shelves, are formed on land ( here ).
“The correct analogy for land ice melting isn't showing ice floating in a glass of ice water, it's adding a whole bunch of new ice to the glass,” Professor Robert Kopp, a climate and sea-level scientist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University told Reuters ( here ).
“Ice that is already floating in water does not change the height of the water when it melts, whereas ice on land falling or melting into the ocean does,” he said. Prof. Kopp said that there could be a “very slight change” in the height of water should sea ice melt “if the liquid water is salty, as changes in salinity [do] affect density and therefore volume,” but this is only “a small effect.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) posted a video on YouTube which demonstrates the different impact melting sea ice and melting land ice have on water levels ( bit.ly/3xBJ3TM ), ( here ).
According to NASA, sea level rise is primarily caused by adding water due to melting glaciers and ice sheets as well as expansion of seawater – both factors linked to climate change ( here ).
Between 1993 and 2020, the mean sea level rose across most of the world’s oceans, with some ocean basins seeing a rise of 6-8 inches (15-20cm), according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ( here ).
Other outlets also covered the misleading meme as early as July 2019 ( here , here and here ).
Reuters has addressed similar claims about changing sea levels in fact-checks here , here , here and here .
Misleading. A meme circulating online comparing an image of a jug with ice to an image of just water is not proof that sea level rise is a myth. The meme misrepresents how land ice, such as glaciers and ice shelves, melts into oceans and subsequently causes sea levels to rise.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.