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Fact Check-Comparing two photographs of Palm Beach, Sydney does not prove that global sea level rise is a myth

Comparing two images of the same location from different periods in time showing little to no apparent change in sea level does not prove that rising sea levels and climate change are myths.

Users have been sharing two photographs of Palm Beach, New South Wales, side-by-side purporting to date 99 years apart and with little apparent change in sea level as proof that climate change is fake.

An individual shared the comparison via Twitter on Jan. 23, 2022, and the tweet had gathered more than 2,900 likes by the time of writing ( here ).

One user said in the comments: “Global warming is a hoax. There has [sic] been natural disasters throughout history. Even in the 1850s and 1850s there was serious flooding in California. Global warming is pseudo science [sic].”

Another user who shared the images said: “My god this is frightening..!” ( here ).

Other examples of the claim on social media can be seen ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ).

Although Reuters could not find the source of the earlier image, the photograph featured in an article published in 2014 by The Daily Telegraph Australia, which reported that the image dated to the early 1900s ( archive.is/lRTWE ). A reverse image search showed the image purporting to have been taken in 2016 was published in a blog post in 2013 ( archive.is/FR6BY ).

Comparing the two images does not prove that a rising sea levels are a hoax.

The tide causes daily fluctuations in the water level and it would be impossible to use two photographs taken at random moments to illustrate a trend over time.

“Sea level is fluctuating on many different time-scales from semidiurnal, mixed, and diurnal tidal variations to the long-term sea level change due to climate change,” Beata Csatho, professor and chair of geology at the University at Buffalo and member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Sea Level Change Team, told Reuters previously ( here ).

Australian government Bureau of Meteorology data for Ettalong, close to Palm Beach, can be seen ( here ), where water levels can fluctuate by more than 1 meter between high and low tide on a given day.

New South Wales government tidal data can be seen ( here ).

“Local rates, whether Sydney or San Diego, provide sea level changes relative to land. Where the land is rising or sinking will produce different local rates. So, in Sydney, the land has been rising over the period of tide gauge measurements producing lower than global sea level rise rates,” Gary Griggs, Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, told Reuters previously ( here ).

While analyzing coastal imagery can be very helpful when researching coastal erosion and beach morphology, hundreds of images are needed. Dr Sean Vitousek, Research Oceanographer, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) told Reuters: “As my collaborators at UNSW Sydney have demonstrated (in countless applications), analyzing coastal imagery is a powerful tool to assess coastal erosion. However, to do this properly you need hundreds of images, not just two. You also must account for the dynamic processes like tide, waves, seasonal erosion cycles, etc. that affect the beach state to get a comprehensive understanding of long-term beach erosion.”

The Australian Government Department of Climate Change report published in 2009 on climate change risks to the Australian coast can be viewed ( here ).

Reuters previously addressed similar claims pertaining to Fort Denison, Sydney ( here ).

In 2020, global sea level set a record high of 91.3 mm (3.6 inches) above 1993 levels ( bit.ly/3HqHyKF ), ( here ).

VERDICT

False. It is not possible to measure a rise in sea level by comparing two randomly taken images of the same location, nor are two photographs of a coastal region proof that global sea-level rise is a hoax.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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