We have nothing better to do, so let’s do some fun and useless calculations. To make it even more fun, we will use English units.
Sea level rise:
- How much has the sea level risen in the last hundred years? It has risen between 4 and 8 inches.
- What is the average depth of the ocean? NOAA estimates it is 12,100 feet.
- Therefore, the rise in sea level corresponds to about four inches, that is, one-third of a foot, divided by 12,100 feet; that is, its depth has increased by a factor of 0.0000275. Assuming that the area of the ocean remains unchanged, the volume has also increased by this amount.
- What is the volume of the ocean? It is 300 million cubic miles.
The volume of the ocean has therefore increased by 825,000 cubic miles.
Volumes of mountain ranges:
Sierra Nevada Mountains:
- What is the average height of the Sierra Nevada Mountains? Each peak has a different height, but we can use a little over 5,000 feet (one mile) as the average height.
- What is the area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains? About 24,000 square miles.
- The volume of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, therefore, is about 24,000 cubic miles, if you count down to sea level. If you count down only to 1,000 feet above sea level, typical of the surrounding area, the volume of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is 19,200 cubic miles.
Rocky Mountains (including Canada)
- What is the average height of the Rocky Mountains? Many peaks are over 14,000 feet, but we can use about half that amount (7,000 feet, or 1.4 miles) as the average. Many of the trails listed by the National Park Service are over 8,000 feet in elevation [https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/mileages.htm].
- What is the area of the Rocky Mountains? About 380,000 square miles.
- The volume of the Rocky Mountains is, therefore, about 532,000 cubic miles, if you count down to sea level. If you count down to about a mile above sea level, which is the elevation of some cities such as Denver at the base of the mountains, the volume of the Rocky Mountains is 152,000 cubic miles.
- What is the average height of the Alps? The Alps have about a hundred peaks over 13,000 feet. Grenoble, France, near the base of the Alps, is about 700 feet above sea level. We can therefore use about 7000 feet (1.4 miles) as the average elevation of the Alps.
- What is the area of the Alps? It is about 115,000 square miles.
- The volume of the Alps is, therefore, about 161,000 cubic miles if you count down to sea level. But if you count only to the base (about the elevation of Grenoble), the volume of the Alps is about 145,000 cubic miles.
Add these three volumes together and you get: the combined volume of the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains, and the Alps, is about 316,000 cubic miles. This is only 38% as much as the volume by which the oceans have increased in the last 100 years.
Meanwhile, enter Mo Brooks, Republican representative from Alabama, a member of the House Science Committee. He claimed, in a recent session as reported in Science magazine, that “soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas” is causing the observed sea level increase.
Rocks tumbling into the sea? Even if the Sierra Nevadas, the Rockies, and the Alps all fell into the sea, you would get only 38 percent of the observed sea level rise. Rocks tumbling into the sea? Why has nobody seen 825,000 cubic miles of rocks tumble into the sea?
Mo Brooks is on the House Science Committee. At least his theory, that sea level rise is being caused by rocks tumbling into the sea, is less stupid than Dana Rohrabacher’s theory that global warming in the past has been caused by dinosaur farts. Rorabacher is on the Science Committee too.
Of course, my calculations must be all wrong. When a Republican Congressman just makes something up out of thin air, he or she must be right, and all calculations that disagree with them must be wrong.
Four inches doesn’t sound like much, but for the ocean as a whole, that’s a lot of volume. About half of this volume has come from melting land ice, and half from thermal expansion.
It must be wonderful being a Republican. You can just make things up and they instantly become true regardless of any measurements made by any geographers or scientists over the last century. Republicans give themselves God-like, and blasphemous, powers of knowledge.