Boston Underwater?

March 24, 2009

Boston, you have been warned. Sea levels are rising , and if one of the IPCC’s five scenarios is correct, the world’s oceans will rise somewhere between 18 and 59 cm (7 to 23 inches) by 2100. If that isn’t terrifying enough for the people living on the New England coast, the Boston Globe now tells us that the ocean near Boston will rise 8 inches more than the world average. How will the hapless rubes of Boston cope with this onslaught of Atlantic water?

I wouldn’t lose to much sleep worrying about the folks in Boston when it comes to pushing back against the ocean. Excerpts from the following maps were used to make an animation of the changing coastline in Boston:

  • A 1775 map showing the Boston area with the rebel military works. Note especially the isthmus, known as Boston Neck< that connects the town of Boston to the mainland.
  • An 1838 George W. Boynton engraving of Boston area from a Thomas G. Bradford atlas.
  • USGS map of Boston area.
  • A 2009 satellite image from Google Earth

The top of the animation shows the maps after photoshopping to make the land and water more obvious. The bottom of the animation shows the unaltered excerpts of the maps or images.


The panic prone will argue that our Bostonian ancestors dealt with a static ocean, not a rising ocean. Not so fast. Check out the NOAA graph below (click inside graph to see it in context at NOAA site). It shows a sea level rise rate of 2.63 mm/yr for the last 100 years in Boston. At that rate it will rise 23.9 cm (9.4 inches) by 2100.

Boston sea level rise

Boston sea level rise data from NOAA. Click in image fro view in context.

Anyone who panics over the IPCCs 100 year projections of rising sea levels does not understand the perseverance and ingenuity of free people. Then there are others, like James Hansen, who enjoy the feeling of panic so much that that they exagerate the probable sea level rise for this century to get their thrills. But that is a story for another day…


  1. Throw another sandbag on the levee.
    To be safe, come back in a hundred years and do it again.

  2. […] Of all the talk about sea level rise, it is interesting to point out that at least in Boston, man has easily outraced the sea. The worry about sea level is real, but the ability of man to adapt is clearly illustrated in the comparitive maps. Just a note, I’ve modified the original blink comparator animation to make it a bit easier to watch. – Anthony From Climate Sanity: […]

  3. […] Watts has a post that looks at Boston Harbor, a post borrowed from a sleepy blog called Climate Sanity, by Tom Moriarty.  Watts, a leader among denialists, notes the warnings about sea level rising, and then offers […]

  4. […] thing that brought this on was one of my previous posts about the effect of sea level rise on Boston, which Anthony was kind enough to share with his huge […]

  5. […] recently had and exchange of comments with some folks at Millard Filmore’s Bathtub concerning one of my previous posts about sea level rise near Boston.  The discussion seemed to really strike a nerve with alarmist nag […]

  6. […] been some back and forth about the magnitude, consequences and proper response to sea level rise here, here, here, here and here. The alarmists would like to dismiss the evidence of man’s ability […]

  7. With the non-linear nature of global climatic disruption, the past cannot be used as a model to predict the future. (Especially when your evaluation of the past includes deliberate attempts to alter the environment. A look at an unaltered environment would more accurate, but ultimately still not useful for prediction).

    Your attempts to blatantly disregard scientific consensus is not just irresponsible; it is dangerous. Please stop before it’s too late.

  8. […] on by limiting CO2. Don't like that one, myself. What you're talking about is more adaptation. Here's an article on how Boston adapted to sea level rise over the centuries I agree with you that sort of thing sounds more sensible. However…you want to wrap a blanket […]

  9. […] on by limiting CO2. Don't like that one, myself. What you're talking about is more adaptation. Here's an article on how Boston adapted to sea level rise over the centuries I agree with you that sort of approach sounds more sensible. However…you want to wrap a blanket […]

  10. […] "small" sea level rise, it's no biggie. They did it in Boston, and nobody even noticed. Boston Underwater? Climate Sanity As far as your link goes, I'm not going address it, except to say it's one of those out their ass […]

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