Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
The Statue of Liberty standing at the southwestern entrance (New Jersey side) of New York Harbor (Hudson River side) is our Nations most recognized symbol of freedom and hope since its dedication in 1886, and a perfect for testing sea level rise acceleration.
The Statue is housed on Liberty Island (shown below) which is a small 14.7-acre island immediately south of Ellis Island which now houses the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.
Following is a brief listing of some off the key information regarding Liberty Island’s long history including the building of the seawalls that protect the island.
Liberty Island has history going back to its Pre-1000 CE Native American inhabitants that called the island one of three “Oyster Islands” in New York Harbor with these islands representing a major food source.
The Dutch took position of the island in 1609 and in 1667 ownership was obtained by a Dutch colonist named Isaac Bedloe.
1673 Bedloe dies and the island is renamed Bedloe’s Island.
1732 Mary Bedloe Smith (Isaac’s widow) sells the island to New York merchants to resolve her bankruptcy issues.
1738 New York City takes possession of the island for inspecting incoming ships for contamination and disease.
1794 after the American Revolution the Federal Government appropriates funding to construct fortifications on Bedloe’s Island.
1808 to 1811 the U. S. Army administers the building of a military fort on the island. The facility is called Fort Wood with an 11-point star fortress that aides the protection of New York Harbor. See Figure 2.2 below.
1834 New York and New Jersey establish that all of Liberty Islands lands (then Bedloe’s Island) above the low-level water mark are designated as lying within New York and all submerged riparian rights to water and submerged lands surrounding the island are designated as being within New Jersey.
1842 to 1844 A building program was undertaken in the 1840s to significantly improve the deteriorating condition of Fort Wood which included the construction of a new granite seawall that still surrounds the southern end of Liberty Island today that was built in 1842-44 that replaced the prior seawall which was in place between 1811 -1842. Aside from protecting the island’s shoreline the new seawall also retained fill that supported an artificial slope leading up to an earthen parapet surmounted by an outer battery at that time as shown in the diagram of the work below. (Referenced link Pages 2-5 & 2-6 from Chapter 2B History of Liberty Island)
1874 to 1907 The existing portion of the eastern seawall was extended to the northern tip of the island between 1874 and 1879. In 1887 this seawall was further extended around the northern tip and partway down the western side sufficient to protect the newly created Lighthouse Board Reservation. The western seawall perimeter was fully completed between 1901 and 1907 by the U.S. Army, which led to additional filling to provide a basis for a new barracks building.
In summary, the existing seawall at Liberty Island (then called Bedloe’s Island) was established by 1844 for the southern, south eastern and south western end of the island that now protect the Statue of Liberty base, pedestal and statue, then extended along the eastern side of the island by 1879, then further extended along the northern tip and part of the western side of the island by 1887 and finally completed for the remaining western side of the island between 1901 and 1907.
1877 Bedloe’s Island is designated as the site for the Statue of Liberty. The U.S. begins fundraising for the construction of the pedestal. The Army administers the islands military post until 1937.
1881 Architect Richard Morris Hunt completes the initial designs of the pedestal which maintains the 11-point star outline of Fort Wood with significantly increased height and strength.
1884 Hunt finalizes the pedestal plan which requires up to 20-foot-thick concrete walls faced with granite block.
1886 The Statue’s pedestal is complete. The Statue of Liberty is reassembled on the pedestal and dedicated on October 28th, 1886.
1956 Bedloe’s Island is renamed Liberty Island by a joint resolution of Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower.
2003 to 2004 The National Park Service (NPS) signs a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair “340 linear feet of the 3,119 foot Granite-faced vertical concrete Liberty Island seawall that was originally constructed in the early 19th century and surrounds most of the island. The repairs took place at locations where granite stones had fallen out of the seawall.”
“Construction began in April 2004 and ended in June 2004. “We repaired the seawall on the north and south side of the Liberty Island NPS Shuttle Dock located in the Southeast section of the island,” said Ciorra. “We did this by first hydro blasting the exposed concrete on the seawall, in areas where seawall blocks have dislodged, in order to remove algae, moss and dirt, and then manually removed old grout and loose disintegrated concrete. We also replaced the disintegrated concrete with Sulphate-Resistant Air Entrained Concrete that is resistant to the marine environment. We took the 36 existing large granite blocks that dislodged, cleaned them, and grouted and reset them back into the wall with mortar.”
“In addition, the entire 340 linear feet of seawall was cleaned and repainted beyond where the actual stones were dislodged and reset,” said Brian Jackson, Project Engineer, USACE, New York District. “The stones that were dislodged and reset were actually only a small portion of the entire length of the wall.”
A photo of the seawall repair site is shown below. The Shuttle Dock is visible in the far-right hand side of the photo.
The photo below shows the ferry dock (far left side with a ferry positioned at this dock) and the Shuttle Dock (right side) used at Liberty Island. The Shuttle Dock is used for National Park Service employees, loading and offloading supplies and materials and other equipment needed to support National Park operations. Both these docks were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and then rebuilt. The 11-point star pedestal base remnant shape originally from Fort Wood that supports the Statue of Liberty is quite visible.
2012 to 2013 Hurricane Sandy struck New York Harbor on October 29, 2012, with a 14-foot storm surge that destroyed both the ferry dock and Shuttle Dock at Liberty Island along with the electrical and sewage systems and much of the walkways and railings surrounding the pedestal. The Statue of Liberty opened again on July 4, 2013, using the rebuilt Shuttle Dock with the ferry dock rebuilding still underway.
Photos below show some of the infrastructure damage and the start of demolition allowing the rebuilding of Shuttle Dock which was used to bring visitors and dignitaries to the re-opening ceremonies of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty.
The NPS photo below shows the damaged Shuttle Dock demolition in progress because of the extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy.
The NPS summary of the impacts of Hurricane Sandy are noted below regarding Liberty Island.
“Hurricane Sandy caused a significant amount of damage to the infrastructure on Liberty Island. The Statue and its pedestal and base were unharmed, but all mechanical systems, docks, Promenade, and ancillary structures around the rest of the island experienced heavy damage.
The two dock systems for Liberty Island are critical infrastructure to the parks’ operations, as they provide access and egress for visitors and staff.”
A photo of the July 4, 2013, reopening of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty using the rebuilt Shuttle Dock (the ferry dock rebuild was still underway) to convey visitors and dignitaries to the re-opening ceremonies is shown below.
The seawall shown in photo above is the south eastern portion of Liberty Island that has been is existence since 1844 that has protected the base, pedestal and Statue of Liberty structures for about 179 years with work done in 2004 by the Army Corps of Engineers to repair a total length of 340 foot seawall section located on either side of the Shuttle Dock (the total seawall around the island comprises 3,119 feet) for various types of damaged, cleaning and painting of the granite wall as described in the Liberty Island history summary provided above.
The seawall that protects Liberty Island was constructed in the 19th century and remains intact without changes in the seawalls constructed position and height as described in the Liberty Island history key information summary.
Photographs taken of the Statue of Liberty going back as far as 1844 are comparable to photographs taken even today with the seawall that protects Liberty Island in these photos accurately representing and reflecting the time history of sea level rise since that time relative to the seawalls constructed height and location.
NOAA’s measurements of relative sea level rise in New York Harbor are available from its Battery Tide Gauge Station which is located in the Battery Park area just 1.6 miles from Liberty Island located on the eastern side of the harbors entrance compared to the Battery Station’s westerly location at the harbors entrance as shown in the diagram at the beginning of this article.
The Battery Station location relative sea level rise measurements and tide predictions for New York Harbor are reflective of relative sea level rise and tide prediction behavior at Liberty Island with both these areas lying close together on opposite sides of the New York Harbor entrance.
The NOAA Battery Tide Gauge Station measurement information is shown below.
The NOAA Battery 166-yearlong tide gauge sea level rise measurements through year 2022 start in 1856 very close to the 1844 time when the Liberty Island (then called Bedloe’s Island) existing seawall position and height at the south end of the island was established. NOAA’s measured rate of sea level rise at the Battery location is 11.4 inches per century over this period or 1.14 inches per decade.
During this 166-year period since 1856 NOAA measurements have been taken of the relative sea level at the Battery Station showing a total increase of about 18.9 inches during this interval.
In addition, the NOAA Battery tide gauge station provides other measured information at these locations including tide predictions as noted in the “Products available at 8518750 The Battery, New York” shown on the lower left below.
The photo below of Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty below was taken in 1893 as identified in the photos official data record. Note the riprap exposed at the base of the wall indicating a low tide condition.
The next photo shows Liberty Island and the Statue Liberty on June 23, 2023, at about 6:35 PM. The photo clearly shows the Liberty Island seawall that protects the southern portion of the Island that was completed in 1844 and the rebuilt Shuttle Dock that was constructed in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy.
Again, note the riprap in this photo at the base of the seawall again indicating a low tide condition.
The photograph below compares the Statue of Liberty in the year 1893 (as documented in the photo’s data record) with photos taken (by the author) of the Statue of Liberty at a low tide condition on June 23, 2023 (about 6:35 PM EDT) from a cruise ship passing Liberty Island with that ship having left New York Harbor Berth 90 on the Hudson River at 6 PM.
Additionally, note the sea level height on the islands seawall in both the 1893 photo and 2023 photo show exposed riprap at the base of the wall suggesting a low tide condition at the time of these photos were taken.
The period of 130 years that has passed between these two photos shows little impact from “rising sea levels”. Using NOAA’s Battery Station rate of relative sea level rise of 1.14 inches per decade discussed above results in an increased relative sea level rise at Liberty Island of 14.8 inches between these years which given the scale of the seawall height in relation to the small total sea level rise would not be particularly distinguishable in such photos.
Stated another way the height of the seawall clearly establishes that the small relative sea level rise increase that has occurred between these photos period is insignificant even though the period is 130 years long.
The low tide condition on June 23, 2023, at 6:35 PM is clearly noted in the closeup of the Liberty Island seawall shown below. The scale of the visitors’ size in the closeup photo further demonstrates the seawall height and further establishes the insignificance of the 14.8 inch of relative sea level rise increase even over a period of 130 years.
NOAA’s Battery Tide Gauge Station data provides access to specific tide condition predictions throughout the station’s history. As the tidal calendar below shows, a high tide condition existed at 1:11 PM on June 23, 2023, with a tide height predicted of 4.144 feet as specifically noted on the calendar below.
The height of the tide is measured using the MLLW as the base datum measurement reference point. The darkened area of the seawall above shows remnants of the prior high tide conditions.
The NOAA tide prediction chart below specifically shows the low tide condition for June 23, 2023, at 6:35 PM being at 1.324 feet above the MLLW measurement datum.
A review of the entire year 2023 NOAA tide predictions for the Battery Station shows that the highest tide predicted for the year will occur on August 30, 2023, at 6.25 feet above the MLLW datum as shown below or 4.9 feet above the tide level depicted in the above closeup photo with this increase easily accommodated by the height of the seawall that was constructed 130 years ago.
Given the long term 166 year increasing trend of 1.14 inches per decade of relative sea level rise measured at the Battery Station the existing 130-year-old seawall will be useful for many dozens of decades into the future.
At the Democrats politically contrived 1988 Senate Hearings hyping the global warming crisis Environmental Defense Fund Senior Scientist Dr. Michael Oppenheimer claimed the following regarding increasing global sea level rise acceleration as follows:
“Global mean temperature will likely rise at about 0.6 degrees F per decade and sea level at about 2.5 inches per decade.”
“These rates are about six times recent history.”
“Furthermore, as long as greenhouse gases continue to grow in the atmosphere, there is no known natural limit to the warming short of catastrophic change.”
“Because the oceans are slow to heat, there is a lag between emissions and full manifestation of corresponding warming, a lag which some estimate at 40 years.”
“The world is now 1 degree F warmer than century ago and may become another 1 degree warmer even if conditions are curtailed today.”
“Every decade of delay and implementation of greenhouse gas abatement policies ultimately adds perhaps a degree F of warming, and no policy can be fully implemented immediately in any event.”
“Slowing warming to an acceptable rate and ultimately stabilizing the atmosphere would require reductions in fossil emissions by 60% from present levels, along with similar reductions of other greenhouse gases.”
We are now 3 and 1/2 decades beyond Dr. Oppenheimer’s incredibly flawed and failed alarmists sea level rise acceleration hyped claims with global CO2 emissions having never declined from 1988 levels of 20.82 billion metric tons but instead having now reached 34.37 billion metric tons in 2022 with the rate of relative sea level rise at NOAA’s Battery Station showing little if any change from its 1988 rate of about 11.4 inches per century.
The Battery Station Datum (STND) which is also called the “datum of tabulation” is a permanent fixed elevation location from which all other tidal measures are referenced. These permanent fixed tidal reference values are evaluated over 19-year periods called National Tidal Datum Epochs (NTDE) as the official time segment over which tidal observations are taken and reduced to obtain mean values (e.g., mean lower low water, etc.) for tidal datums. It is necessary for standardization because of period and apparent secular trends (rising and falling levels of relative sea level) over time. The present NTDE includes years 1983 through 2001.
The NTDE needs to be regularly revised for a fixed period sufficient to account for all significant tidal periods, long enough to average out local meteorological effects on sea level, long-term effects of land movement, sea level rise measurement changes, and changes in tidal constituents reflecting harmonic behavior over long time periods between the Moon, Sun and Earth.
Oceanographers, when determining tidal datums, use averaging techniques over a specific time period, the tidal epoch of 19 years. The 19 years interval is used because it is the closest full year to the 18.6-year node cycle, the period required for the regression of the moon’s nodes to complete a circuit of 360 degrees of longitude (Schureman, 1941) with this time period also encompassing other measurement period needs as described above.
These intervals are actively considered for evaluation every 20-25 years. The next NTDE tidal epoch will be based on water level data covering the years 2002-2020. The current proposed date for the new NTDE product is 2025.
The present fixed elevation for the Battery Station Datum is minus 3.29 feet below the MLLW datum for the present NTDE tidal epoch (the interval inclusive of 1983 through 2001) as shown below.
The prior NTDE period occurred from 1960 through 1978 as shown below for the Battery Station.
As shown in this prior NTDE the Battery Station Datum elevation value is minus 3.07 feet below the MLLW datum.
In the interval between these two NTDE periods the relative sea level at the Battery Station increased resulting in the Station Datum elevation (which is a fixed datum) becoming -3.29 feet below the MLLW from the prior -3.07 feet below the MLLW or an increase sea level rise of 0.22 feet or 2.64 inches over the 23-year inclusive interval from 1979 to 2001. This amounts to an increasing relative sea level rise of 0.1148 inches per year consistent with the NOAA Battery Station long term rate of relative sea level rise of 11.4 inches per century (0.95 feet in 100 years) since 1856 as shown in NOAA’s data trend below.
This articles analysis clearly shows that the photos taken of the Statue of Liberty and its seawall over century long time periods (as provided by this articles photo comparing a period of 130 years) that display the lack of significance of relative sea level rise during these long periods are in fact analytically valid visual evidence demonstrating that claims of exaggerated accelerating sea level rise (as presented, for example, in the Democrats failed 1988 Senate hearing described above) hyped by climate alarmists and their “models” have failed.
The photos taken over long time periods that compare the Statue of Liberty and the sea level position on the Liberty Island long established seawall are in fact a symbol and a beacon of truth regarding the flawed climate alarmist decades long failed “model” driven claims of sea level rise acceleration.