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sea level mountainsSea Level, Even If You Can’t
by Marjorie Dorfman

What is this thing called sea level? Why can’t I see it and where is the water anyway? Does one need to acquire significant flood insurance or to swim well if one lives nearby? Read on for some confusing questions and no answers at all. Maybe.

According to WordNet published by Princeton University, sea level is defined as "lying below the normal level, a low lying desert." If this about as clear to you as mud, we can go on. Let’s take the words one at a time. Sea. I know what that is; one of seven huge bodies of water that are scattered throughout our world. No problem, except for the word, level. Would that be the level of the sea as seen from the shore or from the top of the water? Or in the water? Or at the bottom of the sea looking up? (If one could.)

check for sea levelConsider in addition, the word normal? What is it? Does land have human characteristics? Can it get depressed or happy? Does it make a living or collect alimony? Also, please consider how can sea level refer to a desert, low lying or otherwise, if it has to do with the level of water? To make matters worse, there’s something called mean sea level (MSL). Not only is it another term I don’t understand, it’s unpleasant and surly as well. Don’t we have enough unanswered questions in this baffling world?

sea level gull It is said that 18,000 years ago, sea level everywhere was about 100 meters lower than it is now. Well, I can say the very same thing about most of my body parts and still come no closer to understanding exactly what the term means. Usually, sea level is allied with something else called a benchmark. For those not in the know, this is a way to measure this, which has no essence, or dimension and the very thought of which gives me a major headache. If it is the level of the sea we are talking about, then how come there is never any water near where its level is measured? And another thing, how can anyone really be sure that it isn’t the land that is rising instead? Who determines which is which and why should we believe them? Who has this job and more important, why?

Erosion and the flooding of coastal areas are said to be serious factors in determining sea level. My brain suffers from these same conditions, especially when I am trying to understand something that isn’t really there, but exists. Research also indicates that we should all fear that global warming will cause the global sea level to rise at a much faster rate than in the last century. Once again, how can I effectively worry (even if I do it really well) about something that I don’t understand?
sea creature
This is truly an adult bogeyman phenomenon, and practically speaking, we all have enough to worry about without dealing with something that isn’t really there in the first place. Or is it? That is the rub, as Shakespeare used to say (in the days when he lived above the level of the rising water).

To predict the future, we must be able to see the past. That’s what they say. This seems to indicate that no one under forty years of age can make a significant decision about anything at all. This is because the younger folks don’t have enough of a history to see their mistakes reverberate to their fullest proportions. Regret however, just like goodness, has nothing at all to do with sea level. History does render records which permit comparisons and educated predictions to determine sea level changes.

There is apparently a wealth of material available for evaluation and extrapolation. The problem is one needs a degree in rocket science or geology to understand it. I ran across something called the PSMSL, which was established in 1933 as the global bank for sea level change information from tide gauges. (My first thought was PMS, which relates to another kind of level, to be discussed later).

The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level educates those who can understand the curriculum. They certainly seem to know what they are doing, providing among other things, an author archive, which contain files contributed by sea level authors. Does that mean they can see sea level and are inspired to write about it? Whatever it is, it’s obvious that I don’t qualify.
sea glasses
And so my friends, I say unto you that you must never count your chickens before they hatch, look before you leap, look for the rainbow, and finally, see level, even if you can’t!

Did you know . . . ?

© 2007 Marjorie Dorfman

We found this great book:

The Sedimentary Record of Sea-Level Change

by Angela L. Coe, et al

Sedimentary Record of Sea Level Change

This illustrated textbook describes how past changes in sea-level can be detected through an analysis of the sedimentary record, and how sequence stratigraphy techniques can provide explanations of how the sedimentary system evolves through geological time. The book is also supported by a website hosting sample pages. Some review comments: The text is logically laid out and the explanation of sequence-stratigraphic principles is perhaps the most lucid I have read anywhere. Simply without equal and there are no competing texts in the field.

(also in paperback)