Stand up for the facts!
Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.
I would like to contribute
If Your Time is short
According to the New York City Panel on Climate Change, the relative sea level rise in New York City averaged 0.11 inches per year from 1850 to 2017. It drew this figure from data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The panel said this sea level rise could increase the frequency and intensity of coastal flooding over time.
The level of the water over land is constantly changing in accordance with the tide. We have no information about the tidal levels at the time these images were captured.
Can photos of the Statue of Liberty tell us something about rising sea levels, or the lack thereof?
A March 1 Instagram post shows what appears to be a composite photo of the Statue of Liberty, one side in black-and-white and labeled "1920" and the other side in color labeled "2020." The photo reads, "100 years of sea level rise."
The sea level doesn’t seem to have changed from one photo to the other. But does that really mean there’s been no century-long change in sea level? No. Science gives a different picture.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We were unable to track down the original source — or sources — of the post’s image. But Maureen Raymo, co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School at Columbia University, said that the post’s evidence is problematic.
"The most obvious problem with the pics is that unless they were taken at the exact same point in a tidal cycle they say nothing about average sea level rise," Raymo said in an email to PolitiFact. Raymo said that the old photo could have been taken near high tide and the recent photo could have been taken near low tide. We just don’t know.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collects sea level data at The Battery — the park on Manhattan’s southernmost tip facing New York Harbor, where ferry boats launch to take tourists to Ellis Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands. Data going back to 1856 revealed there had been a change of 0.95 feet in 100 years — or about 0.114 inches per year — the administration found.
NOAA’s data was also cited in the New York City Panel on Climate Change’s 2019 Report on sea level rise. The report said the local or relative sea level rise in New York City had averaged 0.11 inches per year from 1850 to 2017, as measured by The Battery tide gauge.
The panel credited New York City’s sea level changes to climate-related developments, including mounting ice losses from the Antarctic Ice Sheet and the ongoing movement of land once burdened by ice-age glaciers.
A post claims that photos of the Statue of Liberty taken in 1920 and 2020 show the sea level surrounding Ellis Island hasn’t changed in 100 years.
Without information about when exactly the photos were taken and at what point in the tidal cycle, the photos alone do not confirm anything about sea level. But NOAA data shows that the relative sea level rise in New York City averaged 0.11 inches per year from 1850 to 2017.
We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, March 1, 2023
USA Today, Fact check: Tide gauge data, not photos, prove sea level rise at Statue of Liberty, July 21, 2022
Reuters, Fact Check-Statue of Liberty photos do not prove sea level rise is insignificant, Nov. 4, 2021
Email interview with Maureen Raymo, Co-Founding Dean, Columbia Climate School, March 14, 2023
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Relative Sea Level Trend - The Battery, New York, accessed March 3, 2023
National Ocean Service, What is glacial isostatic adjustment?, accessed March 14, 2023
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.