FACT CHECK: Do These Pictures Show Sea Levels 80 Years Ago And Now?

An image shared on Facebook allegedly shows a comparison of sea levels 80 years ago and today.

Verdict: False

The first image was taken in 2008, not 80 years ago.

Fact Check:

The Facebook post appears to show two images, one in black and white and the other in color, both showing what appears to be a formidable stone wall that extends into the sea. The black and white image is labeled with text that reads, “80 years ago,” while the bottom photo includes text that reads, “Today: Those rising sea levels though.” In both images, the sea level appears to be the same.

A reverse image search reveals both pictures show the Laolongtou section of the Great Wall of China, as can be seen on Getty Images.

The image at the top is not from 80 years ago, however. A reverse image search revealed the top photo was taken on Sep. 15, 2008 and published to Flickr. The original version of the photo is in color, not black and white. The image shared on Facebook appears to have been edited to make it appear older than it is.

The bottom photo was shared on a travel blog called “TravellersPoint” four years later on Jan. 3, 2012. (RELATED: Does This Map Show What Scientists Say The US Will Look Like In 30 Years Due To Climate Change?)

Dr. Sean Vitousek, a research oceanographer for the United States Geological Survey told Reuters, “To do [coastal image analysis] properly you need hundreds of images, not just two. You also must account for the dynamic processes like tide, waves, seasonal erosion cycles, etc. that affect the beach state to get a comprehensive understanding of long-term beach erosion.”

Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a May 2020 “Ask NASA” article that no one can “really eyeball a few millimeters of sea level rise a year just by looking at the ocean,” but notes that the effects of rising sea levels can be seen in the “short- and long-term.” The global sea level has risen consistently over the last 100 years, according to climate.gov.

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