The Claim: Measuring Cup Meme Proves Global Warming Melting Ice Can’t Cause Sea Level Rise
Since 1993, average sea levels around the world have risen about four inches due to global climate change, according to NASA. However, a meme that suggests melting polar ice due to climate change cannot cause sea level rise has resurfaced on social media.
The meme shows two images side by side.
An image shows a measuring cup containing water and ice. The ice is labeled “ice berg”. The water is labeled “ocean”.
The other image shows a measuring cup with water and no ice, with water at a similar level. The image is labeled “iceberg is melting” (indicating where the ice was in the other image) and “ocean level remains the same”.
“A little science lesson for #IDIOTS at the global warming conference,” reads the meme text in a June 5 Facebook post.
The meme has been circulating on social media for years. A 2019 version was shared 3,700 times. Recent versions of the meme have also received thousands of interactions on Twitter.
However, the meme is misleading and the claim it makes is false. It depicts a situation where the melting of the ice that was already floating in the container failed to significantly change the water level. This is not what happens in the oceans.
Sea level rise occurs when water from melting land’s ice caps and glaciers pours into the ocean. This adds more water to the ocean than it previously contained, which raises sea levels.
Sea level rise is also exacerbated by global warming itself, as water expands as it warms.
None of these processes – the loss of land ice or the thermal expansion of seawater – are depicted in the meme.
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USA TODAY has reached out to social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Meme does not demonstrate the processes that cause sea level rise
The experiment described in the meme fails to demonstrate the processes that cause sea level rise, according to NASA climatologist Claire Parkinson.
“Rather, it shows something that isn’t causing sea level rise – the melting of ice that was already floating in the ocean,” like sea ice, Parkinson told USA TODAY in an email. .
Arctic sea ice – seawater that freezes and then floats on the ocean – is disappearing due to climate change, but meltwater does not directly contribute to sea level rise since it comes from the ocean.
“The main causes of sea level rise are the addition of land ice to the sea and the natural expansion of the ocean with warming,” said sea level rise researcher Sally Brown. the sea and head of the Department of Life and the Environment. Sciences at Bournemouth University, USA TODAY said in an email.
Earth’s ice includes mountain glaciers as well as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets – which lose hundreds of billions of tons of ice a year, according to NASA.
The other major contributor to sea level rise, ocean expansion due to global warming, is “responsible for one-third to one-half of global sea-level rise”, according to the site. NASA website.
Parkinson said the experiment described in the meme should be modified to accurately simulate the processes that contribute to sea level rise.
“It could be done by adding water or ice to the cup – simulating adding (glacial) meltwater,” she said. It could also be accomplished by “heating the water so much that its expansion” raises the water level in the cup.
Fact check: NOAA maps show a range of possible sea rise scenarios, do not conflict with observations
The meme has already been debunked by Reuters.
Our opinion: False
Based on our research, we rate the claim that a measuring cup meme proves that melting ice due to global warming cannot cause sea level rise to be FALSE. The experiment described in the meme does not simulate the processes that actually contribute to global sea level rise – the spreading of the oceans and the melting of land ice masses.
Our fact-checking sources:
- Sally Brown, June 15, email exchange with USA TODAY
- Claire Parkinson, June 15, email exchange with USA TODAY
- Reuters, June 9, Fact Check-Meme comparing jugs of water and ice does not prove sea level rise is a hoax
- National Snow and Ice Data Center, October 27, 2020, What are the impacts of Arctic sea ice loss?
- NASA Vital Signs of the Planet, accessed June 15, sea level
- NASA Vital Signs of the Planet, Accessed June 15, Arctic sea ice extent
- NASA Planet’s Vital Signs, Accessed June 15, Ice Caps
- Carbon Brief, April 28, 2021, Melting glaciers have driven “21% of sea level rise” over the past two decades
- NASA Vital Signs of the Planet, accessed June 15, Ocean heat content
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