Short-circuiting Sea Level Rise


Greenhouse gases warm the earth, principally tropical waters. Heat migrates from warm to cold thus tropical heat migrates to the poles where it melts icecaps contributing to sea level rise (SLR). Warming oceans expand leading to further SLR. The deep oceans are an under-utilized, alternative, heat sink with a lower coefficient of thermal expansion than the ocean’s surface.

overview of the idea

The natural state with current atmospheric CO2 levels is oceans 20 meters higher. The principal driver that has and will lead to these levels is melt water from the icecaps.

Tropical storms are the primary means of conveyance for tropical heat to the poles, which are the fastest warming regions of the planet.

The oceans, which on average are 4267 meters deep, range in temperature between 4 and 2C at depths of 1000 meters and greater.

The sun warms the ocean surface, which can reach temperatures as high as 30C, as was the case with super typhoon Haiyan, though temperatures of 26C to a depth of 45 meters are sufficient to form a typical cyclone.

Wind and wave action readily mixes surface heat to a depth of about 100 meters but below that it migrates slowly because the natural tendency is for heat to rise. It is estimated it takes about 350 years for surface heat to diffuse naturally to a depth of 1000 meters.

The coefficient of expansion of sea water decreases in the ocean to that depth before starting to increase again, though it never reaches the surface high except in the deepest trenches.

Forcing surface heat to a depth of 1000 meters replicates and can perpetuate the conditions that are believed to have brought about the current atmospheric warming hiatus, sap the energy of tropical storms, short-circuit their transport of heat towards the poles, sea level rise and atmospheric warming while minimizing thermal expansion.

how it works

Heat pipes are the most efficient and quickest way of moving heat from locations where it can do harm to a benign heat sink. This is accomplished through phase changes of a working fluid. As heat is applied to the evaporator region of the pipe (the hot end) the working fluid is vaporized and under pressure transfers rapidly, in some cases near the speed of sound, to the condenser region (the cool end), where the latent heat of condensation is lost to the cold sink as the vapor transforms back to liquid. In an ocean setting the condensed working fluid is then pumped back to the surface to complete the cycle.

The introduction of a turbine and generator into the heat pipe permits the production of mechanical and electrical energy that can be sold at a profit as well as to finance the environmental and sea level mitigation functions of the system.

The heat pipe overcomes the cost and environmental problems associated with conventional ocean thermal energy conversion systems, which use large pipes with large and costly infrastructure to support them and massive water movements to overcome the inherently low thermodynamic inefficiency of a Rankine cycles with small temperature differences between hot and cold heat sinks.

Heat pipes can economically short-circuit heat movement from the tropics to the poles to reduce melt driven SLR as well as thermal expansion.

The ocean’s mass allows for the absorption of a great deal of heat to limited effect; particularly below the thermocline.


Video #1

An in-depth video further explaining the idea of 'Short-circuiting Sea Level Rise'. 

Video #2

A video detailing how producing as much energy as is currently derived from fossil fuels with ocean energy greatly reduces the risk of storm surge, coastal flooding and sea-level rise. 



Balancing Hell and High Water

A report on a revenue generating way for British Columbia to tackle the third rail of sea level rise: ground water depletion. Download here

Anthropogenic Sea Level Potholes

A column on groundwater depletion and how Canada and other countries are dealing with it. Click to read here or download here.


How communities will adapt and thrive

Estimates are the oceans have the potential to produce between 14 and 25 terawatts of power from ocean thermal energy conversion, whereas the planet currently operates on about 16 terawatts of primary energy, 14 of which is derived from fossil fuels.

The community that capitalizes on this opportunity stands to monopolize one of the largest sectors of the global economy.

A 2008 OECD study Ranking Port Cities with High Exposure and Vulnerability to Climate Extremes, rated Vancouver amongst the world’s top 20 port cities at risk to storm surge and SLR.

By 2070, with SLR estimated at only a half meter, as much as $303 billion worth of assets will be at risk while the combined risk to the remaining 135 cities studied approaches $33 trillion.

It is only natural to want to mitigate this kind of risk and this can be done with local technology that can be marketed to the world.

British Columbia has the intellectual resources, the mining, energy and shipbuilding expertise, plus the resources necessary to garner a significant share of the multitrillion dollar/year clean energy market.

By effectively addressing SLR and climate change the province safeguards and preserves its forest, fishing and tourism legacies and with a viable fossil fuels alternative can counter the influences pressing for greater movement of coal and bitumen through our territory and along our coast.

Let October 19th be the moment the planet begins to heal and the rise of the oceans truly does begin to decline.

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SFU Public Square Founding Council Member

Stephen A. Jarislowsky

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