Rocks falling into oceans, not climate, causing seas to rise, co - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Rocks falling into oceans, not climate, causing seas to rise, congressman suggests

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A rolling stone may gather no moss, but if it tumbles into the ocean, you can expect the seas to rise.

At least that's the theory embraced by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., during a hearing held Wednesday by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on how technology can be used to address climate change.

While questioning Philip Duffy, president of Woods Hole Research Center, about what, in addition to climate change, might be driving rising sea levels, Brooks suggested erosion might be a factor.

"Every single year that we're on Earth, you have huge tons of silt deposited by the Mississippi River, by the Amazon River, by the Nile, by every major river system - and for that matter, creek, all the way down to the smallest systems," Brooks said. "And every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you've got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up."

Brooks pointed to the White Cliffs of Dover and to California "where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines" and "you have the cliffs crash into the sea."

"All of that displaces the water which forces it to rise, does it not?" Brooks asked.

"I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects," Duffy answered.

An analysis by The Washington Post found that Duffy is correct. The Post found that it would take the equivalent of the top five inches of land from the entire surface area of the United States to cause the oceans to rise the 3.3 millimeters a year currently seen. And those five inches would have to fall into the oceans every year to explain the current rate at which they are rising.

Follow William Cummings on Twitter: @wwcummings

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