Coastal changes are caused by Mother Nature, not man-made climate change

People frolick at the beach on Dauphin Island last year. (File)

My boyhood memories of Dauphin Island are mostly populated with two things: its people and its sand. I loved the character and simpleness of both. Now when I go back I’m happy to see that the people haven’t changed a bit, but all of the sand seems to be in different spots.

During my lifetime Dauphin Island’s public beach expanded, shrunk, and expanded again. The far west-end grew, withered, grew again, and then changed completely. Sand bars vanished one year, only to reappear the next.

While it’s a little unsettling to see the places you love washed away like footprints in the sand, we’ve long known it’s normal. Dauphin Island is a barrier island, and every few years it shifts, shakes and remakes itself like Mother Nature’s personal Etch-a-Sketch. Seen from above, the precarious position of the island is evident: it’s a razor-thin strip of sand on the edge of a whole bunch of water. It’s going to be completely submerged at times. It’s natural.

Bloomberg News wants us to think differently, though. It’s not the same wind and water that’s been moving the little island around for centuries. It’s man-made abrupt climate change.

“Alabama avoids preparing for rising seas menacing Mobile,” reads the headline of an article in early May from the New York-based news service. The article explained how data from a federal study showed how Dauphin Island would be under “waist-deep water” more frequently during the next 85-years. The article also mentioned the threat to low-lying parts of Mobile — areas that have flooded for centuries — and implies that Alabama’s leaders are haplessly ignorant of climate change and the necessary solutions.

Why are the changes and threats any different from past decades? Global warming advocates usually rely on two arguments: There’s been a lot of bad weather lately and the computer models show its only getting worse.

Ben Raines, director of the Weeks Bay Foundation — which helps protect a beautiful estuary on Mobile Bay’s eastern shore — told Bloomberg that “people here are already dealing with a more extreme climate and with sea levels that are on the rise inundating properties more and more frequently.”

But is that accurate, at least on a global scale? No.

John R. Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, recently explained on that this mistaken point is one of the reasons global warming believers and skeptics argue.

“I often hear claims that extreme weather is getting worse,” wrote Christy, who is also the state’s official climatologist. “Whether it’s tornadoes (no changes in 60 years), hurricanes (no changes in 120 years), or western U.S. droughts and heat waves (not as bad as they were 1,000 years ago), the evidence doesn’t support those claims.”

The arguments based on computer models are just as shaky. In one such model, which formed the basis for last January’s National Climate Assessment, Alabama could be experiencing an additional 40-days a year with temperatures above 95-degrees by the year 2040. Global warming believers used the report to list their usual horrible consequences unless we did a bunch of things that would limit our freedom, lower our standard of living and slow an already troubled economy.

As with the perceived trends, are the computer models accurate? No.

Christy, who also served as a lead author on the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, checked the tropical temperature change in 102 of the latest model simulations for the last 35-years.

“All 102 models overshot the actual temperature change on average by a factor of three,” Christy wrote. “Not only does this tell us we don’t have a good grasp on the way climate varies, but the fact all simulations overcooked the atmosphere means there is probably a warm bias built into the basic theory.”

It also tells me that our state’s leaders are wise to not uproot our entire way of life based on rumors and miscalculations. While we can certainly keep our beaches and bays clean, we cannot stop them from shifting and flooding. Dauphin Island has been eroding, and growing, for centuries, and it’ll continue to do so regardless of what mankind does, or doesn’t, do.

 (J. Pepper Bryars grew up in Mobile and is now a writer living in Huntsville. Contact him at and