Viral meme misrepresenting melting of ice claims Sea Level Rise is a Hoax

Climate Misleading

Multiple posts going viral across social media platforms over some time claim that the phenomenon of Sea Level Rise due to Global Warming is actually a hoax. A collage of two images of a jar of water with ice cubes floating on it and melting into it accompanies the posts as evidence that sea level rise is false as there is no displacement, therefore no increase in water level in the jug. 

Here is one such post:

Twitter Link | Archived Link

On investigation, we found that the collage is not a correct representation of the phenomenon of Sea Level Rise. Here are the details:

Fact Check Methodology

At first, we reached out to Dr Partha Jyoti Das, Climate Fact Check’s in house expert, to get a little clarity in the matter. He responded saying “the said meme does not and cannot deny the observed rise on global sea level which is a result of the human induced global warming and climate change that has occurred mainly the last 150 years of the human history on the earth.”

The two main reasons, he added, are “The experiment referred to in the meme considers only the melting of the sea ice (floating ice like icebergs, ice-shelves) as the sole contributor to the sea level increase. But in reality, it is the melting of the land-based ice (for example glaciers, permafrost, the ice sheet in Greenland, the continental ice mass in Antarctica, etc.)  that contributes almost entirely to the increase in sea heights. Actually, the volume of water and sea an ocean and therefore, the sea level rises more from the meltwater that comes from the land-ice masses. Melting of floating ice adds negligibly to the rise in sea level. The meme does not consider the land-ice contribution, which makes it a non-starter as a scientific demonstration to negate the well-established observations of global sea-level rise.”

Following this, we came across an article on the NASA website, published in October, 2021, with the headline “Five Facts to Help You Understand Sea Ice,” which states NASA has tracked sea ice minimum (usually in September) and maximum (usually in March) extents since 1978. While the exact extent figures may vary year to year, it’s clear that the Arctic is losing sea ice year-round.

We also came across a study published on the United Nations Climate Change website in February, 2022 that says sea level rise from melting ice sheets is ‘accelerating around the world and the annual rate of the rise could more than triple every year by 2100’.

The article also highlights the fact that Climate change is driving ocean rise through two phenomena: the rapid melting of ice at the poles and the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ‘This latter phenomenon warms the temperature of the water. Hot water – less dense than cold water – takes up more space, causing the ocean to expand,’ it states. 

Dr Das also talked about the expansion, explaining: “A large part of the sea of the level rise, approximately 34%, can be attributed to the thermal expansion of water which happens due to increasing temperatures on and near the earth’s surface.”

He also added that the contents of the viral meme considers only the sea ice, not the land ice. “The actual physical processes linked with the observed sea-level increase are complicated and multi-layered, which cannot be explained by oversimplified high-school grade science experiments like this” he said. 

We also came across a 2017 video uploaded on the official channel of the European Space Agency (ESA), which describes the physical processes causing global sea-level rise. It helps in understanding the causes clearly. 

Finally, we also saw that the contents of the meme can actually be debunked quite clearly with an educational activity titled “What’s Causing Sea-Level Rise? Land Ice Vs. Sea Ice,” that we came across on the NASA website. This activity for students consists of building simple models to demonstrate the differing impacts of melting land ice and sea ice on sea level rise thus helping one to visually observe the link between ice melting on land and sea level rise. 

The same meme has been debunked by Climate Fact Checks in more detail. 


From the above evidences, it is clear that the meme cannot prove that melting ice sheets do not cause a rise in sea levels. It also misrepresents the change in volume when land ice melts and flows into the oceans as it considers only the floating ice or icebergs. There is also no mention of the thermal expansion of water. 


Title:Viral meme misrepresenting melting of ice claims Sea Level Rise is a Hoax

Fact Check By: Manjori Borkotoky 

Result: Misleading