UC San Diego Geophysicist: ‘Sports Arena Is Going to Be All Underwater in 10 or 20 Years’

by on October 13, 2022 · 31 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach

Helen Fricker, from KPBS video

Helen Fricker is a geophysicist at UC San Diego who studies ice sheets such as the ones in Greenland and Antarctica. Back in August, she stated:

“The amount by which the ice is being added to the ocean is increasing. And we know that from satellite monitoring as well. What we are seeing is we’re actually tracking the high end of the worst case scenario of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) projections.”

Residents of San Diego will see the effects of rising sea levels in their lifetimes, as coastal flooding becomes more frequent and longer in duration, she said. Fricker pointed out that some low-lying areas will soon be underwater, specifically the area around San Diego’s Sports Arena, known as the Midway District.

“So Sports Arena? Honestly, they want to build all this housing on a floodplain, which in 10 or 20 years time is going to be all underwater. I’m really sorry, but the ice sheets are melting!”

The development future of the Midway is, of course, on November’s ballot. Measure C, if passed, would eliminate the 50-year old height limit of 30 feet over the entire Midway planning area.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert October 13, 2022 at 12:21 pm

LOL, this is a laughable poorly thought out take. NOAA has projected sea level to rise by 2100 to be *at most* around 5 feet. In other words, it will be nowhere near the elevation of the sports arena, which is around 20 feet above sea level.

This nothing more than a fear mongering attempt by the OB Rag to convince its readers that the removal the the 30 foot height limit is somehow tied to rising sea levels, when in reality, allowing more dense housing in and around downtown San Diego will help mitigate climate change.


Frank Gormlie October 13, 2022 at 12:28 pm

Robert, a couple of things: don’t forget the King Tides; and you have turned it upside down. This is a warning that the area about to be redeveloped and possibly have its height limit eliminated will be underwater in 10 to 20 years. That’s all. It’s not “fear mongering” to say the unpleasant truth.


Robert October 13, 2022 at 12:37 pm

King Tide *might* end up impacting the Sports Arena by the 2100s, assuming that there is not effort to mitigate climate change, which densifying the Midway plays a small part in. The water, in the worst case scenario, 100 years from now, would have to rise 15 feet above the mean seal level to pose a threat… and that is dependent on the laughable assumption that there is nothing done to keep the sea out.

It is fear mongering, purely so.


Frank Gormlie October 13, 2022 at 12:55 pm

The geophysicist said 10 to 20 years. I’ll go with her rather than your unverified assertions. It’s actually very devious not to admit that the Midway is right now susceptible to flooding, and then along with King Tides and the melting of the glaciers, faces serious challenges.


Robert October 13, 2022 at 7:51 pm
Frank Gormlie October 14, 2022 at 9:22 am

Here’s a quote from the very report you cite: “Sea level rise will create a profound shift in coastal flooding over the next 30 years by causing tide and storm surge heights to increase and reach further inland. By 2050, “moderate” (typically damaging) flooding is expected to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as it does today, and can be intensified by local factors.”


lyle October 14, 2022 at 3:39 pm

Since the summary for the NOAA report (2022) says west coast rise will be 8-10 inches over next 30 years, I have to agree the statement that the SA will be underwater in 10-20 years is an exageration.


Frank Gormlie October 13, 2022 at 12:56 pm

What’s laughable is your claim: “allowing more dense housing in and around downtown San Diego will help mitigate climate change.”


David October 13, 2022 at 2:22 pm

Explain how he’s wrong? Just curious.


Frank Gormlie October 13, 2022 at 2:31 pm

It’s not up to me to prove a negative. They’re his claims against the geophysicist.


Gavin October 13, 2022 at 5:01 pm

I think he was asking you to prove the assertion you were making that allowing dense housing wouldn’t be beneficial in the fight against climate change


Frank Gormlie October 13, 2022 at 5:06 pm

It don’t work that way. He made the outrageous assertion. It’s up to him to prove it.


Chris October 13, 2022 at 7:49 pm

Might be time to get that stand up paddleboard I’ve been eyeing.


Lyle October 13, 2022 at 11:04 pm

Robert, when you say the Sports arena property is “20 feet above sea level” are you using the typical surveying datum of MLLW ?


lyle October 13, 2022 at 11:45 pm

Google Earth Pro shows elevations of the Sports Arena Parking Lot varying from 10 feet to 14 feet above MSL. High tides are significantly above that, and sea level rise would boost it up some more. For sure, your above mentioned 15 feet would pretty surely flood the place.

You can review the differences between MLLW, MSL, MHHW, etc. at https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/datums.html?id=9410170 I did not find level data for king tides or storm surge which would probably raise the water level some more


lyle October 13, 2022 at 11:53 pm

oops. I meant that average high tides are above MSL. I’m sorry if I confused anyone.


Paul Grimes October 16, 2022 at 7:38 am

Lyle, I wouldn’t take Google Earth as totally accurate. If you go down Midway Dr., Google Earth shows 0 to 1 ft elevation. It shows the SA parking lot at about 5 ft. The bike path under the new bridge does get a few inches of water under king tides – Google Earth at that location shows -1 ft, with tides of 7.7 would mean Google Earth is off by about 8 to 9 feet at that point.
We’ve been getting the worst-case scenario from the likes of Al Gore for decades and they never produce anything like the bloated predictions.
As for building downtown lessening Climate Change is a ridiculous prediction – the main driver of CO2 is not San Digo, but rather India and China and they are not reducing – to pour thousands of CO2-generating concrete into Downtown San Diego or the Midway area cannot reverse CO2 generation.
Also, the geologist needs a course in how to write in English.


kh October 13, 2022 at 2:03 pm

There’s no shortage of doomsdayers or deniers when it comes to sea level rise. But some simple facts are, it is occurring, and there are portions of Midway that are already prone to flooding during king tide events.

Some sea-level rise scenarios can be found here, starting on page 193. It also calls for raising the grade to protect structures from flooding.


Robert October 13, 2022 at 8:07 pm

With all due respect, the details in this paper don’t seem to back up the claim that the Midway district will be underwater in the next 10-20 years. It does make the claim that, by 2100, extreme events can lead to this, but the data for times prior to that indicate that the flooding will be almost entirely isolated to the Formosa Slough.


kh October 14, 2022 at 2:51 pm

I never said I agreed with her. In fact she sounds like an alarmist as much as you sound like a denier with your statements, with regard to Midway at least. The truth is always somewhere in between, nuanced, and doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker.

Do tell, how is redevelopment this area going to help stem sea level rise? If anything it will put more people in an impacted area. You might as well advocate more more condos on the Florida coastline while you’re at it.


lyle October 14, 2022 at 1:13 am

kh, Thanks for pointing us to the page numbers. The plan explains the difference between inundation and flooding. Ms. Fricker’s choice of words seems to indicate inundation. So she may indeed sound overly alarmist, depending on if the reader thinks unusual-event flooding is acceptable. For my house to flood every 10 years or so would be unacceptable, but for the Fashion Valley parking garage, not so much.


Andrew T October 13, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Seems like SD is on the path to becoming New Orleans! The Midway could benefit from becoming more like a Dutch city. Well-built multistory buildings, canals and levees, sprinkle in some elevated rails!

Think of the possibilities.


retired botanist October 13, 2022 at 4:01 pm

Robert! There’s a lot to ‘unpack’ here, so I’ll just comment on a couple of pts you made. “Fearmongering” is the mantra we’ve been hearing from the climate deniers for 10 yrs now- you know, the ones who refused to call it a ‘crisis’, GOP who insisted on calling it “climate change” to soften the reality?
Then we have Katrina, and the poor decisions to rebuild parishes that already sat in floodplains. Nevermind the king tides, but couple them with more frequent, intense events like Ian- not that SD (yet) gets hurricanes, but think back to the flooded basements in OB some years ago, whatever those storm events were called?
And finally, your assertion that somehow, magically “things” will be done to mitigate keeping the sea out? Based on what the country is doing currently to ‘mitigate’ such inevitability, that’s a big stretch. This issue is not about the actual 30 ft height, per se, its about what kind of development and how and what the $ is spent on for an area that sits in a floodplain. The classic “100yr storm event” that is part of development compliance is really now the 5 or 10 yr event, as recent history in these areas has amply demonstrated. So its not an argument about 30 ft, its an argument about whatever gets built!
And for humor’s sake, I was born on an island (KeyWest) with an amsl of 8 feet!! So I can tell you that 8 ft means bubkas even in an ordinary storm! :-)


Robert October 13, 2022 at 8:02 pm

Alright, first of all, there is a very substantial difference between Climate Denial, which ignores what scientist have been saying, and what I am pointing out, that the scientist at NOAA are not forecasting sea level rise anywhere near what is being proposed in this article. NOAA is saying that it a worse case “do nothing scenario” that the sea level will rise 5 feet. This would be an unmitigated disaster for many communities throughout the globe, which is why we should reduce emissions asap. However this rise of 5 feet will not put the Midway district underwater, not even during King Tide.

As for claims regarding hurricanes, the underlying oceanic currents off the coast of San Diego will continue to ward off hurricanes in the foreseeable future, however if we are, on an off chance, hit by a major hurricane, then the sports arena flooding will probably be the least of our worries.

As for the claim that you need to use magic to keep the sea at bay, I would recommend you look no further than the Netherlands, who have been more than capable of protecting entire cities that are below sea level from the ocean, much let alone small areas that are far more elevated.


retired botanist October 14, 2022 at 4:36 am

:-) Robert– The “magic” I was referring to was NOT the engineering designs of the Dutch, but the likelihood that the Govt, Congress, or Govs like De Santis will adequately allocate $ towards such preventive measures! To wit, De Santis voting no on the infrastructure bill, and then turning around and asking the Govt for billions to clean up Ian.


Paul Krueger October 13, 2022 at 7:18 pm

The flooding problems around the Sports Arena have been a problem for decades. When I worked at NBC7, the first place we went to cover flooding — along with south Mission — was the liquor store near Midway and Sports Arena. Its floor was covered with water during any substantial rains.
Traffic is also — and has always been — a nightmare. The roadways — especially the on- and off-ramps to the I-8, are a mess right now, so it will be interesting to see the EIR for any proposed housing/commercial project in the area.


Geoff Page October 13, 2022 at 8:34 pm

While you may argue that the sea won’t rise to the elevation of the Sports Arena at 20 feet, you need to understand that the Midway area sits on water and any rise in sea level will affect the infrastructure in the whole area. Water has amazing hydraulic power and it will push up building foundations, underground utilities, and roads. Nothing can help with that eventuality.


FrankF October 14, 2022 at 7:43 am

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Henry Louis Mencken


Frank Gormlie October 14, 2022 at 9:24 am

Okay FrankF, you’re implying that all the warnings and signs of climate crisis are simply part of “an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”


sealintheselkirks October 14, 2022 at 9:17 pm

Should I pull out hundreds of saved science documents from the ENORMOUS number of top climate, atmospheric, ocean, glacier, ice cap scientists/professors written words (and videos) that NEVER EVER are allowed on corporate MSM news to refute all this insanely optimistic bullshit posted on this thread? Eminent, enormously respected experts such as Profs Erlich and Wadhams and Glikson, others like Natalia Shakova (Arctic methane) or Jennifer Hynes don’t get interviewed because it will disturb the oil industry and Capitalism in general. And we wouldn’t want that now would we? Best that you just die sweating in 120’F heat or drown in 18 feet of hurricane storm surge or burn in a wildfire than disturb the profits of WAY THINGS ARE (for the few).

The largest glacier in the Antarctic is crumbling and breaking up. Go ahead, look up what’s happening to the Thwaites and read with (hopefully) regret on the unreality in this thread just how many feet of ocean rise worldwide that sucker will do. I have, beyond chilling and not a fun read at all. Then read about the Pine Island one… As the ice shelves have and are continuing to break u that keeps them on that continent, this ocean rise thing is not nearly as rosy as has been intimated here.

The Himalayas are melting away and about half the world’s population depends on them for drinking & food-growing water, from Vietnam to China and India. Can we say Oopsie?

And to the east of me one state over is Glacier National Park that will need to be re-named soon as ‘Bare Rock Where Glaciers Used To Be’ National Park because they are all melting the hell away! I was hiking and snow-surfing places in Montana in the late 80s that NO LONGER HAVE ANY ICE. It’s just gone, and it’s ugly.

And let’s not forget Greenland! That huge pile of ice that, for the first time in known human history, the entire top of it was melting into new lakes with the water falling down moraines (huge holes) in the ice that went all the way to the rock below. Which lubricates and helps it slide. There was more water flooding off than roars over Niagara Falls every day. Per hole!

And we won’t even mention the Gulf Stream that has so much fresh water pouring off Greenland that it has been literally stuttering and slowing down…

And where pray tell does all this land-based melting water go? Oh, yeah, it all ends up in the ocean. And every metric is accelerating the bad news.
And then there’s ‘climate change’ a label invented by Frank Luntz an PR ad writer for Wbush who thought it up because Global Warming was making people, and I quote, “uncomfortable” and didn’t play into the Dick Cheney and Wbush oil men views on fossil fuels. That we now know that Exxon scientists in the 1960s that warned of all this were muzzled by the CEO/Board of Directors sure doesn’t do much for your arguments against alarmism much, does it”

And the fact that the IPCC is more of a politicized body than is healthy for science (gov economists have censorship power by the way) and even they’re admitting that the direst predictions by those so-called ‘Alarmist’ type scientists are turning out to be rather, ummm, conservative. How does that work again? Oh yeah, they need to be even MORE dire and scary because they UNDER played it! Well howdy ho, pardner, let’s not pay any attention to them types, eh? Bunch of Debbie Downers!
Robert: that 2100 AD figure has been used to protect the ‘business as usual’ fossil fuel industry’s plans for decades and has been thoroughly debunked on just about everything they used it for. I remember back when James Hansen spoke to Congress in the 80s and it was held up as how long it would take the Arctic to lose its ice cap. Our planet is on the cusp of a Blue Water Event and boy do we not want that to happen. Notice that there was a huge expanse of blue water Beaufort Sea in September? No? Then go here:


32 different scientists post information on this site. Time to pay attention, boyos. Feel free to scroll through the topics on the right side of the screen and pick one or four or ten and read into the articles inside each one. Something should prick your interest but I also expect that you aren’t going to like what you’re reading. But remember, it’s science and doesn’t care about your feelings any more than the oil companies care about your health and well-being of your kids above their greed….

Let me know if you want me to post some of the…extremely disturbing links and articles by some of these highly intelligent humans. I have books on shelves I can recommend, too, as I am a natural speed reader. The trouble with having a library is that I don’t always get them back when I loan them out but I do remember most of what I’ve read. I’d be glad to spend an hour picking through articles with links in my files. Since it almost Halloween, what a perfect time of year to read such alarmist drivel!

By the way, I have inherited property in Highland County, Florida for sale. Since this conversation is all ‘alarmist’ doomerism that isn’t credible, how about investing in a pair of double lots in a development in the Avon Park area, middle of the state and it’s away from the coast but easy drive west to St. Petersberg or Vero Beach on the Atlantic. Not that it’s actually High Land but anybody interested in retiring to beautiful sunny Florida should leap at this chance. Personally, I consider the entire state as being the hurricane muzzle of the climate shotgun but what do I know?



sealintheselkirks October 14, 2022 at 9:53 pm

I forgot to add this link (that has listings of where to go to read on ocean rise).

September 30, 2022
Sea Level Acceleration
by Robert Hunziker

Ain’t this fun?



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