Last Wednesday night NBC News anchor Bryan Williams opened the Evening News with a hellacious story that global warming was apparently accelerating to the point of causing a “sea-change” in the coastal areas of the United States sooner than expected.

Sea-change can mean a radical change, or it can mean a transformation. Williams said global warming would cause the sea to rise to the point of flooding subway tunnels under Manhattan. And that change would occur on coast lines around this continent. Those are not his exact words, but they represent my understanding of his news report.

I found the following history about the history and definition of sea-change in Wikipoedia, the free encyclopedia:

“Sea-change or sea change is a poetic or informal term meaning a gradual transformation in which the form is retained but the substance is replaced, in this case within a marvelous petrification. It was originally a song of comfort to the  bereaved Ferdinand over his father’s death by drowning.

“The expression (sea change) is taken from the song in the tempest, when Ariel sings:

‘Full fathom five thy father lies,

Of his bones are coral made,

Those are pearls that were his eyes,

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea change,

Into something rich and strange,

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,


Hark! Now I hear them, ding-dong bell.’

“The term sea-change is often used in a manner similar to Shakespeare’s original context. For example, a character from literature may transform over time into a better person after undergoing various trials or tragedies, i.e.

“There is a sea change in Scrooge’s personality toward the end of the play.

“Likewise a community might undergo a sea change when faced with the exposure of their petty jealousies or prejudicies. Like the terrm Potemkin village, sea change has also been used in business. In the United States, sea change is often used as a corporate buzz word.

In this context, it need not refer to a substantial or signifiant transformation, but can indicate a far less impressive change.”

In reference to the sea change report by NBC News, do I believe Manhattan will be flooded?

I heed all these global warming reports because it is obvious that our weather is changing, and these changes will have an impact on our lives. I don’t know what good it will do to study the history and the meaning of sea change, but somehow it helps me relax.


Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at