Coastal flooding trend to continue as climate crisis escalates

"America's coastal communities and their economies are suffering from the effects of high tide flooding, and it's only going to increase in the future."

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Image Credit: California King Tides Project

Increased coastal flooding without storms has become a national trend as the climate crisis escalates. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this trend will likely worsen across the United States coastal communities in the decades to come as seas continue to rise at an alarming rate.

“Nuisance” or “sunny day” high-tide flooding, which is happening more and more across the U.S., was at a record high in 2019 as levels of flooding were “extraordinary,” the 2019 State of High-Tide Flooding and 2020 Outlook reported. This occurs when tides are 1.75 to 2 feet above the daily average high tide, which causes the water to start spilling onto streets and coming up from storm drains, the report stated.

The report found that there was a notable increase in the number of days with high-tide flooding. According to NOAA, in 2000 Corpus Christi, Texas recorded three days of tidal flooding and Charleston, South Carolina had two days. Fast forward to 2019 and Corpus Christi recorded 18 days of flooding, while Charleston had 13 days, the New York Times reported.

While the Southeast recorded the greatest increase in flooding since 2000, NOAA predicted the Northeast will see an acceleration in high-tide flooding from May 2020 to April 2021.

“America’s coastal communities and their economies are suffering from the effects of high tide flooding, and it’s only going to increase in the future,” Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, said in a statement.

According to the report, “the elevated water levels affected coastal economies, tourism and crucial infrastructure like waste and stormwater systems.” What used to happen only during a storm is now happening regularly especially “during a full-moon tide or with a change in prevailing winds or currents” because of high-tide flooding.

“Communities are straddled with this growing problem,” William Sweet, Ph.D., an oceanographer for NOAA’s National Ocean Service and lead author of the report, said. “Fortunately, NOAA’s tide gauge network is keeping a close watch and helping us provide guidance about the disruptive flooding that is likely next year and for decades to come.”

NOAA predicted that coastal communities will see an average of 2 to 6 days of flooding in the coming year, but “communities along the northeast and western Gulf coasts are projected to see even more days of flooding.”

And by 2030, the report projects seven to 15 days of high-tide flooding for U.S. coastal communities, while come 2050, it could rise to 25 to 75 days, making these flood levels the new high tide.

“NOAA is committed to working with coastal communities to provide the information and data they need to tackle the problem of high tide flooding, both now and in the coming years as sea levels continue to rise,” LeBoeuf said.

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