High tides rising from storm drains and spilling onto streets require improved flood protection measures sea level riseFederal officials warned Tuesday.
“Water levels are nearing a threshold in many communities,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. About two-thirds of federal tidal stations along the East Coast and the Gulf have seen increased flooding over the past year.
“We’re having flooding on a sunny day, (without) storms, and you’re starting to overwhelm the defense,” Sweet said.
Every inch matters. An inch of sea level rise creates “a very noticeable change” as above-normal high tides push into low-lying areas, he said.
Nicole LeBoeuf, NOAA’s Director of National Oceanic Services, said that compared to 2000, the East and Gulf coasts “experienced twice as much storm surge flooding compared to 2000, causing coastal inundation. , streets, basements and damaging critical infrastructure”.
What is the forecast for the future?
Almost sea level rise expected within the next 30 years.
Flooding from high tides is forecast to increase by 2050, occurring on average 45-70 days a year, up from an average of 4 days in the past year, according to updated projections released today. Tuesday.
In Galveston, Texas, tidal flooding could occur in 2050 198 days more frequently than in 2020, depending on the amount of climate warming and sea level rise.
In Annapolis, Maryland, where tidal flooding has raged in its historic center, the number of days of high tide flooding can increase by 75 to 115 days a year.
Those are only days when high tide reaches the NOAA threshold of 1.75 to 2 feet above normal and do not include days when the tide is higher than normal but below the threshold.
Which communities had the greatest number of flood days last year?
High tide flooding occurs for 10 days or more in locations along the Atlantic Coast between New York and South Carolina, as well as in Mississippi and Texas.
Sea level rise isn’t just a beach problem
The only community in the contiguous United States to have broken a record for the number of days of high tide flooding in the past year is Reedy Point, Delaware, more than 60 miles inland along Delaware Bay.
Two other beachfront communities broke or set records. Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific has experienced four days of high tide flooding, one day more than the previous year. The Springmaid Pier station near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, tightened its previous record, set in 2021, with 11 days of high tide flooding.
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Last year, few communities set a record for the number of days of flood due to high tides. Why?
The country benefits from La Nina, a pattern of cooler-than-normal water along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, which tends to block high tides, Sweet said. “That helped take my foot off the accelerator.”
The relief is only temporary and does not reduce the need to prepare for larger floods, he said. La Nina is forecast to dissolve at some point next year.
Due to those lingering effects, the number of days of high tide next year is forecast to be similar to that of the previous year, about 3 to 7 days. That’s still about a one-day average rise above tidal levels for 2019-2020, Sweet said.
Where does flood information come from, and why is it important?
Report annual flood days using measurements recorded at 97 tide stations along the US coast between May 2021 and April 2022. Some gauges have recorded data data for more than 100 years.
Forecasts can help communities deal with intermittent flooding and “protect lives, property, economies and the environment for future generations,” Sweet said. “For example, for the first time in history, the infrastructure we build must be designed and built with future conditions in mind.”
Dinah Voyles Pulver covers climate and environmental issues for the USA TODAY. She can be reached at [email protected] or @dinahvp on Twitter.