Climate scientists at the national, nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have just released new findings that show high-tide flooding events along the east coast may triple in 15 years and increase ten-fold in 30 years. The study notes that flooding during high tides rarely occurred in the past, but is now “projected to grow to the point that sections of coastal cities may flood so often they would become unusable in the near future.”
The new report titled “Encroaching Tides: How Sea Level Rise and Tidal Flooding Threaten U.S. East and Gulf Coast Communities over the Next 30 Years,” is co-authored by climate scientist Melanie Fitzpatrick. “In parts of New York City and elsewhere,” Fitzpatrick notes, “homeowners are dealing with flooded basements, salt-poisoned yards and falling property values, not only because of catastrophic storms, but because tides, aided by sea level rise, now cause flooding where they live.” ( See our previous coverage for local flood map.)
The UCS study is based on an analysis of 52 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas, using moderate sea level rise projections. But researchers say that flooding is so widespread that other east coast communities, like those around New York City, “may need to brace for similar changes.”
Many floods that now occur at high tide are just considered “nuisance flooding” but, according to the report, the tides causing these nuisance or minor floods will become large enough to create extensive damage.
The UCS report recommends that “municipalities, with state and federal help, prioritize and incentivize flood-proofing of homes, neighborhoods, and key infrastructure; curtail development in areas subject to tidal flooding; consider the risks and benefits of adaptation measures such as sea walls and natural buffers; and develop long-term plans based on the best available science.”
To see a profile on how tidal flooding has already changed the Jamaica Bay area in New York City and see the projections for how many annual floods our area may experience in 15 and 30 years, go to: New York City.
Top photo courtesy UCS.
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.