Sunny Day Flooding Increasing Around the U.S. According to New Government Report

More sunny-day flooding, like Miami Beach faces during king tides, is expected in South Florida due to sea-level rise.

Sunny Day Flooding in Miami    Photo: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its annual report on high tide (a.k.a. sunny day) flooding and found that high tide flooding happens twice as often as it did in 2000 due to sea-level rise.   Nineteen cities and towns along the East and Gulf Coasts broke or tied their all-time high tide flooding days records in 2019 including multiple locations along the Texas coastline, as well as at Miami, Savannah, and Charleston. In ten years, if we do not adapt and find a way to manage coastal areas for flooding, the high tide flooding days nationwide are likely to double or even triple.

Why This Matters:  We must control greenhouse gas emissions, but that alone is not enough to deal with the climate crisis we already have — it’s impacting property access and value, causing business disruption, and harming public health.  As the report saysSea level rise flooding of U.S. coastlines is happening now, and it is becoming more frequent each year.”  Here’s the kicker: NOAA’s “National Weather Service is issuing record numbers of watches/warnings for coastal flooding, often with no storm in sight. This will become the new normal unless coastal flood mitigation strategies are implemented or enhanced.” 

Current Flooding Is Increasing

E&E News reported via Scientific American that the past year came close to breaking a record for high-tide flooding days — the prior record was set only a year earlier in 2018. According to the report,  there were 602 high-tide flooding days last year—nearly three times as many occurred in 2000, according to NOAA flooding records.  “There’s been a dramatic change in less than two decades,” Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, told E&E News yesterday.

Future of Flooding

“This is the new normal. It’s a floodier future,” NOAA oceanographer William Sweet said to E&E News. “It’s this drive in sea-level rise that is really pumping up the water levels and causing more flooding to occur.”  By 2050, the situation gets much worse.  NOAA’s report projects huge spikes in the number of days that communities will experience sunny day floods, which can be nearly as damaging as hurricane-related flooding because of its repeated inundation of streets, sewers, buildings, and basements.  On average, coastal communities are projected to have 25 to 75 high-tide flooding days by 2050, but some areas — like Louisiana’s southeast coast — will have much higher numbers — between 145 and 270 high-tide flooding days a year in 2050, NOAA projects.  And in major cities on the East Coast — New York City; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Providence, R.I.; and the Norfolk, Va — could see as many as 100 days (more than 3 months) of sunny day flooding by 2050.

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