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US Coasts Will See Month-Long Floods by 2050: NOAA

Dec 22, 2014 08:10 AM EST
US coastal cities will see month-long floods by 2050 as a result of climate change-related sea level rise, according to a new NOAA report.
(Photo : Pixabay)

US coastal cities will see month-long floods by 2050 as a result of climate change-related sea level rise, according to a new NOAA report.

Specifically, NOAA scientists William Sweet and Joseph Park established what they refer to as "tipping points" for communities across the country. This is characterized by nuisance flooding - when waters rise between one to two feet above local high tide - that occurs more than 30 or more times a year.

Based on that definition, scientists were surprised to find that these tipping points will be met or exceeded by 2050 in the majority of US coastal communities - and that's regardless of projected sea level rise occurring this century or not.

"Coastal communities are beginning to experience sunny-day nuisance or urban flooding, much more so than in decades past," Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), said in a statement. "This is due to sea level rise. Unfortunately, once impacts are noticed, they will become commonplace rather quickly."

According to the study, US daily tidal floods are now five to 10 times more likely today than they were 50 years ago.

These findings, it should be noted, are based on global sea level rise projections from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), which says waters will surge another 1.5-4 feet by the year 2100.

Areas that have to watch out for these so-called tipping points are those that already experience more frequent storms, and cities that are likely to see sea levels rise even higher than the abovementioned global projections. Louisiana, in particular is at risk because the state is essentially sinking below sea level - a phenomenon that has nothing to do with climate change, researchers say.

Other cities that should brace themselves for wetter years in the future are, not surprisingly, those along the East Coast like Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

"Businesses, coastal managers, federal, state, and local governments, and non-governmental organizations can use research such as this as another tool as they develop plans to reduce vulnerabilities, adapt to change, and ensure they're resilient against future events," added co-author Holly Bamford.

The findings are described in further detail in the American Geophysical Union's online peer-reviewed journal Earth's Future.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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