Friday, August 22, 2014

Rising Sea Level Leads To More Nuisance Flooding

Nuisance flooding is defined as small-scale flooding that does not cause widespread damage but does lead to local problems such as road closures and damage to infrastructures. A recent report by NOAA, Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Flooding Frequency Changes Around the United States, studied nuisance flooding in eight major cities on all three coasts and found they have seen nuisance flooding increases between 300% and 925% since the 1960s due to rising sea levels.

The lead author, William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer, stated,
As relative sea level increases, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding.

Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence, and the loss of natural barriers.

There are a number of reasons leading to the increased flooding. As Dr. Sweet noted, land subsidence and loss of natural barriers also play a role in this increase. As we drain the water table, the land sinks and that makes it lower relative to sea level. Also, destroying barriers, especially salt water marshes, makes it easier for flood waters to get in. But, manmade global warming has also resulted in the sea level going up and this is leading to an increase in the nuisance flooding.

The focus of the study was nuisance flooding, but it also noted,

Direct consequences of rising sea level against fixed elevations such as today’s built infrastructure also include increased inundation during extreme events both spatially and temporally. Not only are extreme flooding events reaching higher grounds and covering larger areas due to SLRrel, the frequency and duration of these extreme flood events are increasing.

In other words, if it is getting easier for nuisance flooding to occur, then it is also getting easier for the severe flooding to occur.

Something to think about if you are planning on purchasing some property in low-lying areas near the coast because we sure aren't doing anything to address the problem.

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