American Cities Sinking into New Realities

2014-10-09

Tides are a natural part of the daily rhythm for coastal communities, but in the past flooding during high tides is something that rarely occurred.    Now, a report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists(UCS) this month indicates that by 2030 coastal flooding will become a regular occurrence in many of the States across America. It is thought that sea level rise, resulting from changes in global climate, will impact low-lying areas such as Annapolis, Washington D.C, Atlantic City and New Jersey by 2045, as well as 14 other states across the country.  

In the past, flooding from high tide was something that happened rarely, but today towns and cities in America are experiencing increasing incidences of flooding of this nature.  Melanie Fitzpatrick, report co-author and climate scientist at UCS explained  “Several decades ago, flooding at high tide was simply not a problem. Today, when the tide is extra high, people find themselves splashing through downtown Miami, and Annapolis on sunny days and dealing with flooded roads. In parts of New York City and elsewhere, 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.

The higher tides are a result of increases in sea level  which is ‘topping up’ the high tide and flooding is happening more frequently.  Of concern is the projection that flooding from high tide is expected to increase with most of the towns studied projected to see a tripling in the number of high-tide floods each year, and in 30 years. 

According to the UCS a number of cities have begun preparations to protect communities at risk from flooding including upgrading stormwater sewer systems to prevent seawater from backing up into pipes,  returning coastal parks into wetlands, and in Annapolis,  The U.S. Naval Academy is using “door dams” to protect building entrances from flooding.

Whilst these actions may help protect some of the communities from the worst effects of flooding, Melanie Fitzpatrick, UCS climate scientist says “Only international and national actions to deeply and swiftly reduce global warming pollution can slow the pace of future sea level rise.”

Read the report or find out more about the UCS here.