Live on the East Coast? Rising sea levels will cause problems for your home and community a lot sooner than you probably think. In a new report, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) forecasts that 30 major cities on the East Coast will face more frequent and extensive flooding in 15 years time. In 30 years, flooding will be a near-daily occurence in nine of these cities.
The sea level has risen roughly eight inches globally from 1880 to 2009, largely due to global warming, but the rise has been over 10 inches along parts of the U.S. Atlantic coast. Higher sea level leads to higher tides, which can flood cities' streets, waterfronts, and low-lying properties. As extreme high tides become more common, UCS researchers predict that things like power outages, lost cell phone coverage, and impassable roadways will become challenges of daily life. “Today, when the tide is extra high, people find themselves splashing through downtown Miami, Norfolk and Annapolis on sunny days and dealing with flooded roads in Atlantic City, Savannah, and the coast of New Hampshire," said Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist at UCS and co-author of the report. "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.”
Climate Central published a report in September that shows many of Washington, D.C.'s low-lying tourist sites, like the National Mall, flooded by the end of the century. Washington D.C. fares the worst in the UCS report as well. Using a moderate model for sea-level rise in the next 15 years, the report says D.C. can expect more than 150 tidal floods a year. By 2045, D.C could expect 400, with the city sometimes flooding twice a day. Most of the 52 places analyzed could see a 10-fold increase of tidal floods.
The chart below from UCS shows how tidal flooding today changes in major cities until 2045. Washington D.C. tops the list in the most flooding events: