with sea levels rising, do you think the risk of flooding will become a more important concern for homeowners in the future?
In short, yes. the recent report (2021) of the intergovernmental panel on climate change indicates that floods will become more frequent and intense due to climate change. not only will the sea level rise, but more frequent and intense storm systems will also build up. so if the same storm force hits an area that was hit years ago, now the flooding is worse because of sea level rise. But on top of that, warm weather means storms are likely to be even stronger, which also means flooding will be worse.
This “double whammy” of stronger storms and higher sea levels is concerning. And while we often think of flooding in coastal regions, flooding from inland rivers and streams can also become a bigger problem as the climate changes.
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do you think there will be a point where high tide flooding goes from being a regional problem to a national problem?
Although high tide flooding is expected to worsen due to sea level rise, not all coastlines will be affected by this phenomenon. Coastlines that slope steeply toward the ocean, such as on the west coast of the United States, will experience much less inundation (flooding) than the more level east coast. The East Coast region contains the areas that are already experiencing the most significant high-tide flooding, particularly the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Coastal geometry, prevailing wind direction, and underlying geology also affect a region’s vulnerability to high-tide flooding. therefore, while more frequent and intense high-tide flooding events are expected in the coming decades, and some places will experience high-tide flooding that has not happened before, this will continue to be a regional problem, with perhaps some expansion of affected regions.
It’s been in the news recently that NASA suspects that the combination of climate change and the moon’s natural “wobble” could cause record flooding in the 2030s. Is this inference something people should start planning for? now?
It is always wise to plan ahead for flooding. I’m much more concerned about not just the “wobble” of the moon, but the potential for multiple factors to increase flooding at the same time, specifically sea level rise added to flooding from existing and now stronger storms. Variations in the lunar cycle have masked some sea level rise up to this point, but will begin to increase sea level rise in the coming decades.
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Should people plan now? weather forecasting models have improved a lot even in the last decade and can forecast floods several days in advance with impressive results. And while this might be enough time to evacuate from a hurricane or deploy temporary sandbags, it’s not always enough time to adequately protect waterfront and water-adjacent property. Property improvements can take months or even years to plan and carry out. And, of course, local, state, and federal government flood mitigation efforts can take much longer. therefore, it is imperative that planning to make things worse in the future begins now.
what are some steps people can take to effectively mitigate the effects of flooding today?
Being someone with a background in geography, for me this is a question of scale. There are certain smaller-scale things homeowners can do on their own to mitigate flooding: shoreline protection measures, ensuring effective drainage with proper property grading, and regularly cleaning debris from storm drains. that last one is an often overlooked measure that can be a big help with flooding, especially in the fall months when fallen leaves regularly clog drains.
then there are larger scale issues that go beyond what a single owner can take on. this includes preserving wetlands (which serve as a natural buffer against flooding), reducing the amount of paved surfaces, and maintaining levees and storm walls. adequate local and regional planning can provide protection not only to a person or family, but to the entire community.