The Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States have seen an “extraordinary” increase in high-tide flooding since 2000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported earlier this week, a five-fold increase in frequency that is “damaging homes, imperiling the safety of drinking water, inundating roads, and otherwise hurting coastal communities,” the New York Times writes.
“Conditions are changing, and not just in a few locations,” Nicole LeBoeuf, acting assistant administrator of the agency’s National Ocean Service, told media. “Damaging floods that decades ago happened only during a storm now happen more regularly, even without severe weather.”
The report attributes the increase in the phenomenon also known as sunny-day or nuisance flooding to sea levels that are roughly 13 inches/0.33 metres higher than they were in 1920.
“The new data comes as the Trump administration continues to play down the threat of global warming, which is the driving factor behind sea level rise,” the Times reports. While “NOAA, like other government scientific agencies, has been subject to political pressure,” the agency “has mostly been allowed to continue gathering and releasing data showing the effects of climate change.”
NOAA opened its report this week with an explicit warning, the Times says: “Sea level rise flooding of U.S. coastlines is happening now, and it is becoming more frequent each year.” But the report “was silent on the cause of rising seas, containing no mention of climate change or global warming.”
In her media briefing, LeBoeuf acknowledged that “climate change and carbon emissions are a factor at play when we look at how tides are rising,” and said the report had not been reviewed or edited by political staff. “But she emphasized that the report, strictly speaking, was limited to data collected from the tide gauges,” the Times writes. “The question of what is causing seas to rise is, she said, ‘a little different’.”