NOAA Warns of 'Extraordinary' Increase in Coastal Flooding
Increased flooding is happening even without storms. "Nuisance" or "sunny day" high-tide flooding is becoming more commonplace across the U.S., according to the NOAA report that warns such flooding will worsen in the decades to come as seas continue to rise, according to USA Today.
The agency noted record levels of high-tide flooding in 2019. Some of the hardest hit areas were on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, where the increase in high-tide flooding has been "extraordinary," according to the report, 2019 State of High-Tide Flooding and 2020 Outlook.
The number of days with high-tide flooding set or tied records in 19 places around the country last year, including Corpus Christi, Texas, which recorded 18 days of flooding; Galveston, Texas (18 days); Annapolis, Maryland (18 days); and Charleston, South Carolina (13 days), as The New York Times reported. The place with the greatest number of recorded flood days was Eagle Point, Texas, in Galveston Bay; it dealt with high-tide flooding on 64 days, or about one out of every five days.
Those numbers represent huge jumps in a short period of time, the report found. In 2000, Corpus Christi had just three days of tidal flooding; Charleston had two. The report notes that Charleston recorded just 13 days of high-tide flooding in the more than 50 years that measurements were first kept — the exact amount that occurred in 2019 alone, according to The New York Times.
The Southeast, on average, has seen a three-fold increase in flooding since 2000, according to NOAA.
The Northeast will not be spared. NOAA predicts that from May 2020 to April 2021, the national high tide flood frequency is expected to accelerate, with U.S. coastal communities seeing an average of 2 to 6 days of flooding in the coming year. Communities along the northeast and western Gulf coasts are projected to see even more days of flooding, according to the report.
"America's coastal communities and their economies are suffering from the effects of high tide flooding, and it's only going to increase in the future," said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA's National Ocean Service, in a statement. "NOAA is committed to working with coastal communities to provide the information and data they need to tackle the problem of high tide flooding, both now and in the coming years as sea levels continue to rise."
High-tide flooding occurs when tides reach anywhere from 1.75 to 2 feet above the daily average high tide and start spilling onto streets or coming up from storm drains, according to NOAA. As sea level rise accelerates, damaging floods that used to happen only during severe storms now happen much more regularly, such as during a full-moon tide or with a change in prevailing winds or currents.
By 2030, NOAA projected, the frequency of high-tide flooding could double or triple, according to The New York Times. By 2050, that number could be five to 15 times as great, with the typical coastal community flooding between 25 and 75 days a year, NOAA said, as The New York Times reported.
"You see where this is going," LeBoeuf said. "We all need to pay attention."
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.