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 Peter A. Kloess
Picture Antarctica today and what comes to mind? Large ice floes bobbing in the Southern Ocean? Maybe a remote outpost populated with scientists from around the world? Or perhaps colonies of penguins puttering amid vast open tracts of snow?
Giants of the Sky<p>As their name suggests, these ancient birds had sharp, bony spikes protruding from sawlike jaws. Resembling teeth, these spikes would have helped them catch squid or fish. We also studied another remarkable feature of the pelagornithids – their imposing size.</p><p>The largest flying bird alive today is the <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/group/albatrosses/" target="_blank">wandering albatross</a>, which has a wingspan that reaches 11 ½ feet. The Antarctic pelagornithids fossils we studied have a wingspan nearly double that – about 21 feet across. If you tipped a two-story building on its side, that's about 20 feet.</p><p>Across Earth's history, very few groups of vertebrates have achieved powered flight – and only two reached truly giant sizes: birds and a group of <a href="https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/pterosaurs-flight-in-the-age-of-dinosaurs/what-is-a-pterosaur" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reptiles called pterosaurs</a>.</p>
Full-size model of a Quetzalcoatlus on display at JuraPark in Baltow, Poland. Aneta Leszkiewicz / Wikimedia<p>Pterosaurs ruled the skies during the Mesozoic Era (252 million to 66 million years ago), the same period that dinosaurs roamed the planet, and they reached hard-to-believe dimensions. <a href="https://www.wired.com/2013/11/absurd-creature-of-the-week-quetz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Quetzalcoatlus</a> stood 16 feet tall and had a colossal 33-foot wingspan.</p>
Birds Get Their Opportunity<p>Birds originated while dinosaurs and pterosaurs were still roaming the planet. But when an <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur-killing-asteroid-impact-chicxulub-crater-timeline-destruction-180973075/" target="_blank">asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago</a>, dinosaurs and pterosaurs both perished. Some <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-birds-survived-asteroid-impact-wiped-out-dinosaurs" target="_blank">select birds survived</a>, though. These survivors diversified into the thousands of bird species alive today. Pelagornithids evolved in the period right after dinosaur and pterosaur extinction, when competition for food was lessened.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1284" target="_blank">The earliest pelagornithid remains</a>, recovered from 62-million-year-old sediments in New Zealand, were about the size of modern gulls. The first giant pelagornithids, the ones in our study, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75248-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">took flight over Antarctica about 10 million years later</a>, in a period called the Eocene Epoch (56 million to 33.9 million years ago). In addition to these specimens, fossilized remains from other pelagornithids have been found on every continent.</p><p>Pelagornithids lasted for about 60 million years before going extinct just before the Pleistocene Epoch (2.5 million to 11,700 years ago). No one knows exactly why, though, because few fossil records have been recovered from the period at the end of their reign. Some paleontologists cite <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2011.562268" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate change as a possible factor</a>.</p>
Piecing it Together<p>The fossils we studied are fragments of whole bones collected by paleontologists from the University of California at Riverside in the 1980s. In 2003, the specimens were transferred to Berkeley, where they now reside in the <a href="https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of California Museum of Paleontology</a>.</p><p>There isn't enough material from Antarctica to rebuild an entire skeleton, but by comparing the fossil fragments with similar elements from more complete individuals, we were able to assess their size.</p>
In life, the pelagornithid would have had numerous 'teeth,' making it a formidable predator. Peter Kloess, CC BY-NC-SA
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By Jessica Corbett
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