According to a NASA research released Wednesday, coastal flooding in the United States is likely to increase in the 2030s owing to a combination of increasing sea levels and an expected wobble in the moon’s orbit.
The agency’s Sea Level Change Science Team from the University of Hawaii made its predictions based on the moon’s typical 18.6-year orbit. During half of that orbit, high tides are lower than normal and low tides are higher than normal. During the other half, a wobble causes the tides to be more extreme — high tides are higher and low tides are lower.
The Earth is presently in the enhanced tidal phase of the lunar cycle, but rising global warming and sea level rise are predicted to exacerbate the tides over the next cycle.
“Low-lying areas near sea level are increasingly at risk and suffering due to the increased flooding, and it will only get worse,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “The moon’s gravitational pull, rising sea levels, and climate change will continue to exacerbate coastal flooding on our coasts and around the world.”
“NASA’s Sea Level Change Team is providing crucial information so that we can plan, protect, and prevent damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods affected by flooding.”
Phil Thompson, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, said high-tide floods aren’t as high as those caused by extreme weather events such as hurricanes.
“But if it floods 10 or 15 times a month, a business can’t keep operating with its parking lot under water. People lose their jobs because they can’t get to work. Seeping cesspools become a public health issue,” he said.
The study said the combination of the lunar wobble and rising sea levels will cause an increase in the number of floods on nearly all U.S. coastlines. Far northern coasts, such as those in Alaska, will be spared because the land there is rising due to geological processes.