It’s a gorgeous day in Charleston. The sky is blue. The sun is shining … but roads are closed because the streets are flooded.

It’s called nuisance flooding, and it’s happening in many coastal communities, even in the absence of severe storms, as high tides combine with rising sea levels.

Bill Sweet, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says the mid-Atlantic is especially at risk.

Sweet: “Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington D.C. – these are areas that are prone to a lot of water level variability, and they also have high rates of sea-level rise.”

It’s an issue that affects the Gulf and West Coast, too. Nuisance flooding is often shallow but can overwhelm storm drains and degrade roads and infrastructure.

Sweet says many coastal cities, including Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Norfolk, will experience nuisance flooding more than thirty days a year by 2050, and some are likely to experience it daily by 2100.

Some coastal communities are installing pump systems, while others are redesigning stormwater systems, raising roadways, and fortifying coastlines.

So despite the name, nuisance flooding is becoming a serious threat to many coastal communities.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
From the extreme to the mean: Acceleration and tipping points of coastal inundation from sea level rise
NOAA: 30 days of ‘sunny day’ flooding in Charleston yearly by 2020
NOAA’s list of U.S. coastal cities that will pass a ‘tipping point’ of more than 30 days of nuisance flooding a year.

David Appell

A regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections since 2012, David Appell, Ph.D., is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon, specializing in the physical sciences, technology, and the environment. His...