King Tides
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King tides, bringing reality home

Climate change is incremental. You don’t go to bed one evening, wake up the next morning and say, “Look at that, global temperatures rose a degree last night.” Because the changes are incremental and operate over long periods of time, it’s easy not to notice that something is different. The changes occur over time frames that thwart using casual observations as the basis for seeing them. Humans need a multi-decade reference point to notice the changes. However, many coastal residents have that reference point: their front yard, which provides a fixed elevation for observing the effects of king tides.

King tides are the result of increased gravitational pull when the earth, moon, and sun align. This effect happens several times a year. The extra gravitational force creates exceptionally high tides that we call “king tides.” These extra-high tides bring local nuisance flooding to coastal residents. Recent studies by NOAA noted that nuisance flooding is now nine times more likely in some coastal locations than it was in 1970. So, ten days of high-tide flooding in 1970, now translates into 90 days of nuisance flooding.

This change is the kind of multi-decade effect that long-time coastal residents will notice. If your front lawn is under high-tide floodwaters 900% more often than it used to be several decades ago, a curious person will ask why? Perhaps this is why the Florida GOP recently broke the code of silence and used the term “climate change” in recent legislative discussions. Florida has much to lose, and therefore its residents, already living at sea level, notice the changes.

It’s all in their imagination

So, the fact that climate change is incremental emphasizes the importance of collecting high-quality data over decades. These collections of data are the only way to get an accurate picture of what is happening across the planet. But analyzing data is not a strong point for most people. Unfortunately, this leads some people to consider documented changes as figments of the imagination. Combine this attitude with the fact that the most dramatic changes are usually happening somewhere else like the Arctic, then large portions of the population can easily dismiss climate change as a hoax.    

But, coastal residents don’t have that luxury since it is their front yards that are more frequently underwater from king tides. Mean sea level around Southern Florida rose about eight inches between 1950 and today. However, the rate is picking up, and one inch of sea-level rise is now expected every three years. Take a ruler and stand on an average beach. Place the ruler at the water’s edge and observe the eight-inch mark. It certainly doesn’t look like much.

However, king tides can raise the water level up to 12 inches over normal along the Florida coast. If you live next to the water, then the difference between a 12-inch rise in the 1970s and a 20-inch rise today is significant (20 inches equals 12 inches of king tide and 8 inches of sea-level rise). It may be the difference between your front yard or house being dry or underwater. 

A stark reminder

King tides bring reality home to many coastal residents. It is much easier to ignore changes thousands of miles away than it is to ignore changes in your front yard. When you live on the margins of active climate change, you don’t have the luxury of ignoring those changes and declaring it a hoax for ideological reasons.

The effects of increased flooding extend outward to coastal cities that now face massive costs replacing sewer pipes corroded from saltwater. Also, waterfront properties become more precarious as financial investments. Saline waters intrude into freshwater aquifers destroying their usefulness for agriculture and drinking water. Those communities who take action first are the ones actively affected by climate change. Local and State government policy will either bend to the will of the voters, or the voters will make changes through the ballot box.


ArcheanWeb:

Climate change at the margins (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2019/12/16/climate-change-at-the-margins/  Also:

Saltwater and sewers: A nasty combination (Source ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/01/15/saltwater-and-sewers-a-nasty-combination/ Also:

Rising seas: Let’s look at the numbers (Source: ArcheanWeb) – https://archeanweb.com/2020/02/20/rising-seas-lets-look-at-the-numbers/ Also:


Sources:

Climate Change: Global Sea Level (By Rebecca Lindsey; NOAA) – https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level Also:

People around the world are helping scientists in the fight against climate change by photographing this year’s incredible, extreme high tides (By Sophia Ankel; Business Insider) – https://www.businessinsider.com/incredible-pictures-king-tides-show-the-risks-of-climate-change-2020-2 Also:

Feature Image: King tide (By King Tides) (Modified) – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:King_tide_(34340496056).jpg  – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. –  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.

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