Massive Ocean Waves May Play a Role in Nuisance Flooding

Nuisance flooding in Miami. By B137Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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When huge planetary waves that spawn in the open ocean reach land, they can raise local sea levels along the coast. Could tracking these waves help scientists predict flooding months in advance?

In the early morning on 20 September 2009, the waters lapping the coast of Charleston, S.C., began to rise. High tide was on its way. But this time, the water did something unusual—it kept rising.

By 10:00 a.m., the higher-than-normal tide had left its mark: 7 to 10 centimeters of water blocked streets near the shore. Beachfront parking lots filled with salt water up to the bumpers of cars. Lifeguards reported waves inundating the beaches, and salt water that splashed over sea walls doused city walkways. The flooding didn’t just affect Charleston either; it extended halfway down the Georgia coastline.

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