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Sea Level Rise Driving 'Nuisance Flooding' Higher in Coastal Cities Across U.S.

By Terrell Johnson
Published: August 1, 2014

Many of the nation's coastal cities have seen big increases in recent years in what's known as "nuisance flooding," or flooding caused not by storms but by sea level rise, according to a new report issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Nuisance flooding has been on the rise on all three U.S. coasts since the 1960s, the report adds, shooting up by between 300 and 925 percent during that time.

Eight of the top 10 cities lie along the East Coast, where the problems nuisance flooding causes - forcing road closures, damaging urban infrastructure such as water and sewer systems, and overwhelming cities' storm drains – are becoming costlier and more destructive.

In many cities, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding, said Dr. William Sweet, an oceanographer at NOAA and the report's lead author, in a press release announcing the study.

"Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers," he added. "The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor."

You can read the full report, "Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Flood Frequency Changes around the U.S." at NOAA's website, or see the list below of the cities where nuisance flooding has increased the most.

10 U.S. Cities Where Nuisance Flooding Increased the Most

#10: Norfolk, Virginia

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 1.7
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 7.3
  • Percent increase: 325%

#9: San Francisco, California

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 2.0
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 9.3
  • Percent increase: 364%

#8: Washington, D.C.

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 6.3
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 29.7
  • Percent increase: 373%

#7: Charleston, South Carolina

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 4.6
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 23.3
  • Percent increase: 409%

#6: Port Isabel, Texas

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 2.1
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 13.9
  • Percent increase: 547%

#5: Sandy Hook, New Jersey

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 3.3
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 23.9
  • Percent increase: 626%

#4: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 1.6
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 12.0
  • Percent increase: 650%

#3: Atlantic City, New Jersey

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 3.1
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 24.6
  • Percent increase: 682%

#2: Baltimore, Maryland

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 1.3
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 13.1
  • Percent increase: 922%

#1: Annapolis, Maryland

  • Average nuisance level flood days (1957-1963): 1.3
  • Average nuisance level flood days (2007-2013): 13.1
  • Percent increase: 925%

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