Those rising tides are OUR tides

courtesy Riccardo Pitzalis

HOUSTONThis one is making the rounds today -- several new studies not only point to sea levels rising, but specifically along the Gulf Coast states and southeastern U.S. The Washington Post article, which has plenty of Houston and Galveston mentions, points to one study, in particular, from the University of Arizona.

“The entire Southeast coast and the Gulf Coast is feeling the impact of the sea level rise acceleration,” said Jianjun Yin, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona and the author of one of two academic studies published in recent weeks that describe the changes.

Yin’s study, published in the Journal of Climate, calculates the rate of sea level rise since 2010 at over 10 millimeters — or one centimeter — per year in the region, or nearly five inches in total through 2022. That is more than double the global average rate of about 4.5 millimeters per year since 2010, based on satellite observations of sea level from experts at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

From Pensacola Beach, you can see high tide levels increased 10 inches in 12 years, a huge acceleration from the the decades before!

courtesy NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has pages dedicated to this rapid sea level rise, especially of high tides -- those nuisance, disruptive tides. They note: “The U.S. annual high tide flooding frequency is more than twice that in the year 2000 due to rising relative sea levels. By 2030, the national median frequency rate is likely to increase by two to three times (seven to 15 days). By 2050, high tide flooding is likely to occur between 25 and 75 days per year, depending on location.”

Why are the Gulf and Southeast feeling such effects already? The Gulf is shallower than other bodies of water and is easier to warm. The loop current is a current of warm water from the equator that moves right into the Gulf of Mexico. That current then moves through the Straits of Florida and becomes the Gulf Stream -- warm water along the Southeast coast. Thus the Gulf states and Southeast states are seeing all this warmer water. And warm water expands. Expanding water rises. Simple as that.

Warm water moves through the Caribbean into the Gulf and then to the southeast. Graphic from NOAA

Whether this is all due to man-made global warming or natural variability or both is up for debate. But the fact that the sea levels are getting higher and faster is not up for debate. Whatever the cause, the effect is already here and continuing at a concerning rate. Higher tides equal more destructive floods and hurricanes. You can find The Washington Post article here. I had to subscribe for free, but it did require an email. An interesting read.

Speaking of hurricanes, early forecasts for the 2023 season are coming in. I’ll blog about those on Wednesday.


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.