|Charleston, S.C., October, 2015|
In America's southeastern states they call it "sunny day flooding." That's when coastal towns experience flooding caused only by high tides and sea level rise. That's distinct from the flooding triggered by high tides, sea level rise, hurricane force storm surges and deluge rainfalls - the real buggers that reshape coastlines and the houses that line them.
Coastal communities in America's southeast are just becoming accustomed to sunny day flooding, a.k.a. "nuisance flooding." The population of Charleston is waking up to a problem that's only going to get much worse and sooner than had been imagined.
It's becoming more and more difficult to beat back the tides in Charleston. Not a month goes by now without city streets being washed out and closed off until the water recedes. Whether you call it nuisance flooding or a major threat may depend on whether you've had to abandon your car after stalling out in knee-high water. Either way, Charleston's flood problems are just getting started.
"Right now in Charleston, you get somewhere around 20 or 24 tidal flooding events per year, and that is really just when the tides get so high because you've got high tide on top of sea-level rise, they cause flooding, even on sunny days. Then when it rains, it just makes it much worse," says Nicole Hernandez Hammer, Southeast climate advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "With the mid-range sea-level rise projections, you'll probably get around 78 of those events by the year 2030, and you're going to be looking at 187 of those events per year by the year 2045. As problematic as it seems now, this is the beginning of living with sea-level rise impact."
Hammer says her home state, Florida, is in more dire straits.
A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that a great deal of the power infrastructure and grid is susceptible to storm surge inundation, which, it claims makes the argument for alternative, clean energy.