NASA: Moon "wobble" in orbit may lead to record flooding on Earth

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CBS News 15 July, 2021 - 02:13pm 32 views

Is the moon wobbling?

The moon's orbit, which affects the Earth's tides, has a natural "wobble" every 18.6 years that causes extremely high and low tides. Sky NewsMoon 'wobble' to bring a surge of severe flooding in 2030s, NASA warns

‘Wobble’ in moon’s orbit to cause flood surge on every US coast in 2030s, NASA predicts

WOODTV.com 15 July, 2021 - 03:00pm

A courtesy image from NASA of the full moon.

(NEXSTAR) — Beware, coastal communities. The U.S. is set to face a surge in high-tide floods along its coasts due to a “wobble” in the moon’s orbit coupled with global warming, according to NASA.

Starting in the mid-2030s, a lunar cycle will amplify rising sea levels fueled by climate change, causing rapidly increasing high-tide floods on every U.S. coast, according to findings of a new study by the NASA Sea Level Change Science Team from the University of Hawaii.

“Low-lying areas near sea level are increasingly at risk and suffering due to the increased flooding, and it will only get worse,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The combination of the moon’s gravitational pull, rising sea levels, and climate change will continue to exacerbate coastal flooding on our coastlines and across the world.”

The lunar cycle, which dictates the suppression or amplification of the Earth’s regular daily tides, is behind the expected tidal surge.

The wobble in the moon’s orbit, which takes 18.6 years to complete, is not unusual and was first reported in 1728. But what’s new is how its effects on the moon’s gravitational pull — the main cause of the planet’s tides — will combine with rising sea levels resulting from Earth’s warming, NASA said.

“In half of the Moon’s 18.6-year cycle, Earth’s regular daily tides are suppressed: High tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal. In the other half of the cycle, tides are amplified: High tides get higher, and low tides get lower,” NASA said. “Global sea level rise pushes high tides in only one direction – higher. So half of the 18.6-year lunar cycle counteracts the effect of sea level rise on high tides, and the other half increases the effect.”

The cycle is currently in the half that amplifies tides, but sea levels along most U.S. coastlines have not risen so much that high tides regularly top flooding thresholds.

That won’t be the case by the mid-2030s, when the rise of global sea levels is expected to cause a jump in flood numbers.

“Global sea level rise will have been at work for another decade,” NASA said, adding that only far northern coastlines, such as Alaska’s, will gain a respite of at least another decade as a result of long-term geological processes that are causing these land areas to rise.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is the first to consider all known oceanic and astronomical flood causes, NASA said. Researchers, who studied 89 tide gauge locations in every coastal U.S. state and territory but Alaska, created a new statistical framework.

“From a planning perspective, it’s important to know when we’ll see an increase,” said Ben Hamlington, the leader of NASA’s Sea Level Change Team and a co-author of the paper. “Understanding that all your events are clustered in a particular month, or you might have more severe flooding in the second half of a year than the first – that’s useful information.”

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Every US coast will experience rapidly increasing high-tide floods thanks to moon wobble, climate change, NASA says

KSAT San Antonio 15 July, 2021 - 11:53am

Moon wobbles aren’t new, according to NASA. They are a cyclical shift in the moon’s orbit every 18.6 years and they’ve been recorded since 1728.

The wobble affects the Moon’s gravitational pull and can either suppress or amplify ocean tides on Earth.

“In half of the Moon’s 18.6-year cycle, Earth’s regular daily tides are suppressed: High tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal,” according to NASA.

We are currently in the tide amplifying phase of the moon, but it’s the combination of the moon’s cycle paired with rising sea levels that is expected to increase the frequency of high-tide flooding, also known as sunny day flooding, during the moon’s next tide-amplifying cycle.

The NASA Sea Level Change Science Team from the University of Hawaii published a study in the Nature Climate Change journal that explains in greater detail why they expect to see a rapid increase in high-tide flooding in the coming years.

“Around the mid-2030s, locations along the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines will experience rapid increases in high-tide flooding frequency,” the study says.

The Gulf of Mexico coastlines were specifically mentioned as an area of concern because they are “more vulnerable to sea-level rise due to relatively narrow sea-level distributions.”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data was used to calculate the sea-level rise scenario.

“The mid-2030s marks the onset of an expected transition in high-tide flooding from a regional issue to a national issue with a majority of US coastlines being affected,” according to the study.

An article posted July 7 from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) states that “every U.S. coast will experience rapidly increasing high-tide floods when a lunar cycle will amplify rising sea levels caused by climate change.”

“The floods will sometimes occur in clusters lasting a month or longer, depending on the positions of the Moon, Earth, and the Sun,” according to the JPL article.

“Low-lying areas near sea level are increasingly at risk and suffering due to the increased flooding, and it will only get worse,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Compared to hurricane storm surges, high-tide floods only involve a small amount of water.

“But if it floods 10 or 15 times a month, a business can’t keep operating with its parking lot underwater. People lose their jobs because they can’t get to work. Seeping cesspools become a public health issue,” said Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii Phil Thompson. He is the lead author of the study.

Flood numbers from 89 tide gauge locations in every coastal U.S. state and territory but Alaska were studied by researchers who discovered the mid-2030s flooding projection.

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Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.

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