Considering retiring on the coast one day? Better rethink your plans. A new NASA study explains that a cute-sounding phenomenon called a “moon wobble” could lead to devastating coastal floods in the next decade.
“In the mid-2030s, 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 report warned.
But don’t expect to look up and catch a glimpse of a jumpy moon. The wobble refers to an 18.6-year cycle that sharp-eyed astronomers first noted in 1728. During the cycle, the moon wobbles a little in one direction, then the other. One way means lower tides, the other, higher. As you can imagine, higher tides coupled with rising seas will mean some very wet and ruined coastal cities that could put humans at risk.
“We’re going to have sort of a double-whammy,” William Sweet, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) oceanographer and one of the study’s authors, told The Washington Post. “It means that coastal communities — unless they adapt and fortify — are likely to expect even greater flooding than they might otherwise.”
In 2019 alone, NOAA tracked 600 floods caused by high tides on the Gulf and East Coasts. Once the moon wobbles, this number could shoot up. NASA said some clusters of floods could last over a month. Not only could we have flooding, but also public health disasters like stinking cesspools.
The moon is now amping up for the flood-prone half of its cycle. And if the human race survives for another 18.6-year cycle, the next one will be worse, thanks to rising oceans. In the 2030s, Hawaii and Guam will be in trouble, along with just about every piece of U.S. coastline, except perhaps Alaska.
For the study, researchers examined 89 coastal locations in U.S. states and territories. They studied astronomical cycles and predicted the likelihood of how the moon will affect tides and flooding up to the year 2080. NASA’s Sea Level Portal helps citizens better understand what might be in store.
Lead image via Pixabay