November's "super moon," when the full moon and sun lined up to exert a gravitational pull on the Earth at a time when the Earth is closest to the Sun, brought the usual "king tides" to cities and towns along the Atlantic coast. But according to scientists who study sea levels and tides, this year's tides were a little higher than usual — part of a slow rise in sea level that's expected to continue, and probably accelerate, in coming decades. That prospect is a problem for city planners, as well as developers, working in flat areas near the coast — because where the land slopes only gradually, a small increase in sea level can bring the water far inland from the shore.
The New York Times covered the story here (see: "Intensified by Climate Change, ‘King Tides’ Change Ways of Life in Florida," by Lizette Alvarez and Frances Robles). "In South Florida, which takes rising sea levels seriously enough to form a regional compact to deal with global warming, climate change is no abstract issue," the Times reported. "By 2100, sea levels could swell high enough to submerge 12.5 percent of Florida’s homes. These so-called king tides, which happen frequently, are the most blatant example of the interplay between rising seas and the alignment of the moon, sun and Earth. Even without a drop of rain, some places flood routinely... Rising sea levels exacerbate the flooding, scientists said. In much of South Florida, including Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, finding short- and long-term fixes to the challenges of flooding caused by rising seas is a priority. A new position now exists to deal with it: resiliency chief or sustainability director."
The Washington Post had this take (see: "Supermoon-spiked king tide offers sneak preview of sea-level rise along East Coast," by Jason Samenow). "This week’s supermoon was more than a spectacular sight in the night sky. It nudged up sea levels, leading to areas of coastal flooding along the East Coast," the Post wrote. "Such inundation offered a glimpse of the new normal in certain low-lying areas as sea levels rise because of climate change... Coastal flooding during such astronomically high tides has been increasing over time because of climate warming, which raises sea levels. 'Recent sea level rise ensures that when king tides occur they increasingly cause localized flooding,' the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a blog post.
Since 1960, sea levels have risen about 6 to 8 inches along the East Coast. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has documented a 300 to 925 percent increase in 'nuisance flooding.'"
The meaning of extreme tidal events in the big picture is a topic of debate, as the Gainesville Sun reported (see: "Sea-level rise presents an epic risk to Florida," by Harold Bubil). Views range widely, the paper reported: "No less an organization that the American Institute of Architects’ Florida-Caribbean chapter has adopted a policy that its members should plan for 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century. Many scientists believe the 3-foot estimate is inadequate; the rise could be 6 feet or more." But Sarasota homebuilder Lee Wetherington isn't having that: Wetherington said, “I’ve been listening to this nonsense about water rising for 40 years. It hasn’t. Most all the people who are experts are being supported by grants from the government. I remember in the 1980s, when the left pushed (that) we would run out of oil by early 2000s. We did not. I haven’t seen the water in the bay any higher than I did 40 years ago. Property values will continue to go up by the water. Those owners will always get insurance and financing. I’m more worried about hurricanes and lightning strikes than climate change. ... The flood maps have changed because of storm surge, not higher water. We'll just have to wait and see if it happens or is this more nonsense from the left.”
Local aquatic life had no official comment — but one salt-water resident was spotted scoping out developed real estate locations along the landward edge of South Florida's intertidal zone. As the supermoon's gravity sucked seawater up out of the storm drains into the lower level of a Miami Beach parking garage, an octopus took advantage of the temporary conditions to explore the area, earning fifteen minutes of television and YouTube fame. According to local news reports, humans returned the eight-armed visitor to deeper water as the tide receded. (See: "Octopus in the parking garage is climate change’s canary in the coal mine," by Alex Harris/Miami Herald).