If you think flooding along the US coasts is a problem now, just wait.
Experts expect the kind of floods that inconvenience, rather than devastate, Americans to go from bad to worse in the coming decades.
That’s the main takeaway from a recent report by Climate Central, a Princeton, New Jersey-based research organization.
The report blames human-caused sea-level rise for most of these so-called nuisance floods that have annoyed coastal Americans for the last 60-plus years.
Specifically, it suggests two-thirds of the nearly 9,000 nuisance flood days that have impacted the US since 1950 wouldn’t have happened without human-caused sea-level rise.
An Upward Trend of Nuisance Floods
Why is that a big deal when these floods don’t do much to damage or destroy cars and homes? Because they overwhelm low-lying roads as well as storm drains.
That can lead to a whole host of hassles for nearby renters and homeowners. Sometimes it makes it hard for them to get to work or to the store. Other times it makes flushing the toilet a challenge or even impossible.
Those struggles may soon become increasingly common, if this report’s findings are correct.
Consider that the number and portion of nuisance flood days associated with climate change have grown steadily since the 1950s. Climate Central’s Benjamin Strauss and his co-authors tied less than half of that decade’s incidents to sea-level rise caused by humans. Between 2005 and 2014, that percentage rose to more than three-quarters.
Strauss, Climate Central’s vice president for sea level rise and climate impacts, doesn’t see that trend slowing down anytime soon. "We're only inches into a problem that is going to grow by feet," he told Bloomberg.com earlier this year.
To learn more about the type of homeowners insurance you need to protect against this threat, read our article, “What You Need to Know About Flood Insurance.” If you’re a renter, check out this recent article on the subject.
Changing the World a Few Inches at a Time
How many inches is Strauss talking about here?
Recent research led by Rutgers University’s Robert Kopp suggests global sea level rose about four-and-a-half inches during the 20th century. Strauss and company’s follow-on work pushed that estimate to six inches when they tossed 2001 through 2014 into the mix.
“These don’t sound like world-changing numbers, especially considering that many sea level projections for this century run beyond three feet,” Strauss said on climatecentral.org in February. If you live in certain parts of the country, though, “our analysis shows those inches have already changed your world.”
Beware in These Areas, Especially
Speaking of which, are any US locations more likely than others to see a rise in nuisance floods down the road? Climate Change’s experts point to the mid-Atlantic states. That means Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. (Parts of New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina may be at risk too.)
The reason for that focus: the region’s “wide, shallow continental shelf and energetic wind and current regimes frequently push tides above relatively low nuisance flood levels.”
Other areas singled out in the report mentioned earlier: Florida’s Atlantic coast and the Keys, as well as San Diego, Seattle, and Honolulu.
The Case for Flood Insurance
Do you live in any of those locales, or others around the US that are at risk of nuisance flooding? Consider buying flood insurance.
It’s an added expense, but it could be worth every penny you spend on it if you live in the right – or wrong – area. After all, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reports that about 20 percent of flood claims come from people living in cities and towns with a low-or-moderate risk of flooding.
The bad news related to this situation: the NFIP sells flood insurance at a flat rate, which means shopping for discounts basically is out of the question. The good news: there are other things you can do to save on this coverage.
One option is to purchase a Preferred Risk Policy rather than a standard flood policy. Preferred Risk Policies usually cost less than standard ones. If you live in a high-risk location, though, you’ll likely have to go with the more expensive policy.