As a new study from NASA points to a “wobble” in the moon’s orbit as being responsible for a potential rise in high-tide floods over the next several years, several experts are warning that such extreme changes in weather are already happening — and will be much more pronounced by the effects of climate change.
The study, published in the journal Nature by researchers from NASA and the University of Hawaii, suggested that upcoming changes in the moon’s orbit could lead to record flooding across coastal locations in the U.S. within the next decade.
Several experts in astronomy and urban sustainability have told Global News that the wobble’s effects on coastlines will be amplified by drastically changing climate, which are already being felt “practically now” in Canada.
“We could start to see that noticeable increase in the rate of flooding essentially in the middle of this decade,” said Jess McIver, an assistant professor in astronomy at the University of British Columbia.
“It’s right around the corner.”
The moon wobble and its effects are not exactly new, however, after first being observed in the 1700s as part of an 18.6-year cycle. The first half of the cycle would see Earth’s tides being suppressed, whereas the tides would be amplified in the second half according to NASA.
While the changing effects of the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth’s waters have been observed for hundreds of years, it will be humanity’s worsening environmental footprint that will exacerbate, and accelerate its effects.
According to McIver, the increase in water levels near Canada’s coastal areas would start off as being very minor at first, but could easily become “ever present” and will eventually even start to affect accessibility to places near or close to the water.
Using data from on sea-level rise scenarios, astronomical cycles and flooding thresholds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the study’s authors found flooding in the U.S. could be several times worse in the 2030s, when the next “wobble” is predicted to start.
The researchers said that the flooding is expected to damage infrastructure and displace communities. According to Kees Lokman, chair of landscape architecture at University of British Columbia, those high water levels are likely to significantly affect Canada’s infrastructure as well.
Lokman said that more extreme weather events, like storm surges, flooding and king tides, will be a glimpse into what a “new normal” might look like in the future for coastal communities in Canada.
“You know, I think this is just kind of the beginning. I think sea levels will continue to rise over the next century and beyond,” he said.
McIver warned that they were already getting a lot of “warning signs” in the interplay between tides and climate change, and pointed to the recent mass deaths of shellfish in Vancouver as a result of the blistering Western Canada heat wave.
“…That happened to coincide with the very low tide and the highest point of the hottest day and killed off millions of shellfish,” she said.
“We can see that the tides and climate change are already having an impact in Canada.”
— with files from Mike Armstrong