Analysis of the Changing Patterns of Seasonal Flooding along the U.S. East Coast

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Ocean Dynamics






Sea level rise (SLR) is causing acceleration in the frequency and duration of minor tidal flooding (often called “sunny-day” or “nuisance” flooding) along the U.S. East Coast. Those floods have a seasonal pattern that often follows the monthly mean sea level anomaly which peaks in September–October for stations between New York and south Florida. However, there are large differences between coasts: for example, over 75% of the minor floods occur during the fall in Florida, but during the spring and winter in Boston. Various data and forcing, such as tide gauge records, surface temperatures, winds, long-term tidal cycles, and the Gulf Stream flow, were analyzed to examine potential drivers and mechanisms that can contribute to the seasonal pattern of floods. The seasonal water temperature cycle, with maximum temperatures in August, could not by itself explain the seasonal sea level pattern, but two mechanisms that significantly correlate with the seasonal sea level and flooding patterns are the annual and semi-annual tidal cycles (correlation of ~ 0.97) and changes in the Gulf Stream (GS) flow (correlation of − 0.6; the GS shows a maximum decline in September–October during the period of peak flooding). The combination of the seasonal pattern of tropical storms and high coastal sea level can explain the high frequency of fall flooding along the Southeastern U.S. coasts, while winter storms have more influence on the northeastern coasts. In recent decades however, the seasonal pattern seemed to have shifted so that increased flooding is seen on the northeastern coasts during spring and summer, while in the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern coasts, a dramatic increase in flooding is seen almost exclusively during the fall. A long-term change in the mean zonal wind pattern along the coast can contribute to the recent shift in the seasonal flooding pattern. The study can help regional adaptation and resilience planning for flood-prone coastal cities and communities.

Original Publication Citation

Ezer, T. (2020). Analysis of the changing patterns of seasonal flooding along the U.S. East Coast. Ocean Dynamics 70, 241–255. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10236-019-01326-7


0000-0002-2018-6071 (Ezer)