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Rising sea levels are causing 'sunny day flooding' along Maine's coast

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Murray Carpenter
/
Maine Public
A parking lot in the Old Port in Portland, flooding during a king tide event on Jan. 24, 2023.

A high tide Tuesday was an opportunity to witness the changes that are coming to Maine's coast as the sea level rises.

As one of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute's High Tide Walks, Gayle Bowness led a dozen people on a tour of flood-prone areas of Portland's Old Port, to learn about tidal flooding, and to gather data for a community science project.

The walk coincided with one of the highest predicted tides of the year. Commonly known as king tides, Bowness says they cause sunny day flooding, or nuisance flooding, that is not associated with a storm surge.

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Murray Carpenter
/
Maine Public
Gayle Bowness, of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, in Portland on Jan. 24, 2023. She says high tides are increasingly causing "sunny day flooding" along Maine's coast.

At a wharf along Commercial Street, she points out a parking lot partly submerged beneath the water of Portland Harbor at high tide.

"All of that has been kind of eroded over time, and you can see that it's eaten away at the tar, and this parking lot is kind of slowly coming back into the ocean," she says.

Bowness says such high tides are now occurring as often as 18 times a year, typically in late fall and early winter, and late spring and early summer. She says they are quickly becoming more common as climate change causes sea levels to rise.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.