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NOAA tidal flooding forecast steady for now, but dramatic increases expected in coming decades

Storm Surge
Pat Wellenbach
Waves pound the coast along Wells Beach, breaking over the seawall as a car passes by during a severe storm in Wells, Maine, on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.

An outlook issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests coastal flooding in the coming year will be on par with the last. But rising sea levels are expected to bring dramatic increases in tidal flooding over the next few decades.

Portland's Bayside and Old Port are just two of many areas along Maine's coast that are increasingly seeing this type of event, often called sunny day flooding. In a media briefing, NOAA oceanographer William Sweet, said the frequency of this flooding along the Northeast coast has doubled in just 20 years.

Sweet said he expects about 8 days of tidal flooding in the Northeast over the next year, similar to the last year. And he said two factors are helping to moderate flooding, for now.

"Ongoing presence of La Nina over the last couple of years, together with the downward swing in tide heights from the wobble in the moon's orbit have slowed flood frequencies somewhat, have helped take the foot off of the accelerator, if you will," Sweet said.

But by 2050, with a foot of sea level rise expected, Sweet said coastal regions of the U.S. could see 45-70 flooding days, on average.

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