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  1. Abstract

    High tide floods (HTFs) are minor, shallow flooding events whose frequency has increased due to relative sea‐level rise (SLR) and secular changes in tides. Here we isolate and examine the role of historical landscape change (geomorphology, land cover) and SLR on tides and HTF frequency in an urbanized lagoonal estuary: Jamaica Bay, New York. The approach involves data archeology, historical (1870s) map digitization, as well as numerical modeling of the bay. Numerical simulations indicate that a century of landscape alterations (e.g., inlet deepening and widening, channel deepening, and wetland reclamation) increased the mean tidal range at the head of the bay by about 20%. The observed historical shift from the attenuation to amplification of semidiurnal tides is primarily associated with reduced tidal damping at the inlet and increased tidal reflection. The 18% decrease in surface area exerts a minor influence. A 1‐year (2020) water level simulation is used to evaluate the effects of both SLR and altered morphology on the annual number of HTFs. Results show that of 15 “minor flood” events in 2020, only one would have occurred without SLR and two without landscape changes since the 1870s. Spectral and transfer function analyses of water level reveal frequency‐dependent fingerprints of landscape change, with a significant decrease in damping for high‐frequency surges and tides (6–18 hr time scale). By contrast, SLR produced only minor effects on frequency‐dependent amplification. Nonetheless, the geomorphic influence on the dynamical response significantly increases the vulnerability of the system to SLR, particularly high‐tide flooding.

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  2. Abstract

    Little is known about the effect of tidal changes on minor flooding in most lagoonal estuaries, often due to a paucity of historical records that predate landscape changes. In this contribution, we recover and apply archival tidal range data to show that the mean tidal range in Miami, Florida, has almost doubled since 1900, from 0.32 to 0.61 m today. A likely cause is the dredging of a ∼15 m deep, 150 m wide harbor entrance channel beginning in the early 20th century, which changed northern Biscayne Bay from a choked inlet system to one with a tidal range close to coastal conditions. To investigate the implications for high‐tide flooding, we develop and validate a tidal‐inference based methodology that leverages estimates of pre‐1900 tidal range to obtain historical tidal predictions and constituents. Next, water level predictions that represent historical and modern water level variations are projected forward in time using different sea level rise scenarios. Results show that the historical increase in tidal range hastened the occurrence of present‐day flooding, and that the total integrated number of days with high‐tide floods in the 2020–2100 period will be approximately O(103) more under present day tides compared to pre‐development conditions. These results suggest that tidal change may be a previously under‐appreciated factor in the increasing prevalence of high‐tide flooding in lagoonal estuaries, and our methods open the door to improving our understanding of other heavily‐altered systems.

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  3. Abstract

    We demonstrate that long‐term tidally induced changes in extreme sea levels affect estimates of major flood hazard in a predictable way. Long‐term variations in tides due to the 4.4 and 18.6‐year cycles influence extreme sea levels at 380 global tide gauges out of a total of 581 analyzed. Results show coherent regions where the amplitudes of the modulations are particularly relevant in the 100‐year return sea level, reaching more than 20 cm in some regions (western Europe, north Australia, and Singapore). We identify locations that are currently in a positive phase of the modulation and therefore at a higher risk of flooding, as well as when (year) the next peak of the long‐term tidal modulations is expected to occur. The timing of the peak of the modulation is spatially coherent and influenced by the relative importance of each cycle (4.4 or 18.6‐year) over the total amplitude. An evaluation of four locations suggests that the potentially flooded area in a 100‐year event can vary up to ∼45% (in Boston) as a result of the long‐term tidal cycles; however, the flooded area varies due to local topography and tidal characteristics (6%–13%). We conclude that tidally modulated changes in extreme sea levels can alter the potentially inundated area in a 100‐year event and that the traditional, fixed 100‐year floodplain is inadequate for describing coastal flood risk, even without considering sea‐level rise.

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  4. Abstract

    In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States, creating widespread coastal flooding and over $60 billion in reported economic damage. The potential influence of climate change on the storm itself has been debated, but sea level rise driven by anthropogenic climate change more clearly contributed to damages. To quantify this effect, here we simulate water levels and damage both as they occurred and as they would have occurred across a range of lower sea levels corresponding to different estimates of attributable sea level rise. We find that approximately $8.1B ($4.7B–$14.0B, 5th–95th percentiles) of Sandy’s damages are attributable to climate-mediated anthropogenic sea level rise, as is extension of the flood area to affect 71 (40–131) thousand additional people. The same general approach demonstrated here may be applied to impact assessments for other past and future coastal storms.

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  5. Low-lying Coastal Landfill Neighborhoods (CLaNs) often have a large aspect ratio, defined here as the coastline length divided by neighborhood width, due to the common practice of reclaiming fringing wetlands along tidal waterways. Flood risk reduction for CLaNs frequently involves elevated barriers, in the form of berms, seawalls, or levees, which reduce risk but cannot completely eliminate residual risk (e.g., due to overtopping during extreme events). Managed retreat is an alternative approach for flood risk reduction, the general idea of which is to strategically ban development in hazard zones, relocate structures, and/or abandon land. This study aims at exploring the tradeoffs between elevated barriers and managed retreat in terms of both CLaN aspect ratio and storm climate, for both short-term and long-term risk reduction with sea-level rise. Hydrodynamic flood modeling of an idealized CLaN protected by different adaptation plans is used to simulate flood conditions and mortality for a range of storm surge amplitudes for both the present-day and under different sea-level rise scenarios. Results show that for a berm and a case of managed retreat of an equal cost, retreat becomes more beneficial than the berm in terms of mortality risk reduction for neighborhoods with a larger aspect ratio. The study also shows that berms are generally less effective for reducing mortality in regions with less common but higher intensity storms. This study reveals the potential of idealized modeling to provide fundamental insights on the physical factors influencing the efficacy of different adaptation strategies for mortality risk reduction. 
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    Nuisance flooding (NF) is defined as minor, nondestructive flooding that causes substantial, accumulating socioeconomic impacts to coastal communities. While sea-level rise is the main driver for the observed increase in NF events in the United States, we show here that secular changes in tides also contribute. An analysis of 40 tidal gauge records from U.S. coasts finds that, at 18 locations, NF increased due to tidal amplification, while decreases in tidal range suppressed NF at 11 locations. Estuaries show the largest changes in NF attributable to tide changes, and these can often be traced to anthropogenic alterations. Limited long-term measurements from estuaries suggest that the effects of evolving tides are more widespread than the locations considered here. The total number of NF days caused by tidal changes has increased at an exponential rate since 1950, adding ~27% to the total number of NF events observed in 2019 across locations with tidal amplification. 
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  8. null (Ed.)
    Abstract. In recent centuries, human activities have greatly modified thegeomorphology of coastal regions. However, studies of historical andpossible future changes in coastal flood extremes typically ignore theinfluence of geomorphic change. Here, we quantify the influence of 20th-century man-made changes to Jamaica Bay, New York City, on present-day storm tides. We develop and validate a hydrodynamic model for the 1870s based on detailed maps of bathymetry, seabed characteristics, topography, and tide observations for use alongside a present-day model. Predominantly through dredging, landfill, and inlet stabilization, the average water depth of the bay increased from 1.7 to 4.5 m, tidal surface area decreased from 92 to 72 km2, and the inlet minimum cross-sectional area expanded from 4800 to 8900 m2. Total (freshwater plus salt) marsh habitat area has declined from 61 to 15 km2 and intertidal unvegetated habitat area from 17 to 4.6 km2. A probabilistic flood hazard assessment with simulations of 144 storm events reveals that the landscape changes caused an increase of 0.28 m (12 %) in the 100-year storm tide, even larger than the influence of global sea level rise of about 0.23 m since the 1870s. Specific anthropogenic changes to estuary depth and area as well as inlet depth and width are shown through targeted modeling and dynamics-based considerations to be the most important drivers of increasing storm tides. 
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