UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 28, 2009

THE HIGH TIDE MYSTERY

Charlotte Observer - Weather experts are contemplating a new mystery of the deep blue sea: why it's been deeper than usual at high tide all along the East Coast for the past several weeks.

Since June, tides have been running from 6 inches to 2 feet above what would normally be expected, even considering seasonal and lunar fluctuations. While local tidal changes are not uncommon, researchers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aren't sure they have ever recorded an event like this one, which is showing up all the way from Maine to Florida. . .

"Right now we're trying to get a better understanding of what's the cause," said Mike Szabados, director of NOAA's tide and current program in Silver Spring, Md. Global warming isn't to blame, scientists say, as the rise was too sudden. Possibly, Szabados said, the explanation lies in something called the North Atlantic oscillation, a disturbance in the atmospheric pressure in the area of the North Atlantic Ocean between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High.

A change in the atmospheric pressure can change wind velocities and directions, which can affect ocean circulation, Szabados said. . .

The higher tides have also flooded the nests of shore birds and sea turtles close to the water line. The higher water brings an increased risk of rip tides. And if a tropical storm or hurricane strikes before the phenomenon subsides, damage near the shore could be magnified. . .

Szabados said that while the surge has diminished, it hasn't disappeared, and researchers don't know when it will.

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