Have you ever heard of something called “moon wobble”? Yeah, neither had I until NASA announced that, in conjunction with climate change, might cause big flooding issues in coastal America. This is what you need to know. (1)
Moon Wobble To Contribute To Increased Flooding In America
If you live near a beach, you probably have experience with flooding from time to time. Whether it’s a major flood caused by a hurricane or a minor one caused by changing water levels and tides, you’ve experienced them before. While the one-off flood or incremental rises in sea level might not seem like a big issue, if they become much worse they can cause some serious problems. NASA recently announced that something called “moon wobble” might cause continental American beach areas, Hawaii, and Guam some major issues in the near future.
What Is Moon Wobble?
When I picture the moon wobble, I picture the moon literally wobbling back and forth in the sky. What this actually stands for is a change in the moon’s orbit. NASA says that in the mid-2030s, our projected sea levels due to climate change combined with this change in orbit are going to dramatically increase the number of floods seen in the US.
The NASA Sea Level Change Science Team from the University of Hawaii says that not only will floods occur more often, but that they will occur in clusters. This means that before one flood completely recedes, another will happen so that the affected areas could be flooded for a month or even longer.
Why Does The Lunar Cycle Affect Flooding?
The tides are controlled by the gravitational pull of the moon. When the moon, Earth, and sun line up in specific ways, they cause a gravitational pull that causes the sea level to go up and over the flooding threshold of most towns and cities.
“Low-lying areas near sea level are increasingly at risk and suffering due to the increased flooding, and it will only get worse,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The combination of the Moon’s gravitational pull, rising sea levels, and climate change will continue to exacerbate coastal flooding on our coastlines and across the world. NASA’s Sea Level Change Team is providing crucial information so that we can plan, protect, and prevent damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods affected by flooding.”
To make matters worse, cities and towns across the country will be affected at the same time. This is because the moon will change orbit in half the time that it usually does due to the rising sea levels caused by climate change. Normally, this cycle is 18.6 years. For half of it, high tides are higher and low tides are lower, in the other half high tides are lower and low tides are higher. With rising sea levels, however, they only get higher. While one half of the lunar cycle is counteracting the rising water, the other half is making it worse.
NASA says that by 2030 in the high tide years the sea levels will regularly surpass the flood thresholds.
What Is The Problem With Flooding?
Floods are highly damaging. Anyone who’s ever lived through a major flood or even just had a flooded basement can tell you that. They can cause health hazards due to stagnant, unclean water, mold growth, and more. Floods also have a major impact on the economy because they make businesses, public transport, and more inaccessible. To top it off, governments have to spend a lot of money to clear away and clean up floods.
“It’s the accumulated effect over time that will have an impact,” said Phil Thompson, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii and the lead author of the new study, published this month in Nature Climate Change. “if it floods 10 or 15 times a month, a business can’t keep operating with its parking lot underwater. People lose their jobs because they can’t get to work. Seeping cesspools become a public health issue.”
What Can We Do?
The good news is that we know far enough in advance that we can prepare for it. Naturally, we should be doing everything we can to combat climate change – on a local, national, and international level. Still, we need to be prepared in order to prevent our towns and cities from excessive damage and economic stress. (2)
“A lot of the projections that we as scientists give to coastal planners are up to 2100, but the impacts that we’re going to see because of how these different factors and processes are combining are much nearer term,” said Nelson. “We’re going to see these big dramatic shifts in the next decade or two.”
So the bottom line is that, no, it is not the moon’s fault that there will be more flooding. It is the rising sea levels due to climate change that is the primary culprit. Work on this problem and we can prevent bigger issues in the future. (3)
- “Study Projects a Surge in Coastal Flooding, Starting in 2030s.” NASA. July 7, 2021.
- “A Study Predicts Record Flooding In The 2030s, And It’s Partly Because Of The Moon.” NPR. JOSIE FISCHELS. July 14, 2021.
- “No, NASA did not say the main cause of tidal flooding in 2030s will be the moon’s ‘wobble’.” Verify This. Emery Winter. July 23, 2021.