A new study from the space agency and the University of Hawaii has warned that in the mid-2030s, low-lying coastal areas will experience rapidly increasing high-tide floods.
According to the study, “the alignment of rising sea levels with a lunar cycle will cause coastal cities all around the US to begin a decade of dramatic increases in flood numbers”.
NASA has warned that this will happen due to the moon’s “wobble” – but what is it exactly?
Here we explore the phenomenon NASA is warning of, and why it may cause devastating floods in the future.
What is a moon wobble?
NASA explained that the moon “wobble” is a cyclical shift in the moon’s orbit, and said it is “nothing new” or “dangerous”.
In other words, it’s a slight alteration, or jiggle, to the Moon’s orbit.
This regular phenomenon was first reported in 1728, and continues to happen every 18.6 years.
NASA explained: “In half of the Moon’s 18.6-year cycle, Earth’s regular daily tides are suppressed: High tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal.
“In the other half of the cycle, tides are amplified: High tides get higher, and low tides get lower. Global sea level rise pushes high tides in only one direction – higher. So half of the 18.6-year lunar cycle counteracts the effect of sea level rise on high tides, and the other half increases the effect.”
Now scientists are worried about the potential ramifications the moon wobble can have in the future.
The rising sea levels, driven by the melting of polar ice, will make this next wobble cycle the most dangerous yet.
In the study, publish in the journal Nature Climate Change in June, scientists suggest that by the 2030s, the wobble will have a huge effigy on the moon’s gravitational pull.
They believe one of the wobbles will have an impact enough to impact rising sea levels, which means coastal cities all around the US will see a dramatic increase in flooding.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: “Low-lying areas near sea level are increasingly at risk and suffering due to the increased flooding, and it will only get worse.
“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.”
At the current time we’re in the middle of a lunar tidal peak, and the next peak is expected to come towards the middle of the 2030s.
By this point goal sea levels will have risen even further.
NASA warned: “The higher seas, amplified by the lunar cycle, will cause a leap in flood numbers on almost all US mainland coastlines, Hawaii, and Guam,” but tides are very much a global phenomenon, and coast parts of the UK, such as Cornwall Kent, Sussex and the East Coast are equally at risk.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency told Daily Star : “Our long-term Policy Statement sets out our ambition to create a nation more resilient to future flood and coastal erosion risk.
“It includes five ambitious policies and over 40 supporting actions which we will take to accelerate progress to better protect and better prepare the country against flooding and coastal erosion in the face of more frequent extreme weather as a result of climate change.”