NASA forecasts devastating global flooding caused by the moon

·3-min read

If you thought 2020 was bad, NASA warns the next decade could get a lot worse.

According to the space agency, a "wobble" in the moon's orbit combined with climate change could result in coastal cities experiencing high-tide floods in the 2030s.

NASA said the gravitational effects of the lunar cycle combined with sea levels rising due to climate change could produce "a decade of dramatic increases" in water disasters.

A photograph of the moon against the night sky.
A "wobble" in the moon's orbit could cause devastating flooding in the next decade. Source: Getty

"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 Administrator Bill Nelson explained in a statement

"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.”

What is a 'wobble' in the moon's orbit?

A lunar wobble is a natural occurrence that was first reported in 1728.

The wobble in the moon's orbit takes 18.6 years to complete.

For half of that time, regular daily tides on Earth are suppressed, which means high tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal.

During the other half of the 'wobble', the tides are intensified; meaning high tides get even higher, and low tides get even lower. As global sea levels rise, this will increase the already amplified high-tide effect.

The next time this "lunar assist" to high tides comes around will be in the mid-2030s, giving sea levels another decade to rise higher than they are now.

"What’s new is how one of the wobble’s effects on the moon’s gravitational pull – the main cause of Earth’s tides – will combine with rising sea levels resulting from the planet’s warming," NASA explained.

Cars driving on Dean Parkway in Minneapolis, USA, through flood waters.
The 'wobble' combined with rising sea levels will result in increased flooding. Source: Getty

The 'accumulated' effects that will have an impact on people

The study into the increasing tides was published in the Nature Climate Change journal by NASA Sea Level Change Science Team from the University of Hawaii.

Lead author on the report, Assistant Professor Phil Thompson, said the long term effects of constant flooding, some of which are predicted to occur in "clusters" and could last up to a month, is what will have an impact.

"If it floods 10 or 15 times a month, a business can’t keep operating with its parking lot under water," he said.

"People lose their jobs because they can’t get to work. Seeping cesspools become a public health issue."

In 2019, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported a total of more than 600 high tide floods in many cities on the US, Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This year NSW and Victoria both suffered severe flooding.

According to a NASA statement, flooding is expected to rise near almost all US mainland coastlines, Hawaii, and Guam.

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