Climate experts predict Southwest Florida will see daily tidal floods by the year 2100

Chad Gillis
Fort Myers News-Press

There will only be one day in the year 2100 where nuisance high tide flooding isn't an issue in the Fort Myers area. 

Naples will be flooded by incoming tides every day, according to the latest tide predictions coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Experts at NOAA Tuesday released their forecast for high tide flooding days at various locations around the country. 

Nuisance flooding can cause everything from flooded roads to backed-up septic and sewage systems to crumbling infrastructure. 

Those scenarios are the intermediate predictions, and NOAA didn't release data for high-range predictions.

Fort Myers Beach councilman Jim Atterholt said there is flooding behind his condo on the south end of Fort Myers Beach. This photo was taken in November of 2020 is is from the ninth floor.

More environment coverage:

The low end of the range shows 140 nuisance, or high tide flooding days in Fort Myers and 99 such days Naples by 2100. 

"The number of high tide flooding days is growing, in fact, along the East Coast and Gulf (of Mexico) coastline," said NOAA's William Sweet Tuesday during an online presentation. "And the rate of flooding is about twice what it was 20 years ago." 

That forecast, though, is for eight decades from now. 

In 2030, Naples is expected to have three nuisance flooding days during the low to intermediate ranges. 

Fort Myers, that same year, will see four nuisance high tide flooding days, according to the latest predictions. 

In 2040, Fort Myers is forecast to have between eight and 14 days of nuisance flooding while Naples will see six to nine. 

Those same numbers jump to 18 to 42 for Fort Myers and 12 to 29 in Naples by 2050, according to the forecast. 

Nuisance flooding is defined by NOAA as "minor tidal flooding that occurs at high tide oftentimes associated with minor impacts such as old sea walls being overtopped, water in low-lying areas of roads, storm water systems that actually have water coming in through the outtake pipes, so a degrading functionality." 

Basically nuisance flooding happens when tides are high enough to cause an impact to roads or services. 

"Flooding is definitely occurring in the South Florida region," Sweet said. "Flooding is definitely occurring in the South Florida region," Sweet said. In South Florida, he said, as in most of the East Coast and Gulf Coast locations, flooding rates are increasing on a year-to-year basis.

Sweet said it's important to think of the predictions as a long-term trend, one that has more ups than downs. 

Example: just because it snows really hard in the northern reaches of the nation on one day doesn't mean overall global temperatures aren't warming. 

"Any given year may be below or above that trend," Sweet said of nuisance high tides and climate change statistics. "It doesn't mean you're out of the situation. There may be years of reprieve with conditions like La Nina and the tides are impacted by the wobble of the moon over an 18-year cycle and we're kind of in a low point from that perspective right now." 

Retired biologist and climate change planner Jim Beever said nature will, for the most part, adapt to changing conditions. It's the human infrastructure and users of those roads and services that will suffer. 

And the tides will be even higher as sea levels continue to rise, a fact documented by the U.S. Geological Survey for more than a century here. 

"It makes them even higher," Beever said of rising sea levels and higher high tides. "The mangrove and organisms are fine. They can adjust to this stuff. It's human infrastructure that sees it the most. In Miami streets flood and water backs up through their drainage system. Septic systems don't work under those conditions."  

While the major impacts may sound like they're far off in the distance and for another generation to worry about, the impacts from larger, more powerful hurricanes, wildfires and extreme temperatures are already a part life. 

"The impacts of sea level (rise are) here now," Sweet said.   

Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter.