September 3, 2009

U.S. Atlantic coast sea level anomaly seen

U.S. scientists say persistent winds and a weakened current contributed to higher than normal June and July sea levels along the Eastern Seaboard.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report says water levels six inches to two feet higher than originally predicted were reported.

NOAA scientists analyzing data from select tide stations and buoys from Maine to Florida said they found a weakening of the Florida Current Transport -- an oceanic current that feeds into the Gulf Stream -- and steady and persistent northeast winds contributed to the anomaly.

The ocean is dynamic and it's not uncommon to have anomalies, said Mike Szabados, director of NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. What made this event unique was its breadth, intensity and duration.

The researchers said the highest atypical sea levels formed in the Mid-Atlantic, with cities such as Baltimore at times experiencing high tides as much as two feet higher than normal.

The report is a good first assessment, said NOAA Oceanographer William Sweet. However, NOAA, with our academic partners, should continue to investigate the broader causes behind the event. Further analysis is needed to fully understand what is driving the patterns we observed.

The full report is available at