Researchers feel a bad tide rising


Summer, synonymous with fun at beaches, is also prime time for hurricanes in Florida.

But according to a new study published by USF St. Pete researchers, it’s also a time when tides have been rising for the past 20 years.

High tides and hurricanes are a deadly recipe for disaster.

Thomas Wahl and USF St. Pete physical oceanography professor Mark Luther have been studying ocean tides for several years now, and found they go through seasonal cycles — rising in the summer and falling in the winter.

But for the past 20 years, Thomas Wahl said, there have been “massive increases.” The tide during the summer increased 3-5mm, according to the study, and decreased 3-5mm in the winter.

Luther, who co-wrote the study and credits Wahl as being “the mastermind” behind the research, said that higher tides in the summer present a unique problem to cities along the Gulf Coast.

“Summer is when the hurricane season starts,” he said. “And with a higher tide, that increases the damage a storm surge can do.”

Luther and Wahl said they are scientists, not policy makers, but hope that lawmakers are paying attention.

“We’re looking at the sea level gradually rise,” Luther said. “So the implications for policy change are there.”

Wahl said he hopes other scientists and members of the U.S. government look into the study.

“I really hope that biologists and chemists look at the results and it might be interesting for people from other research fields to use as well,” Wahl said. “I hope policy makers — decision makers, people who are actually involved in planning coastal event strategies — consider the findings as well.”

Wahl is taking proactive steps to make his hopes a reality. In two weeks, he plans to go to New York to present his findings to the Army Corps of Engineers and several scientists.