Venice flooding worsens off-season amid climate change

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After Venice suffered the second worst flooding in its history in November 2019, it was flooded by four more extraordinary tides within six weeks, leaving Venetians perplexed and fears about the worsening effects of climate change.

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The repeated incursion of saltwater into St Mark’s Basilica this summer is a sober reminder that the danger is not over.

Carlo Alberto, chief caretaker of St. Mark’s, said, “All I can say is that in August, in a month when it had never happened, we had tides more than five times a metre. I talk about the month of August. I’m doing it when we’re calm.” Tesserin told the Associated Press.


Venice’s unique topography, built on log stacks between canals, has made it particularly vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels are increasing the frequency of high tides that are submerging a 1,600-year-old Italian lagoon city, which is also slowly sinking.

It is the fate of coastal cities like Venice that will be on the minds of climate scientists and global leaders meeting in Glasgow Scotland at the United Nations Climate Conference starting October 31.

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Venice’s worst-case scenario for sea level rise is 120 centimeters (3 ft, 11 in) by the end of the century, according to a new study published by the European Geosciences Union. This is 50% higher than the worse-case global sea-rise average of 80 centimeters (2 ft, 7 in) predicted by the United Nations Science Panel.

The city’s canals and the interplay of architecture, natural habitat, and human ingenuity have also earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Outstanding Universal Value, a designation that has of late due to over-tourism and cruise ship influences. is at risk from. transportation. It escaped the endangered list after Italy banned cruise ships passing through the St. Mark’s Basin, but alarm bells are still ringing.

Located in Venice’s lowest point, St. Mark’s Basilica provides a unique position to monitor the effect of the rising sea on the city. The piazza outside floods 80 cm (about 30 in), and the water passes through the narthex in the church at 88 cm (34.5 in), which has been strengthened by the previous 65 cm (25.5 in).

“Since the floods of November 2019, the situation has been getting worse. So we are sure that in these months, floods are no longer a rare occurrence. It is an everyday occurrence,” said Tesserin, whose esteemed, St. Mark’s is the first Procurator. , is of the ninth century.

Over the past two decades, Venice has had more than 1.1 meters of inundation – the official level for “aqua alta,” or “high water” provoked by tides, winds and lunar cycles – as has happened during the past 100 years. was: 163 vs 166, according to city figures.

Extraordinary floods of more than 140 cm (4 ft, 7 in) are also intensifying. The mark has been hit 25 times since Venice began keeping such records in 1872. Two-thirds of them have been registered in the last 20 years, of which five, or one-fifth of the total, have been registered from November 12-December. 23, 2019.

“What is happening now is on a continuum for Venetians, who always live with periodic floods,” said We Are Here Venice executive director Jane Da Mosto. “We’re living with floods that continue to grow, so my concern is that people haven’t really realized that we’re in a climate crisis. We’re already living it. It’s about dealing with it in the future. It is not a question of planning. We need to work out a solution for today.”

The defense of Venice is assigned to the Moses System of Movable Underwater Barriers, a project that cost approximately 6 billion euros (about $7 billion) and which, after decades of cost escalation, delays and a bribery scandal, is still officially is in testing phase.

Following the devastation of the 2019 floods, the government of Rome placed the project under the control of the ministry to complete, and began to activate the barriers when the 1.3 m (4 ft, 3 in) flood occurred last year.

The barriers have been raised 20 times since October 2020, protecting the city from the severe flooding season, but not from the low tide tides that are becoming more frequent.

The Extraordinary Commissioner, Elisabetta Spitz, has stood by the soundness of barriers within the ocean, despite concerns by scientists and experts that climate change could end their usefulness within decades. Spitz said the project has been delayed again until 2023, with another 500 million euros ($580 million) in spending for “improvements”, which would ensure its long-term efficiency.

“We can say that Musa has an effective life of 100 years, taking into account the necessary maintenance and interventions,” Spitz said.

Paolo Velmo, an engineer who wrote the expert report on the project, explains that sea level rise was estimated at 22 centimeters (8 in) when Moses was first proposed 30 years ago, according to UN scientists. was far below. ‘ The current worse situation of 80 centimeters.

“It puts Moses out of contention,” she said.

According to current plans, the Mosaic barriers to a 1.1 m (3 ft, 7 in) floodplain would not be raised until the project was finalized. This exposes St. Mark’s.

Tesserin is overseeing work to protect the basilica by installing a glass wall around its base, which will eventually prevent water from the swampy lagoon from seeping in, where it collects salts that form on marble columns, walls, and walls. climbs and eats stone mosaics. The project, being interrupted by high tide, was due to be finished by Christmas. Now Tesserin says they will be lucky to have it finished by Easter.

Regular high tides elicit a banging response from Venetians, who are accustomed to having rubber boots around at every flood warning, and delight from tourists, who are fascinated by the golden mosaics of St. Mark and the domes reflected in the rising waters. become. But businesses increasingly find themselves on the ground along St. Mark’s Square…


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