Spotlight on Venice: Climate change a wash in the City of Water

Photo: Ian Britton

Ahh, Venice – the City of Water. Built on a lagoon along the Adriatic Sea, there must be a looming disaster in store for this lovely, sinking city in the face of climate change. Right?

That was the harsh verdict of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But new research is questioning that conclusion. The frequency of storm surges– known by Venetians as “Acqua Alta”– is expected to drop 30 percent by the end of this century.

That’s according to research led by Alberto Troccoli from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Canberra, Australia and published in the most recent edition on the journal Nature Climate Change.

Under climate change, weather patterns in the Mediterranean buffer the Northern Adriatic from the ill affects of extreme tides. Weather data on storm surges from 1958-1997 back this up. A decrease in the persistence and intensity of weather conditions that trigger dramatic storm events in Venice occurred over that time period. Using climate and weather models, the researchers concluded that those patterns are expected to persist. That would offset an expected 17 cm rise in sea levels over the next 90 years.

In the end, there may be little change in the amount of flooding that drowns Venice. It’s an interesting example of how global climate change has very specific regional implications. And sometimes, those impacts are not what you’d expect.