It’s time to discuss the recent events in Venice. I am writing this post with some delay, but I wanted to try and have a ‘cold mind’ about it (it’s colder than it was, but maybe I am still a little fresh out of it so please bear with me).
For those who might not have followed, last week Venice experienced some extreme high water events . Extreme, as the word says, means something out of the ordinary. High water events come due to spring high tides combined to winds from a direction that push water inside the lagoon, making the water level higher than expected. High water is in fact quite common in winter, and especially in November and March. This is because the ‘astronomical’ tide is already high in this period, due to the position of planets. During these particular periods, just a little bit of wind can push the water levels above the 90-100 cm levels, these are the levels with which some of the lowest areas experience some flooding (The iconic San Marco square is one of those low lying places).
So in these typical high water periods the water levels reach 100, 105, 110 cm.. but last week at its highest peak it reached 187. I hope it can give you some sense of what this may mean. Imagine getting out of the house and having to swim...
Now. This can be deemed as a natural disaster. Combination of water levels and very strong winds. Seems 'natural' enough. Climate change, however, is not helping the case, because sea level is rising and storm events are becoming more violent and more frequent (remember this ?). And as a matter of facts, the exponential increase in frequency of these natural disasters (predicted and mentioned by climate scientists) is obviously visible in the graph below, depicting the number of extreme high water events by decades. So, this might have been in primis avoidable if we had started acting against climate change earlier, avoiding such strong storms..
but the real question is whether the effects could have been avoided. I am not blaming the predictions, which were predicting quite high levels anyway, but I am blaming the management of the natural environment. Yes, because it was not just a high tide, but the speed with which the tide came in. It seems that the lagoon is losing some of its embayment properties and becoming more similar to the open sea, fact that is likely happening due to the narrowing and deepening of the inlets (‘''funny''’ enough, this is something that was done to allow the construction of the ‘''protective''’ barriers - the MOSE-that are not yet and likely never will be functioning). Already in the 1966 record high water event the blame was partially given to the deepening of the channel that was done to allow merchant ships in. I don’t want to get in the merits as to whether something that happened 24 years before I was born is true or not, but still I think it should be taken into consideration.. I for sure think that a better managed lagoon would have lessened the impacts. I would like to think that if back in the old old days the Serenissima had death penalties in place for those who mistreated the lagoon, there were some good reasons for it.. should we put those in place ? Maybe not, but at least reinstate some high level of respect for that environment that directly surround us..
in the meantime ‘duri I banchi’ (batten the hatches) as the predictions are not looking positive for the weekend....If you would like to follow you can check tide forecast here. Or, if you happen to be around Venice and wanting to see whether high water will affect you, you can download this easy to use app ( hi!tide Venice )
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