Venice’s historic flooding blamed on human failure and climate change

Justine Calma | The Verge
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

An unfinished flood barrier system isn’t ready for rising sea levels

Read the full story at The Verge

Known as the floating city, Venice is actually sinking into the lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, and environmental conditions exasperated by climate change are making it worse. Justine Calma writes for The Verge, "An extreme high tide inundated 85 percent of Venice on Tuesday night, drowning some parts of the city in six feet of water. Floodwaters pushed boats ashore and swept through buildings, swiping groceries off shelves and knocking library books into murky pools. Schools closed, a city council meeting was canceled. Residents and tourists navigated streets in waist-high waters. One man in his 70s died from electrocution as he tried to turn on a pump in his home."

High tides are a constant problem for the city, so a solution was formulated, consulting EAPS Professor of Physical Oceanography Paola Rizzoli, along with other engineers and scientists. "Venice has spent more than $6 billion on a flood-barrier system nicknamed MOSE (a reference to the biblical story of Moses’ parting of the sea). That project encompasses a system of steel gates along three inlets in the lagoon that would be lifted during tides that reach higher than 3.6 feet above sea level. The project that broke ground in 2003 and initially had a 2011 deadline, would have provided protection from tides up to 10 feet tall. But it’s over budget, behind schedule, and beleaguered with a corruption scandal."

“The problem is extremely complex, I really hope that this is a wake up call for the people who are in charge,” says Paola Rizzoli, a professor of physical oceanography at MIT who, along with Bras, previously served as a consultant on the MOSE project. But having grown up in Venice and survived the historic 1966 flood when she was in high school, she says, “I just trust the resilience of the city to survive.”

Story Image Credit: Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images