Acqua Alta

Acqua Alta

The art-infested Italian city of Venice got a good cleaning this weekend as the acqua alta high tide sloshed over ancient squares and into palazzo basements. Okay, if palazzos don’t have basements, where do they keep all that wine?

In areas of Venice that are under water, tourists and other pedestrians crowd together on narrow wooden walkways (passerelle). Water depth can range from 1 to 2 meters (about 3 feet, 3 3/5 inches to 6 feet, 6 7/10th inches). Good thing high-heeled boots are in fashion; there’s never a vacant gondola around when you need one.

What’s up with that? Apart from subsidence (the reason for those hairline cracks in your house’s walls), it appears the rise in sea levels is due to climate change (aka global warming). Is that what’s causing this weekend’s problems in Norfolk Virginia? Could be. Norfolk’s solution, tilting storm sewers and elevating a waterside roadbed, is less complex than the ones in Venice, which involve tidal barriers and huge jacks to elevate ancient stone structures. The number of high water events in Venice has been increasing. Look for more floods in Bangkok, Bangladesh, Florida, and the Niger and Mississippi deltas.

To Venice we say “Buona fortuna.” Yo, Norfolk: Good luck, y’all. Your state’s Attorney General doesn’t think Global Warming is real.


Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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3 Responses to “Acqua Alta”

  1. Mike Licht Says:

    Note to Tourists: If you travel to Venice, we suggest a waterproof map.

  2. tdl1501 Says:

    Buona fortuna to you. At age eight my teacher told me Venice would be under water in 20 years. I vowed to visit Venice before it went under. We eloped and stayed at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas for two nights, and I wouldn’t take the silly indoor gondola, opting for the real one. I still vow, years later, to see Venice for the art and San Marco, not for the gondolas. In Florence, we see water markers from major floods on the older buildings. Out here in the hinterlands of the Western US we see only snow.

  3. Chris Matthews Says:

    It’s not quite that bad. The height you have quoted is that of the high tide not the depth of the flooding. It has never got quite as high as 2m. It nearly did but that was in back in 1966.

    I was there the weekend you refer to and the highest the tide got was 1.22 meters compared to a normal high tide of 90cm. This means a maximum depth of water of about 30cm or approminately foot, lasting for a few hours.

    Luckily the major thoroughfares have walking boards or passarelle at about this height so no major inconvenience to moving about but lots of properties had lower floors flooded.

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