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Floods in Venice: Climate change is behind the highest tide in 50 years, says mayor

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Media caption Parts of Venice were left submerged in record floods

The severe floods in Venice that left most of the Italian city under water, are a direct result of climate change, the mayor says.

The highest water levels in the region for more than 50 years will leave a "permanent mark", said Venice Mayor Luigi Bruniaro.

"Now the government must hear," he added. "These are the effects of climate change … the costs will be high."

  A man walks through the floodplain of St. Mark's in high water levels in Venice, November 1<div class="e3lan e3lan-in-post1"><script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script>
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The waters of Venice reached a peak of 1.87 m (6 ft), according to the tide monitoring center. Only once after official records began in 1923 the tide was higher, reaching 1.94 m in 1966.

  A man stands in the water at St. Mark's Flood Square during extremely high water levels in Venice, Italy, November 13, 2019 Copyright

Images showed that popular tourist sites remained completely flooded and people were walking the streets while Venice was hit by a storm.

  Woman walks past flooded furniture on coffee terrace as Venice suffers at extremely high water levels, November 13, 2019 Copyright
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St. Mark's Square – one of the lowest parts of the city – was one of the hardest hit areas.

The Basilica of Saint Mark has been flooded for the sixth time in 1200 years, according to church records. Mr Bruniaro said the famous landmark had suffered "serious damage". The crypt is completely flooded and there are concerns of structural damage to the columns of the basilica.

  The flooded crypt of St. Mark's Basilica was depicted during extremely high water levels in Venice, Italy, November 13, 2019. Copyright

Pierpaolo Campostrini, Member of the Council of the Saint Mark said four of those floods have occurred in the last 20 years.

  People Walk the Streets of Venice during Extremely High Water Levels, November 13, 2019 Copyright

The City of Venice is made up of more than 100 islands in the lagoon on the northeast coast of Italy .

Two people died on Pelestrina Island, a thin strip of land separating the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. A man punched himself while trying to start a pump at his home, and another man was found dead elsewhere.

  People diverge through water. Copyright

Mr Brugnaro said the damage was "enormous" and that he would announce the state of the disaster, warning that the project to assist the prevention of the devastating floods of the Venetian lagoon "must be completed soon".

"The situation is dramatic. We ask the government to help us," he said on Twitter, adding that schools would remain closed until the water level disappears.

  People are walking the catwalk that connects to St. Mark's Square Copyright

He also urged local businesses to share photos and video footage of the devastation that he believed would be useful , when seeking financial assistance from the government.

People all over town were flooding through the floods.

  Taxi boat is stranded on the streets of Venice Copyright

A number of businesses are affected. Chairs and tables could be seen floating outside cafes and restaurants.

In the shops, workers try to move their water supplies to prevent further damage.

A shopkeeper who was not named was told by the Italian public operator Rai: "The city is on its knees."

  Flooded shop in Venice Copyright

Three water buses sank in Venice , but tourists continued to explore the sights as they could.

A French couple told AFP news agency that they had "effectively switched" after some of the timber platforms around the city in flood prone areas.

  People crossing the water at St. Mark's Square Copyright

A number of boats were spotted Wednesday morning.

A project to protect the city from floods has been ongoing since 2003, but is affected by rising costs, scandals and delays.

  The Basilica of St. Mark and part of the Doge's Palace are flooded in the case of rising sea levels and winter storms – successfully tested for the first time in 2013.

  • Watch: Venice flood barriers pass first test

The project is already worth billions of euros in investment. According to the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure, flood barriers will be handed over to the Venice Municipal Council at the end of 2021 after the "last phase" of testing.

Italy was hit by heavy rainfall on Tuesday with a further poor weather forecast over the coming days. Venice suffers from flooding on an annual basis.

Is climate change behind Venice flooding? strong southeast winds blowing northeast across the Adriatic. When these two events coincide, we get what is known as Acqua Alta (lots of water).

This latest occurrence of the Acqua Alta in Venice is the second largest tide in recorded history. However, if we look at the top 10 ebb and flow, five have appeared in the last 20 years and the most recent ones are just last year.

  Floods in Venice

Although we must try to avoid attributing a single event to climate change, the increased frequency of these extreme tides is obviously a major concern. In a changing climate, sea levels are rising and a city like Venice, which is also sinking, is particularly susceptible to such changes.

The meteorological models that caused the Adriatic storm were driven by a strong meridional (swinging) jet stream through the northern hemisphere and this fed a conveyor belt of low pressure systems in the central Mediterranean.

One possible effect of a changing climate is that jet currents will be more meridional and blocked weather models such as these will also become more common. If this happens, these events are more likely to be combined with astronomical spring tides and thus increase the likelihood of flooding in Venice.

In addition, the meridional jet stream may be associated back with stronger typhoons in the Pacific Northwest, leading to more frequent outbreaks of cold in North America, and the unsettled Mediterranean is another downstream effect.

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