When Venice was under water ten years ago, we wrote about it here at Open Culture. At the time, the city of Canals was supposed to be protected by the MOSE system, a $7 billion flood control system that wasn’t actually finished until 2021. But the drought hit the following year, and what’s plaguing Venice right now isn’t excess water, but a lack of water. “Weeks of dry winter weather have raised fears that Italy could face another drought after last summer’s extraordinary event,” reports Reuters, “with less than half of normal snowfall in the Alps.
Venice, in particular, is “facing unusually low tides, making it impossible for gondolas, water taxis and ambulances to navigate some of its famous canals”, a phenomenon blamed on a combination of factors such as “a lack of rain, a high pressure system and a full moon and ocean currents. “
The Guardian the above video features, among other depressing scenes, a gondolier trying to maneuver through one of Venice’s canals that isn’t quite reduced to muddy ditches. It also shows a contrast to the floods in Venice in 2019, which had both tourists and locals knee-deep in water.
These conditions are remarkable but not unprecedented in Venice’s history of more than a millennium and a half. “Although significantly reduced over the past two decades due to rising sea levels, Venice still experiences between one and ten low tides per year,” it says Localis Giampietro Vianello. “Since 1872, the city has recorded 160 low tides with levels equal to or lower than -90 cm, while the current tide has so far ‘only’ reached the -70 cm mark. While the forecast suggests rain in northern Italy, at least until then the current Robert Benchleys will have to change his take home message: “Streets empty. Please help.”
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Venice in beautiful color pictures 125 years ago: Rialto Bridge, Basilica of St. Mark, Doge’s Palace and others
Venice Time Machine: 1,000 Years of Venice History Digitally Preserved Using Artificial Intelligence and Big Data
A relaxing 3-hour tour of the Venetian canals
See Venice’s new $7 billion flood control system in action
based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcastson cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books about cities, book The Stateless City: A Walking Tour of 21st Century Los Angeles and video series City in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.