Flooding in picturesque Italian city is caused by climate change, sea level rises, stronger and more frequent storms, as well as sinking surfaces, researchers say.

On November 12 Italy's Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMAR) said that "an exceptional high water event took place in Venice,” which they said was second only to the catastrophic floods of 1966 when waters exceeded around 194 centimetres.

The ‘acqua alta’ (high water) event over the weekend peaked at 154 cm, slightly below expectations and significantly lower than the 187cm level reached on Tuesday, meaning more than 85 percent of the city was flooded.

ISMAR said one of the factors contributing to the “absolutely unpredictable phenomenon” was gusts of winds that hit the city at more than 100 km/hour.

Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said climate change was to blame for the ever increasing ‘acqua alta’ that the city has had to overcome in recent years. Reports estimate that the mean sea level is more than 20 cm higher than it was a century ago, and set to rise much further.

The risk of flooding is compounded by geological changes within the foundations of the city.

The National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche - CNR), the largest public research institution in Italy, pointed out that “Venice is sinking at a rate of 1-2 mm/y” and that “combined with the present rate of sea level rise,  at around 3mm/y, this leads to ever more critical conditions for the possibility of flooding.”

CNR also added that “With half of the city now no more than 80 cm above the present mean sea level and a tidal spring excursion of about one metre, any small surge will imply flooding in large parts of the city.”

On Thursday November 14, the Italian government allocated funds of $22 million to Venice to address the damage, declaring a state of emergency in the city. 

Brugnaro countered on Twitter on Friday, saying “Now we must restore the liveability of #Venezia with the 20 million allocated, but it will not be enough.” The mayor has also started a fundraising campaign for the UNESCO Heritage site on Twitter, asking for additional donations.

People walk in flooded Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
People walk in flooded Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
A man stands by the entrance of a restaurant during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 17, 2019.
A man stands by the entrance of a restaurant during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, November 17, 2019. (Manuel Silvestri / Reuters)
Flood water reaches a luxury shop in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
Flood water reaches a luxury shop in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
A couple walk in a flooded street of Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
A couple walk in a flooded street of Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
A Venetian citizen carries her dog Nana as she walks in a flooded street of Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
A Venetian citizen carries her dog Nana as she walks in a flooded street of Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
A city worker stops tourists from entering a flooded St.Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
A city worker stops tourists from entering a flooded St.Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
An elderly man sits watching a flooded St.Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019.
An elderly man sits watching a flooded St.Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
Sabrina Laggia uses a hair dryer to dry stone jewelry made by her husband, Alfredo, in their workshop near St. Mark's Square, Venice, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Sabrina and Alfredo are recovering from Tuesday night's record flood.
Sabrina Laggia uses a hair dryer to dry stone jewelry made by her husband, Alfredo, in their workshop near St. Mark's Square, Venice, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. Sabrina and Alfredo are recovering from Tuesday night's record flood. (Luca Bruno / AP)
Music books are placed to dry at the first floor of Venice Conservatory after being recovered from ground floor, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. High tidal waters returned to Venice on Saturday, four days after the city experienced its worst flooding in 50 years. Young Venetians are responding to the worst flood in their lifetimes by volunteering to help salvage manuscripts, clear out waterlogged books and lend a hand where needed throughout the stricken city.
Music books are placed to dry at the first floor of Venice Conservatory after being recovered from ground floor, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. High tidal waters returned to Venice on Saturday, four days after the city experienced its worst flooding in 50 years. Young Venetians are responding to the worst flood in their lifetimes by volunteering to help salvage manuscripts, clear out waterlogged books and lend a hand where needed throughout the stricken city. (Luca Bruno / AP)
In this file photo taken on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, Paolo Brandolisio stands in his flooded laboratory, in Venice, Italy. Venetians are fed up with what they see as an inadequate response to the city's mounting problems: record-breaking flooding, damaging cruise ship traffic and over-tourism. They feel largely left to their own devices, and with ever fewer Venetians living in the historic part of the city to defend its interests and keep it from becoming a theme park or museum.
In this file photo taken on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, Paolo Brandolisio stands in his flooded laboratory, in Venice, Italy. Venetians are fed up with what they see as an inadequate response to the city's mounting problems: record-breaking flooding, damaging cruise ship traffic and over-tourism. They feel largely left to their own devices, and with ever fewer Venetians living in the historic part of the city to defend its interests and keep it from becoming a theme park or museum. (Luca Bruno / AP)
Visitors with plastic bags on their shoes walk in flooded Venice, in the morning of November 17, 2019 prior an 'acqua alta'.
Visitors with plastic bags on their shoes walk in flooded Venice, in the morning of November 17, 2019 prior an 'acqua alta'. (Filippo Monteforte / AFP)
Tourists gather near a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, in this file photo from Nov. 15, 2019.
Tourists gather near a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, in this file photo from Nov. 15, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
A man looks up from inside a cafe in Venice, Italy, in this file photo from Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.
A man looks up from inside a cafe in Venice, Italy, in this file photo from Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Luca Bruno / AP)
A man carries a woman on his back through the flooded St. Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, in this file photo from November 14, 2019.
A man carries a woman on his back through the flooded St. Mark's Square during a period of seasonal high water in Venice, Italy, in this file photo from November 14, 2019. (Flavio Lo Scalzo / Reuters)
A stranded ferry boat lies on its side, in Venice, in this file photo from Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.
A stranded ferry boat lies on its side, in Venice, in this file photo from Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Luigi Costantini / AP)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies