Climate Change’s Potential Effects on Coastal Florida26.7N 82.1W
Climate change poses a tremendous threat to Florida. Sea level rise, more intense precipitation, and stronger hurricanes increase the risk of natural disaster and imperil the state’s economy and its citizens’ safety. Compounding these dangers, increasing coastal population and development will put more people and property at danger. In years to come, those risks will lead to devastating damage if they are not mitigated.
One of the clearest impacts of climate change is the documented rise in sea levels, which has been taking place along Florida’s coasts at more than two centimeters per decade. Higher atmospheric temperatures heat the oceans and water expands as it warms. Sea levels rise further as melt waters from glaciers and continental ice sheets pour into the oceans at high latitudes. This process is expected to accelerate. Sea levels are projected to be three to seven inches higher by 2030 (over 2010), nine to 24 inches higher by 2060, and 39 inches higher by 2100, and the rise will continue long thereafter.
Even apart from larger storm surges, these sea level rises will have major impacts on coastal Florida, where 80 percent of the state’s population lives. Because so much of the shoreline is flat and low-lying, the impacts of even small rises extend far inland. Taking tidal variations into account, a one-foot rise can move the shoreline inward by more than a thousand feet. Most of this inundation will affect undeveloped land, especially in South Florida, replacing upland plant communities with mangroves and marshes and replacing those with tidal flats and open water. Commercial and recreational fisheries dependent on those coastal ecosystems and estuaries for spawning will be damaged along with many bird and animal populations