Florida’s coasts have seen an acceleration in sea-level rise for more than 30 years, and that rate keeps increasing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that sea levels are now rising more than a third of an inch in certain parts of Florida’s coast.
Rising seas are just one of the effects of climate change. The change in sea levels can be linked to thermal expansion due to warmer oceans, melting glaciers caused by higher temperatures and the loss of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
Consequences of higher sea levels include destructive erosion, wetland flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination with salt, and habitat loss for organisms.
Rising sea levels make natural events even more severe than they normally would be, acting as a force multiplier. This makes communities along the coast more vulnerable to the potential effects of natural events fueled by higher sea levels, such as hurricanes and tropical storms.
Since the risks have increased, many coastal cities have taken adaptive measures in case sea levels become a problem. Building seawalls, planning evacuation routes and planting mangroves to absorb water are all actions that are being taken by areas at risk.
But some areas must take even greater measures to escape sea-level rise. The Florida Keys are facing a crisis in response to rising sea levels, having to decide whether to use money to elevate roads or avoid spending by abandoning the roads. Homeowners also have to be relocated if sea levels get too high.
Sea-level rise is becoming a big concern along coastal areas not only in Florida but along the continental U.S. coastline, with sea levels rising as much as 19 inches by 2050 and putting over 800 million people at risk. However, it’s difficult to predict how much sea levels will change in a given year, which is why communities along the coast have trouble coming up with plans to respond to rising sea levels.
It is more important to increase efforts to mitigate rising sea levels and prevent communities along the coast from having to take action in response to sea-level rise. One of the ways to fight sea-level rise is to reduce carbon emissions and limit the global average temperature rise.
Without improving efforts to fight climate change, areas along coasts all over the world will become more vulnerable to its effects.
Cristian Ramirez in an undergraduate environmental science major at the University of Florida.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.