These stories were published by The Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Health News Florida before the start of the “Invading Sea” project.
Health News Florida
By Kate Stein of WLRN
Is South Florida Doomed By Sea-Level Rise? Experts Say No. In Fact, They’re Optimistic
South Florida’s future looks wet, salty and, unless you’re a mermaid, maybe a bit apocalyptic.
“The idea that what’s land and what’s ocean, that the boundary line is going to move, is a really tough, disturbing concept,” says John Englander, a Boca Raton-based oceanographer, climate consultant and author. “The good news is, we have time to begin adapting.”
In South Florida, communities and leaders of all backgrounds and political leanings have started to acknowledge the problems of climate change and sea level rise. From the Florida Keys to Palm Beach County, projects are underway to prepare. People are beginning to talk about rising seas as if adequate preparation, funding and human ingenuity will save South Florida from the problems it’s already experiencing: increased flooding, decreasing property values, stronger hurricanes and saltwater intrusion into wells that provide drinking water.
That’s part of the story, but there’s more to discuss. Experts say optimism plus planning and innovation can lead to long-term solutions — and maybe even economic growth.
Warmer weather is turning turtles on this South Florida beach female
Thanks to warmer temperatures, nearly all of the baby sea turtles hatching on a South Florida beach are turning out female.
The dominance of the female reptiles on Boca Raton’s beaches appears to be the result of global warming, according to a Florida Atlantic University researcher whose new study was published in the journal Endangered Species Research.
King tides in Hollywood spark flooding, but also concern over sea level rise
More than 100 people got up early Sunday to see the future bubbling up through the manhole covers and flooding Hollywood streets in what environmental activists said was the soggy effect of global warming.
The walk down several blocks of Adams Street coincided with a king tide, the high tide that occurs in fall during the full and new moon.
Disease wastes South Florida’s corals, despite end of bleaching
A mysterious epidemic continues to sweep South Florida’s reefs, transforming corals into lifeless skeletons and threatening undersea structures that support tourism, provide hurricane protection and serve as homes to a vast range of marine life.
Called white plague, white blotch and other names, depending on the pattern of damaged or destroyed tissue, the disease has infected more than 20 South Florida coral species from the Middle Keys through Palm Beach County, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. On the reefs running from mid-Miami-Dade County through Martin County, scientists have observed a 35 percent loss of reef-building coral.
“The reef is in a state of emergency,” said Jennifer Stein, South Florida marine conservation coordinator for The Nature Conservancy. “It needs a lot of attention, a lot of research, a lot of focus, especially with this disease.”
Catastrophic period for coral reefs appears to be ending
A worldwide wave of coral bleaching, which transformed colorful coral structures into lifeless skeletons, appears to be ending.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that satellite data and modeling indicated that an unprecedented three-year period of coral bleaching has stopped, after causing extensive damage to the world’s coral reefs.
In coral bleaching, corals eject the tiny bits of algae that provide them with nutrition and that create the streaks of red, green and orange that characterize these vivid undersea environments. Bleaching weakens corals, making them vulnerable to disease.
Experts see climate change peril for South Florida’s black and Hispanic communities
African-American, Caribbean-American and Hispanic communities are typically located miles from South Florida beaches where climate change is most visible — but people who live in those areas are profoundly vulnerable to the effects, political leaders and climate science experts said Wednesday.
South Florida continues prep for sea level rise
South Florida is taking more steps to protect against climate change and the rising seas that already are spilling over into neighborhoods.
This month, Broward County ordered that new flood maps be drawn using predictions of higher waters, the latest in a series of steps taken from Palm Beach County to the Keys.
Rising seas could swamp Trump’s ‘Winter White House’ at Mar-a-Lago, scientists say
If scientists are right, rising seas will one day swamp the “Winter White House,” part-time home to a president who has labeled climate change a hoax.
President Donald Trump has said he’s “not a believer in man-made global warming.” Less than an hour after he became president, most references to climate change disappeared from the official White House website.
Corporate leaders gather in Fort Lauderdale to fight climate change
As the incoming Trump administration promises a retreat on the issue of global warming, executives of major corporations gathered in Fort Lauderdale this week to discuss how businesses could reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.
The Companies vs. Climate Change conference at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 attracted representatives from Citigroup, Ingersoll Rand, Nasdaq, Avery Dennison, AmerisourceBergen, Bacardi, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, JM Family Enterprises, Hertz, Office Depot, Subway, Amtrak, Walgreens and many other companies.
Climate change may boost your chance of getting sick from seafood
For the average seafood lover, the way to avoid the miserable experience of ciguatera poisoning is simple: Avoid barracuda.
But that menacing reef fish, rarely found on menus, has turned out to be responsible for only a minority of cases. Several species commonly offered by restaurants account for more, according to a recent study by the Florida Department of Health. And a new federal study indicates we’re likely to see more cases of ciguatera overall in coming decades, as global warming allows the algae that carries the ciguatera toxin to spread north from its Caribbean stronghold.
Report: Florida at highest risk for flooding from climate change
The effects of climate change could be felt quickly and be costly in Florida.
“Florida faces more risk than any other state that private, insurable property could be inundated by high tide, storm surge and sea level rise” if it fails to protect itself, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project an analysis of global economic effects of climate change funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former U.S. Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson and Thomas Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management LLC.
What Trump’s victory means for Florida’s environment
At a speech in Miami the week before the election, Donald Trump pledged to eliminate funds for fighting global warming and “use that money to support America’s vital environmental infrastructure and natural resources.”
That includes protecting the Everglades and restoring the dike around Lake Okeechobee, he told a crowd at the city’s Bayfront Park.
FEMA flood maps massively underestimate real risks, study finds. Florida’s a hot spot
Flood risk, a perpetual concern in porous, low-slung South Florida, is far worse here and across the continental U.S. than now projected under Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps used by homeowners to decide where to buy insurance, according to a new assessment.
Nearly 41 million Americans — more than three times current estimates — could face 100-year flooding, the study found. The amount of property at risk is more than double.
With about $714 billion in property located in a 100-year floodplain, Florida is a national hotspot.
America’s flood insurance chief has a message for all Floridians: You’re at risk
If you’re a homeowner in Florida relying on flood zone maps to decide whether to buy insurance, you may want to check your drivers license instead.
“If it says Florida, you need flood insurance,” said Roy Wright, who oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, which covers more policies in Florida than any other state. “It may be more helpful than trying to find the right map.”
Hurricane Irma is only the latest case in point, said Wright, who was in Miami Beach on Monday for an insurance conference.
Environmental group downgrades Carlos Curbelo’s climate change record
Carlos Curbelo’s climate-change record took a step down in 2017 in the eyes of one influential environmental group, as the Miami Republican gears up for a reelection bid in a Miami-to-Key West district that is still recovering from Hurricane Irma and dealing with the effects of sea level rise.
The League of Conservation Voters released its 2017 scorecard on Tuesday, and Curbelo, who had the best score among House Republicans currently in Congress on the 2016 scorecard, now ranks tied for 13th among House Republicans. Curbelo had a 53 percent rating for his votes during 2016, and now has a 23 percent rating for his votes last year.
Sea rise is outpacing Everglades restoration — but scientists say there’s a solution
For years, South Florida water managers struggling to reverse the damage done to the Everglades by decades of flood control have done their best to replicate nature, timing the flow of water into marshes with the state’s wet and dry seasons.
But now researchers looking at 16 years worth of data say creeping sea rise is outpacing restoration efforts. And to save the marshes, they say, the strategy needs to change.
Sea rise “has been gaining momentum. It’s increasing at a faster rate since 2012,” said René Price, a Florida International University hydrogeologist and co-author of a new study that looks at the role rising seas play in restoration work. “So it’s almost imperative that it be considered now.”
If you live in Florida, doctors say climate change is already affecting your health
When most people think about climate change — if they do at all — what usually comes to mind is melting glaciers, starving polar bears and flood waters lapping at the doors of Miami Beach condo buildings.
The popular thought is that the future impacts of a warming globe are just that, problems for the future.
But doctors in Florida say the changing climate is a public health risk, one they already see in their waiting rooms right now. Now, some clinicians have formed a new group to sound the alarm.
Keys to raise roads before climate change puts them underwater. It’ll be expensive.
In a small Key Largo neighborhood, the tide came in — and didn’t go out for almost a month.
Residents sloshed through more than a foot of saltwater that lapped at their front yards, knocked over their trashcans, created a mosquito breeding ground and made their roads nearly impassible. Some residents rented SUVs to protect their own cars. Others were homebound.
One started a Facebook page to document the flooding: Key Largo Community Swamp.
Palm Beach Post
Nuisance flooding from sea level rise up 50 percent last year
Several areas, including Miami and Key West, broke records for the number of days where high tides caused water to overtake sea walls and rush into streets.
In Miami, where the tidal gauge is measured at Virginia Key, there were 18 nuisance flood days. Key West had 14 days.
“Tidal flooding is increasing in frequency within the U.S. coastal communities due to sea level rise from climate change and local land subsidence (sinking),” a report released this week by NOAA says. “Decades ago, powerful storms caused such impacts, but due to sea level rise, more common events are more impactful.”
The study looked at 28 long-term gauges across the U.S.
Study: Humans causing fastest rate of sea level rise in 3,000 years
South Florida’s rich tangle of mangrove coasts holds secrets to sea level risethat a group of researchers with 3,000 years of global ocean data hopes to begin revealing next month.
The international team of scientists, which published a study last week showing oceans are swelling at the fastest pace since the Iron Age, are interested in Florida’s unique struggle to keep seas at bay.
The study, which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is landmark not only in its centuries-long reach into the past, but also in that the authors claim it is definitive proof that humans are directly linked to the ever-rising tides.
In the 20th century, sea levels rose 5.5 inches globally. Current rates have accelerated to about a foot — 12 inches — per 100 years, according to the study. That’s compared to pre-industrialization times, when the seas rose only about 1 to 1.5 inches per century.
Overnight storm brought flooding, high winds to Palm Beach County
BOYNTON BEACH — A poorly organized Tropical Storm Philippe brought several inches of rain, powerful gusts of wind and reports of tornados touching down overnight Saturday in South Florida, drenching several southern Palm Beach County neighborhoods.
“The storm was disorganized, but it did cause some significant impacts in certain areas which is what we were expecting,” said Maria Torres, of the National Weather Service.
Most of Palm Beach County saw between 5 and 6 inches of rain. The highest recorded downpour came in southeast Boca Raton, which saw more than 7 inches, Torres said.
Climate change, king tides could force marathon reroute
A benchmark marathon for Palm Beach County may face a significant detour triggered by sea level rise and king tides — events scientists say will increasingly affect activities of coastal communities.
Sunday’s Fitteam Palm Beaches Marathon coincides with higher than normal seasonal tides that typically cause coastal flooding in the most vulnerable areas of southeast Florida, including portions of the route runners will take along the Intracoastal waterway in the Town of Palm Beach.
That could force organizers to switch to a backup route, a move not expected to be made until Saturday morning, just a day before the marathon.
PBC frets impact of climate change as sales tax project work begins
The risks associated with climate change and catastrophic flooding have not changed how Palm Beach County plans to spend $709 million on upgrades for roads, bridges and buildings over the next decade, interviews with multiple county officials indicate.
Greater Houston’s nightmare — flooded homes and businesses and submerged roadways in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey — has spawned renewed criticism of that city’s zoning free-for-all and led to more questions about the nation’s decaying and inadequate infrastructure.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the county is taking note of the disaster in east Texas.
“We’re going to be studying this issue and trying to learn,” she said.
One thing, Baker said, is already clear: no planning or precaution could prevent flooding in Palm Beach County if a storm the size and power of Harvey comes ashore here and lingers.
Delray to put climate change at forefront: ‘The waters are coming’
DELRAY BEACH –President Donald J. Trump may not be prioritizing climate change, but Delray Beach city leaders are.
Mayor Cary Glickstein joined more than 300 mayors nationwide in signing a vow to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement for environmental action to combat global warming, despite Trump’s recent controversial withdrawal of the United States from the agreement.
“I wonder if those other mayors got a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap stuffed in their mailboxes as a result,” Glickstein joked at a city workshop Tuesday, in which the city commission agreed to prioritize the threat of rising tides in future city planning.
South county leaders board yacht to talk climate change, rising tides
DELRAY BEACH — In a meeting with panache, leaders from Palm Beach County’s southernmost cities boarded a yacht Wednesday to talk about a pressing problem they all share:
Delray Beach leaders hosted a “king tide” awareness event, an opportunity for residents to mingle with city experts about the season’s highest tides which flooded coastal areas earlier this month, aboard The Lady Atlantic Yacht at Veterans Park.
The event drew leaders from Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Ocean Ridge, Highland Beach, Palm Beach County and Fort Lauderdale for a tour of the Intracoastal Waterway and an education on how each city is bracing for the inevitable rising tides.
“It doesn’t matter where you are,” said Dr. Nancy Gassman, Fort Lauderdale’s sustainability expert. “Climate change will find a way to affect you.”
During king tides, an annual flooding event exacerbated by the full moon in early October, Fort Lauderdale braced for 7 inches of flooding. They instead saw 21 inches, Gassman said.
Dire warning: We’ll suffer more 90-degree days, climate report says
Double the number of scorching hot days and whipsaw bouts of overwhelming rain and debilitating drought could mar South Florida’s future if more efforts aren’t made to mitigate climate change, according to a federal study released this month.
The Climate Science Special Report, which is overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, is produced every four years and is a far-reaching study of the potential impacts of a warming world.
While much of the report confirms dire forecasts already predicted, the candid blame placed on humans for climate change strongly validates most of the scientific community’s beliefs that the biggest contributor to rising temperatures is man.
Florida scientists ask Trump for sit-down on climate change
As 2016 steams toward a close that will likely mark it as the hottest on record, and fish swim in South Florida streets during king tides, climate scientists from the Sunshine State are desperate to get President-elect Donald Trump’s attention.
A group of university professors wrote a letter to the Trump campaign two weeks before Election Day, noting Florida’s vulnerability to rising seas and appealing to his business acumen — the impacts of climate change are a direct threat to Florida’s tourism-based economy, they said.
Trump’s own iconic Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach is threatened by encroaching waters. The current projection is for seas around South Florida to rise between 2.3 and 4.7 feet by 2100. If the worse-case scenario holds true, nearly half of Mar-a-Lago’s 20-acre site would be underwater in 84 years, with the brackish Intracoastal Waterway invading from the west.
At Jupiter summit: Experts say climate change will force rethink of coastal housing rules
A new, controversial topic in the discussion about climate change has the potential to ignite a battle between wealthy property owners and taxpayers who are subsidizing their waterfront lifestyles: fairness.
“Can we ask the public to pay the billions and trillions of dollars — basically being an insurance policy to ensure that coastal homeowners are protected?” asked Thomas Ruppert, a coastal planning specialist with Florida Sea Grant. Speaking in Jupiter Friday at the Fourth Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit, he asked: “Is it my right to make everyone else pay for what I’m doing?”
Congress approved substantial increases last summer to premiums in the National Flood Insurance Program for vacation homes and homes hit repeatedly by floods. The program fell $18 billion in debt after Hurricane Katrina and critics say it is not fair for taxpayers to subsidize rebuilding and repairing homes in high-risk areas.
West Palm mayor: Climate accord withdrawal ‘downright troubling’
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who recently chaired a Senate subcommittee hearing in West Palm on sea level change — raised their voices against President Trump’s decision Thursday to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Alexander Acosta, who Trump recently appointed U.S. Labor Secretary, supported the President’s decision.
“The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from the historic Paris Climate Accord is more than a disappointment. It is downright troubling. This move signals that the U.S. will no longer be a leader on climate change and rolls back the commitments made to protect South Florida and the world from the harmful effects of CO2 emissions that lead to climate change. The City of West Palm Beach will continue to move forward as a model of resilience. We will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.”
Muoio, along with the city’s Office of Sustainability, has been a strong supporter of city measures to address climate change and sea level rise.