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Earth Science

Florida Keys Prepare For Sea Level Rise 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-excuse-to-get-out-of-florida dept.
An Associated Press report details how the Florida Keys are starting to prepare for seasonal flooding and rising water levels overall. "A tidal gauge operating since before the Civil War has documented a sea level rise of 9 inches in the last century, and officials expect that to double over the next 50 years." Flooding used to be a much rarer occurrence, but now many businesses are finding it necessary to have plans in place to deal with it. "The Keys and three South Florida counties agreed in 2010 to collaborate on a regional plan to adapt to climate change. The first action plan developed under that agreement was published in October and calls for revamped planning policies, more public transportation options, stopping seawater from flowing into freshwater supplies and managing the region's unique ecosystems so that they can adapt, too." The Keys are one of many places beginning to seriously evaluate their options for dealing with flooding after witnessing the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
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Florida Keys Prepare For Sea Level Rise

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWiAuIygfl8 [youtube.com]

    And all I know is the sun is shining, yet we fight all thought the night
    While the 'burgs are melting and the sea is rising
    I don't know so I ask them why

  • Options (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:28AM (#44173203) Homepage Journal

    The Keys are one of many places beginning to seriously evaluate their options

    Like relocation to higher ground? Awesome vacation spot, not such a good idea to move in. Of course, I support people being able to live in inherently unsafe places, the only time I get grumpy is when people get disaster relief and spend it on rebuilding in those places. I'm not against the relief, I'm against it being so damned temporary.

    • Re:Options (Score:5, Funny)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:54AM (#44173307)

      The Keys are one of many places beginning to seriously evaluate their options

      Like relocation to higher ground?

      They should move to North Carolina, where the legislature outlawed sea level rise.

      • Re:Options (Score:5, Funny)

        by Capsaicin (412918) * on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @03:11AM (#44173515)

        They should move to North Carolina, where the legislature outlawed sea level rise.

        Too right. I can't fathom these Global Warming advocates... who in their right mind actually wants catastrophic climate change?!!

        I say we vote to keep the climate just as it is thank you very much.

    • I support people being able to live in inherently unsafe places, the only time I get grumpy is when people get disaster relief and spend it on rebuilding in those places

      Would you be less grumpy were it to be shown that relocating everyone would be more expensive than rebuilding and improving? Granted, rebuilding has direct and predictable costs to the taxpayers, while it's difficult to quantify and predict the expense of everyone in affected areas moving inland, so I don't know that we'll be able to get simple numbers on that.

    • by sjames (1099)

      So how about when they live in a safe place and then others make it unsafe by altering the climate?

      All too often the disaster relief money is enough to repair what you have but not enough to move elsewhere (given that your property just took a huge hit in resale value due to being a declared disaster area).

  • perspective (Score:5, Informative)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @01:28AM (#44173205)

    To put this into perspective:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_keys [wikipedia.org]

    The Florida Keys have taken their present form as the result of the drastic changes in sea level associated with recent glaciations or ice ages. Beginning some 130,000 years ago the Sangamonian Stage raised sea levels to approximately 25 feet (7.5 m) above the current level. All of southern Florida was covered by a shallow sea [...] Starting about 100,000 years ago the Wisconsin glaciation began lowering sea levels, exposing the coral reef and surrounding marine sediments. By 15,000 years ago the sea level had dropped to 300 to 350 feet (110 m) below the contemporary level.

    The Florida keys are an environment that's neither stable nor safe from flooding, and when you live near the water, you have to live with the fact that you need to move sooner or later. Even without anthropogenic warming, there would have been substantial sea level rise over the last century, and these precautions would be necessary and prudent.

    • Even without anthropogenic warming, there would have been substantial sea level rise over the last century.

      Could you explain how that follows from your quote?

      • Re:perspective (Score:5, Informative)

        by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic@gmail.DALIcom minus painter> on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @02:13AM (#44173349)

        I don't know the specific geology of the Keys, but most places with ocean interfaces are either raising or lowering with respect to sea level. For an example of short term movement, the shore of Japan close to the quake and tsunami in some cases is feet lower than it was before the quake because as the pressure built up over centuries, that land bowed upward, and when the stress was released the land dropped again. And on the Oregon coast there is a shallow marsh that before January of 1700 was a cedar forest, but it dropped six feet in that earthquake.

        Other areas are dropping or rising more gradually. Many Pacific islands would be gradually going under water over the next few centuries regardless of the global sea level change.

        Basically, the entire surface of the Earth is a bunch of scum piles being shifted around on an ocean of semi-liquid material, bumping into each other and tilting in various ways. As the Asian and Indian Ocean plates collide and tilt up to form the Himalayas, the other ends of those places are dropping. And there is now evidence that the Atlantic plate is cracking in the middle, offshore of Portugal because of similar activities.

        • Re:perspective (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @05:13AM (#44174049)

          ...the entire surface of the Earth is a bunch of scum piles being shifted around on an ocean of semi-liquid material, bumping into each other and tilting in various ways

          Generally, yes, but that ignores the fact that there are no plate boundaries nor obvious tectonic processes operating within any distance of the Florida Keys that can account for more than the most inconsequential sea level change over the last 150 years. In short, the keys are tectonically stable. A nine inch in rise in sea level over the last hundred years or so is consistent with the change in global sea level over the same period.

          More generally, many ocean/continent boundaries are active margins, but far from all of them. Consider as counter examples the east coasts of North America and South America, the west coasts of Europe and Africa (despite evidence for incipient subduction off Western Europe, as it certainly doesn't currently dominate tectonic regime there), three sides of Australia, the east coast of Africa, the entire coastline of Antarctica, the northern coast of North America along the Arctic Ocean, and most of the northern coasts of Asia, are all passive margins. These areas as not devoid of tectonic activity, but it's usually mild compared to areas around the Pacific Ocean and other active continental margins.

          It may also be worth observing that some parts of the world, especially Northern Europe and parts of North America, even where the tectonic environment is mild, are still isostatically rebounding upwards following the last glacial maximum. The ice sheets were so massive that they depressed the continents underneath them. Now that the ice has melted, the land is slowly rising back up from the viscous mantle upon which the continents float. In those places, with the land rising, local sea level may be falling. Isostasy can also locally affect other areas where there's a lot of geographic relief, such as in high continental plateaus where erosion unloads the land surface, or where high relief upstream contributes large volumes of sediment. The Florida Keys are not, however, subject to these processes.

          The global average sea level, or sea level measured against an artificial reference point, is called eustatic sea level. Over hundreds of millions of years tectonic processes can affect eustatic sea level, but on shorter time frames the tectonic variation averages out: if rock is rising in one place, it's falling in another, so the contribution to sea level changes by tectonic processes are generally only local. For example, the sea level in the Florida Keys won't be affected by changes in the local sea level along the coast of Japan.

          The biggest general contributor to most sea level change on the timescale of our species is climate, not deeper geologic processes. There is a minor component related to the thermal expansion of seawater, which accounts for probably about half the currently observed sea level rise, but the dominant longer term factor is variation in the amount of ice sequestered in continental ice sheets -- like the those that once covered much of North America and Europe, as well as the extant Antarctic ice sheets and Greenland Ice Sheet. Broadly speaking, throughout geologic history the amount of water impounded in continental ice sheets will tell you more about eustatic sea level than any other single factor. Back through the Pleistocene, if you had to guess how much water covered any random point on the globe, knowing the level of glaciation would on average give you a better answer than anything else. Sea level tracks very closely with glaciation.

          You can look at the Greenland Ice Sheet as a remnant of the much larger Pleistocene ice sheets in the northern hemisphere during the last glacial maximum. The Greenland Ice Sheet contains enough water that if it were to melt or flow in to the ocean, eustatic sea level would rise a couple dozen feet even without contributions from other reservoirs. Since the late Pleistocene, eustatic sea level has ris

          • This is seriously one of the best comments I've read on Slashdot on this topic. It's a shame that you aren't modded higher.
      • by stenvar (2789879)

        The article says:

        The Keys and three South Florida counties agreed in 2010 to collaborate on a regional plan to adapt to climate change.

        But whatever they do to "adapt to climate change", they would have to do anyway even if there were no anthropogenic warming.

      • Re:perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @07:48AM (#44174627)

        The key word here is anthropogenic I would guess. Nobody can deny that there is global warming, we're in an interglacial period, where I'm sitting now used to be under a kilometer depth of ice, the main discussion is how much of it we are responsible for.

        • The key word here is anthropogenic I would guess. Nobody can deny that there is global warming, we're in an interglacial period, where I'm sitting now used to be under a kilometer depth of ice, the main discussion is how much of it we are responsible for.

          Last I read (which was several years ago), there is forcing from both directions: toward cold due to the winding down of the interglacial, and toward the hot due to anthropogenic causes.

          The "toward the hot" is stronger than the "toward the cold" by something on the order of one watt per square meter, IIRC.

        • by Alef (605149)
          The fraction of atmospheric carbon dioxide that comes from fossil fuels can be measured, as can solar radiation influx, cloud cover, albedo etc. Calling it a discussion is a bit of a stretch to say the least, unless you by "how much" are talking about decimal places. What is being "discussed" (and by "discussed" I actually mean simulated and experimented on) is mostly how strong various feedback mechanisms are (such as increased tree growth, which buffers CO2 but also might reduce Earth's albedo, decreased
      • by HiThere (15173)

        This doesn't follow from the quotation, however:

        I don't know about the Keys in particular, but many places where we have pumped either oil or water out of underground resivoirs are sinking. Usually, but not always, slowly. (Undergound coal mining has the same effect, but the collapses tend to be more sudden and dramatic.)

        Now parts of the Gulf have had lots of oil pumped out of them. Probably not near the Keys, but I don't know for sure. (It certainly affected New Orleans.) Agriculture has also extracte

    • by vilanye (1906708)
      The keys that you can drive to are all flat with most 15 ft or less above sea level, not counting buildings. Go past key west, and there are some hilly ones in the Dry Tortugas park
  • Everyone just concentrate really hard on disbelieving climate change! That'll do it.

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @08:21AM (#44174883)

    For those that don't know the Florida keys are only a few inches above ocean levels even before the 1800 era. An 18 inch rise in sea levels would put the keys under water. these keys stretch for well over 100 miles and involve hundreds of islands. The area is also vital as a nursery for sea life. A slight rise in ocean levels is a clear cut disaster.

  • Why is the media so stuck on hurricane Sandy? Bigger hurricanes have hit the east coast down to the gulf and typhoons larger have hit the west coast, is it because of where it hit? Oh you weren't prepared sucks to be you. Living near the coast you should be ready, just because you haven't seen a hurricane hit your shore in 100 years or more doesn't mean the next one won't hit you head on.
  • by tompaulco (629533) on Wednesday July 03, 2013 @10:46AM (#44176527) Homepage Journal
    MSL has risen 7.7 inches in 135 years in the rest of the world, but somehow has risen another 1.3 inches in the Keys in less time. I suspect that they are experiencing ocean water rise in conjunction with the natural eroding away of the islands themselves. You certainly wouldn't want to build any permanent (in terms of centuries) buildings on those islands.
  • Here's a good article from Rolling Stone specifically about Miami, but it certainly applies (more so) to the Keys:
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620 [rollingstone.com]

  • Just clear them out - they're going to be flooded eventually, and paid for by the US taxpayer. The Keys have 1 foot in the grave and the other on the corpse of a poisoned manatee. They're an ecological and financial disaster waiting to happen.

    • by belgo (72693)

      Lower Keys dweller here!

      I appreciate the sentiment and all, but I am not going to move. I promise not to make any insurance claims or anything else that would upset the mainlanders and drag them away from their shopping malls, tv shows, and whatever else they do for fun. Also, my boat stays pretty dry and has two working bilge pumps. I do not seem to be in danger of sinking.

  • like sectors on a hard drive...partition the waters...

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