The takeaway message.
Millions of people worldwide face coastal flooding — and some Florida communities are already seeing the impacts. By accurately assessing our risk, we can make plans to adapt accordingly.
What’s going on?
By 2100, between 340 million and 480 million people worldwide could experience sea-level rise induced flooding, according to a study by researchers at Climate Central. That number is triple what scientists previously thought. This is because the traditional method to estimate elevation wasn’t very precise.
Previous elevation data was based on NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which bounces radar signals off Earth’s surface to estimate elevation. But trees and buildings can get in the way and cause the measurements to be off by up to 10 meters in some places. The new study modified this method by adding a computer algorithm that can help account for buildings and trees and improve the accuracy of the measurements.
The new elevation estimates, coupled with sea level rise projections in coastal areas, showed an increase in the amount of people are at risk of future coastal flooding.
Why it matters.
Many coastal cities in Florida are already feeling the impacts of sea level rise.
In South Florida, it seems as if sunny day flooding is becoming the new normal, with record-breaking high tides in March, July, August and September. A Key Largo neighborhood has been flooded for more than 80 days. And, by 2100, the sea level in the Tampa Bay region could be 8.5 feet higher than it was at the turn of the century.
Cities are starting to respond. In September, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it’s considering buying homes surrounding Biscayne Bay as part of an effort to protect neighborhoods from storm surge. But researchers say as cities consider buyouts, they must be aware that sea level rise could impact lower income communities the most, as government buyouts force residents to uproot and find new homes.
What can I do?
- Collect sea level rise data through “citizen science” flood reporting.
- Find out how many high tide flooding days are predicted in your area.
- Familiarize yourself with what communities can do by checking out the Florida Adaptation Planning Guidebook.
- Learn more about the steps that can be taken now to help protect coastal ecosystems.
Where can I learn more?