Science Support for Climate Change Adaptation in South Florida
Earth's changing climate is among the foremost conservation challenges of the 21st century, threatening to permanently alter entire ecosystems and contribute to extinctions of species. Lying only a few feet above sea level and already suffering effects of anthropogenic stressors, south Florida's ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change. Recent research accounting for the gravitational effects of melting ice sheets predicts that sea level rise on U.S. coastlines will be much higher than global averages (Gomez et al. 2010), and the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force predicts that local sea level rise will be at least 3 to 5 ft. (0.9 m to 1.5 m) by 2100 (MDCCATF 2008). In a 5 ft. scenario, up to 873 additional square miles of the Everglades would be inundated with saltwater (see maps below). Accelerated sea level rise is likely to be accompanied by increasing temperatures (IPCC 2007a) and more intense tropical storms and hurricanes (Webster et al. 2005). In addition, changes in amount, timing, and distribution of rainfall in south Florida may lead to more severe droughts and floods (SFWMD 2009).