Climate Change in South Florida
January 18, 2016
Climate change in Florida has remained a threat as study after study reports that South Florida will find itself underwater by 2100. This dire situation attracted the attention of not only of climatologists and scientists but also President Obama, who visited the national park in April.
South Florida’s climate remained largely unchanged prior to the drainage of the Everglades through government programs in the late nineteenth century. The transformation of the wetlands into smaller channels of water allowed for irrigation and more fertile soil. The development of South Florida, specifically based around Henry Flagler’s efforts to build railroads all the way to Key West, depended on the draining of the Everglades.
“There is an effect more generally of urbanization that independent of human related climate change has increased temperatures in urban areas – the urban heat island effect is what it is referred to as,” a Professor for marine ecosystems and society at the University Miami, Kenneth Broad said. “The freshwater in the Everglades helps keep salt water intrusion out of the Biscayne Aquifer, but the Everglades does not directly influence sea level rise.”
The United States government funded these operations during the late 1800’s partly because they viewed the Everglades as worthless land at the time. Politicians did not create conservation policy within South Florida nor would they do so on a national scale until Theodore Roosevelt’s election in 1901.
The Everglades’ contribution to the South Floridian environment rests in its absorption of carbon dioxide in the region. Even in its current state, the national park stores enough carbon to absorb half of South Florida vehicle’s carbon emissions. The Miami Herald also reports that national park lands as a whole store 14 million tons of carbon each year.
“Sea levels are getting too high and is drowning out the Everglades,” senior Jacob Eisenberg said. “Carbon dioxide is thinning out the ozone layer and contributing to climate change.”
The burning of fossil fuels results in these higher sea levels drown out the Everglades and release more carbon into the atmosphere. This cycle of environmental destruction continues.
The thinning of the ozone layer, one of the uppermost atmospheric layers, allows for more sun rays to reach the earth. This raises the temperature because the absorption of the sun’s ultraviolet rays assist in the prevention of higher temperatures on the planet’s surface. Last winter marked the warmest winter since 1850, when the United States began measuring temperatures.
“Our recent warm temperatures are very much related to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation climate phenomenon,” Professor Kenneth Broad said.
Miami temperatures generally average about 76 degrees Fahrenheit in November but averaged a little over 85 degrees this November.
A new study by International and Climate Central (ICF) gave Florida an overall C- grade on climate change preparedness. Florida has not dropped to lower temperatures lately. This new study also added to the fact that Florida is now increasing threats in all five different categories: extreme heat, drought, wildfires, inland flooding and coastal flooding.
“For rising seas, this is a global phenomenon. We can do our part, but it will take actions around the world. Locally we should start thinking about adaptation plans and try to keep as much fresh water in the aquifer as possible. Less concrete means less heat,” Kenneth Broad said.
Another study by the name of Risky Business Project, an analysis of global economic effects of climate change, predicted serious problems that would affect Florida’s future. Besides ending up under water, average days with temperatures over 95 degrees per year will most likely increase (from what is now seven days) to 32 days. The report projected these rising temperatures would lead to higher sea levels, causing more widespread destruction from storms.
“We as humans refuse to make changes in our daily lives which could impact our world tremendously as you can already tell,” junior Juan Suhr said. “But I think a solution to this could be by cutting down emissions all for the sake of convenience, [of Earth] and could maybe lower our average temperatures by next winter season again.”