Here's How Climate Change Will Flood South Florida: A Foot-by-Foot Visual Analysis

Categories: Environment
Scientists all over the world are warning about rising sea levels -- a problem that could cost Broward billions down the line. 

Last week, we looked out how a sheet of ice covering most of Greenland could threaten Broward and Miami in the distant future if it melts. The gist is that a jump in sea levels would flood massive swaths of South Florida and that there isn't necessarily the infrastructure in place to stave off such watery woe.

Now, a group called Climate Central has developed a tool to help visualize how rising sea levels could combine with storm surges to flood areas throughout the country. It's searchable by Zip Code, so naturally we plugged in 33301 to see if the Pulp's HQ is the place to be when the tide gets too high. 

It's most definitely not. 

"South Florida, I'm afraid to say, has one of the toughest situations," says Ben Strauss, director of Climate Central's program on sea-level rise. "Ultimately, the map of South Florida is going to change in the long run. In a century, the map is going to look different, and it's going to be really hard to defend Miami-Dade."

To get a better sense of what Strauss is discussing, check out these maps of what a combination of storm surges and higher sea levels could do to Fort Lauderdale. The less blue, the better.

Here's a look at the areas that will be affected by about a foot of flooding due to higher sea levels and storm surges. Harbors and beachfront property -- not really a shocker. Climate Central estimates that there's a greater than one in six chance of this happening by 2020. 

Climate Central

Here we are a three feet. Last week, Fred Bloetscher of Florida Atlantic University told New Times that a three-foot rise in sea levels would permanently flood areas of western Broward County.

Climate Central

Here we are at five feet. This is when things will really turn ugly. "The Fort Lauderdale International Airport is in there. There's just a ton of stuff in that zone," says Strauss. 

Climate Central
At eight feet, things look grim. Someone like Kevin Costner will probably need to step up to the plate here. 

Climate Central
And at ten feet, there's little left dry.

Climate Central

Strauss says one of the most important steps that the city should take is to to stop building so close to the shore. 

"South Florida has a larger concentration of homes and populations living in low-lying areas than any other place we looked at," he says. "To minimize harm, the region is going to need to discuss the idea of not building more things in harm's way."

And no, we can't just build sea walls to keep the water at bay. The problem with that plan, Strauss says, is that much of the area is based on porous limestone, which allows water to seep through anyway. We would still have floods, and the walls would only make it more difficult to get rid of that water. 

There's at least one glimmer of hope. Strauss touted the work of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, a multicounty, bipartisan group that's busy crafting a plan on ways we can mitigate the destruction of rising waters. The work of the group could serve as a valuable model for areas at risk in the country. 

"This is a huge issue for Florida," Strauss says. "And I know not everyone of every political strip in Florida is onboard. Inevitably, within some short period of time -- within a decade or a couple at most -- every citizen, businessperson, and elected official in Florida will be begging the rest of the nation to pay attention to this issue and fight the accumulation of green house gases in the atmosphere."

While we've had the good luck of avoiding major hurricanes in the past few years, one good storm surge might be all it takes to bring this issue to the forefront of legislators' agendas. 

If you want to see how your hometown will hold up in the face of rising oceans, click here.

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