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Higher Sea-Level Rise Projections: An "Opportunity" for Florida?

Florida flooding is projected to be worse than expected in a new Antarctic ice melt study. (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
Florida flooding is projected to be worse than expected in a new Antarctic ice melt study. (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)
April 4, 2016

MIAMI – A new estimate that sea levels will rise up to 6 feet by the end of this century could be seen as an impending disaster for Florida – or an opportunity – according to a science advocacy group.

The new ice melt information published in the scientific journal Nature is "alarming" to the Union of Concerned Scientists, with Florida's coastal communities especially vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels.

The group's Southeast climate advocate, Nicole Hernandez Hammer, says it's about more than just water levels on the beach, because many parts of the state sit on very porous limestone.

"So, we're not only getting flooding on the coast, but we're getting contamination of fresh water sources, and then we're getting inland flooding because of the raised water table," she explains.

Hernandez Hammer says the opportunity is that the new information creates a greater sense of urgency for Florida communities, governments and advocacy groups working on solutions.

She notes it will take a lot of money for a full scale approach toward adaptation and potential retreat in areas considered least likely to be habitable in the long term.

The ice melt study predicts sea-rise levels twice that of the original projections. But Hernandez Hammer says Florida is uniquely positioned to create long term, workable solutions that other regions can use to address rising sea level challenges.

"We can also think about how we can adapt and then use that information to help other places, since we are on the front line of receiving climate change and sea level rise impacts," she points out.

Hernandez Hammer stresses that solutions, much like the rising sea level impacts, are currently in progress and will work best with a combination of local, state and federal resources.

Deborah Kaye/Deb Kaye, Public News Service - FL