Miami-Dade County is located at the southern-most point of the United States and Florida. It is one of the largest counties geographically in Florida and has the seventh largest population in the country. According to the 2017 census report, Miami-Dade accounts for about 2,431 sq mi of the state of Florida, as the population of 2,751,800 continues to rise (US Census, 2017). Miami-Dade county is one of the most populated counties in all of the United States and one of the most vulnerable to sea level rise.
Both the state of Florida and Miami-Dade county are very ethnically and culturally diverse, as they receive many immigrants from nearby nations. According to the 1st World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change, in 2010, 62% of the Miami-Dade County population was hispanic, 18% were white, and 18% were black. With 104 different languages spoken within the county, it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the U.S. (Seijas et al.).
Sea Level Rise
Global climate change has increased sea levels and given coastal communities something to worry about. Sea level rise brings many concerns, including several that are necessary for people's well being. Some of these concerns include cities, roads, railways, ports, airports, oil/gas facilities, and water supplies (NCA 2014). Rising seas can inflict damage on infrastructure, water supply, habitats, agriculture, and beaches. This rise in sea level will account for much more intense hurricanes, as well. According to a United States Army Corps of Engineers scenario for Miami Beach, Florida, sea levels are projected to rise about 15 inches by the year 2045 (UCUSA 2014).
Temperatures in Miami-Dade County are increasing. From the Climate Central graph on the left, from 1950 to 2015, Miami has experienced consistently increasing average temperatures (Climate Central, 2016). During that 65 year span, the county experienced a change in average temperature of about 2 degrees (Climate Central, 2016). When temperatures increase, the concentration of air pollution, ozone, and pollen becomes much more prevalent (AAFA, 2017). This can bring about the risk of air pollution-related illnesses, such as asthma. Lastly, the combination of increasing temperatures and decreased water can cause difficulty with agriculture.
Decreased Water Availability
Water availability in Miami-Dade County has started to face a challenge due to saltwater intrusion from sea level rise. Saltwater intrusion occurs when clean water being sequestered from wells is intruded by the salty sea water. As the seas continue to rise, more and more saltwater intrusions will result. The Biscayne Aquifer is shown on the left, the main source of water for Miami-Dade County (Miami-Dade County, 2018). As sea levels keep rising the challenge for clean drinking water gets more difficult too, forcing the aquifer inland.
Why is Miami-Dade County Vulnerable?
Coastal Communities Near Sea Level
It is evident that Miami-Dade coastal communities are vulnerable to flooding because of their exposure to sea level rise, but how vulnerable are they? The frequency of floods in the Miami Beach area has risen since 2006 (Wdowinski et al.). First, the number of rain-induced flood events increased from 9 during the 1998-2005 period to 12 during the 2006-2013 period, an increase of 33%(Wdowinski et al.). The number of tide/sea level rise-induced flood events increased from 2 to 8 during the same time periods (Wdowinski et al.).
Weather-dependent Economic Factors
Several economic factors in Miami and around Miami-Dade County are dependent upon the weather (Seijas et al.). Two of the most significant to the economy of Miami are agriculture and tourism. Frequency and impact of tropical storms in the area have increased steadily, creating more difficulty for both sectors of the economy (Seijas et al.). Not only does this cause infrastructure damage, it also does damage to famous beaches and agriculture. Flooding creates even more challenges to agriculture. It can result in the loss of crops, as the flood drowns them out. Saltwater intrusion can occur in soil, as well (Seijas et al.). If crops are intruded by flooding saltwater, they do not receive the nutrients they need to survive. In January of 2010, Miami-Dade County experienced more than a $280 million loss in crop sales due to cold weather and frost (Seijas et al.). Flooding and high tides can cause beach erosion, which increases the cost to restore them and leads to less tourism (Seijas et al.).
Coping with Climate Change
The city of Miami Beach has began to raise major roadways and install pumps in the streets to eliminate flood risk (Staletovich). In 2007, Miami-Dade County became a pilot community for ICLEI or Local Governments for Sustainability (Seijas et al.). The goal was to work together as a region and start making changes using their sustainability framework (Seijas et al.). In 2009, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact was established to continue with adaptation planning (Seijas et al.). Using both the ICLEI and New York City model, Miami-Dade was able to come up with a sustainability plan that includes both the local government and the people of the county. Multiple plans within the sustainability framework exist, all that is left to do is implement these plans and take action. The next steps for Miami-Dade County will be to build upon successful efforts, such as raising roadways or building pumps or building sea walls (Seijas et al.). Miami-Dade should be sure to continue working with the NOAA or the Office for Coastal Management (Seijas et al.). Sea level rise is a continuing issue for Miami-Dade County and it is up to both our state and federal governments to work together to become the leader in this battle with climate change.
As with many coastal communities, Miami-Dade County is in the midst of an intense battle with sea level rise. Since there is not much the Miami community can do to adapt sea level rise, we decided to call it "coping" with sea level rise instead. So far, at the city/state level, the city of Miami has spent over $500 million in response efforts including raising roadways, inputting storm drainage systems, street pumps, dams, and sea walls (Staletovich). Besides this "coping" with sea level rise, the only other adaptation would come from the national or international level regarding air pollutant emissions and sea level rise.
About the Author
Ryan Emerson is an Environmental Studies-Economics combined major at St. Lawrence University, planning to graduate in 2019. This topic was chosen due to his personal connection to the location, as his father grew up in Coral Gables, Florida and his Grandmother currently resides there. As a result, he became an avid Miami Dolphins, Heat, and Marlins fan. Ryan also enjoys playing hockey, golf, and tennis. This webpage was created for Jon Rosales' climate change course during the spring term of 2018.
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