Can Miami Beach Survive Global Warming?
Geege Schuman stashed this in Climate
Short answer: No. No it cannot.
Miami Beach does indeed have serious water issues. In the hundred years since it was incorporated as a city, it has repeatedly been pummeled by major storms, one of which, the Great Hurricane of 1926, wiped out buildings, tossed ships ashore, and remains, in adjusted dollars, the costliest hurricane in American history. Essentially a long, narrow barrier island, Miami Beach is surrounded by and infused with water. Biscayne Bay (which separates the city from its larger neighbor, Miami) lies to the west, the Atlantic to the east, and a large waterway, Indian Creek, cuts through the city for much of its length.
Compounding the city’s vulnerability to major weather events is the worldwide phenomenon of sea-level rise. Due to thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of ice sheets and glaciers in the Earth’s far latitudes, the global mean sea level is rising. How fast and how much is a matter of debate, with such federal agencies as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projecting, on the low end, eight inches of sea-level rise by the year 2100, and, on the high end, as much as six feet.
But Miami Beach, a low-lying city to begin with, is already feeling the effects of sea-level rise. Every time there’s a heavy rain, the locals brace for flooding on Alton Road, the main north-south thoroughfare of the city’s west side, as well as on smaller roads in the area, such as Purdy Avenue, where Levine filmed his commercial. The city’s bay side is more susceptible to flooding than its ocean side because it lies lower, less than two feet above sea level in some sections, and was built on cleared swampland that still wants to be what it used to be: a mangrove swamp.
On top of all this, Miami Beach must contend with a fairly new phenomenon that has come to be known locally as sunny-day flooding, in which Alton Road and its neighboring streets are awash in water even when no rain has fallen. This is a consequence of southeast Florida’s geology. Unlike, say, the island of Manhattan, whose bedrock is composed of hard, relatively impermeable marble, granite, and schist, Miami Beach and its neighboring towns sit upon a foundation of porous limestone. When the tides are at or nearing their seasonal highs—the highest, which occur in March and October, are known as king tides—seawater surges inward from the bay and the ocean, bubbling up through the limestone and infiltrating the sewer system. The very drains and gutters built to channel water off the streets function in reverse, becoming the conduits through which water gushes onto the streets.