UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement provided the following review of the book “Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options” by Hine, Chambers, Clayton, Hafen, and Mitchum.
It’s a bright day with not a cloud in sight, yet people in Miami Beach are wading across streets through knee-deep water: seawater, that is. This scene has become increasingly commonplace in the lowest lying parts of South Florida, often referred to as sunny day or nuisance flooding. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that something is wrong with this picture. But if you want to look at the problem through the lens of a scientist, the picture comes into awesome relief. That is what ‘Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options’ offers it’s readers. The authors are experts in wide ranging fields, and take readers on a tour of South Florida that begins millions of years ago when Florida was the bottom of a vast ocean that covered what is now most of the continental United States. This aspect of natural history is not just a geological wonder; it is critical to understanding the problem we Floridians face today. We have built a dense urban area and a vast agriculture industry on this porous, limestone rock that barely ekes its way above sea level, vulnerable to the encroaching water from all sides, and from beneath our feet. A chapter on the ecosystem impacts of sea level rise provides lessons about the unique ecology of Florida, which alone is worth the read. Perhaps the most poignant pictures in this well-illustrated book are the elevation maps of the state, highlighting how the southern part of the state is within several feet of sea level, with these low lying areas overlapping the past, present, and projected future development areas. The book’s fourth and final chapter gives some ideas for solutions, though there is clearly no ‘silver bullet.’ It is important for citizens of our state to be aware of efforts to both reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are at the root cause of the problem and to engineer solutions that may allow us to adapt to the inevitable impacts. This book is an efficient way for Floridians to quickly come up to speed on the basics of a grand, global problem that has very local implications for current residents of our State and for future generations.
Amy Clement is a professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.