Sunday, June 21, 2009

Future looks bleak (and soggy) for coastal Florida in 2099, climate-change report says

Tony Doris in the Palm Beach Post gives a Florida-centric take on that new climate change report: More drought, more flooding. Hotter days, harder rain. Higher-intensity hurricanes. Cracked highways, derailed trains. The Everglades, a salt marsh, if visible at all. Cape Canaveral - more suited for submarines than space shuttles. It's the year 2099, the globe is warm and coastal Florida could be 3 feet under water.

It sounds like movie trailer hype. But it's what a plain-language report issued last week by the Obama Administration means, scientists say. The 158-page report, six pages of which focus on Florida and the Southeast, says that global warming is "unequivocal," man-made and primarily due to emissions of heat-trapping gases from burning of coal, oil and gas.

…Though the sea level rise and other impacts will take decades to unfold, the report's urgency rests in the fact that it would take decades for solutions to take hold, said Brian Soden, professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "The climate over the next 20 years has already been determined," Soden said Thursday. "It's going to get warmer and there's nothing we can do about that, even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow. ... We need to make decisions about what our emissions are going to be for the future." Among the projections for the Southeast by 2099:

The number of days with peak temperatures over 90 degrees will soar; North Florida, for example, will have 165 days of 90 degree heat per year by the turn of the century, up from 60 during the 1970s.
Higher temperatures will hurt human health, forests, crops and livestock.
A rise in coastal water temperatures of 4 to 8 degrees will cause water to expand and sea level will increase by 1 to 5 feet, possibly much more as polar ice melts.
With Atlantic water temperatures up, hurricane strength likely will increase, with faster winds, more intense rain and stronger storm surge.
Other weather extremes: Less rain in all seasons except the fall. Flooding and downpours will be more common, but droughts also will be more frequent and saltwater will intrude into aquifers…

Aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, from NOAA

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