South Florida Learning from the Polar Bears

flmissalac600 copy With their recent addition to the US Endangered Species Act list, polar bears have sent a wake-up call to water managers in South Florida.

Added to the ESA list on Wednesday, the polar bears will finally receive a measure of official attention and protection, albeit a little late. However, joining the environmental awareness last Wednesday, South Florida water managers agreed to spend a year looking at how the melting ice that is doing in the polar bear, may be a similarly dangerous problem for South Florida.

The South Florida Water Management District once had anticipated for a maximum sea level rise of only 1 foot by 2100. However more recent projections have greatly increased that, by up to 5 times.

Back in late April the Miami-Dade County Climate Change Task Force presented a report that suggested a three-foot rise in sea level could send a high tide well in to downtown Miami, whereas a five-foot rise would swallow up much of the Everglades.

But the problem isn’t consigned to flooding, with the possibility that a sea level rise could infiltrate the states drinking water. This, according to Jayantha Obeysekera, who will lead the district’s global warming review. “We cannot put up walls and stop the sea level,” Obeysekera said. “Let’s start looking at it [and] see what our vulnerabilities are.”

Carol Ann Wehle, executive director of the agency noted that a rise of only 2 feet could cause problems for the system of drainage canals that rely heavily upon gravity to keep South Florida dry.

Needless to say, a sea level rise of any magnitude is not going to make for a happy South Florida.

Image courtesy of US EPA

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