Sea-level rise and Florida: 2050 - 2075
What We’ll See
- Millennial generation Floridians, by this period in their senior years, will be living in a Florida much changed from that of their youth.
- In Pinellas, as sea-level rise reaches three to four feet, major chunks of the barrier islands will be lost.
- In central Florida, Lake Monroe, far inland, swells to absorb connected lakes.
- You’ll need a kayak to get to the door of Cedar Key City Hall.
- Kennedy Space Center and the commercial rocket industry grow increasingly isolated by rising water.
- Fort Lauderdale indeed becomes America’s Venice, with water at residential doorsteps, U.S. 1 under water and downtown awash at three feet and gone at four. The corporate descendant of Flagler’s railroad will need to span long stretches of Broward water — imitating his ill-fated original Overseas Railroad in the Keys — to remain operational.
- At three feet, Miami Beach is gone but for a spine close to the Atlantic. Brickell has standing water, and the Miami River widens up through central Miami-Dade. Water penetration from the former Everglades consumes western urbanized Miami-Dade.
- In the Keys, at 24 inches of rise, nuisance floods occur 672 times per year — nearly every daily high tide.
Save the Glades?
At two feet of sea-level rise, a vast section of the southern part of the Everglades, including a lot of Everglades National Park, goes underwater. That eventuality carries the clear implication that the current project to restore the Everglades needs to be rethought with the focus on safeguarding urban south Florida and its water supply while preserving a sliver of the southernmost River of Grass. That holds even more so if the sea rises three feet by 2060, when the project is supposed to be finished.
In this period, sealevel rise will likely force substantial migration within the state — and out of it. Planners envision differing scenarios: A collective, thought-out retreat with government direction and financial assistance. Or piecemeal decisions driven by economics and repeated flood hits. Some foresee “storms of opportunity” in which a hurricane devastates a vulnerable area, prompting residents and investors to leave and government to withdraw infrastructure support.
The Heartland Prospers
The map shows the effects of six feet of sea-level rise along Florida’s coasts and rivers. Absent successful accommodation, rising seas will pressure coastal Florida and even sites well inland. Barrier-island and low-lying communities face a spiral of shrinking property values and increasing costs. A century after the great migration to Florida was set in motion by the availability of air conditioning and other societal forces, a migration away from the sea will occur. Central Florida, its heartland interior and the state’s lightly populated northern counties will see increasing economic opportunity. Union, Bradford, Columbia, Lafayette, Hamilton, Gadsden — your time is coming.
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