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NOAA Report: Sea levels on track to rise more than a foot by 2050

Posted at 6:39 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 19:52:17-05

FLORIDA — A century of sea-level rise in 30 years. According to a new NOAA report, Southwest Florida could see sea levels rise nearly 1.5 feet by 2050 if we stay with the current trends. Not only is the region seeing a rise in sea levels, but it is also seeing that rise twice as fast.

Dr. Mike Savarese, who has studied climate change at FGCU since 1997, says we are already seeing the impacts.

“A portion of southwest Florida has negatable elevation level,” said Savarese. “So a small increase, just a small increase in sea level height, even without the storms, it going to have a great impact on the lowest-lying areas.”

Dr. Savarese says with this latest report providing 20 years worth of data, we now have a better idea of how bad sea level rise could get if we don’t take action as a planet. He called it a clarifying moment.

“What is telling us is now, we have a better sense about what sea-level rise is going to do or how it is going to behave in our region as well as all other regions along with the coastal United States,” said Dr. Savarese. “So managers have better information.”

And better information counties and city managers can plan for sea-level rise in future development with much of Florida at or near sea level. Unfortunately, the current sea-level rise is already causing sunny day flooding to places like Miami and even Everglades City at least one time a year. Dr. William Sweet with NOAA says those floods will become more common.

“Fast forward to 2050, and things change,” said Dr. Sweet. “That extra foot of sea-level rise, those two-foot floods that mostly disruptive that happen once a year or so are happening more than 10 times a year.”

Dr. Saverese says we can adapt to sea-level rise through 2050, but he has real concerns beyond that.

“I think that can adapt to 2050, 2060,” said Dr. Saverese. “What happens through the rest of the century, is probably, assuming we follow the intermediate-high curve, all the way to the end of the century. Then we are talking about situations that are not adaptable. We are talking about managed retreat.”

“We think in the long term, another 1,000 years, we may be 7 meters higher than we are now,” said Dr. Sweet. “But just how fast that occurs; whether that is actually going to happen is really collectively in our hands. We really have to the ability to stem the flow now, to sort of preventing those higher worst-case scenarios from occurring.”

Doctor Sweet says it comes down to emissions. He says more emissions equals more heating which equals more ice melt and eventually equals high sea levels. Curbing those greenhouse gases will now lead to better results in the future and will slow and possibly prevent further rise.

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