Global warming: Where will we go when seas rise?

Perhaps there is a master plan for us being on this planet. I am told that we originated in the ocean, crawled up onto the land and eventually became people, at least some of us.

Now, from what I have learned over the past several weeks, it appears that the plan is for us to return to the ocean and perhaps learn to live in the water breathing oxygen from the H2O and perhaps starting the whole cycle all over again.

Let me explain.

I was fortunate enough to live in Cutler Bay during Hurricane Andrew. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world but my survivalist mate was not too happy with my choice to remain at home. Never having experienced anything compared to a Category 5 storm, I thought it might be fun just to see what actually happened.

The thing I remember most was the fact that several blocks from where I live there were watermarks in the homes at shoulder height. The entire areas now known as Saga Bay, Lakes By The Bay, and others were all totally underwater. I also remember a Volkswagen being tossed into the third floor of the then Burger King building. Since that time many people have built houses, apartments and some businesses in that area and I can’t help but wonder what it might look like under several feet of water. Granted there are elevation requirements that would place these structures above a potential floodplain.

The question in my mind is, what then? Neither the town nor the county will have enough boats to evacuate all of these people and I can assure you that many, if not most will choose as I did, to remain home should a full storm threaten. Of course there are developers who are planning to build floating houses. Good luck with those. I have plans for my own Ernie’s Ark.

The big concern in my mind is sea level rise. We all can argue about whether it is man-made or just the way our planet is designed but hardly anyone disagrees that the ocean is rising. Since 1870, the average global sea level has risen by about eight inches. In Southeast Florida it is 12 inches. The average annual sea level rise between 1993 and 2010 was almost twice the rate from 1901 to 2010. Now get this; by the year 2060 it is estimated that sea levels along Florida’s coastline could rise between nine inches to two feet.

The big danger in all this is to the barrier islands of which Miami Beach is foremost. The results will be a very skinny Miami Beach with hardly any useful land between the ocean and the Intracostal Waterway. Drive up the coast of Florida and you will see many more barrier islands that will probably end up being underwater reefs in not too many years.

The county is expected to spend more than $32 million for beach erosion and re-nourishment between the years of 2013 and 2027. Bal Harbour expects to need 30,000 yards of sand per year or the equivalent of more than 14 football fields covered by 1 foot of sand. Need more statistics? There are 71,702 houses in Dade County that are three feet below current sea levels and another 25,192 that are two feet below.

By the year 2100, U.S. government projections by the U.S. Geological Survey expect a sea level rise of between 4.1 feet to 6.6 feet. By that time, I will be 164 years old but I plan to stay around at least that long just to see what happens. I already have taken steps to ensure such long life. I have had two knee replacements and one hip replacement and I’m currently researching the possibility of a full frontal cortex replacement. Any volunteers? With all these replacement parts available I should be able to hang around for at least a few more years.

According to Harold Wanless of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami, at the depth of the last Ice Age about 18,000 years ago, sea level was some 420 feet below present level as ice was taken up by large continental ice sheets. Subsequent ice melt was not a gradual acceleration and deceleration progress process. Rather it was a series of very rapid pulses of sea level rise followed by pauses.

These rapid pulses of rise from 3 to 30 feet were fast enough to leave drowned reefs, sandy barrier islands, tidal inlet deltas and other coastal deposits abandoned across the continental shelf. This is what happens when climate change warms enough to destabilize some ice sheet sector. It rapidly disintegrates resulting in a rapid rise.

There are many explanations for the rapid melting of ice but the basic facts are that the ice is melting and the water is rising. Many people living on or near the coast will be putting their houses up for sale at bargain prices and I have no idea where I plan to live in the next several hundred years but getting a 30-year mortgage in Florida may be impossible.

I may move to Colorado where the mean elevation is 6,800 feet compared to Florida’s 100 feet.


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