King Tide Draws High Seas and Climate Champions to Miami Beach

Update: Photos from the 2014 King Tide Event on October 9 can be viewed here.

Miami Beach King Tide flooding in 2013. Credit Arianna Prothero/WLRN

Miami Beach will host some high profile visitors tomorrow as U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (FL), and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) gather to take part in an event marking tomorrow’s King Tide, the highest tide of the year. This event, expected to flood the streets with sea water and disrupt the routine of residents and business owners, will offer a preview of what lies in store as climate change and sea level rise continue to change the landscape of South Florida.  This year’s King Tide is expected to be about 1 foot higher than a typical day’s high tide, which brings about much more flooding.  In past years the King Tide flooding has caused extensive property damage and is part of the reason Miami Beach has increased their investments on stormwater management and a system of pumps that will send water back to the ocean. The King Tide has the power to seriously disrupt life in South Florida, and yet represents only a portion of the two feet of overall sea level rise predicted for South Florida by 2060 by the U.S. Geological Service.

A newly released report by the Union of Concerned Scientists has drawn increased attention to the issue this week, with several high profile papers running prominent stories highlighting the issue, including The Miami Herald, The Guardian and The Washington Post. The report, Encroaching Tides, finds that tidal flooding (such as the King Tide), which is accelerated by sea level rise, will increase dramatically in East Coast and Gulf Coast communities over the next 15 to 30 years.  South Florida will see 40 times as many floods per year by 2045.  Such frequent flooding would have a serious impact on the day-to-day lives of local residents, not to mention local business, property owners, and insurance rates. This report follows closely on the heels of a similar report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which shows that the frequency of nuisance flooding has double, tripled, and even increased as much as 900% in some places along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, compared to 50 years ago.

South Florida elected officials are taking the issue seriously and working hard to implement solutions and brainstorm ways to tackle climate change.  Just last week the South Florida Regional Climate Compact convened a meeting of regional leaders to put their heads together on the issue, modeling how bipartisan cooperation can overcome statewide inertia on climate action.

Tomorrow’s King Tide Day event should further highlight the issue of sea level rise among local and statewide decision-makers, and will serve an important educational purpose as well. Local students will be out on the street to witness the flooding and conduct experiments on sea level during the high tide, and will gain firsthand exposure to climate change and engage proactively in research to better understand climate change and good scientific practices. This event will be a great opportunity for these potential future scientists to get their hands dirty tackling an issue that will have an enormous impact on their generation.  SACE staff member George Cavros, Florida Energy Policy Attorney, will participate in a panel discussion during the event and will be available to speak with area residents and the media about the day’s events and climate issues in Florida.

For pictures and updates on tomorrow’s event, follow along on social media with the hashtag #KingTideDayFL.

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