Past and Projected Trends in Climate and Sea Level for South Florida

This technical report summarizes trends in sea level rise, coastal climate variability and climate change impacts in south Florida. The report is one deliverable from a South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) project to coordinate issues related to climate change and sea level rise in the region. SFWMD is a state agency that is responsible for managing water resources in a 16-county region that extends from Orlando to Key West, Florida.

The first section provides an assessment of natural climate variability and how it influences the south Florida climate. The modes of natural variability that influence the state include the El Niño Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation, Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation, and variations of solar activity - which are each described as these large scale climate oscillations influence the regional climate.

An in-depth analysis of historical trends in precipitation and temperature is provided, along with the related projections produced by General Circulation Models and Regional Climate Models. Sea level rise trends and projections are reviewed including examination of potential changes to storm surges and coastal drainage capacity for the area. The report reviews the most recent scientific literature on sea level rise, as well as regional government projections. An analysis of storm surge statistics and their link to teleconnections is included, highlighting the concern for coastal vulnerabilities under rising seas. Socioeconomic drivers are outlined, and modeling strategies are suggested to provide an informational foundation for decision support.

To better understand the water resource impacts described, a brief summary of exploratory hydrological modeling that was conducted for this study is also included. In response to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming and a 10% decrease in precipitation, model results suggest significant water resource deficiencies for nearly the entire region. A sea level rise of 1.5 ft is projected to fundamentally alter the wetlands, as well the coastal urban areas, of the southern Florida peninsula with saltwater inundation. It is suggested that improved modeling frameworks to address these issues are a primary need.


Publication Date: July 5, 2011

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • J. Obeysekera
  • J. Park
  • M. Irizarry-Ortiz
  • P. Trimble
  • J. Barnes
  • J. VanArman
  • W. Said
  • E. Gadzinski

Related Organizations:

  • South Florida Water Management District


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Climate science

States Affected:


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