You’re not crazy: Sea levels have risen faster in South Florida

Sea levels rose six times faster than the rate of global increase in the Southeast

A flooded street in South Florida (Credit: Getty Images)
A flooded street in South Florida (Credit: Getty Images)

Researchers at the University of Florida have found that sea levels in the Southeast, including Miami Beach, rose six times faster than the rate of global increase between 2011 and 2015. Along the coast, below North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras, researchers have dubbed the area a “hot spot” of sea-level rise, according to the New York Times.

If you’ve felt that the ocean has been chewing away at the South Florida coastline, you’re not wrong. Researchers reported that residents of Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale observed unusual ‘sunny-day flooding’ in their communities, with salt water creeping onto streets during high tide.

“I said, ‘That’s crazy!’” researcher Andrea Dutton told the Times about the astonishing six-fold findings. “‘You must have done something wrong!’”

Southern Coastal sea levels rose about three-quarters of an inch, a tiny measurement of a coastline that equals billions of gallons of extra water on the coast.

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UF researchers published their findings online Wednesday in an article titled “Spatial and temporal variability of sea-level rise hotspots over the eastern United States,” in the Geograhic Research Letter journal. The article reveals that the ‘hot spot’ rise was likely caused by two atmospheric patterns, the North Atlantic Oscillation and a cumulative El Niño. Ocean rise in the area was previously blamed on the Gulf Stream current carrying water north from the Gulf of Mexico.

Communities like Miami Beach that have already started to experience severe tidal flooding can expect continued rising seas over the long term, even if the rise occurs in steps, according to the New York Times.

Just last week, the tail end of Tropical Depression Emily inundated Miami businesses and homes with water, causing many to close their doors for the duration of the storm. Last year, The Real Deal published an article mapping the Miami condo towers that will be most affected by sea levels rise. [NYT] – Grace Guarnieri