The Coastal Built Environment in Southeast Florida and Sea Level Rise: Prognosis for potential damage and needed change.

Organized by the Florida Center for Environmental Studies [CES] at Florida Atlantic University [FAU], and with support from several public and private agencies and institutions, an important conference – RISK AND RESPONSE: SEA LEVEL RISE SUMMIT: The Future of Florida and the Coast – took place on 20-22 June 2012 at the Marriott Hotel, Boca Raton, Florida.

Some of the sponsors of the SLR 2012 Summit
Additional sponsors of the SLR 2012 Summit

Truly an outstanding 2-1/2 day conference featuring: 1)  An exhibition of more than 40 scientific posters covering an ample range of topics, from * Statement of the Problem; *Impacts on the Built Environment; * Economic Impacts; * Organizing for Climate Change through Partnerships; * Adaptation and Mitigation – Preparing for the Future; and * Education: Explaining the Problem, Sharing the Message. 2) Two wonderful and dynamic keynote speakers: Margaret Davidson, Director of NOAA Coastal Services Center, who delivered inspirational opening remarks on the topic of Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaptation in Florida, and Michael E. Mann, published author and professor of Meteorology at Penn State University who spoke about his work linking global warming to greenhouse gas emissions, and the fallout of political attacks that ensued, which are documented in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. 3) A total of seven working sessions where seven moderators and 32 panelists discussed, and presented views and research findings on a range of topics, while also involving the audience of more than 250 participants in lively Q&A and comments segments.

I had the privilege of being invited to be a panelist in Session Four: Impacts on Built Environment: Urban Planning where we responded to the following question: How is urban infrastructure and housing, both existing and new development, adapting to increases in sea level? The session moderator was Anthony Abbate, Associate Provost for Broward Campuses and Professor, School of Architecture, Florida Atlantic University; and the panel consisted of: Daniel Williams, Rhonda Haag, Margo Moehring and Ricardo A. Alvarez.

Four of the speakers at the SLR 2012 Summit, including Anthony Abbate who moderated session 4, and Ricardo A. Alvarez one of the panelist in Session 4

As a panelist I focused my remarks on the potential for damage to coastal buildings and infrastructure from the impact of storm surge, which is being exacerbated by sea level rise, and which in my view constitutes the dynamic and most visual evidence of sea level rise and the current threat it represents for our built-environment. My presentation was based on notes from a paper in progress under the title of: The Coastal Built Environment in Southeast Florida and Sea Level Rise: Prognosis for potential damage and needed change. To view these notes go to the banner menu above and click on CONFERENCES-PRESENTATIONS, then select Panel Presentation: Sea Level Rise Summit 20-22 June 201.

I have been involved in global change and sea level rise arena since 1997, and the specific topic of impacts to the built environment and the need for adaptation has been on the table in most of the numerous conferences and workshops I have attended over the years, but this specific SLR 2912 SUMMIT is the first time that this topic is directly addressed and discussed, both from the perspective of a problem that will grow worse over time in the future, and that of potential solutions and areas of additional research. In this regard I must say that our panel received immediate feedback during the Q&A segment that followed our presentations and discussions. At a personal level, I had twelve participants who approached me after the session had ended to ask additional questions, or to share ideas and comments regarding the specific topic of adaptation of the built environment. Also, I have continued to receive follow-up comments via email throughout this the week after the Summit.  I submit this confirms: (1) How appropriate and on target was the inclussion of this specific topic in the program for the Summit, and (2) The high level of importance  the public gives to this issue as reflected by the involvement of the participants who were a representative sample of the public at large.

In closing I would like to emphasize we all must stay on this topic, which means we will need to engage in follow-up workshops and conferences, and in a continuous and vibrant dialog as we search for solutions and alternatives for the many facets of the problem. In this, we must maintain an open mind while we work toward solutions staying above the ‘noise’ of ‘nay-sayers’ claiming either there is nothing that can be done or that it isn’t happening. Godspeed to us all, let us roll-up our sleeves and tackle this head-on!

What’s cooking out there?

Today is Monday 18 June 2012 and there are plenty of boilers out there in the northern tropics and beyond!

GOES satellite image of 18 June 2012 showing numerous cells of disturbed, stormy weather over the Caribbean, central America and adjacent eastern North Pacific waters

That area over Central America ranging from northern South America to Southern Mexico and waters of the eastern North Pacific, which we have reported about on this site, has now expanded to the entire Caribbean sub-basin and beyond into the Atlantic. GOES satellite imagery on 18 June shows large cells of intensely stormy weather filling the entire Caribbean and surrounding islands and land masses.

Just beyond this large region of disturbed weather, almost as if it were an offshoot of all this tropical activity, a cell of disturbed weather already exhibiting subtropical characteristics is active some 500 kilometers northeast of Bermuda, mowing east by northeast over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the general direction of the Azores Islands.  While this system is generating intense rain and gale force winds it poses no threat to the USA or, at least for now, to island communities further beyond in the North Atlantic.

Color-enhanced infrared GOES satellite image on 18 June 2012 showing a cell of disturbed weather over eastern Pacific waters off Puerto Vallarta, Mexico exhibiting some cyclonic characteristics

At the extreme northwestern range of this Caribbean-Central American-Eastern Pacific region of disturbed weather, it would appear the remnants of hurricane Carlotta have interacted with an area of low pressure to generate a sizable cell of disturbed weather some 450 kilometers southwest of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, which is displaying some potential for cyclonic development as it moves away from the mainland.

On a larger scale, the current tropical activity over the region described above extend westward,  as part of the belt of tropical activity, far into the central Pacific Ocean and beyond into the southern fringe of the Northwestern Pacific, where there is plenty of tropical cyclone activity on this Monday 18 June, 2012, as reported further below in this post. However, the ‘belt of tropical activity’ along hurricane alley , the eastern Atlantic and Equatorial Africa, appears rather feeble and disjointed today exhibiting only modest activity and rather small and weak tropical waves further to the east. Except for the Caribbean, it appears as if the larger Atlantic basin is somewhat quiet for now, with most tropical activity taking place over the Pacific Ocean and the eastern regions of the northern Indian Ocean.

Full disk satellite view of Earth showing the central/eastern Pacific Ocean basin on 18 June 2012 and tropical activity occurring at the eastern enf and over Central America and the Caribbean beyond
Full disk satellite image of Earth’s western hemisphere on 18 June 2012 showing the vast region of disturbed weather discussed in this post and the currently weak activity along Hurricane Alley
Infrared satellite image of category 3 typhoon GUCHOL as it brushes past the Ryokyu Islands on 18 June 2012 and continues moving over the Philippines Sea toward Japan

Far, far away from Florida, some 18,000 to 20,000 kilometers to the west typhoon GUCHOL, now “weakened” to a category 3 tropical cyclone still rages in the Northwestern Pacific over the Philippines Sea sub-basin where it will brush by the Ryukyu islands as it continues to move toward Japan. Based on its current track and prevailing atmospheric features it would appear the region of Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, the Wakayama peninsula, and the island of Shikoku are the most at risk for a direct impact as the cyclone is forecast to traverse the country and emerge over the Sea of Japan over the next 2 – 3 days.

Forecasted five-day track for typhoon GUCHOL prepared by the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory on the basis of NOAA satellite data as of 18 June 2012
Satellite image of 18 June 2012 showing tropical storm TALIM over the South China Sea as it moves northeastward toward Taiwan and Japan beyond

Nearby and to the southwest of Typhoon GUCHOL current location, over the South China Sea between the Philippines and China, tropical storm TALIM is moving to the northeast in the general direction of Taiwan and Japan further beyond. Still farther to the west the region from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia etc. to the Bay of Bengal and the eastern regions of India are under a monsoon regime. with very large ares of disturbed, rainy and stormy weather covering most of the region. Widespread flooding and additional tropical cyclone development are possible .

Five-day track for tropical storm TALIM prepared by the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory on the basis of NOAA satellite data as of 18 June 2012

From the above information it is clear there is plenty that is ‘cooking’ in the northern tropics across our planet on this Monday 18 June 2012. Near our shores in Florida and half a world away, the tropics are ‘a-boiling’ as summer approaches in the northern hemisphere. We must remain alert, keep monitoring these flashes of potential cyclonic activity, and above all be prepared! And MITIGATE!!