Most every year from around mid-September through mid-November a combination of natural factors contributes to the generation of higher than usual high tides. Around October 15-18 of 2012 the combined gravitational pulls of the moon and the sun resulted in unusually high tides in southeast Florida that were close to one foot higher than the average high tide seen previously in 2012. Many streets in tourist areas such as South beach in Miami Beach, or Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Board Walk in Hollywood Beach were flooded with 6″ to 8″ during high tide.
While the occurrence of higher than usual high tides is expected during this time of the year, it has become clear to most of the residents of these coastal regions that not only are we seeing much higher high tides than ever before, but the instances of unusually high tides and annual street flooding have become more frequent than ever before.
These street flooding events in Southeast Florida and the ever higher high tides have sparked comments about the reality of climate change, global warming and sea level rise, as well as questions of what future sea level rise may mean for low laying, vulnerable coastal regions in Southeast Florida and elsewhere.
Coincidentally just a few days after witnessing those instances of extreme high tides and localized street flooding along the coastal region, a minimal intensity, but rather large tropical cyclone Sandy passed some 250-300 miles away on its way toward the New York/New Jersey shores, generating enough of a storm surge along Southeast Florida shores to create street flooding, sand over-wash, beach erosion and actual damage to streets and coastal infrastructure. This, plus the devastation Sandy caused in New Jersey and New York, again generated a clamor of comments and questions about sea level rise and climate change and what it all means for the future of our vulnerable communities in the coastal regions of the Sunshine State.
What makes all of this so interesting to me personally, beyond my research work and current involvement with the National Climate Assessment and various initiatives of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), the Florida Climate Institute and other similar efforts, is the fact that prior to the events described I had received an invitation from the St. Gregory Episcopal Church in Boca Raton, Florida to be one of the featured speakers at their Speaker Forum Lecture Series to address a topic related to our regional environment. As it happens, I have accepted the invitation and chose the topic of Sea Level Rise: Can we keep the sea away? thinking that it is a rather timely subject of discussion, and one that should generate quite a bit of interest among residents of Southeast Florida.
Following below is a flyer that has been sent out by the organizers of this lecture event, which will take place on Monday, 4 March 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
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