A grim look at how climate change is impacting Florida right now

Fort Myers Beach, October 2022, a month after Hurricane Ian brought historic winds and storm surge. (Image via Shutterstock/Gage Goulding)

By Crystal Harlan

April 19, 2024

Climate change is not something that could happen in the future. It’s happening now, and Florida is feeling its devastating impact in more ways than one.

Human activities have been the biggest driver of climate change, and its consequences have already had an obvious and detrimental impact on the Sunshine State. Here are just a few ways that climate change is already affecting Florida’s environment.

More Destructive Hurricanes

  • Warmer water temperatures are fuel for hurricanes, increasing wind speeds and rainfall rates.
  • As a result, hurricanes are stronger, faster, and more destructive.
  • Because of changing weather patterns, hurricanes are not as predictable as before, leaving less time to prepare and evacuate.
  • The most damaging U.S. hurricanes are three times more frequent than 100 years ago.

Hotter Temperatures Year-Round

  • The Sunshine State currently experiences an average of 25 dangerous heat days annually. By 2050 that number is expected to increase to 130 days each year.
  • Extreme heat puts children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor at risk of heat stroke and dehydration.
  • It also affects workers who spend much of their time outdoors, in industries such as construction and agriculture, which employ many Latinos.

Rising Sea Levels

  • The sea is rising by about one inch every decade. Along Florida’s coastline, the land surface is also sinking. Should oceanic and atmospheric temperatures continue to warm, sea level along Florida’s coasts could rise by one to four feet over the next century.
  • Rising sea levels lead to greater coastal flooding, beach erosion, and higher storm surge levels.
  • The rising sea level has also exacerbated saltwater intrusion, impacting groundwater supplies and drainage infrastructure.

Coral Reef Destruction

  • In July of 2023, the water temperature around the tip of Florida hit triple digits — hot tub levels. Excessive water temperatures have resulted in coral bleaching, disease, and even the death of some corals in the Florida Keys.
  • Stronger and more frequent storms can also cause the destruction of coral reefs.
  • Sea level rise has led to increases in sedimentation for some reefs, and sedimentation runoff can smother coral reefs.

Sources: Associated Press, EPA, Environmental Defense Fund, Florida Climate Center, Dream.org

 

RELATED: Puerto Rico’s infrastructure faces serious threat due to climate crisis

Author

  • Crystal Harlan

    Crystal is a bilingual editor and writer with over 20 years of experience in digital and print media. She is currently based in Florida, but has lived in small towns in the Midwest, Caracas, New York City, and Madrid, where she earned her MA in Spanish literature.

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