Katherine Fisher – Final Project

The topic I have been researching the past few weeks is how Miami, FL is preparing for rising sea levels. I found this topic very interesting because I had no idea that this was even a problem for the city of Miami. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed because if people do not become knowledgeable about this problem now, tourists and residents may be shocked if they start to see this city go under water in many of the future years to come.

Throughout history, global sea levels have continued to rise. In Miami, FL, this is an issue that has recently been addressed due to its severity, as levels in Miami continue to rise a fast rate. As you can see in the picture above, Miami is surrounded by a massive body of water. According to Jonathan Hahn the Sierra Club, Miami only has an elevation of four feet, so the city is one of the most vulnerable in the world when it comes to sea level rise. Its geology plays a huge role on why the sea level rise is on an incline, but climate change also plays a role in why the sea level rise is going up. “South Florida already has one of the most complex water management systems in the world, but this system was not designed for sea level rise” (Loria 2018). Just because the city has a complex water management system, it cannot keep up with the rising sea levels because this system was designed for keeping the city’s water safe and running, not for keeping water out that isn’t supposed to be there.

One of the main problems that Miami faces when it comes to sea level rising is its aquifer is made up of shallow and porous limestone. This is a problem for sea level rise because this material has holes and is permeable. The water is going through the permeable rock of this aquifer which puts the inland neighborhoods and infrastructure at risk with a water table that rises up from the streets. When the water pushes in and then out, the only place left for the water to go is back into the septic tanks where it came from. This problem could cost up to nearly seventy-eight million dollars to fix. Johnathan Hahn states, “That water table is only three to five feet belowground as it is, even higher in certain areas. If global warming trends continue, sea levels could rise by up to eight feet by 2100. In that scenario, much of the area would be underwater.”

Besides the problem with Miami’s water table and aquifer, Miami also struggles with many other factors that influence the levels to rise. Many of the low-lying communities suffer from “sunny day flooding”, which happens when the high tides cause the streets to flood. This problem is estimated to only get worse in future years. In these communities, social inequities will intensify including income disparity, lack of public transportation, and housing that is affordable will be limited if the sea levels continue to rise (Hahn). Other things like plants and the city’s drinking water will be also negatively affected. These negative effects would ultimately leave Miami uninhabitable. In an article from Urbanland, written by Nicole Martinez, “By 2045, approximately 64,000 homes will be at risk of chronic inundation. By 2100, 1 million home throughout the state-collectively worth $351 billion- will be at risk” (Martinez). Sea level rise is a clear issue globally, but specifically in southern Florida in Miami. In order for this problem to be fixed, the city and community has to take action now. Below is a chart from NOAA Tides and Currents that will show the sea level trends in Miami from the past to the present, and even showing where it is headed in the future. After viewing the chart, I would like to cover what the city is doing to prevent this issue from getting worse.

Due to the sea levels rising in Miami, the city needs to come up with a system that will protect people’s home, will keep the population safe, and ultimately keep the city above water so the city of Miami is not damaged. They have done a few things so far in efforts to save the city. The Sierra Club says, “They have committed to are already spending millions to install pumps and raise roads and structures. Climate scientists, engineers, and architects are conducting research into resiliency strategies, for both gray infrastructure, such as creating seawalls to keep water at bay and converting septic systems to municipal sewer systems, and green infrastructure: restoring seagrasses, mangroves, and coral reefs that can buffer wave energy” (Hahn). The city is also improving seawalls, looking at changes to land-use and zoning rules. New water treatment stations are being put in place so that the bay is cleaner. All of these solutions are amazing ways to make sure that Miami stays above ground, while also keeping the community safe.

Above is a chart I created from NOAA Tides and Currents. This graph represents the sea level trends in Virginia Key Beach which is right near Miami Beach. This chart begins April 30th, 1995 and goes to the present day.

I chose the topic of how Miami is preparing for rising sea levels because I was intrigued right when I first heard about it. Prior to this class and this project, I was not informed about this issue in Miami and I didn’t exactly understand what it meant. Along the way, I learned so much about Miami and what sea level rising really means. Most importantly, I am now knowledgeable about all of the ways they are trying to make sure that Miami is not under water in future years to come.

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