South Beach in danger of disappearing

What if you were told an area of ice nearly half the size of the continental U.S. disappeared this past summer? Sounds fictitious, right?

This past September, the Arctic Sea ice extent was reduced to its lowest level in recorded history.  Prior to this summer, scientists estimate that the Arctic had not been ice-free to this extent in more than 1,400 years, and now project that the Arctic could be completely ice-free over the summer within 10 years.

This dramatic melting event is a consequence of global warming. There is a scientific consensus that most of this observed temperature increase is caused by greenhouse gases, and their associated “greenhouse effect”.

It is important to note that greenhouse gases don’t absorb incoming solar radiation, but rather the longwave radiation emitted by Earth after the surface absorbs solar radiation. This is the process by which greenhouse gases “trap” heat. They prevent much longwave radiation from escaping to space.

Moreover, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase every year primarily as a result of fossil fuel emissions.

What can we expect in Miami over the course of this century as a result of our changing climate? Miami is naturally vulnerable to one of the most significant threats of climate change: sea level rise.

As a coastal city with average heights above sea level of less than 10 feet, even minor increases in sea level rise dramatically increase Miami’s vulnerability to flooding. Especially considering Miami’s susceptibility to hurricanes.

Even a rise of one to two feet will increase the likelihood of severe flooding events in tropical cyclones. Flooding that would typically be experienced in a category two hurricane may occur with just a weak tropical storm in the not-too-distant future.

Perhaps the most striking impact of climate change on Miami may involve its most precious commodity: South Beach. This iconic area is located in one of the lowest elevation regions of Miami-Dade County as most of Miami Beach is just four feet above sea level.

The Miami-Dade CCATF projects a sea level rise of three to five feet by 2100. With a sea level rise of three feet, many areas of South Beach would be completely inundated. With a rise of five feet, it would be largely non-existent and incredibly almost half of Miami-Dade County would be inundated as well.

The fact is that climate change is occurring and a scientific consensus exists that states it is unequivocally driven by humans. As students, it is important for us to understand the science and the facts behind climate change, because our generation will be burdened by its consequences.


Kenneth Sechler is a senior majoring in finance. 

November 28, 2012


Kenneth Sechler

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published in print every Tuesday.