Miami Herald Story On City’s Worsening Coastal Flooding Never Mentions Global Warming Or Sea Level Rise

Oct 20, 2013 by

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By Joe Romm on October 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm


It seems nobody talks about climate change, but everybody wants to do something about it. Consider this head-in-the-wet-sand piece from the Miami Herald, “Rain or no rain, beachfront streets flood due to ‘spring tide’.”

You probably think it would be impossible for an entire news article on worsening street flooding in Miami to omit any mention whatsoever of global warming or even sea level rise. Think again.

“It gets super flooded from the tide every couple of months,” said [Moses] Schwartz who lived on the island for more than 20 years before moving to the Brickell area on the mainland. “It’s getting worse and worse as the years go by.”

Hmm. Why is it getting worse? The Miami Herald offers no explanation. This is all it has to say about the cause of the flooding:

The current levels of high tide are caused by an astronomical event known as “spring tide,” according to Chuck Caracozza, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service.

See, nothing to worry about. It’s just high tides. Except the article runs with this quote from Schwartz:

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Miami Beach in 10 to 20 years,” he said.

Why? Why? Why? Why will it be interesting to see? Why does he think it’s going to get worse? Why did the reporter include that quote? No explanation is given.

Indeed, while the article fails to mention climate change or sea level rise, it does quote one “Nanette Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the city,” explaining that Miami is studying how to deal with this apparently inexplicable plague of street flooding.

Rodriguez said the city is thinking of short-term fixes to deal with the issue.

“We’re looking at improving our sea walls and raising some of them,” she said.

In search of a long-term solution, a delegation recently returned from the Netherlands, Rodriguez said, and the city will determine which of that country’s strategies to hold back high tides can be used here.

“Some of their ideas we can do, others we can’t as we are in different geographic areas,” Rodriguez said.

That last quote from Rodriguez is quite the euphemism given the reality of the region’s topology and geology. As the must-read June Rolling Stone piece, “Goodbye, Miami,” explains:

Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas.


But, undaunted, Rodriguez and the Miami Herald end with this reassuring line:

Rodriguez said the tide should be back to normal by early next week.


For a dose of reality, let’s end instead with the Rolling Stone piece:

But the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more-pessimistic­ scientists predict it could be much sooner), but life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies – and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes. “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”

… “If you live in South Florida and you’re not building a boat, you’re not facing reality.”

1 Comment

  1. klem

    Of course the oceans will continue to rise, they’ve been rising an average of 2 feet per century for the last 20,000 years. Ocean rise is completely normal. Low, flat lying areas like Miami are going to have problems, no doubt about it.

    But hey, we can build dykes around the cities and countryside, just like they have been doing in Holland for centuries. And guess what, we’ll need to employ lots of people to build them. There is nothing new under the sun.


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