Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Could Global Warming Submerge the Florida Keys?

This Friday an international study devoted to global warming and resulting sea-level change will be released. This report is highly anticipated - many hope that the report's findings will make the world, and especially the United States, recognize and remedy the trend of global warming.

South Florida, and certainly the Florida Keys and Key West, should be particularly concerned. This region has been submerged under water many times in the geologic history of our planet. Actually, the islands of the Florida Keys are reefs that once were covered in sea water. Only when the ocean levels dropped did the reefs become land masses that we know today. According to a 1999 report by Harold Wanless of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami:
"...120,000 years ago, the sea level was 20 feet higher than it is today. The
Ice Age lowered the sea to as much as 420 feet below current levels. Since the
end of the Ice Age, sea levels rose at a rate of about 23 centimeters per year,
creating both the Florida and Biscayne bays. For the last 3,000 years,the rate
of sea level rise has slowed to between 3 and 4 centimeters per year,allowing
the coastal ecosystems to stabilize and move seaward. Around 1930, the
rate of sea level rise began to increase. Since then, the sea level has risen
about 9 inches in South Florida — 10 times the rate at which it had been rising
over the past 3,000 years. “This sets the stage for dramatic changes in our
coast-line and shallow marine environment...”
The Florida Keys eco-system may have already been warning of problems for years. The sea levels have risen, as evidenced by a report from an 18th century ship run aground near Looe Key. The ship reported Looe Key as an island 1000 feet long and 250 feet wide. Today Looe Key is submerged except during very low tides. And, long time Key West residents and mariners remember when Sand Key was an island, and there was sand that they walked upon. Today, the land is gone, and most unfortunately, much of the coral.

Why is this happening? The answer is Carbon dioxide. Clear evidence exists that global temperatures are tied to levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Today, carbon dioxide is at its highest level ever known. Where does all this carbon dioxide come from? Cars, factories, electricity generators, and a long list of other man-made sources. Basically: carbon = oil. Burn it and you have carbon dioxide. Long ago, massive volcanic eruptions may have caused climate change - releasing massive amount of the earths stored carbon into the atmosphere. Today, civilization is removing the carbon from the earth with pumps and excavators then quickly burning it for power and warmth.

What will Friday's report tell us about climate change and the Florida Keys? The Everglades and most of South Florida will also one day, once again, become submerged under water if the planet continues to warm. Likely, we are on the front line for the effects of sea level change. You might say the Florida Keys are the Atlantic Ocean's version of the Tuvalu islands of the South Pacific. That small chain of islands is slowly becoming submerged due to the rising sea level, and islanders know that one day in the not-too-distant future, they will have to move.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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