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When it comes to climate change, one thing is certain: our oceans are rising. And South Florida is expected to be among the first regions on Earth to experience the impact. In fact, some initial preparations are already underway. WLRN-Miami Herald News presents a series of stories about the effects of sea-level rise. The project is called “Elevation Zero: Rising Seas In South Florida." Click through the pages below to see our entire archive of Elevation Zero stories.

Miami Among "Most At Risk" For Sea Level Rise, Federal Climate Change Report Says

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Florida -- and Miami in particular -- should prepare for habitat destruction, loss of cropland, increased salt-water intrusion, worsening coastal flooding, and a host of related disasters if climate change and sea level rise patterns continue, according to findings in a federal "draft climate report."

The recently released, 30-chapter "Climate Assessment Report" was overseen by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (NCADAC). The federal advisory committee -- which includes a professor from Florida Atlantic University -- sought input from 240 authors to explore topics like urban systems, infrastructure, and vulnerability, and water resources.

A chapter dedicated to the Southeast and Caribbean includes three "key messages:"

1. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to both natural and built environments, as well as the regional economy. 2. Rising temperatures and the associated increase in frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events that will affect public health, natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry.  3. Decreased water availability, exacerbated by population growth and land-use change, will continue to increase competition for water and impact the region's economy and unique ecosystems.  

In a section devoted to sea level rise, the entirety of South Florida's coast is shown under "high" vulnerability: "Major cities like New Orleans...Miami, Tampa, Charleston, Virginia Beach, and San Juan, Puerto Rico are among those most at risk."

Meanwhile, salt-water intrusion -- which is tied to sea level rise and is already an issue in cities like Hallandale Beach -- "is projected to reduce the availability of groundwater for irrigation, thereby limiting crop production in some areas. Agricultural areas around Miami-Dade County and Southern Louisiana with shallow groundwater tables are at risk of enhanced inundation and future loss of cropland." Florida is projected to lose 37,500 acres of farmland with a 27-inch sea level rise, which would follow a formula predicated for 2100. 

Scientists concluded that South Florida's densely populated coastline combined with its environment -- low elevation and limestone aquifer -- make it "uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise." It doesn't help that the region's flood control system is "quickly becoming obsolete." 

Miami also can expect more "extreme heat" days. And they don't just mean the typical sultry summer afternoons. The report indicates an uptick in the number of dangerously hot days and all of the related health issues -- stress on cardiac, cerebral, and respiratory systems -- that go with it. 

Read the complete Southeast report -- and all the various doomsday scenarios -- here. The entire NCADAC report is available for download. But at 147 MB, it's easiest to look at each individual chapter in separate browser windows. The report is still in draft form and the committee is accepting public comment on it through 5 p.m. April 12. To review and comment, click here

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