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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999


Sea Level and Key West

Item #d99may55

In the May 28, 1999, issue of the Miami Herald, Nancy Klingener reported on a meeting of officials of Key West at which Harold Wanless, a geologist at the University of Miami told them that 80 years of tidal gauge data from Key West harbor and satellite measurements both indicate that the sea level has risen about 8.5 in. since 1910, about a foot per century. This rate of rise is 9 or 10 times greater than that during the past 5000 yrears. The sea-level rise is stressing the beaches, mangrove stands, and reefs. If the rise continues, the residents of the Keys will be faced with a number of social choices: Should the roads be elevated or abandoned? What should be done for the mangroves, which, after all, hold the islands together? And how should the water supply be maintained in the face of saltwater infiltration? Because, as Wanless put it, sea level sets the environment, and hurricanes effect the change, south Florida faces increases in hurricane damage with rising sea level. He predicted that hurricanes will make more cuts in the Keys’ islands, producing more continuous water between Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

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