United States
             Environmental Pro*'
            l Agency
                                                    August 2016
                                               EPA 430-F-16-011
 What Climate  Ch
                Means forf\Qnr\a
Florida's climate is changing. The Florida peninsula
has warmed more than one degree (F) during the
last century. The sea is rising about one inch every
decade, and heavy rainstorms are becoming more se-
vere. In the coming decades, rising temperatures are
likely to increase storm damages, harm coral reefs,
increase the frequency of unpleasantly hot days, and
reduce the risk of freezing to Florida's agriculture.
Climate is changing because the earth is warming.
People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide
in the air by 40 percent since the late 1700s. Other
heat-trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing.
These gases have warmed the surface and lower
atmosphere of our planet about one degree during the
last 50 years. Evaporation increases as the atmo-
sphere warms, which increases humidity, average
rainfall, and the frequency of heavy rainstorms in
many places—but contributes to drought in others.
Greenhouse gases are also changing the world's
oceans and ice cover. Carbon dioxide reacts with wa-
ter to form carbonic acid, so the oceans are becoming
more acidic. The surface of the ocean has warmed
about one degree during the last 80 years. Warming is
causing snow to melt earlier in spring, and mountain
glaciers are retreating. Even the great ice sheets on
Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking. Thus the sea
is rising at an increasing rate.
          -1 -0.5  0  0.5  1  1.5  2  2.5 3  3.5
Rising temperatures in the last century. South Florida has
warmed more than the rest of the state. Source: EPA,
Climate Change Indicators in the United States.
Rising Seas and Retreating Shores
Along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida, the land surface is also
sinking. If the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, sea level
along the Florida coast is likely to rise one to four feet in the next
century. Rising sea level submerges wetlands and dry land, erodes
beaches, and exacerbates coastal flooding.
Coastal cities like West Palm Beach will likely need to take adaptive measures,
such as building larger seawalls, elevating structures, and nourishing beaches,
to avoid damage from sea level rise. Credit: Peter G. Merritt,  Treasure Coast
Regional Planning Council.

Storms, Homes, and Infrastructure
Tropical storms and hurricanes have become more intense during
the past 20 years. Although warming oceans provide these storms
with more potential energy, scientists are not sure whether the recent
intensification reflects a long-term trend. Nevertheless, hurricane wind
speeds and rainfall rates are likely to increase as the climate continues
to warm.
Cities, roads, railways, ports, and water supplies in Florida are vulner-
able to the impacts of storms and sea level rise. Greater wind speeds
and the resulting damages can make insurance for wind damage more
expensive or difficult to obtain. Whether or not storms become  more
intense, coastal homes and  infrastructure will flood more often as sea
level rises, because storm surges will become  higher as well. As a
result, rising sea level is likely to  increase flood insurance premiums.
Changing climate is also likely to increase inland flooding. Since
1958, the amount of precipitation during heavy rainstorms has
increased by 27 percent in the Southeast, and the trend toward
increasingly heavy rainstorms is  likely to continue. More intense
rainstorms can increase flooding because ivers overtop their banks
more frequently, and more water accumulates in low-lying areas that
drain slowly.

Coral Reefs and Ocean Acidification
Florida's coral reefs are susceptible to warming waters and
ocean acidification. Rising water temperatures can harm the
algae that live inside corals and provide food for them. This
loss of algae weakens corals and can eventually kill them. This
process is commonly known as coral bleaching, because the
loss of the algae also causes the corals to turn white.
Increasing ocean acidity can also damage corals, as well as fish
and other marine species. Ocean acidity has increased by about
25 percent in the past three centuries, and it is likely to increase
another 40 to 50 percent by 2100. As the ocean becomes more
acidic,  corals are less able to remove minerals from the water to
build their skeletons. Shellfish and  other organisms also depend
on these  minerals, and acidity interferes with their ability to build
skeletons and shells.  Coral reefs provide critical habitat for a
diverse range of species, and small shell-producing animals are
important sources of food for larger animals. Warming and
acidification could harm Florida's marine ecosystems, fisheries,
and tourism.

Water Resources and the Everglades
Changing climate is likely to increase the need for water. Higher
air temperatures increase the rate  at which water evaporates
(or transpires) into the air from soils,  plants, and surface waters.
Because  irrigated farmland would need more  water, the total
demand for water is likely to increase more than 25 percent
during  the next half century. But the amount of available water
is unlikely to increase significantly—and it may decrease.
The Everglades are vulnerable to both changing climate and
rising sea level.  Human  activities have impaired this ecosystem
by diverting the natural flow of water away from the Everglades
to prevent flooding or to supply farmers and municipalities with
Sea level rise poses a particular risk for the Everglades—a vast,
ecologically rich area, much of which is within a few feet of sea
level. © Chris Lamie; used by permission.
water. Ongoing efforts to restore the historical flow of water will
be more difficult if rising temperatures increase competing
demands for water.
Much of the Everglades are less than three feet above sea
level. The rising sea may submerge the low-lying portions.
Moreover, as sea level rises, salt water can mix farther inland or
upstream into the Everglades, which allows salt-tolerant species
like mangroves to spread inland but threatens cypress swamps
and other species that do not tolerate salt water. Increasing
salinity may also threaten the Biscayne Aquifer, which is the
primary source of drinking water for South Florida. The aquifer
is recharged by surface water in the Everglades, so saltier water
in the Everglades would reach the aquifer as well. The city of
Hallandale Beach has abandoned six of its eight drinking water
wells, because the water was becoming too salty to drink.

Changing climate will have both harmful and beneficial effects
on farming. Freezing temperatures will become very rare in
most of the state, which would  benefit citrus trees and other
fruits and vegetables grown during winter. During summer, how-
ever, hotter temperatures are likely to reduce yields of corn and
may also reduce yields of sugar, peanuts, and cotton, depending
on whether sufficient water is available for irrigation. Higher
temperatures are also likely to reduce livestock productivity,
because heat stress disrupts the animals' metabolism.

Human Health
Hot days can be  unhealthy—even dangerous. Certain people
are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the
sick, and the poor. High air temperatures can cause heat
stroke and dehydration and affect people's cardiovascular and
nervous systems. Seventy years from now, temperatures in
most of the state are likely to rise above 95°F between 45 and
90 days per year, compared with less than 15 days per year
today. Higher humidity will further increase the heat index and
associated impacts on health.
Warmer air can also increase the formation of ground-level
ozone, a key component of smog. Ozone has a variety of health
effects, aggravates lung diseases such as asthma, and
increases the risk of premature death from heart or lung
disease. EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection have been working to reduce ozone concentrations.
As the climate changes, continued  progress toward clean air will
be more difficult.