The physical indicators of climate change are already manifesting in Southeast Florida. While sea level rise frequently receives the most attention in our region, there are several other impacts of a changing climate that have consequences for our communities. Understanding the future evolution of climatic patterns is extremely important for planning and management of agricultural, urban, and environmental systems. Here in Southeast Florida, changes in our climate mean higher temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme rain events. Our seas are rising, causing increased flooding, saltwater intrusion, and cascading socioeconomic challenges as a result. Further, natural systems and coral reefs are being impacted through changing conditions.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact endeavors to serve as a central repository for the best available, up-to-date, locally relevant scientific information on physical indicators of climate change in the region. To this end, the Compact first developed the Southeast Florida Climate Indicators in 2016 through a technical work group with contributions from Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach County staff, in partnership with the Florida Climate Institute, the South Florida Water Management District, and other agencies. In 2020, the Compact again enlisted the support of technical experts from across the academic community, relevant agencies, and a non governmental entity to update the climate indicators for Southeast Florida.
Indicators are scientifically-based measurements that track trends in various aspects of climate change. These data provide clear evidence of the climate change occurring in Southeast Florida, which is having significant, measurable impacts on our people, environment, and economy. The Compact intends for this information to help inform practitioners in advancing regionally consistent planning, as well as educate elected officials, the media, and the general public regarding the consequences of climate change.
Changes in SEFL Climate & Impacts to Physical Systems
Climate is generally defined as “average weather,” usually described in terms of the mean and variability of temperature, precipitation, and wind over a period of time. The evidence that the climate system is warming is unequivocal. A review of temperature data since 1895 for the southeast region demonstrates that the average temperature during the last three decades have been higher than the previous decades. In each of the four Southeast Florida counties’ minimum annual temperatures rose 0.5 to 0.6°F over the past 34 years (1985 to 2019) (NOAA, National Centers for Environmental Information, 2020).
Warming temperatures and changing precipitation patterns have altered Southeast Florida’s “physical systems” — with a prominent impact on the ocean, which influences the region’s water table and water supply. The following indicators show changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, high tide flooding, saltwater intrusion, and sea surface temperature as a result of climate change.