Miami Is Flooding
December 16, 2015 7:42 AM   Subscribe

The Siege of Miami

The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation.
posted by poffin boffin (48 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I think of Florida, I think of land schemes and unsustainable development. You can keep ducking the bill collector for only so long; eventually, you gotta pay the piper. Magical thinking and miraculous uninvented technologies will not save you, Phillip Levine.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:12 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


“I would agree that things can’t continue exactly the way they are today,” Ruvin told me. “But what we will evolve to may be better.”

Manatees?
posted by mittens at 8:15 AM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Huge manatees.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:17 AM on December 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I hadn't thought about the short term flooding and swamping problems. The mental image of an old lady wailing, stranded away from home but for the grace of strangers, is going to stick around for a while.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:20 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, Florida is the world's largest sand bar. Sand bars move, sink & subside, & get carried away with the tide. It would make sense that the southern tip of Florida would be one of the first places to feel the effects of a rising sea level.

I guess there's 2 points to this -- global warming is fucking things up, and humans are responsible for global warming. Also, don't put too much permanence in things you build at the edges of sand bars, either way. There's not much saving the place that can be done in the long run. I'm not happy for the hardship that this visits on the residents and wildlife of S. Florida, but Mankind's inability to think long-term is its greatest folly, and possibly its doom.

/Vonnegut
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:30 AM on December 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I wish I could be more sympathetic to those who are disconnected from the reality of climate change, as opposed to wanting to transmogrify them into little old wailing ladies who can't get home because the water is coming through the damn ground
posted by angrycat at 8:32 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Eventually there's going to be a hurricane or other event where the water comes in like always and just never leaves. And then all those people who hate the government and refuse to fund it because it might help someone they hate will be screaming for rescue and compensation from it.

And we'll help them, because at least some of the stranded will be children, or the very ill or the very poor who could not leave without our help and it's easier (and better ethically) to help everyone than trying to figure out who deserves it.

I guess, once that all takes place, will we just take Florida off our maps? Leave it on but as a dotted line? Have 49 states again?
posted by emjaybee at 8:47 AM on December 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


The Bahamas, like Florida, are a carbonate platform. A carbonate platform builds itself through the production of carbonate from different types of organisms, building up during sea level rise and then coming back down during fall (and thus are a great place to catalog millions of years of sea level rise and fall as well as the magnitude). In fact, their roots are the same platform, a carbonate accumulation that began in the Jurassic. Some parts of the Bahamas are 8 km thick, having to keep up with rising sea water from the very slow opening of the Atlantic Ocean. Florida, however, is what some scientists call a "drowned" platform* in that the organisms responsible for building the carbonate could not - at different points in its multi-million year history, each location varying - keep up with some kind of sea level rise. (And there's lots of reasons for that beyond just the water rising - temperature, nutrients, silt in the seawater, tectonics, topography change, fluvial intrusion, etc.)

ANYWAY. You can go to some places in the Bahamas and in some of the rare cliffs you can find the highest line of coral reef built during the last complete cycle of sea level rise and fall - before the most recent glaciation, the corals still so young they've barely fossilized. Then you go down to the beach - in fact, to get down to the beach you had to climb a ladder. Then you stand on the beach, at current sea level, the ocean literally lapping at your feet, and look up. Up, up, up at these corals, which represent the most recent highstand of the last sea level rise.

Those corals are 20 feet above you.

Then you read something like this with its haunting image of that woman and of the stupid shit that comes out of certain mouths - like Presidential candidates, and governors - and you feel complete, utter rage. Because here's the thing, the big thing, and Florida is such a great example of it: sea level rise will not treat all coastlines equally. It will not be an equal distribution of flooding or erosion. It will not affect all coastline ecosystems in equal magnitudes. And it most definitely will not be an equal distribution of suffering and misery.

*It's my duty to report there's some debate about whether or not there's such a thing as a drowned platform
posted by barchan at 8:48 AM on December 16, 2015 [90 favorites]


Metafilter: It's my duty to report there's some debate about whether or not there's such a thing as a drowned platform
posted by OmieWise at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


That end note is among my favorite things written on Metafilter.
posted by OmieWise at 8:56 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


ha, OmieWise! Well, I don't know what the answer is and I didn't want some anti-drowned platform person charging in here going "you're wrongey-wrong" and derailing the thread.
posted by barchan at 9:05 AM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


“I believe in human innovation,” [Miami Beach Mayor] Levine responded. “If, thirty or forty years ago, I’d told you that you were going to be able to communicate with your friends around the world by looking at your watch or with an iPad or an iPhone, you would think I was out of my mind.” Thirty or forty years from now, he said, “We’re going to have innovative solutions to fight back against sea-level rise that we cannot even imagine today.”
Because they're even remotely the same sort of thing. Sheesh. The only way this could get more ludicrous is if the next mayor ran on a program of religious revival aimed at "solving" the problem by teaching people to walk on water.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:09 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


A lot of her job involves visiting low-lying neighborhoods like Shorecrest, helping people understand what they’re seeing. She shows them elevation maps and climate-change projections, and explains that the situation is only going to get worse. Often, Hammer said, she feels like a doctor: “You hear that they’re trying to teach these skills in medical schools, to encourage them to have a better bedside manner. I think I might try to get that kind of training, because it’s really hard to break bad news.”

It was garbage-collection day, and in front of one house county-issued trash bins bobbed in a stretch of water streaked with oil. Two young women were surveying the scene from the driveway, as if from a pier.

“It’s horrible,” one of them said to us. “Sometimes the water actually smells.” They were sisters, originally from Colombia. They wanted to sell the house, but, as the other sister observed, “No one’s going to want to buy it like this.”

“I have called the city of Miami,” the first sister said. “And they said it’s just the moon. But I don’t think it’s the moon anymore.”


I just want to go up to all those poor folks and say "Leave. Leave now. You're not getting your money back, and it's not going to get better. Start looking for your new life now before the rush."

But I know there's lots of people who can't or won't till they have no other choice.
posted by emjaybee at 9:13 AM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


“If, thirty or forty years ago, I’d told you that you were going to be able to communicate with your friends around the world by looking at your watch or with an iPad or an iPhone, you would think I was out of my mind.”

Shit man, thirty or forty years ago we had solid state transistors, HDDs, RAM and DRAM, screens, computation, Moore's Law...it wouldn't have been crazy to presume that computers would be shrunk down to fit on your wrist. We have nothing comparable to that for mitigating global scale sea level rise or ocean acidification. This guy is living in fantasy land.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:16 AM on December 16, 2015 [23 favorites]


Don't know if it saddens me or infuriates me or both, but so many times I hear the sentiment about engineering fixing things if there's a problem comes out of the mouths of the same people trying to shut down STEM because it disagrees with their world view. Not always, but often enough. I just want to scream you can't have it both ways.

I have so many ranty things to say about engineering "fixing the problem" - the first being then why don't we let engineering start fixing the problem now - I start to slobber.
posted by barchan at 9:31 AM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


I've got maybe 30 or 40 years left to live. That seems like just enough lately.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:36 AM on December 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


transmogrify them into little old wailing ladies who can't get home because the water is coming through the damn ground

The image of Rick Scott and Ted Cruz stranded by floodwaters with no defense against marauding gators and floating poos except the tennis balls on the feet of their walkers shall sustain me all day.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:40 AM on December 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Strong rumor within the Florida environmental community: Al Gore's Climate Change conferences in Miami were scheduled to coincide with flooding for strategic/PR reasons. Makes sense to me, though it was a little disingenuous that they spun it as "ironic"
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:57 AM on December 16, 2015


Huh. If they pour resin into the limestone, won't the water eat away at the limestone Around the resin, just creating more limestone holes? And are they also going to raise all of the land along with the streets at the same time?

(I'm also curious about the restaurants now a foot below roadway level - doesn't it make their drainage worse?

In other words: it's gonna take a Heck of an Apple Watch, and possibly a volcanic eruption, to reverse this trend.
posted by ldthomps at 10:02 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's pleasant to imagine assholes getting their comeuppance, but we've all seen Katrina. The rich and the white will largely just leave to move on to the next place to pick bare and the poor and marginalised will suffer. The speculators and the vultures will move in and take what's left.

We just had a Republican Presidential debate where the benchmark of "serious" was where whether you'd be willing to kill as many Muslim children as possible. You can be assured these people don't care about poor people in Florida.

Sooner or later they will feel some of the hurt, but we'll all be dead or living in tents by then.
posted by selfnoise at 10:04 AM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Huh. If they pour resin into the limestone....

"Who could possibly have foreseen [enter foreseen side-effect here]?"
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:09 AM on December 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


The crazy thing is that people are buying up South Florida real estate at a tremendous rate. Beachside condos, $1 million and up. I'm no financial maven, more's the pity, but this just seems so obviously a losing proposition. I guess they're just hoping to get in quick and sell as soon as they can find another sucker to be left holding the bag.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:33 AM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh. If they pour resin into the limestone....

"Who could possibly have foreseen [enter foreseen side-effect here]?"


Lions eat resin, right? Problem solved.
posted by Etrigan at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


What if they fill the sinkholes with ping pong balls and float Florida back up to sea level.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:40 AM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


GAK. I JUST finished writing this, logged on to Metafilter, and saw this post. Thanks for the nudge.

**

To get Hill City, you’ve got to get 2017. That was 5 years ago, the year everybody stopped pretending. The year we lost Miami. It was the first in a string of really big American cities to become unlivable. And the super-hilarious thing was, the ice caps didn’t even have to melt to sink the place. We’d all been sitting around waiting for that big catastrophe for years, for the not-so-far-off future of 4-plus degrees people were always freaking out about. But while we watched and waited for the real show to start, a creeping, un-sexy disaster got Miami, a daily tide that was consistently a foot-and-a-half higher than normal. That’s all it took, and suddenly? Not a single Kardashian could be found on South Beach.

Just a foot and a half, and you couldn’t get to the restaurants and nightclubs and art galleries anymore, couldn’t wear your fabulous strappy sandals because the sewer pumps were backed up and leaking all the time. And nobody from Fort Lauderdale to Homestead could drink the water, because the ocean seeped up through the limestone and contaminated what was left of the aquifer. About the only thing that could live in that tropical stew of sewage and dead mangroves were mosquitos. They bred in thick clouds and gave all the celebrities malaria, and chikungunya, which, while entertaining, was not very glamorous at all.

People left the place in waves. The ones who had come from somewhere else and bought condos on Collins or Brickell – the ones who could afford it and had someplace better to be anyway – they left first. They got on planes and flew to Norway, or Moscow. Or, if they were Dwyane Wade, they signed on with the recently rehomed Dakota Wizards. OK now, that was the story of 2017, let me tell you. I don’t even like sports, and I know all about it. It was freaking everywhere.

The Dakota Wizards used to be out of Bismark, until they, like everything else, got bought by California. They ended up in Santa Cruz. But then, this Silicon Valley guy moved his start-up to Bismark. Nobody noticed or cared until this same guy bought the Wizards (who were now the Warriors) and moved them back home. Suddenly there were all these longform thinkpieces about Bismark. “Bismark: The New Seattle?” and “The Hottest Place in America is Also the Coldest.”

People started paying attention to Bismark, maybe for the first time ever. Especially after Dwyane Wade got on YouTube wearing a “Can’t Take the Heat,” hoodie and announced that he was leaving Miami and joining the Wizards. That got everybody’s attention way more than the ruined aquifer did, and suddenly we all agreed that maybe Miami wasn’t cool anymore. We were right. It was getting hotter, every year.

Nobody much saw or cared after the people who could leave Miami did. The people in Miami who were left behind – old people, black people, immigrants – had been invisible way before Miami was condemned. But those people had to go somewhere, too. Same with Lost Vegas, a year later. The people had to go somewhere. And where they went was our backyards.
posted by staggering termagant at 10:45 AM on December 16, 2015 [32 favorites]


It'll America's Venice if y'all are lucky.
posted by clawsoon at 11:12 AM on December 16, 2015


(Suggests new holiday destination to wife)
posted by alasdair at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2015


"In an ominous development, Miami this past fall experienced several very high tides at times of the month when, astronomically speaking, it shouldn't have."

I'd really like to understand what causes that phenomenon. Can anyone help?
posted by Paul Slade at 11:41 AM on December 16, 2015


I'd really like to understand what causes that phenomenon. Can anyone help?

The ocean was mistaking Rick Scott's head for the moon.
posted by mittens at 11:48 AM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


“Many geologists, we’re looking at the possibility of a ten-to-thirty-foot range by the end of the century,” he told me.

Last I heard we were looking at up to 3 feet sea rise end of the century. This guy states up to 10x that. 30 feet of sea rise isn't "we lost Miami" or even "we lost a chunk of florida", that's "Global Disaster on a scale never before seen, hope to hell this isn't a new Dark Ages".
posted by anti social order at 12:02 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is the literal playing-out of the parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders.

"Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn't do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall."
posted by Hogshead at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2015


Hoping that someone will come in with a better explanation, Paul Slade, but here's my shallow one (no pun intended):

Just real quick on predictability: The high tides that were predicted are a result of the alignment between the sun, moon, and earth, which causes higher tides than normal due to gravitational pull and thus predictable. Same with lower than normal tides. Tides are also higher at certain points during the year than others as well as during the month due to different alignments and the elliptical path of the moon, also predictable. Also there are certain tides that occur on cyclic basis that aren't on a monthly/annual schedule, like the very high, potentially devastating proxigean spring tide. In other words, there's a lot of factors.

Right. So there's a few things that could have happened with the unusually higher tides and I note these are just my guesses. 1) Due to the previous predicted high tides, the water table was unusually high, and seawater seepage, or percolation, into land - which does happen - had nowhere to go. 2) Previous flooding. When something floods, it makes it easier to flood again. 3) Seawater temperature. When ocean water heats up, it expands. That can cause a higher tide. Or, possibly, the Gulf Stream was hotter/larger/not normal and forced waters away from it. Also the speed in which the Gulf Stream is flowing can affect sea level height along shore. 4) Atmospheric pressure/pressure differentials. Lower atmospheric pressure draws seawater up. 5) Almost certainly human caused shoreline changes in combination with some or all of the above. 6) And of course climate change, complicating all those factors.

Here's the sea surface height anomaly map archive if you're interested.
posted by barchan at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Meanwhile, the National Review is having fun with misleading statistics about climate change.
posted by SteveInMaine at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2015


What if they fill the sinkholes with ping pong balls and float Florida back up to sea level.

What could go wr...

"RELEASE THE PING-PONG BALL EATING CANE TOADS!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:26 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


> I guess, once that all takes place, will we just take Florida off our maps? Leave it on but as a dotted line? Have 49 states again?
posted by emjaybee at 8:47 AM on December 16 [7 favorites +] [!]


We'll leave it on the maps as-is and pretend the outline of the state looks like it did in the 20th century. We have prior art for this sort of thing: the logo of Louisiana (as used on highway signs and the like) still shows something like the outline of Louisiana in the early 20th century, rather than actually showing what parts are still habitable land.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


I've just read Robert K. Massie's biography of Peter the Great, and was amazed by his account of the building of St. Petersburg, pretty much on the water, by driving piles and building on top of those. I wish he'd described it in more detail, and wonder whether there are any lessons in it for coping with sea level rise, and whether St. Petersburg is high on the list of endangered cities today.
posted by mmiddle at 1:03 PM on December 16, 2015


I can't help wondering if at some point we're going to see semi-trailer trucks full of dirt heading for south Florida, as they try to build up the land to above the new water line. At least in the rich, white areas.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2015


as they try to build up the land to above the new water line. . . . Whenever I'm working with rocks and sea level, I may or may not sing this little ditty about the power of the ocean to the turn of The Worms Crawl In:

The sea comes in, it rips shit out,
the sea plays erosion on land's snout.
It eats up trees, it eats up rocks
it eats your streets between your blocks!
A big green sea with wavy hair,
it floods the coast and doesn't care.

posted by barchan at 1:29 PM on December 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was a pretty depressing article, but it did have an airboat in it.
posted by um at 2:20 PM on December 16, 2015


An airboat in a rainstorm. Like being sand blasted.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2015


I went to Miami around 2000 and after spending a couple of days there recall saying to my sister, "Welp when climate change really kicks in this place is doomed." It was surreal to try to imagine.

Guess we're at the really kicking in part and while still surreal what I find the most mind boggling surreal is that here it is, literally lapping at peoples feet and the denial at both the political and social level is still so damn strong.

It really is sad. The outlook doesn't look good at all. It is a slow moving disaster in the making.
posted by Jalliah at 5:01 PM on December 16, 2015


My answer to climate change deniers is: Go buy Florida coastline real estate and don't go running for government subsidies when you can't buy insurance, because remember you hate the government and you hate people who suck off the government's teat.
posted by BentFranklin at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


*It's my duty to report there's some debate about whether or not there's such a thing as a drowned platform

That was the boring section about the Iron Islands in the fourth Game of Thrones book, right?

I love visiting Florida and even lived there for a very short time, but there is something absolutely crazy in the politics and development there. From the beginning it has been the opposite of evidence-based, and lately it just gets worse.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:03 PM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


The crazy thing is that people are buying up South Florida real estate at a tremendous rate. Beachside condos, $1 million and up. I'm no financial maven, more's the pity, but this just seems so obviously a losing proposition. I guess they're just hoping to get in quick and sell as soon as they can find another sucker to be left holding the bag.

Correct me if i'm wrong, but from everything i've read and seen it doesn't really seem like miami will get atlantis'd or even meaningfully flooded in 5 or 10 years. More like... 20+? Maybe even longer?

It seems like something that will happen within the lifetime of a significant number of the posters here, but look at what the real estate market in some "hot" areas has done in even 5 or 10 years.

These people are assuming, probably fairly correctly, that they'll be able to get in and enjoy the gains for a decade or so and then cash out, in hopes of at least beating an index fund and hopefully way above that.

It's completely depressing to watch, but it's also something that's not happening until after we've been distracted by a number of more imminent shitty problems that will invariably rear their heads.
posted by emptythought at 6:46 PM on December 16, 2015


South Florida could be described as circling the drain but the drains literally don't drain anymore.

Miami, with its average height of six feet above sea level is not done for in 85 years when the sea level has risen three feet. It is done for when people realize it is done for. That may be after another six inches of sea level rise.

Six inches of sea level rise will eliminate some beaches, narrow others, and accelerate erosion of beaches. If you own a residence with a backyard that used to be a beach but now has seawater lapping the foundation twice a day at high tide, you used to own an expensive property.

Water becomes more expensive because of the cost of projects to keep seawater out of fresh water wells or the costs of desalination. Increased water costs make golf courses, swimming pools, and orchards less profitable.

The federal flood insurance program isn't actually an insurance program because the income from premiums is far less than what is paid out in claims. Congress made limited changes to the program so that it would not lose so much money but the backlash resulted in Congress reversing the changes. The backlash was, in part, because the premium for some property owners was going to change from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per year. I assume some property owners and some potential buyers are getting a clue about what the future will be. The federal program insures property that is currently worth about one trillion dollars. This is a market that is going to go bust.

There may some day be a way to pump expanding foam under cities to elevate them. There may be floating skyscrapers. But the technology to save Miami does not exist today. Elevating roads doesn't do anything for the people and businesses now below road level. One way valves in drains protect against high tides but not sea level rise. Inventing, developing, funding, and building solutions is not going to happen before people decide to get out while they can. As real estate and tourism and construction decline there is an inevitable economic downward spiral. We should be building new cities in financially habitable locations and directing the certain to be happening migration to them.
posted by llc at 8:18 PM on December 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Correct me if i'm wrong, but from everything i've read and seen it doesn't really seem like miami will get atlantis'd or even meaningfully flooded in 5 or 10 years. More like... 20+? Maybe even longer?

I live near here. The coast will not be Atlantis'ed any time soon, as in "totally submerged with no trace". But flooding to the point of inconvenience? That's happening right now, not the future. If you go down to the pedestrian mall on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, and it happens to start raining (which it does every afternoon from the first of April to the last of October), you will be up to your ankles in water that is less than clean. If it happens to be high tide, think calves not ankles. Anyone who spends a day in Miami Beach and still thinks it's wise to buy real estate there - they're just hoping the next sucker comes along right quick.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:27 PM on December 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just real quick on predictability ...

Thank you, barchan - that was very helpful.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:13 AM on December 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


My answer to climate change deniers is: Go buy Florida coastline real estate and don't go running for government subsidies when you can't buy insurance, because remember you hate the government and you hate people who suck off the government's teat.

Don't underestimate the pigheadedness of conspiracy theorists. Rising insurance premiums will just become another part of the tapestry of denial. "Big government invented global warming to charge us more on our insurance, so that they can fund their secret program to make Christmas a gay festival".
posted by Ned G at 8:33 AM on December 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


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