Overview

Southeast Florida is widely considered one of the more vulnerable areas in the United States to the impacts of climate change. The region relies heavily on our coastlines for tourism, recreation, development, and protection from hurricanes. Palm Beach County is developing short and long-term strategies to improve the County's resilience.

Hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rains are a part of our everyday weather patterns here in Southeast Florida. We know when to expect them, how to track them, and how to prepare. We also know what it means to live in the heat; wearing sunscreen, drinking water, and staying indoors if it is just too hot.Boynton Beach

More recently, as the nation continues to see record temperatures, more frequent floods and droughts, and larger tropical storms, our County also experienced weather extremes-- from severe inland flooding in (Boynton Beach and Delray Beach in 2014), annual King tides in the fall, and extreme high tides in late 2015. Events such as these strain our flood control system, impact our public infrastructure and the private properties, cause beach erosion, and disrupt the fragile ecosystems essential to healthy waterfront living. 

We must always be prepared for those rare extreme weather events, but it is long-term climate trends and risks we need to factor into strategic decision making and planning. Scientists call our area "exceptionally vulnerable" to risks from man-made climate change. What trends should we watch? What risks should be considered?

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS

What changes can occur from a warming world? Typically the three main changes you will see over time are increases in sea levels, an increase or decrease in precipitation, and increasing air temperature.

What do we do? As a community we need to work together towards long-term resiliency. By exploring the information on these pages, and raising your awareness of the issues, you are helping to move us in that direction.

What is Sea Level Rise and why is it rising?

As the temperature of the earth increases, so does sea level. Temperature and sea level are linked in two main ways:

  • Changes in the amount of water and ice on land (in the form of glaciers and ice sheets) can increase or decrease the volume of water in the ocean.
  • As water warms it expands – an effect that is cumulative over the entire depth of the oceans.

What are the effects of Sea Level Rise? Southeast Florida is especially vulnerable to sea level rise due to our relatively flat topography, extensive coastline, and porous limestone bedrock. Changing sea levels affect human activities in coastal areas by:

  • Eroding shorelines
  • Contributing to coastal flooding
  • Inundation of low-lying wetlands and dry land
  • Increasing the flow of salt water into estuaries and groundwater aquifers
  • Making coastal infrastructure more vulnerable to damage from storms

Changing rainfall patterns and storm intensity. 

A majority of the models used in the U.S. National Climate Assessment project summer rainfall to decline slightly in South Florida over this century, but autumn rains may increase. Although we could see a decrease in the number of hurricanes globally, both the amount of rainfall from individual hurricanes and force of the storms are expected to increase as sea surface temperature has increased.
View the National Climate Assessment

Increases in air temperature and the lengthening of our hot season.

In urban areas studies show increases in air temperature is partially a result of the "urban heat island effect."  However, the U.S. National Climate Assessment anticipates significant increases in the number of hot days (95ºF or above) and decreases in freezing events for the Southeastern United States and Caribbean. Warmer days can contribute to stronger tropical storms, increases in water needed for irrigation, and decreased air quality.


 
What is the difference between climate and weather?

Weather is not climate. Weather reflects short-term conditions of the atmosphere; climate reflects average daily weather over long periods of time. "Climate is what we expect. Weather is what we get."

Learn more by watching a short video.

Our Changing Climate

Learn the basics of climate change and its impacts by downloading our informational poster.