USA – Tidal Flood Events in Miami Beach Increased by 400 Percent in 10 Years

A new study by a team of scientists has found that tidal flooding in Miami Beach has increased by 400% in the last decade. Rain induced flood events have also increased significantly.

The University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study found that Miami Beach flood events have significantly increased due to an acceleration of sea-level rise in South Florida.

Our analysis indicates that significant changes in flooding frequency occurred after 2006, in which rain-induced events increased by 33% and tide-induced events increased by more than 400%

To quantify the flood hazard in Miami Beach, the UM Rosenstiel School researchers analyzed tide and rain-gauge records, media reports, insurance claims, and photos of flooding events on Miami Beach and in Miami since 2006. The insurance claims and media reports helped the researchers pinpoint the date and type of flood events.

Graph: Annual flooding occurrence in Miami Beach between 1998-2013 indicating a significant increase in tide flooding events (green) since 2006.
Graph: Annual flooding occurrence in Miami Beach between 1998-2013 indicating a significant increase in tide flooding events (green) since 2006.

“Our results show that the effect of sea-level rise is real and affecting the daily life of people living in low-lying coastal communities, such as Miami Beach,” said Shimon Wdowinski, UM Rosenstiel School research professor of marine geosciences, and lead author of the study.

Sea Level Rise

The results showed that the flooding frequency in Miami Beach has significantly increased after 2006 mainly due to increasing number of high-tide flooding events.

The increased flooding frequency coincides with acceleration in the rate of sea level rise in South Florida. The average rate of sea-level rise increased by 6 mm per year over the last decade – from 3 mm per year before 2006 to 9 mm per year after 2006.

The researchers suggest that regional sea-level projections should be used in place of global projections to better prepare for future flood hazards in the region.

The study also provides new evidence that connects the weakening of the Gulf Stream with sea-level rise along the US Atlantic coast.

Florida is one of the most vulnerable areas to sea-level rise due to its low elevation, large population concentrations, and economic importance. Accelerated rates of sea-level rise have caused a significant increase in flooding frequency in several coastal communities in Florida.

About the Study

The study, titled “Increasing flooding hazard in coastal communities due to rising sea level: Case study of Miami Beach, Florida,” was published in the June 2016 issue, Vol. 126 of the journal Ocean and Coastal Management.

The study’s authors include: Shimon Wdowinski, Ronald Bray and Ben P. Kirtman from the UM Rosenstiel School; and Zhaohua Wu from Florida State University.

The study was supported by a grant from NASA.

Photo Credit: Shimon Wdowinski, Ph.D.
Photo Credit: Shimon Wdowinski, Ph.D.