What Parts Of Florida Will Be Underwater?

Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities around the world, including in the Sunshine State. If you’re wondering what areas of Florida are most vulnerable to going underwater in the coming decades, read on for a comprehensive analysis.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: South Florida, especially Miami and the Florida Keys, face the greatest risk of flooding and submersion over the next 50-100 years due to climate change and melting polar ice caps.

In this approximately 3,000 word article, we will analyze the latest scientific projections on sea level rise and explain in detail which Florida locales face the highest chances of being partially or fully inundated in both the near and more distant future.

We’ve structured the piece into sections focusing on different vulnerable areas of the state, from Miami to the Gulf Coast to the First Coast and beyond.

Miami and Southeast Florida’s Looming Crisis

Miami and Southeast Florida are facing a looming crisis as the threat of rising sea levels becomes increasingly evident. With its low-lying coastal geography and porous limestone bedrock, this region is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

Here, we will explore the baseline projections for sea level rise, the risks associated with storm surges and “sunny day” flooding, as well as the societal and economic impacts of these threats.

Baseline Projections for Sea Level Rise

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sea levels have been rising at an average rate of 3.2 millimeters per year globally since 1993. However, due to various factors such as the melting of polar ice caps and thermal expansion of seawater, this rate is expected to accelerate in the coming decades.

In fact, some studies suggest that sea levels could rise by as much as 1 to 2 feet by 2050 and 3 to 6 feet by 2100 in Miami and Southeast Florida.

These projections are based on various climate scenarios and take into account the potential impact of greenhouse gas emissions on global temperatures. It is important to note that while these projections provide a range of possible outcomes, the exact magnitude of sea level rise will depend on future actions taken to mitigate climate change.

Storm Surges and ‘Sunny Day’ Flooding

One of the immediate consequences of rising sea levels is the increased risk of storm surges and “sunny day” flooding. Storm surges occur during hurricanes or tropical storms when strong winds push water onto the land, causing coastal flooding.

With higher sea levels, storm surges can reach further inland, affecting more communities and causing more damage to infrastructure.

“Sunny day” flooding, on the other hand, refers to the phenomenon of coastal areas experiencing flooding even on clear days. As sea levels rise, underground water tables also rise, making it easier for tidal waters to seep into streets, yards, and buildings.

This type of flooding can disrupt daily life, damage property, and impact the tourism industry, which is a major economic driver for Miami and Southeast Florida.

Societal and Economic Impacts

The potential societal and economic impacts of sea level rise in Miami and Southeast Florida are significant. With a population of over 6 million people and a vibrant tourism industry, the region is home to a diverse range of communities and businesses that could be affected by flooding and coastal erosion.

Infrastructure such as roads, airports, and wastewater treatment plants are at risk of damage or disruption, leading to increased maintenance costs and potential service interruptions. Additionally, homes and businesses located in flood-prone areas may experience declining property values and difficulties obtaining insurance coverage.

The tourism industry, which relies heavily on the region’s beautiful beaches and coastal attractions, could be severely impacted by the loss of beachfront areas and the increased frequency of flooding events.

This could result in a decline in visitor numbers and revenue, affecting the livelihoods of many individuals and businesses that depend on tourism.

The Fate of the Florida Keys

Geographic Vulnerability

The Florida Keys, a string of islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of Florida, are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. With much of the land sitting just a few feet above sea level, even a small increase in sea levels can have devastating effects on the region.

In fact, according to a study conducted by the University of Miami, the Florida Keys could be completely underwater by the year 2100 if current trends continue.

Loss of Beaches and Habitats

As sea levels rise, the beaches of the Florida Keys are at risk of disappearing. Beach erosion is already a major issue in the area, and rising sea levels will only exacerbate the problem. This not only impacts the tourism industry, but also threatens the delicate habitats that exist along the coast.

The Florida Keys are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, many of which rely on the beaches and coastal areas for survival.

Additionally, the rising sea levels also pose a threat to the freshwater sources in the Keys. As saltwater infiltrates the groundwater, it can contaminate drinking water supplies and damage the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Initiatives to Save the Keys

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, various initiatives have been put in place to try and save the Florida Keys. One such initiative is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which aims to protect and preserve the unique marine ecosystem of the region.

The sanctuary works to regulate activities such as fishing and boating to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

Another initiative is the implementation of sustainable development practices. By constructing buildings on stilts and using materials that can withstand flooding and storm surges, developers are taking steps to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels.

Furthermore, efforts are being made to restore and protect the beaches in the Florida Keys. Beach renourishment projects involve replenishing sand on eroded beaches, helping to create a buffer against rising sea levels and preserving the tourism industry.

While these initiatives are important steps in the right direction, it is clear that more needs to be done to address the long-term effects of climate change on the Florida Keys. Continued efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of rising sea levels are crucial to ensure the survival of this unique and cherished region.

The Gulf Coast: Tampa Bay Area and Panhandle

Florida’s Gulf Coast, which includes the Tampa Bay Area and the Panhandle, is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. With its low-lying coastal areas and numerous barrier islands, this region is at high risk for flooding and erosion.

Tampa’s Dutch-Inspired Flood Control Plans

Tampa Bay Area, including the city of Tampa, is taking innovative measures to combat the threat of flooding. Taking inspiration from the Netherlands, known for its expertise in water management, Tampa has implemented a series of flood control plans.

These include the construction of storm surge barriers, the installation of pump stations, and the elevation of roads and buildings in flood-prone areas. The goal is to protect the city’s infrastructure and ensure the safety of its residents in the face of rising sea levels.

Safeguarding Military Installations

Along the Gulf Coast, there are several important military installations that need to be safeguarded against the effects of climate change. Naval Air Station Pensacola, home to the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, and Tyndall Air Force Base, which is vital for national defense, are both at risk.

These installations are working on implementing adaptive measures such as beach nourishment projects and the construction of protective barriers to mitigate the impact of sea-level rise and storm surges.

Panhandle Beach Erosion and Marsh Flooding

The Panhandle region of Florida, known for its beautiful beaches, is experiencing beach erosion due to rising sea levels. This erosion not only threatens the tourism industry but also compromises the natural habitats of various species.

In addition, the marshes along the coast are at risk of flooding, which can lead to the loss of important wetland ecosystems. Efforts are being made to restore and protect these coastal areas through beach renourishment projects and the creation of living shorelines.

First Coast Endangerment: Jacksonville and St. Augustine

Hurricane Storm Surges in Northeast Florida

When it comes to the parts of Florida that are most at risk of being underwater in the future, Jacksonville and St. Augustine are among the top contenders. These cities, located on Florida’s First Coast, face the constant threat of hurricane storm surges.

With their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, they are particularly vulnerable to the destructive power of tropical storms and hurricanes.

Hurricane storm surges occur when powerful winds and low atmospheric pressure push seawater onto land, causing a rapid rise in water levels. In recent years, these storm surges have caused significant flooding in coastal areas of Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

The effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and increased intensity of hurricanes, only exacerbate the risks faced by these communities.

Historic Areas at Risk

Jacksonville and St. Augustine are not only important cultural and economic centers, but they also boast rich histories. Both cities are home to numerous historic sites, including St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos and Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood.

Unfortunately, these cherished landmarks are at risk of being submerged due to the ongoing threat of rising sea levels.

Protecting these historic areas from the encroaching waters is a priority for local authorities and preservation groups. Efforts are being made to develop sustainable strategies and adapt the infrastructure to mitigate the impact of future flooding.

However, the challenges are immense, and long-term solutions will require a combination of innovative engineering, community involvement, and government support.

Adapting Parks and Infrastructure

In addition to historic areas, Jacksonville and St. Augustine’s parks and infrastructure are also at risk. Coastal parks, such as Hanna Park and Anastasia State Park, are vulnerable to erosion and inundation.

The destruction of these natural areas not only threatens the local environment and wildlife but also deprives residents and visitors of valuable recreational spaces.

To address these challenges, local authorities are investing in adaptation measures to protect parks and critical infrastructure. This includes the construction of sea walls and flood barriers, the implementation of drainage systems, and the elevation of buildings in flood-prone areas.

These initiatives aim to enhance resilience and ensure that these communities can continue to thrive despite the looming threat of rising sea levels.

Source: National Hurricane Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Nature Conservancy

Statewide and Regional Effects

As climate change continues to accelerate, the threat of rising sea levels poses a significant challenge for the state of Florida. The effects of this phenomenon are not limited to just a few areas; instead, they will be felt statewide and regionally.

It is crucial to understand the various impacts that will occur in order to adequately prepare and mitigate the potential consequences.

Economic Impacts on Tourism and Agriculture

One of the most significant statewide effects of rising sea levels in Florida will be the economic impact on its tourism and agriculture industries. With its beautiful coastal cities and beaches, Florida attracts millions of visitors each year.

However, as sea levels rise, these areas will become more vulnerable to flooding and erosion, ultimately threatening the tourism sector. The loss of pristine beaches and iconic landmarks like the Florida Keys could lead to a decline in tourism revenue, affecting the state’s economy as a whole.

Furthermore, the agriculture industry, which plays a vital role in Florida’s economy, will also be heavily impacted. Rising sea levels can result in saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources, rendering them unusable for irrigation.

This can lead to decreased crop yields and even the loss of entire agricultural areas. The state’s renowned citrus industry, for example, may face significant challenges as saltwater intrusion damages the soil and affects the quality of the produce.

Southward Migration of Flora and Fauna

The ecological impacts of rising sea levels are not limited to the economic sphere. As coastal areas become submerged, it will force the migration of flora and fauna further inland. This displacement can disrupt ecosystems and threaten the survival of certain species.

The delicate balance of Florida’s unique biodiversity could be disrupted, leading to the loss of habitats and potential extinctions.

Furthermore, the migration of species, particularly those that are invasive, can have unforeseen consequences for the ecosystem. The introduction of new species can outcompete native ones or disrupt established food chains, causing further disruption to the delicate ecological balance.

It is crucial for scientists and conservationists to monitor these changes and develop strategies to mitigate their impacts.

Need for Urgent Government Action

The statewide and regional effects of rising sea levels in Florida emphasize the need for urgent government action. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive approach that includes both mitigation and adaptation strategies.

By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources, Florida can contribute to global efforts to curb climate change.

Additionally, the government must invest in infrastructure improvements to protect vulnerable coastal areas from flooding and erosion. This can involve building seawalls, restoring wetlands, and implementing innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels.

Collaboration with scientists, environmental organizations, and local communities is essential to develop effective strategies and ensure a sustainable future for Florida.

It is important to remember that the effects of rising sea levels are not a distant concern but a reality that we need to address today. By taking immediate action, Florida can mitigate the potential consequences and ensure the long-term resilience of its communities and ecosystems.


As this analysis shows, communities across Florida face severe threats from encroaching seas in the years ahead. Time is running short for the state and local governments to implement robust adaptation measures before the worst impacts strike.

Low-lying coastal zones in southeast and southwest Florida are at the highest imminent risk, but no area of the state is immune. Through proper planning andinvestment into both hard infrastructure like sea walls and natural buffers like wetland restoration, Florida can hope to save at least some of its treasured landmarks and economic assets.

But if action is further delayed, the Florida that future generations grow up in could be almost unrecognizable from today – with submerged roads, abandoned neighborhoods, and damaged ecosystems. The clock is ticking for the Sunshine State’s leaders and residents to confront the looming realities of life on the front lines of seal level rise.

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