Storm Surge: Hurricane Irma sends a storm surge crashing over a seawall at the mouth of the Miami River (photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)
According to a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), global warming is driving hurricane intensity levels skyward. And Miami is among the cities most vulnerable to sea level rise globally. In 1992, a 17-foot storm surge from Hurricane Andrew caused more than $500 million in losses to an area just south of Miami. Miami-Dade County’s population has grown by a million people during the last two decades and high-rise residential areas downtown and on Miami Beach expose many more people and structures to the risk of storm surge. Such events have led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a $4.6 billion plan to build thirteen-foot-high flood walls along Miami’s waterfront as part of a Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study for Miami-Dade Back Bay.
Miami Mangroves: Guardians from the Storm
Mangroves act as natural breakwaters, absorbing wave energy in their roots and reducing wave height by up to 66% protecting inland areas from the full force of a storm (Environment America). Remarkably, when mangroves are damaged in storms they can heal themselves, unlike dams and other human-built flood-prevention infrastructure. During Hurricane Irma in 2017, mangroves in Florida protected half a million people and prevented an estimated $1.5 billion in flood damage, according to the Nature Conservancy. Each year mangroves prevent about $11 billion in property damage for the U.S. alone and $65 billion worldwide. In addition, mangrove forests absorb 4x as much carbon as most other tropical forests, reducing climate change impact. A recent study found that globally 6.4 billion tons of carbon in the soil under their roots ~ over four times as much carbon as the U.S. economy emits each year.
Mangroves of Oleta River-Miami (photo: Campbell-Ingellis)
Mangroves (photo: USDA Forest Service)
Oleta State Park, North-Miami Beach
Mangroves: Super Ecosystem of the Tropics