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Climate and Weather in Fort Lauderdale

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Hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rains are a part of our everyday weather vocabulary here in Fort Lauderdale. 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. We wear sunscreen, we drink our water, and we stay indoors if it is just too much.

Cars on flooded streetIn recent years, as the nation faced record high and low temperatures, more frequent floods and droughts, and larger tropical storms, our City also experienced weather extremes-- from severe inland flooding during the 2011 Halloween storm to the road collapse associated with Hurricane Sandy and extreme high tides in late 2012. Events such as these place constraints on our flood control system, impact our public infrastructure and the private properties above it, cause beach erosion, and disrupt fragile ecosystems that are essential to healthy waterfront living. The questions on everyone’s mind: Are storms worsening? Is it getting hotter? Is the weather really changing?

The simple answer is no. The weather is not changing. We can expect the same daily, seasonal, and periodic fluctuations that our region always has had. We will have heavy rains in the wet season, but we may also experience drought. We will have summer days in the high 90s, and the rare winter night in the high 30s. Any single day is just that: one day of weather, one data point. Weather is not climate. So the more precise answer is that, while our weather cannot be said to be changing, our climate most definitely is. We must always be prepared for those rare extreme weather events, but it is long-term climate trends and risks that must be factored 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?

Trend and Variation MovieClimate change means different things in different parts of the world. While some cities need to plan for sea level rising, others have expanding shorelines. While some deal with drought and brush fires, others need to intensify flood planning. But just like the rest of our planet, Fort Lauderdale’s climate is warming over the long term, and this produces three distinct phenomena:

The first is the rising sea, something that has been happening on and off for thousands of years, but which now is accelerating at a pace that requires our attention and action. Read more…

The second is a slight escalation in temperature and the lengthening of our hot season, which studies show, in our area, is partially a result of the “urban heat island effect.” Read more…

The third is a change to our rainfall patterns and to the intensity of storms. Summer rainfall is projected to decline slightly in South Florida over this century, but Autumn rains may increase. The amount of rainfall from individual hurricanes is expected to increase. In addition, the destructive nature of hurricanes that do make landfall has increased as sea surface temperature has increased.

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.

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