Tampa Bay landmarks like the Tampa Riverwalk could be underwater in the next 80 years, according to scientists. By 2100, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the sea level will rise approximately four feet. It may seem like a long time from now, but these outlooks are based on climate change effects we're seeing today.
"Over 100 years sea level rise is going to be a deeply serious problem for St. Pete," Dr. Gary Mitchum, Associate Dean of the College of Marine Science at USF, said. "But in the meantime, rainfall patterns are changing as well."
It's not hard to find the people already dealing with the consequences.
"It was all the way up to here," Margy DeSantis said as she gestured how much flooding she gets when it rains.
She lives north of the MacDill Air Force Base and a NOAA viewer shows her neighborhood will be flooded when the sea level rises three feet.
These predictions could change for the worse if humans increase the rate of their gas emissions.
"The rate of increase of the greenhouse gases is far beyond anything we've observed in the historical or geological record over 500,000 years," Dr. Mitchum said.
Surprisingly, some people still try to deny the science but here is a quick refresher on how the greenhouse effect works.
The greenhouse gases we produce with our cars, garbage, and buildings trap the heat from the sun and don't allow it to go back out into space. Then, the earth's temperature increases, the ice caps melt, and the sea level goes up.
A tide gauge in St. Petersburg has been measuring sea level for over 70 years. That's how experts know sea level is rising in the Tampa Bay, and that it has been rising at a faster pace in the last couple of decades.
"We're talking about things we can measure here," Dr. Rick Garrity, Former Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, said.
We may not be around to see the worst of it.
"Why do I care? I have kids," Dr. Mitchum said. "They may not be living in the house we're living now because I think I only have six feet. But at least they'll be living in St. Pete."
In the meantime, in Tampa Bay, we have a front row seat to the preview of what's to come.
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