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How climate change is affecting your life in Tampa Bay

We're constantly bombarded with news of climate change, but what changes are we seeing in our lives every day here in the bay area?

TAMPA, Fla. — Antarctica just saw its highest temperature ever, showing evidence that temperatures are dipping lower and reaching peaks across the globe.

We're seeing the same in Tampa Bay. The warmest months in history were recorded in 2019. We wanted to highlight some ways you're seeing the effects of this in your life every day, so we went to the Tampa Bay Estuary program, which studies changes in the bay and how we can be a part of protecting it. Maya Burke, a science policy coordinator, at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program says there are three key changes: rising sea levels, rising temperatures and ocean acidification.

Rising sea levels don't just affect property owners with homes along shorelines. "As sea levels rise that makes it harder for our stormwater systems to get rainfall out to the bay as fast as we're used to," said Burke. That means more flooding and more prolonged flooding for inland neighbors. 

The rising sea levels also mean docks dipping under water and the depletion of those wide, sandy beaches we all enjoy.

Also on the rise are temperatures. This can have an effect on the health of our waterways and on human health. "Warmer water also means things like harmful algae can persist and succeed longer, so that can be a threat to human health and fish," said Burke. This means concerns like red tide and Tampa's more concerning algae, Pyrodinium bahamense, will infiltrate our waterways.

The waterways in Tampa Bay are also more acidic than in years past. What that means is that it's harder for hard-shelled organisms, like oysters and crabs to develop their shells. That can trickle down to our local economy, which relies heavily on commercial fishing and sales of crabs and oysters. 

If you're not a fan of fishing, ocean acidification still matters. "If you don't care about fishing and crabs, your real estate value is tied to that too and the tourism economy is as well," said Burke. Any detrimental changes to our waterways can translate directly to economic impacts in Tampa Bay.

"The easiest thing you can do to protect the home we all love so much is to just talk about it. Talk about high the water has been on your dock or how your favorite fishing spots have changed," said Burke. She says sharing real-world impacts to your friends and family is the best way to encourage others to understand the negative impacts climate change has on our area. 

There are so many ways to protect Tampa Bay from some severe impacts of climate change, so pick what works best for you.

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