Global Warming XIV – Florida Gov. Scott’s Beach House

Wayne,

In my Physics class at the University of Tampa, I show my students pictures of Florida Gov. Scott’s beach house in Naples, Florida. That is about 170 miles south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf coast. These are photos I found with brief internet searches. On the mid-term exam that includes Climate Change I ask my students when the Governor’s house is likely to be flooded: next year, a few decades, a few centuries, a few thousands of years. A few decades is the correct answer, depending upon the vagaries of hurricanes and tides added to the inevitable sea level rise as Greenland and Antarctica melt and the ocean’s warm.

In the first picture, you see an aerial view of Florida Gov. Scott’s house. According to a real estate article it’s worth about $15 million. His house is the one with the black line.

You can just see a bit of the water in the lower left. The house is but a few feet above the high tide line, and the road on the inland side is also a bit lower than the house. You can’t see it, but it’s on a narrow barrier island, so there is water not far to the right too.

The second photo shows the house, water, and the road. The central house in the photo, larger than the governor’s is a ~$70 million one. That owner, I read, is in prison for some reason. Above the high tide line, barrier islands of this type often have a low, linear vegetation-covered dune. You can see it here. By the governor’s house, that is, because his neighbor seems to have removed the dune between his house and the Gulf. It’s not high, and the governor (and everyone else) has cut paths through the low dune. The lines of pilings are probably attempts to control beach erosion, as development cuts off new sources of sand and along-shore currents and storms remove the beach sand. Futile in the long run.

In this photo, probably taken by an amateur, hence the under exposure and imprecise focus, you get an idea of the high-water levels from tides, from the slight color changes in the beach sand, and you can see the height of the barrier dune. You can see the exit of one of the paths cut through the dune. The dune is a few feet high.

The governor’s house, to my eye, is lower than the top of the dune, and not much above the high-water marks.

The governor’s house is in trouble. Likely it will be wiped out the next time a hurricane or tropical storm brings a storm surge on a high tide, on top of whatever sea level rise will have occurred at the time.

Sea walls won’t work on dunes or anywhere else on peninsular Florida because the underlying rock is porous limestone.

The Governor is well-known as a global warming denier. Indeed, researchers and other employees at the state’s environmental agency say that the political leaders of that agency required them to remove any mention of global warming from official documents. The Governor and his staff deny this.

Bernard

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