Don Goldstein, paleontology researcher at the University of Tennessee, spoke at Friday’s Science Forum in an installment entitled: How Can Florida’s Geological Past Help Us Prepare for the Future?
In his presentation, Goldstein explained that at times, over the past two million years, Florida has been partially covered by seawater, leaving behind troves of fossils to study. The fossils allow researchers to predict where future flooding may occur as sea levels rise.
“The past gives us an evolutionary view of how behavior has developed into the present,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein studies intertidal slugs and snails at sites 40 to 50 miles inland from the coast. At these sites, Goldstein has found marls, or mixtures of sea fossils, that include shallow-water and deep-water species. They were likely placed together by massive storms or hurricanes during interglacial periods marked by higher levels of seawater.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise between three inches and two feet in the next 100 years. Researchers predict that current climate change will create larger and more violent storms.
Goldstein warns that these factors will cause more storm flooding, migration of barrier islands and saltwater infiltration into groundwater, amongst other issues.
“There are going to be larger more violent storms. There are going to be some near term effects. There will be increased storm flooding,” Goldstein said.
He explained that flooding brought on by Hurricane Sandy will become a common occurrence in coastal areas. He says that large storms will rework the coast with just modest sea level change.
Amanda Womac, President of the forum, reacted to the speech by saying, “I think that our long term solutions to address climate change, at this point, are a drop in the bucket. There are still questions about whether or not it is happening, which is absolutely ridiculous.”
Goldstein believes it is necessary for governments to prepare for these changes by first fostering a dialogue.
Edited by Nichole Stevens