We are studying the effects of weather and climate on South Florida’s coastal ecosystems and developing models to predict corresponding changes in environmental health. We will deliver short-term (monthly, seasonal) outlook scenarios to managers of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and other managed areas within the Florida reef tract and west Florida shelf to help them plan for climate change impacts.
Why We Care
Florida’s renowned coral reefs, beaches, seagrasses, wetlands, and fisheries, and the economy and livelihoods they support, are vulnerable to climate and weather disasters. Impacts tied to climate and weather extremes include coastal estuarine water quality degradation, habitat loss and alteration, and loss of corals, fish, and mammals.
While extreme weather and climate events are not directly manageable, impacts on coastal water quality, habitats, and food webs can be managed through proactive decisions. Better adaptation planning and improved management options in marine protected areas, refinements in nutrient criteria and water quality standards in coastal waters, wastewater/sewage management for spill control, and flood control measures all increase resilience to weather and climate extremes.
In an environment of increasing extreme weather events (more precipitation or severe droughts), we can most effectively target coastal adaptation resources by developing systematic approach to: (1) link water response patterns and events to climate and weather and (2) build useful climate products, tools, and services to provide early-warning information for managers vested in proactive, informed decision-making.
What We Are Doing
NCCOS and our IMPACT partners are using NOAA’s ocean, climate and weather services and modeling infrastructure to define realistic ecosystem change scenarios for a diverse set of scientific applications and adaptive management options. We began by conducting a retrospective climate analysis to develop a local understanding of the most important ecosystem-level responses to changing seasonal cycles, long-term averages, and extremes. We then developed measures to discriminate between long-term “mean” state and variability states in atmospheric and oceanographic conditions to better anticipate the likelihood of impact on the system.
We are applying what we learned from our retrospective analysis to model (both conceptually and quantitatively) how the ecosystem will respond to climate and weather-driven changes in water quality. The managers for whom we are developing the models are most interested in physical (e.g., temperature, pH, turbidity) and biogeochemical changes, and in coral reef health.
We’re also developing an understanding of how global decadal-scale oscillations (e.g., ENSO, PNA, AMO) influence the Florida Keys, Florida Bay, and W. Florida Shelf. By analyzing time series plots of variables, we will reveal short- and long-term seasonal, and interannual trends, extremes, and temporal/spatial agreements of these data, helping us understand climate-ecosystem linkages on longer time scales.
Using our initial results we will build management tools including:
- An impact/vulnerability assessment to interpret system-wide responses to climate changes and help guide management in proactive management preparedness and response
- A Nowcast tool to identify multiple extreme climate and weather events and water quality response, and provide likelihood estimates of extreme weather and water quality events in the future
- A Web-based application system to help decision making for policy makers and planners at appropriate scales for NOAA, EPA, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and NPS.
Vulnerability and impact assessments will support:
- Risk assessments through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
- Climate and socio-economic impact evaluations for the Everglades and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
- Effective protection and conservation strategies through the EPA, South Florida Water Management District, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.