The New, Improved “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” is Finally Here!

It took some doing, but the paperback version of the 2021 Edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” is now available on Amazon.com! The Kindle e-reader version is in Amazon’s review process.

The hardest part of writing this year’s edition was forcing myself to stop as new information about global warming and sea level rise kept streaming in. The new book is much more comprehensive than the first edition. It has special chapters that cover developments in the field since the 2020 edition and a detailed description of what happens when sea level rise floodwater streams into a community, neighborhood, and individual property. It also has more information and instructions on how buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents can protect their financial future by performing due diligence — gathering information from more than one source — before they make a critical real estate decision in a coastal city experiencing or soon to experience sea level rise flooding.

The challenge to anyone involved in real estate along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines remains unchanged: There is no single source of reliable information that will give them the facts they need to know about past, present, and future sea level rise flooding. So they have to put on their detectives’ hats and find it themselves. “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” will give them the tools and insight they need to gather the information they need to make informed decisions.

Please check back often. I’ll have a lot more to say about the book, and, now that Covid-19 appears to be calming down, I’ll post a lot more updates with the latest developments regarding sea level rise and real estate.

2021 Edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents” Coming Soon!

Sorry I haven’t updated the site lately, but I’ve actually been busy writing the 2021 edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents.”

Managing the threat of Covid-19 threw me off my intended schedule, which was to release the book in November or December of 2020, but I’m back on track to bring you a comprehensive look at the risks involved in purchasing real estate in coastal communities that are currently experiencing sea level rise flooding or will have to confront the challenge in the years and decades to come. The new edition includes the latest developments regarding sea level rise science and the approach federal, state, and local governments are taking to address the flooding. It also has chapters that describe in detail how sea level rise flooding impacts communities, neighborhoods and specific properties, and what buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents need to do about it.

Those of you who purchased the 2020 edition of “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions” on Amazon.com will find a lot of new information presented clearly and concisely. The book will be of special value to buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents operating in coastal areas who want to make informed decisions regarding real estate transactions in areas confronting this creeping threat.

I will update the site when the book is available in paperback or Kindle versions, which should be in about two weeks. Thank you for your patience.

Once the book is released, I will get back on track to updating this site on a regular basis with the latest reports regarding sea level rise flooding and real estate.

The Threat of Flooding in Coastal Communities Rises as Sea Level Rise Lifts Water Tables

When Tropical Storm Eta soaked South Florida with torrential rains in November, many property owners far inland were shocked to see streets and homes flood in their neighborhoods. Experts say that the extreme flooding was due to the enormous amount of rain that fell on land already saturated by heavy rains that fell in October. They also said that the nearly 75-year-old canal system built to drain what had for been Everglades swamplands was unable to cope with the volume of water.

Sea level rise was part of the problem, too. The drainage canals rely on gravity to transport water from land to sea. As sea levels rise, the difference in height between water on and under the land and the ocean is becoming narrower. As a result, floodwaters don’t flow as quickly downslope to the sea, and, during extremely high tides, sea water actually tries to rush inland through the canals.

Another reality of the canal system is that if the region is experiencing higher than normal “king tides” during a storm, authorities who oversee the drainage system have to close gates to keep seawater from rushing up the canals. During heavy downpours, floodwaters can get caught behind the gates and, with no place to go, they accumulate and flood the land.

Sea level rise poses another less obvious threat that’s right under our feet. As the sea rises, water pressure causes it to migrate inland underground through porous rock and/or soil. The pressure from the salt water, which is heavier than fresh water, forces the fresh water upward, effectively raising the water table.

This can have several negative effects. When the water table rises, it saturates the land. When it rains, the water that falls cannot be absorbed by the soil and flooding results. Another negative effect is that the groundwater itself can rise up to the surface and create flooding.

An even nastier effect of rising water tables is that floodwaters can, as was experienced in South Florida, flow into the wastewater treatment system through manhole covers and broken pipes greatly increasing the flow to wastewater treatment facilities. This influx of water can cause the facilities to lose efficiency or fail all-together. The higher water tables can also cause on-site septic systems to fail. Both problems can result in the release of stinky, and potentially infectious sewage into floodwaters and onto the land.

The flooding Eta brought to South Florida isn’t unique to the region, and it illustrates a problem that many coastal communities and real estate owners are coping with now or will confront soon as seas continue to rise.

Many coastal communities from Florida to Oahu are racing to cope with the problem of sea level rise-induced rises in water tables. A superb article by Grace Mitchell Tada titled “The Rising Tide Underfoot” recently published in Hakai Magazine discusses in detail how rising seas are threatening Oahu, Hawaii. As Dolan Eversole, a management coordinator with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, told the reporter: “Sea level rise does not look like the ocean coming at us. It looks like the groundwater coming up.”

In South Florida, seawater is migrating inland through porous limestone. In Oahu, it moves through basalt rock. The end result is the same. According to the article, higher water tables are wreaking havoc, flooding residential neighborhoods and commercial and industrial areas. It’s also threatening critical infrastructure, such as roads, pipes that carry fresh water, wastewater, and gas, and underground wires that carry electricity and information.

As the groundwater rises, it also has the potential to release and spread toxic substances, such as oil and chemicals, deposited in the soil, which could lead to environmental catastrophe.

As sea levels continue to rise, groundwater issues will pose an even greater threat to at-risk communities.

Owners and buyers of residential and commercial real estate in coastal areas can’t ignore the threat posed by sea level rise-heightened water tables. The flooding can not only damage their property, it can make driving and communicating difficult, it can cause a spike in maintenance costs and in tax and insurance rates, it can discourage buyers from entering the market, which will drive down prices, it can discourage tourism and other business activity, and it could ultimately lead to lenders and insurers pulling out of the local market altogether, which would be the death knell for a healthy real estate economy.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to combat rising water tables. For example, if you construct sea walls or natural berms, the seawater can easily migrate under and behind them through the porous rock and soil. With this in mind, owners and buyers of real estate in areas at-risk of rising water tables, need to perform due diligence and determine the level of the threat — has it happened in the past, is it happening in the present, and/or how far in the future will it happen. This information is critical when you decide if you can handle the risk and whether it’s worth taking on to begin with.

Are Miami Area Real Estate Owners Ready for 13-Foot Tall Walls to Control Storm Surge?

How do you protect nearly 3 million residents and $311 billion worth of real estate in and around Miami from more intense storm surges driven by climate change and rising seas? That’s the challenge taken on by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the solution its proposing could have a massive impact on real estate owners.

According to a report in the Miami Herald, the Corps has drafted a proposal that includes 10-to-13-foot high walls, moveable storm surge barriers for canal and river openings, along with the elevation of 10,000 homes and floodproofing of 7,000 buildings. The proposal, due to be formally released this spring, carries an $8 billion price tag, 65% of which would be federally funded. Local governments would pick up the rest of the cost.

Included in the proposal is the purchase of 350 properties through eminent domain to make room for the walls. If the plan is approved, the Corps aims to start construction on the massive project by 2026.

The Corps’ plans could have a major impact on the real estate market in Miami and Miami-Dade County. Some property owners could face the prospect of losing their real estate to eminent domain. Those who remain could see a spike in their property taxes and a loss in property value due to the higher taxes and proximity to flood-control structures. For example, properties that lose their water views to concrete walls could witness a drop in value.

Clearly something has to be done to reduce the threat posed by storm surge driven by climate change and rising seas. To protect their real estate investment and financial futures, buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents need to get involved when the final details are being hammered out over the next year.

One point to keep in mind is that the Corps’ plan only addresses storm surge, not sea level rise itself. Because South Florida is built on porous rock, seawater can seep under walls.

Another important point that needs to be considered is that Miami and Miami-Dade County aren’t the only coastal real estate markets facing upheaval due to climate change and sea level rise flooding. Cities and towns all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines are struggling to draft effective plans to combat rising waters. Coming up with the billions of dollars needed to fund their projects is a whole other problem.

Why Coastal Real Estate Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Realtors Should Be Concerned About an Iceberg that Just Broke Off Antarctica

It’s well established that climate change — global warming — is causing glaciers to melt at an ever-quickening pace in Antarctica and Greenland. As a result, sea levels too are rising at a faster rate every year.

The challenge for scientists gathering the data government officials, planners and buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents in coastal cities need to make informed decisions in response to the rising waters is that there is more than glacial melting that can cause sea level to rise. The warming atmosphere and oceans are also eating away at ice shelves floating on the ocean that are the only barriers holding back inland glaciers that, if uncorked by the loss of the floating ice shelves, could raise sea levels not just by inches but by feet.

This point was illustrated today when satellite data showed sometime between February 8 and 9 an iceberg twice the size of Washington, DC, broke off the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. The enormous iceberg itself won’t directly affect sea level rise. Floating ice already displaces a volume of water equal to the amount of water that runs off into the ocean as it melts.

The concern is that this calving event, the latest in increasingly frequent calving events, is another step in glacial retreat that could clear the way for an enormous amount of inland ice to flow into the sea, which would speed up sea level rise. In fact, if inland ice associated with the Pine Island Glacier and nearby Thwaites Glacier were free to flow into the sea, global sea levels could rise by as many as four feet.

Scientists don’t expect The Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier to slide into the sea tomorrow, but they’re still gathering the data they need to estimate when it could happen. With communities all along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines already spending billions of dollars to combat sea level rise flooding, buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents need to keep up on the latest developments in Antarctica and Greenland as if they were local stories. Ultimately, they are.

(The photo from the European Space Agency shows cracks forming on the ice shelf of the Pine Island Glacier in September 2019.)

Twitter Helps Researchers Identify Localized Sea Level Rise Flooding

When it comes to identifying localized sea level rise flooding, tidal gauges aren’t necessarily giving the full picture.

Climate researchers published a study this week in the journal Nature Communications that concluded Twitter may provide a more accurate read on what’s actually going on on the ground. Why? For one thing, there are only 132 tidal gauge stations covering over 3,700 miles of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coastlines. That leaves enormous gaps between the measuring locations.

As a result, the same high tide that causes little or no flooding in a location with a gauge could cause damaging flooding in another location with a different elevation or concentration of people and structures. The study says, “The same degree of inundation could have substantially different social impacts, depending on the distribution of people, infrastructure and economic activity along the coast.”

To get a clearer picture of how the flooding is impacting coastal locations, the researchers studied nearly half a million tweets sent by 5 million Twitter users in about 235 counties. What they found was that nuisance flooding was occurring in many locations that was not detected by tide gauges.

Most of the undetected nuisance flooding occurred in 22 counties, including those that encompass Miami, New York and Boston, with over 13 million people.

Having a clear picture of what’s happening everywhere is critical to drawing up plans to address the sea level rise flooding as the ocean level rises. “Understanding where coastal floods happen, identifying which meteorological and tide conditions produce floods, and grasping the consequences for flood-affected communities and infrastructure is critical for coastal flood preparation and response,” the study said.

Study co-authors, Frances C. Moore, of the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis, and Nick Obradovich, of the Max Plank Institute of Human Development in Berlin, Germany, caution that one major limit of their study is that once people get used to the nuisance flooding they become less likely to report it on social media.

The fact that even tidal gauges can’t always be relied on to give the complete picture of sea level rise flooding in a given area is all the more reason that buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents need to rely on more than one source when considering the flood risk for a given piece of property.

New Report Names Miami the “Most Vulnerable” City in the World for Sea Level Rise Flooding

A new report by Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonpartisan think tank, concludes that Miami will soon become “the most vulnerable major coastal city in the world” for sea level rise flooding, storm surges and other impacts of climate change. The experts based their conclusion on the fact that Miami has billions of dollars worth of real estate and other assets that will be put increasingly at-risk as the seas continue to rise between now 2040.

The RFF published a graphic-rich report titled “Understanding Sea Level Rise in Florida, 2040” last week that illustrates the challenges faced by Miami and the entire state of Florida. The report was created using data collected by the Climate Impact Lab, a group of scientists, economists and other experts who are trying to quantify the impact climate change will have on the world economy in real numbers.

In a press release, the RFF listed the following potential impacts on Florida if the world doesn’t reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming and sea level rise flooding:

  • Severe “100-year floods” will potentially occur once every few years rather than once a century, endangering about 300,000 homes, 2,500 miles of roadways, 30 schools, and four hospitals statewide.
  • Rising seas also threaten the 490,000 Floridians who live on land less than 3 feet above the high-water mark, and coastal properties worth an estimated $145 billion in property value. The counties with the largest number of people facing these risks are Miami-Dade, Broward, Pinellas, Monroe, and Hillsborough.
  • In some areas—the Keys in particular—it is unlikely that communities will be able to meet the costs of raising all public roadways to accommodate higher sea levels by 2045, suggesting that some roads and neighborhoods will need to be abandoned.
  • Miami has over $400 billion in assets put at risk by coastal flooding and storms—the largest amount of any major coastal city in the world.
  • Extreme temperatures and other impacts will seriously affect public health. In a moderate emissions scenario, the rate of mortality is projected to increase by 3.8 deaths per 100,000 Florida residents per year—that’s roughly 1,000 additional deaths annually by 2035.
  • Federal carbon pricing policies, which would reduce these risks, are projected to cost less than $1,000 annually for Florida households earning under $99,000 per year, with costs for higher earners reaching as high as $5,000 annually.

The study’s co-authors said: “Addressing climate change has up-front costs. But failing to address climate change? Those costs are likely to be much greater and long lasting.”

The RFF research was funded by the VoLo Foundation, a private family foundation established to educate the public to create a sustainable and secure planet for generations to come. 

This report further reinforces the fact that buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents in coastal areas need to be aware of sea level rise and its impact on a property of interest, neighborhood and community to make informed decisions that will protect their financial futures.

Owners of Real Estate Impacted by Sea Level Rise Flooding Have to Make Tough Decisions

Video: Owners of real estate impacted by sea level rise flooding have to decide “Should I stay or should I go?”

In the fourth Sea Level Rise Real Estate introductory video, we take a look at the challenges owners face when sea level rise flooding shows up in their communities or at their doors. The challenge for owners is to conduct a cost-benefit analysis that considers the extent of the flooding and what they and their local government can do to address it.

Owners also have to consider their ability to absorb higher costs for home maintenance, flood insurance, homeowners association and condo association fees, and taxes — revenue the government will need for resiliency or retreat. Every property owner has to decide for themselves — based primarily on their age, financial resources, and ability to manage property that floods or is at risk of flooding — how to proceed.

“Sea Level Rise Real Estate for Owners” gives owners a general picture of the issues they need to consider. “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners, and Real Estate Agents” goes more in-depth.

Now You Can Binge Watch the FREE Sea Level Rise Real Estate Introductory Video Series!

Sea level rise flooding is a growing problem for coastal communities along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information out there — and certainly not in one place — to help buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents to make informed decisions about how to respond to the challenge.

I created SeaLevelRiseRealEstate.com and wrote “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions” to give people an understanding of climate change and sea level rise, along with the questions they need to ask and the valuable resources that can provide useful answers, so they’ll make the right decisions based on the threats posed by sea level rise flooding and their ability to address them. To further reinforce the points made on the website and in the book, I produced five introductory videos that I’m posting on this site all at once.

The videos consist of an introductory video followed by videos that each address the central issues that should be of concern to buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate agents. The videos aren’t as comprehensive as the information found in “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions” but they give a great overview of the general issues of concern.

You can view the videos by clicking this link.