The Everglades Foundation awarded two FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and RIDER Center faculty members a fellowship to collaborate on a new study that explores the impact of climate change on the Everglades.
Existing infrastructure in the Everglades that was built with old climate models in mind may not be suited for the challenges that future climate change scenarios would pose to the landscape. Researchers Nasrin Alamdari and Ebrahim Ahmadisharaf will investigate how climate variables such as rainfall and air temperature could change under various future scenarios, known as climate pathways.
“These physical water infrastructures were designed and operated under historical climate trends which will not necessarily happen in the future,” Alamdari said. “The operation of existing infrastructures and the planning and design of new ones need to be informed by plausible socioeconomic climate pathways.”
Those pathways are possible scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international body of the United Nations for climate change assessments. They consider how society, demographics and economics might change in the future and how those changes could affect greenhouse gas emissions.
Ahmadisharaf’s research focuses on better understanding floods and surface water pollution, which are affected by climate change. Changes in the intensity and seasonality of climate variables will affect flooding.
“Larger rainfalls lead to larger flood risks and more water pollution as a result of more wash off of pollutants from the land surface to the streams,” he said. “Understanding these nonstationary changes is vital to predict floods and surface water pollution in the future.”
The new study will support decisions related to flood hazard mitigation and planning for water infrastructures such as levees and gated spillways. The central and southern Florida water system is unique and complex and is highly managed through several canals, levees and gated spillways.
The faculty members plan to produce high-resolution future climate datasets. The investigation will provide information on the impact of climate change based on hydroclimatic extremes like floods and droughts and the operation of existing physical water infrastructures across central and southern Florida.
Several agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and National Park Service, will benefit from the research.
“The ongoing Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan — a project to restore, preserve and protect the South Florida ecosystem — can benefit from this research,” Ahmadisharaf said. “It is a multibillion-dollar project that was developed with a limited consideration of climate change.”