Before condo collapse, rising seas have long pressured Miami coastal properties

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The 12-story condo tower that crashed down early Thursday near Miami Beach was built on reclaimed wetlands and is perched on a barrier island facing an ocean that has risen about a foot in the past century due to climate change.

Underneath its foundation, as with Miami Beach, is sand and organic fill —over a plateau of porous limestone — brought in from the bay after the mangroves were deforested. The fill sinks naturally and the subsidence worsens as the water table rises.

Investigators are just beginning to try to unravel what caused the Champlain Towers South to collapse into a heap of rubble and leave 99 people missing. Experts on sea level rise and climate change caution that it is too soon to speculate if rising seas helped destabilize the oceanfront condo. The 40-year-old building was relatively new compared with others on its stretch of beach in the town of Surfside.

But it’s already clear that South Florida has been on the front lines of sea level rise and that the impacts of climate change on the infrastructure of the region — from septic systems to aquifers to shoreline erosion — will be a management problem for years to come.

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