Potential for Increased Inundation in Flood-Prone Regions of Southeast Florida in Response to Climate and Sea-Level Changes in Broward County, Florida, 2060–69

Science Center Objects

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Broward County Environmental Planning and Resilience Division, has developed county-scale and local-scale groundwater/surface-water models to study the potential for increased inundation and flooding in eastern Broward County that are due to changes in future climate and sea-level rise. The purpose is to provide information that can be used to help evaluate the increased potential for risk of inundation for various sea-level rise rates and changes in precipitation patterns attributed to climate change in parts of Broward County.

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Broward County Environmental Planning and Resilience Division, has developed county-scale and local-scale groundwater/surface-water models to study the potential for increased inundation and flooding in eastern Broward County that are due to changes in future climate and sea-level rise. These models were constructed by using MODFLOW 2005, with the surface-water system represented by using the Surface-Water Routing process and a new Urban Runoff process. The local-scale model allowed the use of finer grid resolution in a selected area of the county, whereas the county-scale model provided boundary conditions for the local-scale model and insight into the hydrologic behavior of the larger system. The aquifer layering, properties, and boundaries relied heavily on a previous three-dimensional variable-density solute-transport model of the same area developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. The surface-water system within these new models actively simulates a part of the extensive canal network by using level-pool routing and active structure operations within the Surface-Water Routing process. These models were used to simulate a historical base-case period (1990–99) by using measured data and regional climate model rainfall and potential evapotranspiration output. The simulated flow and water-level results generally captured the behavior of the hydrologic system. A future period (2060–69) was simulated by using regional climate model rainfall and potential evapotranspiration output representing a wetter and drier future and low, intermediate, and high sea-level rise projections. The results were used to evaluate the potential effects on the surface-water drainage system, coastal-structure operation, and wet-season groundwater levels.

Location of the study area, Broward County, Florida.

Location of the study area, Broward County, Florida.

Future period simulations using the county-scale model indicate that (1) the effects of the changing climate and sea level are much more evident in eastern and coastal areas of Broward County compared to western areas, with increases in groundwater level nearly equivalent to sea-level rise; (2) coastal groundwater-level increases are distributed farther inland in the wetter future scenarios than in the drier future scenarios; (3) water levels at the westernmost groundwater station locations exhibited little change caused by sea-level rise and showed more dependence on changes in precipitation; (4) there was a reduced west-to-east groundwater gradient with increasing sea-level rise; and (5) increased downstream tidal stage at the S–13 structure resulted in increased reliance on the pump to control upstream inland canal stages. Future simulations using the local-scale model indicate similar behavior as seen in the county-scale model: (1) the coastal areas exhibited the largest impacts in groundwater levels in the future scenarios; (2) the westernmost, interior areas exhibited little change during the future scenarios; and (3) there was an increased reliance on the pump at the S–13 coastal structure but to a lesser extent than indicated in the county-scale model because of the reduced temporal scale of the local-scale model.

Possible adaptation and mitigation strategies were simulated to evaluate the county-scale and local-scale models’ ability to simulate hydrologic changes. Alterations to S–13 pump operations within the county-scale model were tested, and results indicate a reduced effect of sea-level rise inland of the control structure, but the affected area is spatially limited. The concept of using pumps to reduce the local groundwater levels in two neighborhood-sized areas was tested by using the local-scale model. The MODFLOW 2005 Drain package was used to remove groundwater by using drainage elevations set to zero, 1 foot, and 2 feet above average wet-season groundwater levels. Area 1 was well connected to coastal boundaries, and a high rate of groundwater removal was required, whereas the rate of groundwater removal required was greatly reduced in Area 2, which is less connected to tidal boundaries. Water for these scenarios was assumed to be pumped to tide with no downstream effects.