Currently viewing the tag: "Climate"

miami temperature data 1880-2008Check out this cool site sponsored by NASA that compiles all of the surface temperature data from around the world, dating as far back as 1880 in some places. Pretty cool stuff. And no, it isn’t your imagination, it is getting much hotter in Miami.

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A new report from the National Research Council shows that compact development, if done correctly, can result in reductions of VMT’s of up to 25% - over the next 40 years.

Requested by Congress and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Special Report 298: Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions examines the relationship between land development patterns and motor vehicle travel in the United States.

According to the committee that wrote the report, the most reliable research studies estimate that doubling residential density in a metropolitan area might lower household driving between 5 percent and 12 percent. If higher density were paired with more concentrated employment and commercial locations, and combined with improvements to public transit and other strategies to reduce automobile travel, household driving could be lowered by as much as 25 percent.  By reducing vehicle use, petroleum use and CO2 emissions would also be lessened.

You can read the full report here. The long time horizon means that while compact development will play an important role in mitigating our carbon footprint in the long term, it will not be enough to slow the brunt of climate change in the short term.

A commenter from another blog recently brought up a point about Miami’s climate, and how it may affect transit and mobility, as well as why it is rarely mentioned on Transit Miami. Because it’s true we speak little of local climate-related issues and many people use Miami’s climate as an excuse to drive everywhere, I thought now would be a good time to formally address the concern.

The reason weather is rarely discussed on this site is because we think for the most part it is a non-issue. By and large, Miami‘s climate doesn’t pose any more problems than in any other city. Sure, we get a lot of rain during the wet season, but our frequency of rain is actually less than that of many other cities. What I’m saying is, it may rain hard in parts of Miami for short periods, but rarely will the same location get poured on day-after-day-after-day. On the other hand, it can be rainy, wet, foggy, and cold all day long in London, Copenhagen, or even Boston and New York. It’s not unusual for this to happen across the entire city, for several straight days anytime during the year. This doesn’t stop nearly 40% of Copenhagen residents from biking to work each day. Nor do several month long bouts of frigid weather stop people from using transit from Montreal to Moscow. Miami is fortunate enough to have six months of practically rain-free weather with temps between 75 and 82 degrees – most cities that are already transit-oriented could only dream of having such a climate.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most people commute early in the morning when temperatures are nearly at their coolest, which is certainly bearable even during Miami‘s hot wet season. Thus, riding a bike at a leisurely pace with mild morning temperatures, you probably won’t even break a sweat. However, businesses and/or buildings should be equipped with shower facilities in case you were to break a sweat. Toronto, for example, has a program in place which is aimed at being bicycle-friendly, whereas all new buildings of a certain square footage must be equipped with shower facilities. Moreover, with improved transit and new lines, people can bike short distances to transit, then ride in AC downtown or wherever you are employed.

In poorly designed places, heat does have the potential to be oppressive. This is why it’s so important to adhere to quality urban design principles, with buildings having short setbacks coupled with awnings or sidewalk shade trees (this usually means higher density – one more reason why it’s not an evil thing). Mayor Diaz is trying to attack this issue with a Tree Master Plan, with goals to improve the City’s tree canopy by 30% by 2020. Developers need to do their part, too, by making their street frontages more protected from sun.

This is one more reason why low-density sprawl is so bad, especially in South Florida‘s climate. Think about it: If you’re walking along a typical suburban, car-oriented street where everyone has a driveway and one-story flat homes are set way back, you’re probably baking in the sun. However, walking along Miracle Mile or Main Highway is much more pleasant because trees and/or urban design elements are providing shade.

And lastly, rain is definitely a non-issue for pedestrians - all you need is an umbrella!

Photo courtesy of slowernet’s flickr photostream

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Photo Source: Miami Herald via Green Peace, AP File 2006

Our global warming crisis continues to become more foreboding. Today the Herald reported findings from a recent study that predicts serious local climate change in South Florida’s future. According to the study, which is one of the first to predict local climate change stemming from global warming, by 2100 South Florida will likely have a novel climate that is warmer, drier, and unlike any other on Earth. Among the findings:

  • Mean temperatures in South Florida could rise by 5-7 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer/wet season (+ 3 ½ degrees in the winter/dry season)
  • High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90’s can be expected during the summer/wet season
  • Much drier conditions: 3 ½ fewer inches of rainfall during the wet season (Note: Drier does not mean less humid)
  • Even if worldwide action reduces greenhouse gas emissions, 4-20 percent of the world’s land could experience novel climates
These findings have grave implications for South Florida. As I noted above, a “drier” climate does not mean a less humid climate. High temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s coupled with high humidity would make it feel like 110-120 degrees based on heat indexes. Also to consider, the 5-7 degree rise is in mean temperature, which is the average temperature over a 24-hour period. For the last 30 years, Miami’s mean temperature has averaged about 83 degrees during the peak of the summer/wet season. If the predictions are true, then our average daily temperatures could be as high as 90 degrees! Imagine stifling days with highs of 95 and lows of 85. Factor in humidity, and even our nights would feel as warm as 100 degrees!

All of this does not even consider the potentially catastrophic effects of rising sea levels, increased frequency of major hurricanes, drought, and the decimation of the Everglades. It is now critical that we begin making major changes in the way we live and the way our cities function. Given the implications of climate change in South Florida, you would think that our region would be on the leading edge of sustainable urban planning. Sadly, as we all know, this is not currently the case. Yes, Mayor Diaz should be complemented for his green building proposal, Miami 21, and the Miami Streetcar initiative, but this barely scratches the surface of sustainability. We need a progressive, regional effort to significantly reduce our dependence on the automobile, boost alternative transportation modes, and design sustainable, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. We cannot wait any longer to act.

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