Impacts of sea level rise on population and real property in the Florida Keys

Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor's Name

Keqi Zhang

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Michael S. Ross

Third Advisor's Name

Jeff Onsted


LiDAR, Florida Keys, sea level rise, hypsometric curves, GIS, inundation

Date of Defense



The Florida Keys is one of the most susceptible island chains in the United States to sea level rise induced inundation because most elevations are lower than 2 m above current sea level. By analyzing a digital elevation model (DEM) derived from airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) measurements using a geographic information system (GIS), this paper estimates the potential impacts of a series of sea level rise scenarios from 0.15 to 5 m on the Florida Keys. The results showed that a 0.5 m sea level rise by the end of this century would inundate a large area, about 66% of the total area of the Florida Keys. However, this extent of sea level rise would not inundate a large percentage of the current population (<9%) and property (<14%). In contrast, a 1.5 m rise in sea level would inundate 90% of the land and 70% of population and property in the Florida Keys. Comparison of inundation dynamics using hypsometric curves demonstrated that, among the major Keys population centers. Big Pine Key is most susceptible to sea level rise, followed by Key Largo and Key West. Thus, inundation dynamics need to be considered in policy-making.



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