Climate Central, NOAA, et al.

Miami, Boston, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and other places that could have entire neighborhoods underwater by 2050.

Two to 7 feet: That's how much scientists expect the sea level to rise by 2100 if humanity doesn't curb its greenhouse-gas emissions.

Seem like there's a rather large amount of wiggle room in that estimate? Well, even the best-case scenario is awful, as you can see in the maps below.

These aquatic models, based on U.S. government data, arrive courtesy of Climate Central, a group of journalists and researchers in New Jersey. On Thursday, the organization released a report of doom showing what could happen when storm surges strike in this higher-seas environment. To boil it down: Many coastal cities are facing massive, devastating flooding. Says Climate Central:

Global warming has raised global sea level about 8 inches since 1880, and the rate of rise is accelerating. Rising seas dramatically increase the odds of damaging floods from storm surges. A Climate Central analysis finds the odds of “century” or worse floods occurring by 2030 are on track to double or more, over widespread areas of the U.S. These increases threaten an enormous amount of damage. Across the country, nearly 5 million people live in 2.6 million homes at less than 4 feet above high tide — a level lower than the century flood line for most locations analyzed.

Today, we can scratch our heads over the news that the island nation of Kiribati is making plans to relocate to someplace higher. But in mere decades from now, thousands of residents of New York City, New Orleans, Boston, Washington, D.C., and southeast Florida could be making similar grim preparations. These are some of the places most at risk from grand-scale floods exacerbated by climate change, according to the study. In human terms, that's 284,000 people in New Orleans whose homes could be underwater by 2100, 141,000 in NYC and 312,000 in the Florida counties of Miami-Dade and Broward.

You can read more about this new research in the Climate Central report and this AP dispatch, but here's the short mappy version. (Play around with the interactive mapping tool here, searchable by zip code.) Behold, Miami with a 2-foot sea-level gain above high tide. White areas bordered in blue represent dry land. The ocean has bitten off large mouthfuls of beach real estate:

Miami with a 7-foot rise above high tide. Basically, there's nothing left:

New York City with a 2-foot rise above high tide. East New York suffers hard in this scenario, and so does New Jersey:

With a 7-foot rise above high tide. Coney Island's gone, the fringes of lower Manhattan are submerged and... what's that? No, not Redhook! Where will Brooklynites get their cheap furniture and Swedish meatballs now?

Boston with a 2-foot rise above high tide:

Boston with a 7-foot rise above high tide. Phew, Little Italy survives:

Los Angeles at 2 feet above high tide didn't have too much of a hole in it. But at 7 feet, the loss is significant:

About the Author

John Metcalfe
John Metcalfe

John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.

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