Hundreds of US towns will be under water, says new study

According to a Climate Central-led study, historic carbon emissions have already locked in enough future rises in sea levels to put several hundred American towns and cities under water.

The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (citation below), warns that if current pollution continues unchecked through to the end of this century, over 1,500 US towns and cities could be submerged.

In an Abstract in the journal, the researchers wrote:

“Analysis based on previously published relationships linking emissions to warming and warming to rise indicates that unabated carbon emissions up to the year 2100 would commit an eventual global sea-level rise of 4.3–9.9 m.”

American towns under waterUS towns (orange and white) that will be under water if sea levels rise by just 5 feet by the end of this century. (Source: Climate Central)

The animated timeline at the bottom of this page maps, year by year, how these cities could be locked in by water.

The researchers lay out an alternative timeline based on severe carbon cuts, which could lead to fewer than 700 submerged cities.

You can watch how the threats unfold across the US, or within individual states, and track the potential fate of each county. Click on the ‘Start’ button below to begin.

According to Climate Central:

“Our research does not project, and this animation does not show, exactly when sea level will reach heights great enough to pose these dangers — likely centuries.”

“Rather, our findings assess when enough carbon pollution will have accumulated, under each scenario, to lock in future sea level rise posing existential threats for each town or city — sea level rise that could submerge land where more than half of today’s population lives. This summary discusses the research and findings further.”

Most of Miami will be submerged

Unless you are a Republican presidential hopeful, you have probably accepted the fact that climate change is a reality and the seas will rise.

After reading the report, Miami New Times reporter, Tim Elfrink, wrote that at some point, low-lying Miami-Dade County in Florida is going to be completely under water.

Mr. Elfrink wrote:

“The latest evidence came yesterday, with a new study that found that even in the absolute best case scenario – massive cuts in carbon emissions worldwide in the very near future – most of Miami would still sink beneath the rising seas. For Dade County, it’s probably already too late.”


Carbon choices determine US cities committed to futures below sea level, Benjamin H. Strauss, Scott Kulp, and Anders Levermann. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). October 2015. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1511186112.

Interactive – US Cities We Could Lose to the Sea

Click on ‘Start’ below to begin.