Rising Sea Levels a Growing Risk to Coastal U.S., Study Says – NYTimes.com

14 Mar

Nonprofit Climate Central is releasing research on vulnerabililty to coastal flooding.

About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research.

If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.

To check out your vulnerability, you can search this map by ZIP code.

via Rising Sea Levels a Growing Risk to Coastal U.S., Study Says – NYTimes.com.

The report is available online here. From the executive summary:

Global warming has raised sea level about 8 inches since 1880, and the rate of rise is accelerating. Scientists expect 20 to 80 more inches this century, a lot depending upon how much more heat-trapping pollution humanity puts into the sky. This study makes mid-range projections of 1-8 inches by 2030, and 4-19 inches by 2050, depending upon location across the contiguous 48 states.

Rising seas dramatically increase the odds of damaging floods from storm surges. For over two-thirds of the locations analyzed (and for 85% of sites outside the Gulf of Mexico), past and future global warming more than doubles the estimated odds of “century” or worse floods occurring within the next 18 years — meaning floods so high they would historically be expected just once per century. For over half the locations analyzed, warming at least triples the odds of century-plus floods over the same period. And for two-thirds the locations, sea level rise from warming has already more than doubled the odds of such a flood even this year.

These increases are likely to cause an enormous amount of damage. At three quarters of the 55 sites analyzed in this report, century levels are higher than 4 feet above the high tide line. Yet across the country, nearly 5 million people live in 2.6 million homes at less than 4 feet above high tide. In 285 cities and towns, more than half the population lives on land below this line, potential victims of increasingly likely climate-induced coastal flooding. 3.7 million live less than 1 meter above the tide.

About half of this exposed population, and eight of the top ten cities, are in the state of Florida. A preliminary independent analysis suggests about $30 billion in taxable property is vulnerable below the three-foot line in just three counties in southeast Florida, not including the county with the most homes at risk in the state and the nation, Miami-Dade. Small pockets or wide areas of vulnerability, however, exist in almost every other coastal state.

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