“Good chance NYC will sink beneath the sea”

The horrible flooding in Manhattan last month, documented in this amazing photos from Twitter, could become a regular thing.

A cool series of interactive maps from the NYT, showing where sea levels may be for major American coastal cities in the next several hundreds years.  (The title quote is from an opinion piece that doesn’t really explain much, the maps are more interesting.)

From the NYT:

These maps are based on elevation data from the U.S. Geological Survey and tidal level data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Maps show the extent of potential flooding relative to local high tide.

The 25-foot sea level rise is based on a 2012 study in the journal Science, which augmented findings from a 2009 Nature study. They found that 125,000 years ago — a period that may have been warmer than today but cooler than what scientists expect later this century without sharp pollution cuts — the seas were about 20 to 30 feet higher than today. If temperatures climb as expected in this century, scientists believe it would take centuries for seas to rise 20 to 30 feet as a result, because ice sheet decay responds slowly to warming.

They walk you through four maps per city, based on numbers of years passed:

The maps show that by the year 2300, even with moderate cuts in pollution, the following cities will be flooded to the percentage noted next to them:

  • Baltimore 5%
  • Boston 24%, Cambridge 51%
  • Charleston 42%
  • Houston 1%, Galveston 97%
  • LA 2%, Long Beach 20%, Sacramento 27%, SF 11%
  • Long Island 12%
  • Miami Beach 100%, Miami 73%
  • New Orleans 98%
  • New York City 22%
  • Atlantic City 97%
  • Philly 6%
  • Norfolk 78%
  • DC 7%

And here are the maps just for NYC over the next 300+ years, but there are a number of other cities to check out, including Washington, DC, Seattle, San Diego, Philly, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, LA, Boston. It’s kind of cool, in a terrifically frightening disaster movie kind of way.  The light blue is previously above-water land that has become submerged.

A bit more on the problem of rising sea levels, from National Geographic – their numbers seem to parallel the ones the Times is using:

Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the amount is an inexact science. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London and Los Angeles.

And more from CBS:

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management predicts sea levels two to five inches higher in the next decade; seven to 12 inches higher by the 2050’s; and up to nearly 2 feet higher by the 2080s.

And more from the Washington Post on what can be done, and why even small improvements can help:

We’re going to need to adapt to sea-level rise no matter what we do on carbon emissions. Even the “optimistic” scenario in the NCAR paper still envisions sea-levels rising roughly 11 inches by 2100. That’s assuming we cut emissions drastically and the ice sheets don’t do anything too unpredictable. Even then, New York City will have a bigger flood zone than it does today. Storm surges on the coasts will be much larger. Low-lying areas will be at greater risk. In Bangladesh, for instance, the area prone to severe flooding would increase by 69 percent (pdf) with just a foot of sea-level rise.

That said, cutting emissions can make a significant difference this century. Keeping sea-level rise a foot or two lower than it otherwise might be is nothing to sneeze at. As this map of New York City shows, the flood zone increases dramatically with each additional foot of sea-level rise. A city like Norfolk, Va. could get swamped entirely by a Category 3 hurricane if ocean levels rose by two to five feet. Florida’s adaptation costs go up by billions of dollars with each additional foot of sea-level rise. Every little bit helps.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • Fulright

    There will be less room for human populations and this will cause war for space.

  • http://easyemergencypreparedness.com/ Randy Meyer

    This will be inevitable tragedy if we dont start acting from now.This is the last chance to hear the mother earth.

  • klem

    And we’ll look at climate-change believers the same way we now view Moonies of the Unification Church.

  • klem

    That’s being disrespectful to Karma.

  • klem

    I’m not sure what all of the above means since the oceans were 400 feet lower than they are now, just since the last glaciation. Over that time the oceans have risen an average of 6mm per year for the last 20,000 years. So all of this fear that New York will someday be underwater is true, most of the city IS underwater already, its under 400 feet of water. If you look at the ocean when it was 400 feet lower, NY extended much further out that it does now.

    There is nothing new here, just some high school quality maps that seem to scare quite a number of you. Wow.

  • Klem

    That makes no sense. They know that God made the rising waters, so they would never pray to stop the rising waters.

  • dula

    It’s the masses who grow, gather, and distribute the food and water to them though. I hope I’m alive to see the look on their faces when they first realize their money is obsolete.

  • HeartlandLiberal

    Here is my suggestion to deal with this. Get Pat Robertson and Billy Graham Jr. Strap them into chairs. Put the chairs on the beach. Tell them it is their job to pray and stop the rising waters.

  • A reader in Colorado

    That WAS his role. Look at his backers, who refused to investigate, who refused to prosecute, those people who similarly donated to Obama’s presidency.

  • mf_roe

    If Romney’s role was to make Obama look acceptable suddenly all his mistakes begin to look like the magician’s mis-direction.

  • A reader in Colorado

    Whatever ;) I don’t enjoy having a boogeyman doll waved in my face. Having “worse than” being waved as an excuse for being just plain bad and nasty. Especially when it’s totally irrelevant.

    We have two parties that are on a race to hell in terms of our government, then we have apologia for that state of affairs waved at us as having dodged a bullet, which you just saw. We didn’t dodge the bullet. We were offered a choice between shooting our wife and shooting our sister and that choice was god-spelled. Conspiracied. That Obama rejoiced in Romney out of an explicit joy that his own far right wing policies would then never be questioned because Romney was deliberately, contrivedly insane.

    We have been lulled, we have and are being SOLD, into accepting a bullet and rejoicing that it was a bullet to our kidney as opposed to a bullet to the brain.

    And there are those who sell the celebration of such joy, as above. We’re supposed to sign in relief to the “ten times better than”. When, it’s merely being stretched on the rack and having a red hot pocker shoved up our nether regions. For them, I have the middle finger.

  • mf_roe

    We are Rapa Nui. We see the end, but can not change. The old order is in death throes, what comes next is anyone’s guess. Sadly, a truthful accounting of modern civilization yields the conclusion that it has produced more bad than good.

  • A reader in Colorado

    Totally irrelevant. Obama is president now. Oh, and “ten times better than Romney” Oh, B.S. when the policies we’re about to be served are almost identical. The waving-the-boogeyman-doll’s work is done. People were convinced to eat garbage because the alternative offered to them was literal feces. I’m sure in 2016, the Republican on offer will be more right wing and lunatic than Romney, and the Democrat to the right of GWB. Because of party supporters, we’re on the highway to hell.

  • emjayay

    Ten times better than Romney, but ten times less than we need. I’m sure in his second term Obama will be emboldened to do a little something more about climate change, after folding on income and capital gains taxes in exchange for some crumbs.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    Riverside Drive can become an underwater theme park. I can see it all now…

  • emjayay

    More like a few years. And I’m guessing they are mostly the same people that deny all the rest of science like evolution and earth sciences. They will cling to their religion until the water is up to their ears, then they will finally decide it’s Satan’s work or God’s wrath about gays in the military or something.

  • mf_roe

    The Oligarchs believe they are insulated in their sealed off private world, they welcome the coming collapse since it will rid them of the nuisance of the masses.

  • mf_roe

    The human race is mostly composed of followers, it doesn’t matter what “Most” thinks, what matters is “Who” has the best cheerleader, the best Idol. Last time I checked there just wasn’t a “Winner” singing my song.

  • A reader in Colorado

    Obama’s answer to climate change is halfhearted gas milage standards and drilling for natural gas (forgetting that methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases ever). He wants to despoil the Arctic and his groupies went along with that without batting an eye.

  • ezpz

    And yet Obama has been virtually silent on this:

    “…But back in 2009, the off-the-record event with the White House green team at the old executive office building offered the first chance for the White House to share its plans for getting a climate change law through Congress. Aides handed round a one-page memo of polling data and talking points….

    The answer was clear: climate change was not a winning message. Raising the topic would also leave Obama open to attack from industry and conservative groups opposed to intervention in the economy….”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/01/obama-strategy-silence-climate-change

    (Yes, I know he recently said the words or something like them, but…well, talk is cheap, especially coming from him.)

  • A reader in Colorado

    I vote for destruction by neglect – the carbon catastrophe being one aspect of this neglect. People forget that running a civilization takes work. It takes work to remain civilized. We’re no longer even holding up the girders of civilization. Even the bones are being left to decay and rot based on allowing people to buy up and destroy.

    In such an environment, the first major national disaster incident (think, solar flare wiping out our electrical power systems or major disease such as bird flu) to come along will make matters much worse for everyone. We’ll either pull together and take civilization back from the neo-feudalists, or things will just get, uh, bad ;) People are in denial right now.

  • http://blogvader.tumblr.com/ Blogvader

    You think it’s just the ruling class that is parroting climate change denial?

  • Indigo

    Cool maps! Ancient Alexandria is mostly under water now but it’s still Alexandria. 25th century archaeologists will be busy studying the submerged remains of JFK Airport but we can see it now, imagine that! Be not afraid! Maybe Disqus will work by then.

  • mf_roe

    As the ruling class?

  • mf_roe

    Evolution explores all options, if it is sustainable it gets another go, if it isn’t it goes extinct. Humans have been making the same mistakes for thousands of years, but they have also made progress in terms of the reach of their actions. Nuclear weapons aren’t the only weapons of total annihilation, I don’t know which is more likely death by carbon or destruction by superstition.

  • http://blogvader.tumblr.com/ Blogvader

    In a few centuries we’ll look at the climate-change deniers the same way we now view flat-earth believers.

  • A reader in Colorado

    Much of what happens to NYC in my view will be on the pathway human civilization takes. There are two major possible pathways – one is the Downfall pathway that we seem to be on right now. We are bickering while “Rome Burns” in essence.

    As evidence, I offer that major parts of entire cities sit abandoned. Others have been turning essential services like policing into private for profit enterprises. Major cities have started leaving their lights off at night. Corporations like Goldman Sachs and others have been allowed to swindle cities and counties and public entities to such an extent that those entities can never pay back bonds on projects.

    Our human spaceflight program is a disastrous joke with nonsensical goals that lead nowhere, like flag and footprints missions to near earth asteroids. Our country has made no serious steps toward curing ourselves of petroleum as an energy storage medium.

    The Republicans have a plan, which is to essentially loot the government and despoil it and take its assets for plutocrats – they are DownfallERS. The Democrats have NO plan for civilization itself except to talk about resisting that plan and not even often doing that and all too often joining in. We have been on a Downfall trajectory for the last fifty years and it has been accelerating just as climate change accelerating.

    Under those circumstances, with a civilization that is essentially allowed to go to seed, there will be no help and parts of NYC will be gradually abandoned as the waves take them.

    That though is an aspect of civilization and not inevitability. We can rejuvenate our civilization if we choose. We can save our cities, or choose what to do with them if not saving them. But as our civilization decays, what was will simply be abandoned.

    But it requires some big picture thinking and a vision, something which this nation’s leaders, none of them actually have or elicit. They run around like chickens while our civilization itself decays and dies.

    I wonder how many during the fall of Rome actually perceived what they were looking at as it happened over the course of several hundred years.

  • emjayay

    While the maps and tools are new and amazing, none of it is anything my little non-expert brain didn’t know years ago. Unfortunately our country even more than the rest of the world apparently is full of reality-ignoring until it hits them over the head faith-based people, including pretty much all the Republicans in Congress who have been ignoring and/or denying climate change or saying it’s God’s plan and we have nothing to do with it.

    We should have taken care of the low hanging fossil fuel fruit years ago. Off the top of my head without benefit of any actual research:

    Spend billions insulating whatever isn’t already well insulated for free plus install free low-E triple pane windows, because the stupid or cheap or poor or ignorant or faith-based, or some combination of those, people aren’t going to do it themselves. (Example: my small Brooklyn apartment building from around 1930 has no insulation and half single pane windows. Seven years ago the gas stove was replaced with a brand new one with a pretty much uninsulated oven and PILOT LIGHTS! Yes, in New York if you were a real cheapskate you could actually buy such a thing and maybe you still can.)
    Stop all coal use. Stop trading with China until they stop all coal use. Cut the energy hogging military in half. Institute big carbon taxes or cap and trade or both. And a thousand other things that would cut our carbon emissions in half in a couple of years. Followed by harsher measures later.
    Oh, and raise the minimum wage to living wage level.

  • mf_roe

    Karma goes by the name Science now.

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