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- Rising sea levels threaten to submerge entire cities by 2100.
- The cities most vulnerable to flooding in the US are low-lying coastal areas.
- If the worst projections of sea-level rise wind up being correct, cities like Miami and New Orleans could find themselves underwater.
No city is immune to the effects of a warming world, but a few are more vulnerable than the rest.
As sea levels continue to rise, low-lying coastal cities can expect more devastating floods that ruin buildings, destroy infrastructure, and claim lives.
By conservative estimates, cities around the world could witness more than 6 feet of flooding by the year 2100. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that sea levels could rise by 10 to 12 feet if global emissions continue unabated.
But these numbers are averages, which means some areas would see higher levels, while others would be less affected. Under the worst-case climate scenario, some cities might even disappear underwater.
Though it’s possible for cities to install new infrastructure and artificial barriers to protect themselves from climate change, time is running out. Here are the 7 cities in the US most likely to disappear underwater by 2100.
New Orleans, Louisiana is already sinking.
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New Orleans still hasn’t fully recovered from the catastrophic damage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The city’s location on a river delta makes it vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. Some areas lie 15 feet below sea level. Though wetlands have shielded New Orleans from storm surges in the past, that buffer has gradually been destroyed by human activity.
Much of the city’s land is already sinking. A 2016 NASA study found that certain parts of New Orleans are sinking at a rate of 2 inches per year, putting them on track to be underwater by 2100.
In Miami, Florida, sea levels are rising faster than those in other areas of the world.
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Environmental author Jeff Goodell has referred to Miami as "the poster child for a major city in big trouble."
The city’s sea levels are already rising fast enough to damage homes and roads. A 2018 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists suggested that 12,000 homes in Miami Beach are in danger of chronic flooding within the next 30 years. That puts around $6.4 billion worth of property at risk — the most of any coastal community examined in that report.
A 2016 study published in the journal Nature Climate Change also identified a "super concentration" of at-risk residents in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. According to that research, these counties could account for one out of every four people affected by sea-level rise in the US between the years 2010 and 2100.
Even if seas only rise by the most conservative estimates, the city might have to raise its structures to stay above water.
"Miami as we know it today — there’s virtually no scenario under which you can imagine it existing at the end of the century," Goodell previously told Business Insider.
Houston, Texas could be inundated by another storm like Hurricane Harvey.
Like New Orleans, areas of Houston are sinking at a rate of 2 inches per year. The main culprit is excessive groundwater pumping, which creates a change in pressure and volume that prompts the land to sink.
Since Houston isn’t a coastal city, it’s unlikely to be wiped out by sea-level rise alone. But an increase in storms and hurricanes — combined with its low elevation and sinking terrain — could cause parts of the city to be underwater frequently in the future.
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