By the end of the century, sea levels in New York City could rise as much as six feet, leaving huge swathes of the city at risk from flooding in future mega-storms. But as the city scrambles to prepare, a new map looks even farther into the future: If a third of the world’s ice sheets melt, New York will almost completely disappear.
Granted, if this happens, it won’t be for a very long time–maybe 1,000 to 10,000 years, by some very rough estimates. But cartographer Jeffrey Linn wanted to look at the full consequences of climate change. His map, which shows the few high spots of New York that would survive a 100-foot sea-level rise, is the latest in a series looking at the future of coastal cities.
“The maps that show what will happen within our childrens’ or grandchildrens’ lifetimes is fairly well-worn territory,” says Linn. “What I haven’t seen much of are maps that take it to the end point of what is possible in a thousand or more years.”
This GIF shows the sea level going even higher, to the maximum of a 250 feet rise if all ice sheets melt:
“To my knowledge, no one else has really done this in a cartographically detailed way, looking closely at individual cities,” he says. “I’ve seen some Google Earth or Google Maps applications that let you model these scenarios, but the maps are coarse. I wanted to make something that hasn’t been seen before, and is beautiful, detailed, and extreme.”
Linn chose not to include skyscrapers, though in the current Manhattan skyline, hundreds or possibly even thousands of buildings would poke up above the water. Perhaps, he says, the skyscrapers couldn’t survive the tides. “Another thing to consider is that it would be a long, gradual process–who knows what these buildings would become in that time frame.”
He spends hours coming up with playful names for former neighborhoods that are underwater: Park Sloop, the Wet Village, the Upper West Tide. “I enjoy imagining that at some point far in the future, these names will be used by our descendants, but language changes, cultures rise and fall,” Linn says. “I just hope that so far in the future humans are still around, and these parts of the world are still inhabitable.”