Want to get a whole bunch of people to really, really care about climate change and rising sea levels? Tell them their internet is at risk.
In a new study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Oregon found that thousands of miles of buried fiber optic cable are at risk of drowning under the rising seas. This isn’t something that will happen in the distant future, but could be a reality in just 15 years, the study suggests. Better backup your Tumblr.
The peer-reviewed study combined data from the Internet Atlas, the map that keeps track of the physical internet, and projections of sea level incursion from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It found that more than 4,000 miles of the conduit that carries the internet to much of the United States could be exposed to seawater by 2033. While the buried fiber optic cables are designed to be water-resistant, they are not waterproof, and that means potential trouble for coastal residents who like the internet (a.k.a. everyone but Luddites, infants, and my grandma).
The most susceptible networks are those of CenturyLink, Inteliquent, and AT&T, while the U.S. cities at highest risk of losing internet access are New York, Miami, and Seattle. However, the effects of internet outages in those areas would ripple across the internet faster than a viral cat video.