In less than three decades, the sea level in coastal cities in the U.S. could rise by an average of 10 to 12 inches—about the same amount it rose over the last century. A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gives detailed projections for sea level rise in every state through the year 2150. In some areas, like the Gulf Coast, the water could rise as much as a foot and a half by the middle of this century.
A mapping tool from NOAA lets you see what that might mean for your own neighborhood. When you type in your city and zoom in on your location, you can adjust a slider on the side to see which areas will flood with each foot of sea level rise. Areas that will be inundated are dark blue, and low-lying areas that also could flood show up in green. (On the map of Manhattan, some areas near Fast Company’s office are already green.) The map doesn’t predict the risk for specific properties, unlike some other tools, but helps illustrate the magnitude of the problem.
Flooding already costs the U.S. billions of dollars each year. One study predicts that in 2022, floods will cause $13.5 billion in structural damage for commercial buildings alone, along with another $26 billion in lost output, $3 million in lost days of building operation, and $23 billion in costs from the indirect impacts of days when businesses can’t open.
Some 15 million American houses are already at risk of flooding. But the problem keeps getting worse as the planet heats up, both because of heavier storms and because of sea level rise. NOAA projects that moderate flooding will happen 10 times more often by the middle of the century than it does today. Major flooding will happen five times more often.
By the end of the century, an average of 2 feet of sea level rise is likely in coastal cities. If emissions don’t fall quickly enough, the water could rise between 3.5 and 7 feet, swamping entire neighborhoods in places like Miami.