Put on Your Lifejackets: 14 U.S. Cities That Will Be Underwater by 2050

Climate change is a growing concern across the globe, and one of its most significant threats is rising sea levels. With each passing year, the risk of flooding and coastal erosion becomes greater. According to a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, 14 U.S. cities could be underwater by 2050. Here is a list of those cities and what’s at stake for each.

1. Miami, Florida

Miami
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Miami is already experiencing flooding caused by rising sea levels, with areas like Miami Beach often underwater. Miami Beach, located along the Florida coast, has over 12,000 homes at risk of chronic flooding due to its iconic high rises being just steps away from the beach. Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to the city in 2017, highlighting the threat of extreme weather events. So when will miami be underwater? It’s now a matter of when, not if.  

2. New Orleans, Louisiana

people boarding trolley in new orleans
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New Orleans is no stranger to flooding, with Hurricane Katrina causing federal levee failures and widespread devastation in 2005. The city’s levees have been improved since then, but it remains vulnerable to sea-level rise and the threat of hurricanes. According to the report, parts of the city could be underwater by 2040.

3. Norfolk, Virginia

skyline of Norfolk, Virginia
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Norfolk is a coastal city that is home to several military bases and shipyards. However, it is also one of the cities most at risk of sea-level rise, with the report suggesting that some areas could be underwater by 2040. Hurricane Isabel caused significant flooding in the city in 2003, providing a glimpse of what could be in store.

4. Galveston, Texas

Galveston texas
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Galveston is a historic city that is home to several iconic landmarks, including the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. Along the Texas coast, roughly 3,200 residential properties in Galveston would be at risk, homes that currently represent 17 percent of the local property tax base. Hurricane Ike caused significant damage to the city in 2008, and future storms could be even more destructive.

5. Atlantic City, New Jersey

The Water Club, Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, Atlantic City, New Jersey
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Atlantic City is a popular tourist destination that is known for its beaches and casinos. Almost all of the commercial properties that are at risk in 2045 and 2100 in New Jersey, which amount to about 2,600 and 11,000, respectively, are retail establishments such as hotels, restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, and pharmacies. Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to the city in 2012, highlighting the need for adaptation measures.

6. Charleston, South Carolina

carriage ride in Charleston
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Charleston is a charming coastal city that is known for its history, architecture, and southern hospitality. However, it is also at risk of being partially underwater by 2050 due to sea-level rise and the threat of hurricanes. Hurricane Hugo caused significant damage to the city in 1989, and future storms could be even more destructive.

7. Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis
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Annapolis is the capital of Maryland and is home to several historic landmarks, including the United States Naval Academy and is one of many predicted cities underwater by 2050. In the next three decades, around 12 communities located along the eastern shore of Maryland are expected to face a risk of losing one-third or more of their property tax base. Residents of these communities are particularly vulnerable and have very limited resources to cope with flooding or relocate to safer places. Hurricane Isabel caused significant flooding in the city in 2003, providing a glimpse of what could be in store.

8. Long Island, New York

Long Island, New York
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New York City is one of the most iconic cities in the world and is home to several landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. In the year 2045, there is a possibility that around 15,000 homes in Suffolk, Nassau, and Queens (the largest counties in Long Island) might face chronic inundation. Currently, these homes are inhabited by approximately 40,000 people and have a combined worth of $7.7 billion.  Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to the city in 2012, highlighting the need for adaptation measures.

9. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Boats, Canoes and the Beach in Virginia Beach, Va via Drone
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Virginia Beach is a popular tourist destination that is known for its beaches and boardwalk. However, it is also at risk of being partially underwater by 2050 due to sea-level rise and the threat of hurricanes. Hurricane Isabel caused significant flooding in the city in 2003, providing a glimpse of what could be in store if no action is taken to address the impacts of climate change.

10. San Francisco, California

Golden Gate, San Francisco, California, USA.
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San Francisco is one of the most iconic cities in the United States and is home to several landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. In the next 30 years, around 13,000 houses that are home to approximately 33,000 people in the nine Bay Area counties are in danger of being chronically flooded. The city experienced significant flooding in 2017 due to a combination of high tides and storm surges.

11. Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington north carolina riverwalk
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Wilmington is a coastal city that is home to several beaches and historic landmarks. However, it is also at risk of being partially underwater by 2050 due to sea-level rise and the threat of hurricanes. Hurricane Florence caused significant flooding in the city in 2018, highlighting the need for adaptation measures.

12. Savannah, Georgia

Famous historic Forsyth Fountain in Savannah, Georgia USA
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Savannah is a picturesque coastal city that is known for its historic architecture and southern charm. However, it is also at risk of being partially underwater by 2050 due to sea-level rise and the threat of hurricanes. Hurricane Irma caused significant flooding in the city in 2017, highlighting the need for adaptation measures.

13. Boston, Massachusetts

things to do in boston
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Boston is a historic city that is known for its role in the American Revolution and its many landmarks, including Fenway Park and the Freedom Trail. In Massachusetts, there are large clusters of at-risk homes in Revere, Saugus, and Winthrop— all working-class suburbs of Boston. The city experienced significant flooding in 2018 due to a combination of high tides and storm surges.

14. Houston, Texas

park and water with city skyline in background
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Houston is a major city that is known for its oil industry, space program, and diverse population. However, it is also at risk of being partially underwater by 2050 due to sea-level rise and the threat of hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey caused significant flooding in the city in 2017, highlighting the need for adaptation measures and the importance of addressing the impacts of climate change. So what cities will be underwater in 2050? The threat of rising sea levels and extreme weather events is a growing concern for many coastal cities across the United States. Without action to address the impacts of climate change, many of these cities could be partially or completely underwater by 2050. It is essential that we invest in adaptation measures and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to protect vulnerable communities and ensure a sustainable future for all.

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