Bad news for anyone who lives on the coast, or has one of these fifteen cities on their bucket list… because thanks to rising sea levels, they will soon be underwater. (However, if you’ve always dreamed of living on the coast, just give it time - the coast may come to you!) Climate change is no joke, and sea levels are rising as the ice caps melt, while hurricanes and storms also contribute to the destruction of low-lying coastal areas.
Estimates vary, of course, but it’s predicted that sea levels could rise as much as eight feet by 2100, and while that might seem like nothing, it would make a huge difference to the cities of the United States. A rise of even a foot could put some cities underwater; although maybe not quite to the extremes of the Atlantean legend that that phrase conjures up. Instead, rising sea levels are predicted to cause ‘chronic and disruptive flooding’ - that is, enough constant flooding to make parts of the city permanently uninhabitable. So get booking your trips to these fifteen US cities - you may not be able to visit in another few decades' time.
25 Underwater: Cleopatra’s Palace, Alexandria, Egypt
Legends of Cleopatra and her beauty are well known, as are tales of one of the original Wonders of the World - the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Sadly, however, both the lighthouse and Cleopatra’s palace were cast into the sea courtesy of an earthquake around 1400 years ago. However, the ruins of Cleopatra’s palace and the Temple of Isis have now been found, and the site is open to divers… although many of the most stunning relics have been removed for museum tours.
24 Miami, Florida
Miami Beach is known for its hot sunny days and incredible nightlife, but it’s not going to be around for long. Take advantage of the clubs and restaurants before 2050 (and perhaps even before the mid 2020s), because environmental writer Jeff Goodell predicts that Miami may be underwater sooner than you think. Goodell is, admittedly, writing intentionally shocking predictions - but they come from a basis in hard fact. He suggests that when flooding starts washing away the beaches, it will simply be too expensive for the government to maintain them.
23 Atlantic City, New Jersey
At least gamblers can still head to Vegas, as the desert city is definitely not one under threat from the encroaching ocean! However, east coasters who are looking for a flutter may be out of luck if they are planning a trip to Atlantic City. New Jersey is another area that (like Florida) will be particularly hard hit by rising sea levels, especially along the touristy boardwalk. Want a sneak peek of things to come for Atlantic City? Have a look at the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy.
22 Key West, Florida
As an Island City, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Key West is likely to be one of the first US cities to start flooding thanks to rising sea levels. By 2060, it’s estimated that over 60% of the livable land here will be flooded (rising to nearly 95% in 2100). So if you want to go see Hemmingway’s house or Mallory Square, you might want to do it soon. Or, of course, learn to dive, and see it from under the waves in a few decades time instead.
21 Underwater: Minoan City Of Olous
Unlike most of the sunken cities on this list, you don’t need to be an archeologist or expert scuba diver to enjoy exploring what was once the Minoan City of Olous. Located on Crete (or technically, just off the coast), Olous sank into the sea after an earthquake but remains extremely close to the surface. Some of the city walls even poke up out of the waves, and tourists can dive the site, but can also choose to simply snorkel through the ruins instead. Of course, being so accessible means that there’s not a whole lot left to discover at this site, but the odd coin may still pop up underwater.
20 Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a resort city and port city known as a great destination for cruise ships and family weekends - and tourists flock here for the beaches and botanical gardens. However, like many ports and islands, the proximity of the water (the very thing that keeps so many coming back) is why Galveston is going to be flooded sooner rather than later. By 2060, nearly half of the livable land is likely to be flooded, and by 2100, over ninety percent will be underwater. Those cruise ships may want to start looking further inland for new places to visit soon…
19 Underwater: Dwarka, Gulf of Cambay, India
Atlantis may be the most famous of legendary sunken cities, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. In India, the legend of Dwarka (the city founded by Krishna himself) may have been substantiated by the discovery of an underwater ruin. According to legend, the city of Dwarka sank on Krishna’s death, and while the ruins (discovered in 2000) cannot be proven to be the city of the legends, artifacts from as early as 7500 BCE have been found at the site.
18 Seattle, Washington
Seattle is more than capable of dealing with water falling from the skies, and it’s not exactly known as a beachy spot (unlike many entries on this list). However, the birthplace of Starbucks and Grunge is not in for an easy few decades. According to James Rufo Hill, a climatologist, large parts of the city may find themselves flooded every hide tide - by as soon as 2050. Georgetown, South Park, Harbor Island, Interbay, and Golden Gardens are some of the areas he mentions specifically, and that covers a large part of the city.
17 Underwater: The Pyramids of Yonaguni-Jima, Japan
This is one of the oldest underwater ‘cities’ on our list - and there is some debate as to whether it is a city at all. Some experts believe that this enormous pyramid (on the South side of Yonaguni Island) is actually a natural formation, but most look at the terraces and steps (and overall clearly defined pyramid shape) and believe that this must once have been made by man. The most likely theory is that this was built during the last Ice Age, when this would have been above sea level, and was then slowly reclaimed by the waves.
16 St Pete Beach, Florida
In case the name didn’t give it away, St Pete’s is all about the beaches. Surfing, water sports, sunbathing, day trips to other beaches, meals looking out over the beaches… St Pete’s is all beach, all the time - and it’s going to all be underwater by 2100. Current figures predict that by 2060, half the livable land of St Pete’s Beach will be underwater, and that rises to 99.5% by the turn of the century. Like many other beach spots, the shoreline is the first to go - and with it, the tourism here.
15 Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island is a small island near Savannah, Georgia, and it’s hugely popular as a beachy day trip during the summer months. This picturesque tourist spot is in danger, though, as rising sea levels threaten to flood around 30% of the livable land on the island by 2060. That’s not all, however. Savannah itself may also be in danger of being flooded - and even if much of the city can be saved, some of the most beautiful old mansions along the water are likely to be destroyed.
14 Underwater: Phanagoria
Also known as the Russian Atlantis, this ancient Greek city is partially sunken into the Black Sea, although large parts of the site can still be explored aboveground. Of the sunken cities on this list, Phanagoria is probably the one that least is known about. Although expeditions have discovered stone structures under the waves, it’s not known why the city was abandoned or how it came to be underwater. Studying the site is also difficult, as sand has piled up over the years, obscuring much of the ancient city.
13 Charleston Central, South Carolina
This charming historic district has already been hit by several tropical storms in recent years that have seen cruise ships diverted and flooding in the streets. These storms may soon seem like just a little extra rain, though, if figures are correct in predicting the flooding of Central Charleston over the next few decades. By 2060, around a quarter of the livable land will be underwater, with that rising to over half by 2100. Get your fill of Charleston’s gorgeous historic architecture now…
12 New Orleans, Lousiana
Much like Atlantic City, we’ve already seen what the power of nature can do to New Orleans, thanks to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Big Easy managed to recover from the massive flooding and destruction over the past decade, but Louisiana’s most famous city is going to have to deal with a lot more if sea levels rise as predicted. One of the areas of the US likely to be hit hardest, it’s even likely that current coastal restoration projects will become useless before they are finished, overtaken by the water.
11 Underwater: Lion City of Quiandao Lake, China
Originally, this city was known as Shi Cheng, although the distinctive architecture has since meant that tourists often refer to it as Lion City. And tourists flock here for diving, to see this incredibly beautiful city that rests at the bottom of a lake. This is one of those rare cases where a city was actually intentionally flooded when Quiandao Lake was created as part of a hydro-electric project. Now, Lion City sits under around 80-100 feet of water and is still wonderfully well preserved. It’s even been recently re-mapped, and divers love exploring it.
10 LA, California
Not all of Los Angeles will be overtaken by water at the start - and as a massive, sprawling city, the areas furthest inland have little to be too concerned about in terms of seeing direct flooding. However, some of the most popular areas of LA are definitely in for some problems as sea levels rise. According to some predictions, climate change could see Venice, Long Beach, and Santa Monica destroyed. As always, it’s the beautiful coastal areas and touristy beaches that will be the hardest hit. Seems that people who prefer the suburbs to the water may be in luck as the world changes.
9 Underwater: Baiae, Ancient Roman Underwater City In Italy
The Romans were known for their pursuit of pleasure, and the Underwater City of Baiae is a monument to their love of fun… and possibly one of the earliest ever ‘resort towns’. A little bit like a Roman Vegas, Baiae was known for its hot springs and baths, a permanent holiday spot for the rich and famous of Rome. However, the city was sacked by the Saracens in the 8th century, and with sea levels rising and slowly flooding the resort, it was abandoned. Now, statues and mansions are on the ocean floor waiting to be explored.
8 San Diego, California
Another Californian city that shouldn’t be a big surprise to find on this list is San Diego. This sunny city sees hundreds of thousands of tourists flood in annually for Comic-Con, but this nerdy extravaganza may have to relocate within the next few decades. Scientists predict that tides may rise anywhere from one to four feet by 2050 - and should that happen, it’s going to flood a whole lot of the streets closest to the water. And the beaches and waterfront that are so lovely to stroll along? Gone as well, of course, completely underwater.
7 Underwater: Thonis-Heracleion
This Egyptian city was once the main port for all entrance into Egypt - and the discovery of it on the ocean floor has helped archeologists prove that the land one stretched much further into what is now the sea. Thonis (the Egyptian name) or Heraclion (the Greek), was found on the ocean floor around 6.5km off the coast. Divers have discovered shipwrecks, statues, and temples, although they have yet to discover how the waters overtook this once-bustling Egyptian city. Could it have been an earthquake, a natural disaster… or did sea levels simply rise over the top of it all?
6 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
If you haven’t noticed by this point in the list, it seems that Florida is going to be one of the hardest-hit areas when it comes to climate change and rising sea levels. Fort Lauderdale, North of Miami, is similarly popular with visitors for its gorgeous beaches. However, climate scientists predict that the beachfront is pretty much doomed. According to researcher Benjamin Strauss “even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level.”
5 Hoboken, New Jersey
New Jersey is going to be hard hit with rising sea levels - and Hoboken is far from the only place that is going to see some serious flooding. The city across from Manhattan is likely to be around 50% underwater by 2060, but several other New Jersey cities are as well (although they may not be as well known). We’ve already mentioned Atlantic City, and Ocean City, Ventnor City, Pennsville, Little Ferry, Brigantine, Margate City, and Secaucus are also all likely to be significantly wetter in the next few decades. And of course, while these are likely to see the worst flooding, the surrounding areas aren’t likely to get off lightly, either.
4 Port Royal, Jamaica
You may have heard of Port Royal already… especially if you have an interest in pirates (or have watched Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean). Originally on the island of Jamaica, Port Royal was known as the ‘Wickedest City In The World’ (to some, anyway), famous for piracy, drinking, and all the other vices that go along with it. However, an earthquake in 1692 dropped the city into the sea - some say as a punishment for its inhabitants’ sins. Now, it’s a dive site on the ocean floor.
3 Honolulu, Hawaii
Surfers may lose one of their favorite vacation spots, and beach bums will have far less beach to sunbathe on because it looks like Hawaii is going to be one of the places where even a relatively small rise in sea level will make a big difference. It’s been estimated that a rise of as little as an inch could mean losing eight feet of shoreline - so considering that sea levels are predicted to rise several feet in the next decade, Honolulu may be one of the places that will disappear first.
2 New York, New York
Not even the Big Apple will be spared - which shouldn’t be too surprising. Although it may be one of the most famous cities in the world, it’s also on an island… and islands don’t tend to fare too well when sea levels rise. New predictions suggest that sea level may rise 4-8 inches over the next decade, enough to start causing problems. And a five-foot rise would mean La Guardia airport and portions of Manhattan would be underwater (which may not be that far, given that an eight-foot rise may happen in the next century).
It may be the stuff of legends, but there is simply no way to write a list about underwater cities and not include Atlantis! The myths surrounding this city have grown to include theories about aliens, pyramids, crystals and more, but originally started with Plato in Ancient Greece. Now, Atlantis is seen as anything from a purely fictional city used to tell a story about pride, to the birth of civilization, to prove that aliens have been to Earth. It’s never been confirmed as found, but that hasn’t stopped dedicated divers from searching for the ruins.