Bad news for anyone who lives on the coast or has one of these fifteen USA 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 massive difference to several cities in 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 USA cities - you may not be able to visit in another few decades' time.
Updated by Gabriel Kirellos, November 5th, 2021: With more information coming in about climate change and its risks, and the studies showing the devastating effects of the climate crisis, it was time to provide some additional information about the dates when those 15 USA cities are expected to be flooded. It's time to learn when Miami, FL will be submerged, when Atlantic City, NJ will become completely underwater, and what awaits New Orleans, LO, in the coming decades. Read on to know the chilling new details about the future and fate of 15 USA cities.
15 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. On July 14 of this year, the NOAA predicted more flooding for South Florida in 2021.
14 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 looking for a flutter may be out of luck if they plan 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. Atlantic City is expected to be completely underwater in the coming 58 years.
13 Key West, Florida
As an Island City, it shouldn't come as a shock that Key West will likely 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 instead. It is expected that some critical roads in the Key West will flood by 2025 due to sea rise.
12 Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a resort city and port city known as an excellent 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 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…
11 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 has not been in for a leisurely few decades. According to James Rufo Hill, a climatologist, large parts of the city may be 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, covering a large part of the city.
10 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 submerged, rising 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.
9 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.
8 Charleston Central, South Carolina
In recent years, this charming historic district has already been hit by several tropical storms 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, rising to over half by 2100. Get your fill of Charleston's gorgeous historic architecture now…
7 New Orleans, Louisiana
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 is likely to be hit hardest. It's even expected that current coastal restoration projects will become useless before they are finished, overtaken by the water. New Orleans is expected to be submerged by 2040.
6 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. By 2050, around $9 billion of existing property will become underwater.
5 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, entirely underwater.
4 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
If you haven't noticed by this point in the list, it seems that Florida will 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."
3 Hoboken, New Jersey
New Jersey will be hard hit with rising sea levels - and Hoboken is far from the only place to see some severe flooding. The city across from Manhattan will likely 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 likely to be significantly wetter in the next few decades. And of course, while these are likely to see the worst flooding, surrounding areas aren't expected to get off lightly, either.
2 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 will be one of the places where even a relatively small rise in sea level will make a big difference. It's been estimated that an increase 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.
1 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 globally, it's also on an island… and islands don't tend to fare too well when sea levels rise. New predictions suggest that sea levels 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 increase may happen in the next century).