Special Report

American Cities That Will Soon Be Under Water

CHKnox / Getty Images

The steady rise in global surface temperatures is largely attributed to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. With rising temperatures, the world’s ice has been melting and sea levels have been rising. As a result, barring major interventions, sooner or later thousands of coastal communities around the world will become uninhabitable.

With the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melting at record rates, scientists currently estimate sea levels could rise 2-7 feet by the end of the century, with some estimates even higher. Antarctica has about 90% of all ice in the world, enough to raise global sea levels by 200 feet, in theory. This kind of catastrophic sea level rise is just one of many potential disaster scenarios caused by climate change.

Change on such a large scale is incremental and can seem quite distant, but any solution to the problem would need to be implemented relatively soon. Already, for many areas in the United States, recurring flooding is inevitable and the problem is imminent.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed data modeled by environmental watchdog group the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS in June 2018 released a report identifying U.S. coastal communities expected to face chronic and disruptive flooding before the end of the century.

We reviewed the coastal communities in which at least 10% of habitable land is expected to experience chronic flooding by 2060. Places are ranked by the number of residents that live in parts of the community expected to be regularly flooded by 2060. In many of these communities, more than one-third of the current population lives in areas expected to be regularly flooded by 2060.

Other factors, such as the possibility that global climate change could increase the prevalence and intensity of severe weather events such as hurricanes, could make actual outcomes in these cities even more dire. There are already places in the United States where weather appears to be getting worse because of climate change.

Across U.S. coastal cities, more than 300,000 homes worth a combined $117.5 billion are likely to be at risk of chronic tidal flooding within 30 years, according to UCS analysis and projections. By the end of the century, that total could rise to 2.4 million homes and more than $1 trillion in property damage — and those estimates are based only on existing homes. The regular inundation these cities face in the near future could make the worst floods in American history seem tame by comparison.

Click here to see the American cities that will soon be under water
Click here to read our methodology

Source: andykazie / Getty Images

35. Secaucus, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,092 (19.0%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 5,594 (34.4%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 25.7%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 65.8%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $230 million

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

34. Hampton, Virginia
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,306 (2.4%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 37,495 (27.3%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 10.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 45.7%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $340 million

Source: ralphandjenny / Flickr

33. St. Simons, Georgia
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,370 (22.9%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 9,651 (65.6%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 26.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 60.1%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.7 billion

Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

32. Margate City, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,533 (55.6%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 5,910 (93.0%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 55.7%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 99.6%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.9 billion

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Source: silicon640c / Flickr

31. St. Helena Island, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,535 (16.0%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 9,084 (41.2%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 27.3%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 59.0%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $736 million

Source: Josip_Brombauer / Getty Images

30. Long Beach, New York
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,588 (10.8%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 16,187 (48.6%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 26.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 95.5%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $733 million

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Source: WilliamSherman / Getty Images

29. Brigantine, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,590 (38.0%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 8,717 (92.2%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 48.0%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 95.9%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.3 billion

Source: Toddbarwick / Wikimedia Commons

28. West Ashley, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,753 (5.5%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 19,731 (28.8%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 13.7%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 42.2%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $593 million

Source: Pianoplaya16 / Wikimedia Commons

27. Revere, Massachusetts
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,821 (7.4%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 7,286 (14.1%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 18.9%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 39.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $547 million

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Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

26. Little Ferry, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,881 (36.5%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 4,406 (41.5%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 75.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 92.0%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $478 million

Source: Creative Commons / Wikimedia Commons

25. Waccamaw Neck, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 3,933 (17.7%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 8,531 (38.4%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 15.7%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 32.5%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.9 billion

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Source: Chris connelly / Wikimedia Commons

24. Pennsville, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,081 (30.4%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 9,078 (67.7%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 35.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 70.5%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $289 million

Source: Art Wager / Getty Images

23. Key Biscayne, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,302 (34.7%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 9,700 (78.3%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 50.6%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 86.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $2.6 billion

Source: TiffanyLaRayPhotography / Getty Images

22. James Island, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,405 (11.5%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 20,457 (53.5%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 27.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 68.4%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $899 million

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Source: Nsaum75 / Wikimedia Commons

21. La Marque-Hitchcock, Texas
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,576 (20.4%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 6,781 (30.3%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 19.7%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 46.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $591 million

Source: kenlund / Flickr

20. Poquoson, Virginia
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,646 (38.2%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 10,888 (89.6%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 49.8%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 98.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $518 million

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Source: Courtesy of pixabay

19. Tybee Island-Wilmington Island, Georgia
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,679 (17.4%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 13,142 (48.7%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 32.9%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 70.4%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $915 million

Source: Jaimie Tuchman / Getty Images

18. Middle Keys, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,720 (47.0%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 7,756 (77.3%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 67.8%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 98.1%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $2.0 billion

Source: Brian Reading / Wikimedia Commons

17. Brazosport, Texas
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,859 (8.1%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 6,547 (10.9%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 32.3%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 69.8%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $345 million

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Source: AppalachianViews / Getty Images

16. Ventnor City, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 4,916 (46.2%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 8,326 (78.2%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 53.9%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 98.9%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $850 million

Source: felixmizioznikov / Getty Images

15. St. Pete Beach, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 5,008 (31.5%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 14,056 (88.4%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 50.5%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 99.5%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.6 billion

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Source: denisbin / Flickr

14. Charleston Central, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 5,122 (14.8%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 12,510 (36.1%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 25.5%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 58.0%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $2.1 billion

Source: TraceRouda / Getty Images

13. Ponte Vedra, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 5,649 (20.8%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 15,684 (57.8%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 21.6%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 43.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.4 billion

Source: Jodi Jacobson / Getty Images

12. Ocean City, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 6,028 (51.5%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 10,348 (88.4%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 58.9%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 98.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $5.7 billion

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Source: Craig Dixon & Brittany Walker / Getty Images

11. Boca Ciega, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 6,810 (10.2%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 20,733 (31.1%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 10.5%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 23.7%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.4 billion

Source: Marc Serota / Getty Images

10. Upper Keys, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 6,992 (35.0%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 12,664 (63.4%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 40.4%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 77.4%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $3.8 billion

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Source: kenlund / Flickr

9. Chesapeake, Virginia
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 7,325 (3.3%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 41,870 (18.8%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 47.5%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 98.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $668 million

Source: PeterPhoto / Getty Images

8. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 8,389 (10.6%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 35,299 (44.7%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 21.0%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 53.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $2.6 billion

Source: LUNAMARINA / Getty Images

7. Lower Keys, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 8,630 (81.0%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 9,767 (91.7%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 84.6%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 97.9%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $2.6 billion

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Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

6. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 8,935 (23.6%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 22,341 (59.1%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 25.6%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 57.6%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $4.6 billion

Source: kat-co / Getty Images

5. Galveston, Texas
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 10,293 (21.1%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 30,045 (61.7%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 45.1%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 90.0%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $2.1 million

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Source: CircleEyes / Getty Images

4. Key West, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 11,645 (35.9%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 17,693 (54.6%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 62.6%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 94.4%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $3.2 billion

Source: Creative-Family / Getty Images

3. Atlantic City, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 13,687 (34.6%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 21,373 (54.0%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 50.2%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 92.8%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $1.1 billion

Source: benedek / Getty Images

2. Hoboken, New Jersey
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 14,747 (29.5%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 21,814 (43.6%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 49.8%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 71.3%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $4.5 billion

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Source: James Willamor / Wikimedia Commons

1. Miami Beach, Florida
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2060: 39,547 (30.2%)
> Population with homes at risk of flooding in 2100: 97,375 (74.5%)
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2060: 58.5%
> Habitable land that will be underwater by 2100: 94.1%
> Current property value at risk in 2060: $19.3 billion

Methodology

To identify the cities that will soon be under water, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from “Underwater,” published June 2018 by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based environmental watchdog group the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study identified U.S. coastal communities where the largest number of residents live in properties that are projected to face by 2060 the highest level of chronic and disruptive flooding, or effective inundation — defined as being at risk of flooding 26 times or more per year. We reviewed the number of properties and total value of properties that are exposed to flood risk based on a “high” scenario calculated by the Union for Concerned Scientists, which entails a 6.6 foot rise in sea level by the end of the century. The places on our list, which are county subdivisions, are those in which the largest number of residents live in housing that would be exposed to the effective inundation.

Cities and institutions can mitigate flood damage by implementing wetlands, levees, and other mechanisms, and many of the cities on this list have taken steps to implement these measures. It is important to note that the estimates published by the UCS do not take into account the mitigating effects of such mechanisms.

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