Special Report

30 American Beaches That May Soon Disappear

Thomas C. Frohlich

Beach communities are well familiar with such hazards as storms, floods, and erosion. And with more frequent and intense rainstorms associated with rising sea levels, the problems created by these weather events will get worse with the climate emergency, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Already, some of America’s most popular beaches have lost a considerable amount of shoreline.

To identify 30 popular beaches at the greatest risk of disappearing, 24/7 Tempo calculated the compound average growth rate of shoreline length for more than 600 “significant public beaches” in the United States between the most recent and oldest years for which data was available using beach length statistics compiled by the EPA. For the average beach, the change in shoreline was calculated for the period from 2008 to 2017. For a broader international perspective on this subject, see the countries doing the most and least to protect the environment.

Many of the U.S. beaches that have shrunk considerably in recent years are also among the smallest beaches, usually located on the Virgin Islands. To capture the magnitude of the problem of erosion across the nation’s coastal states, we only considered beaches that are 1 mile long or greater.

Storms, floods, and erosion — and their continued intensification — threaten approximately $1 trillion held in coastal real estate across the United States, according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. Some of the nation’s biggest cities are at significant risk — here are American cities that will soon be underwater.

In addition to losing a place where people can enjoy the sun and water — and with it the recreational and commercial value from fishing, tourism, and other commerce — erosion can have serious environmental consequences. At risk are a range of unique plant and animal habitats, as well as the buffer sand dunes provide against high winds and waves from storms.

Click here to see 30 popular beaches at the greatest risk of disappearing due to erosion. 
Click here to see our full methodology.