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Rising Sea Levels To Expose 13 Millions Americans To Flooding By Year 2100

Sea level rise by the year 2100 may expose 13 million Americans to flooding, a new study has found.

Numerous studies have looked into the impacts of sea level rise to the current population, but very few accounted for the ongoing rise in population when assessing the effects of sea level rise in the future.

Researchers from the University of Georgia embarked on the first major study that examined the risk of sea level rise using a projected population of 319 U.S. coastal counties by the year 2100.

Using Year 2100 Model To Predict The Impacts Of Future Sea Level Rise

The authors think that by the year 2100, sea levels may rise by three to six feet. Even with the minimum rise of three feet, more than 4.2 million Americans living in U.S. coastal areas could still be impacted.

Study author Mathew Hauer says that the predictions of impact are about three times larger than the existing estimates thus, notably underestimating the effects of sea level rise in the country.

The scientists report that more than 13 million people will be exposed to flooding and other dangers due to an estimated six-foot sea level rise. Florida is expected to face the greatest risk as up to 6 million residents may be affected. The authors also predict that 1 million residents each in Louisiana and California may be affected.

Hauer adds that a six-foot sea level rise may affect 31 other counties with more than 100,000 residents.

Flooding Predictions In Different Areas

The authors also report the extent of sea level rise in different counties, as well as the number of affected population.

The sea level rise high of six feet may affect more than 80 percent of people residing in three of the most exposed areas, which are Monroe County, Hyde and Tyrrell.

In Georgia's coastal counties, more than 10 percent of the population would be affected by flooding. This includes about 18 percent and 29 percent of the population in Chatham County and Glynn County respectively.

A sea level rise of six feet in counties outside of the southeast region may place 16 percent of the population in San Mateo, California and 10 percent of the population in Nassau, New York at risk.

"These results suggest that the absence of protective measures could lead to US population movements of a magnitude similar to the 20th century Great Migration of southern African-Americans," the authors write.

Implications Of The Study In Policy-making

The findings of the study may aid policymakers in developing practical protective measures in locations that are threatened by regular and intermittent floods.

Study author Deepak Mishra says their work provides more intricate data to enhance how policymakers assess the impacts of sea level rise to the people and infrastructure.

Early Adaptation Strategies

Hauer says using 2100 population model helps provide accurate measure of possible flooding risks in some of America's rapidly-growing areas.

Adaptation measures are expensive, especially in such populations. This is because the longer authorities wait to implement these strategies, the more costly it becomes.

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday.

Photo: Rob Bixby | Flickr

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