Climate change poses a flooding threat to nearly 4 million people in United States

By Environment News Service

Nearly four million Americans are at risk of severe flooding as climate change raises sea levels and intensifies storm surges during the coming century, new research indicates.

Two studies, published today in the journal “Environmental Research Letters,” provide evidence that sea levels are rising, creating higher and higher floods that will inundate much of the low-lying coastal United States.

Ben Strauss, a researcher at the nonprofit Climate Central who co-authored both papers, said, “The sea level rise taking place right now is quickly making extreme coastal floods more common, increasing risk for millions of people where they live and work.”

“Sea level rise makes every single coastal storm flood higher,” said Strauss. “With so many communities concentrated on U.S. coasts, the odds for major damage get bigger every year.”

The first study, by researchers at Climate Central and the University of Arizona, finds that around 32,000 square kilometers (12,355 square miles) of U.S. land lies within one vertical meter of the high tide line.

This area encompasses about 2.1 million housing units where 3.9 million people live.

For this study, the researchers created a new model to identify the areas of the U.S. mainland that are at risk of flooding. With a predicted sea level rise of one meter (39 inches) or more by the end of the century, this study suggests that the U.S. government’s currently designated flood zones should not be considered stable.

This study demonstrates that coastal dwellings on every coast are exposed to this risk. At the state level, areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico appear to be the most vulnerable. In terms of population, Florida is the most vulnerable, followed by Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey.

The Los Angeles metropolitan area is of great concern, the researchers warn, citing previous studies suggesting that flooding may reach rare heights more swiftly in southern California than in any other U.S. mainland area.

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