The Two-Way
12:12 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Global Warming Could Cause More Frequent Flooding For 3.7 Million In U.S.

According to new research, 3.7 million Americans who live at elevations close to high tide could face more frequent flooding because of the sea rise caused by global warming.

The New York Times reports:

"If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.

"By far the most vulnerable state is Florida, the new analysis found, with roughly half of the nation's at-risk population living near the coast on the porous, low-lying limestone shelf that constitutes much of that state. But Louisiana, California, New York and New Jersey are also particularly vulnerable, researchers found, and virtually the entire American coastline is at some degree of risk."

The report issued by Climate Central and titled "Surging Seas" says that since 1880 the sea has risen about 8 inches, but that rate is accelerating.

"Scientists expect 20 to 80 more inches this century, a lot depending upon how much more heat-trapping pollution humanity puts into the sky," the reports executive summary explains.

Essentially what the report found was that for two-thirds of the places it analyzed, the odds of a "century" or worse flood during the next 18 years will double and for half the locations analyzed, the odds triple.

The AP spoke to scientists who were not part of the study:

"Sea level rise experts at the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration who weren't part of the studies said the results make sense and were done by experts in the field.

"'All low elevation places in the many urban areas along the coast will become more vulnerable, like Boston, New York City, Norfolk (Va.), New Orleans, Charleston (S.C.), Miami, Washington, D.C./Alexandria (Va.),' said S. Jeffress Williams, scientist emeritus for the USGS, who wasn't part of the studies. 'More people and infrastructure will be at increasing risk of flooding.'"

Cimate Central has put together an interactive map that shows you the areas at risk.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.