An analysis by NPR based on modeling from the National Hurricane Center for New York City, Washington, D.C., and Miami-Dade County found future sea rise could expose about 720,000 more people to damaging floods later this century.
The analysis used three hurricanes—Sandy, Isabel, and Irma—as benchmarks to understand future storm surge impacts. By 2080, when sea rise could surpass three feet, flooding would engulf more critical infrastructure, including hospitals and schools that often provide emergency shelter.
While rising waters are destructive, powerful hurricanes add another element. High winds amplify storm surges and push walls of water onto shore. This repetitive shock loading causes extensive structural failure.
In the Miami area, flooding already at lethal levels under current conditions would top nine feet farther and move farther inland as waters rise. The number of people at risk could nearly double by 2080, based on NOAA’s likely sea level rise projection of just over 2.5 feet, according to the analysis.