Imagine navigating America's coastal cities after the deluge
MIAMI BEACH - How would some of the United States' best known cities look if seas rise by slightly more than 3 feet? It's a disturbing picture.
The projections are based on coastal maps created by scientists at the University of Arizona, who relied on data from the US Geological Survey. Many scientists say sea rise of 1 meter is likely to happen within 100 years. Here is a look at what that might do:
Fourth of July celebrations wouldn't be the same. The Esplanade, where fireworks watchers gather, would be submerged by a rising Charles River, along with the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops stages its annual concert. Some runways at Logan International Airport will be partially covered, and the neighborhoods tourists know best would be smaller.
Planned waterfront development in South Boston would be old by 2100, but a lot of the land would be underwater, along with parts of existing landmarks, such as the Boston Fish Pier.
The restaurants and pastry shops in the Italian North End would be spared, but parks and condos on the waterfront would be in trouble.
"The areas that would be affected are not only industrial sites and attractions, but places people live," said Patrick Moscaritolo of the Greater Boston's Convention & Visitors Bureau. "It has ramifications that are pretty drastic and pretty frightful."
At the southern tip of Manhattan, sea water would inundate Battery Park City, now home to 9,000 people. Waves would lap near the base of the new Freedom Tower. Beachfront homes from the blue collar Rockaways to the mansions of the Hamptons, could be swamped by advancing surf.
New Yorkers seeking a change of scene would find it tougher to get out of town, since both runways at LaGuardia Airport would be partly underwater. But all that would pale compared to what would happen during a bad storm. If giant storm walls were built across key waterways, that might protect parts of the city, "but that doesn't help anyone outside the gates," said Malcolm Bowman, who leads a storm surge research group at Stony Brook University.
You can kiss goodbye the things that make south Florida read like an Elmore Leonard novel: the glitz of South Beach, the gator-infested Everglades, and some of the bustling terminals of Miami International Airport.
Many of the beachside places where tourists flock and the rich and famous luxuriate would be under water. Spits of land would be left in fashionable South Beach and celebrity-studded Fisher Island.
While the booming downtown would be mostly spared, inland areas near the airport and out to the low-lying Everglades would be submerged. Miami would resemble a cookie nibbled on from the south and east.
If the levees break again and the nation gives up the fight to save the lowest parts of New Orleans, the Big Easy would be reduced to a sliver of land along the Mississippi River, leaving the French Quarter and the oldest neighborhoods as the only places on dry ground.
Gone would be the Dixie brewery, museums, countless neighborhood restaurants and bars, Louis Armstrong landmarks, and Congo Square, the spot where jazz got its birth. Water would even cover the first few blocks of Bourbon Street. A trip to the tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau would require a boat, or at least rubber hip boots.
"It would be to a large extent the city of the mid-19th century," said Robert Tannen, an urban planner. "The original marsh and cypress groves of the city would perhaps prevail again."
Galveston Island has been the home base for pirate Jean Lafitte and mobsters in its colorful past. Now it offers nothing more terrifying than beachgoers looking to escape Houston's brutal summers. It survived the 1900 hurricane, which killed 6,000 people and stands as the worst natural disaster in US history. But a sea level rise of 3 feet could bring a new form of fear to this sturdy little beach city of 57,000.
Water would cut Galveston off from the Texas mainland by submerging Interstate 45, the only direct route, and it would cover large portions of the bay side.
In addition to flooding tourist shops and restaurants, water would make a mess of the University of Texas Medical Branch, future home of a US lab for some of the world's most dangerous germs.
San Francisco Bay
Rising waters would submerge some of the best of San Francisco Bay: Fisherman's Wharf, baseball, software companies, even parts of the wine country.
The southern bay, Silicon Valley and the fertile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta would be hardest-hit. Also under water would be San Francisco's famed Embarcadero waterfront, runways at both the San Francisco and Oakland airports, and even the Oakland A's planned new stadium in Fremont.