A staggering map shows how 11 US cities could swell as people move to avoid rising seas
- Flooding from sea-level rise could force millions of people to migrate away from the coastal US.
- A new study modeled how 6 feet of sea-level rise could displace residents by 2100 and where they might go.
- The study found that US climate migrants aren't likely to stray too far from coastal cities.
- Cities like Orlando, Las Vegas, Dallas, and Houston became popular destinations.
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By the end of the century, up to 13.1 million people in the US could be displaced due to flooding as the climate changes.That's the equivalent of sending all residents of New York, Los Angeles, and Denver to go live somewhere else.
Now, a different group of scientists is asking an important follow-up question: Where will all these people go?A new study in the journal PLOS ONE models how large-scale flooding from sea-level rise would affect the population of every county in the US.
The study used projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which anticipates 6 feet of sea-level rise by 2100 under severe circumstances. It then modeled where people along the coasts would migrate by the end of the century if their homes became permanently flooded.The map below shows the results. Counties in blue would experience up to 6 feet of flooding by 2100. Counties in red would take on additional migrants due to sea-level rise. The darker the red, the more migrants that county can expect.
The authors found that almost every county in the US can expect to take in migrants because of sea-level rise. They estimated that by 2100, more than a third of the US population could live in counties where the number of migrants had doubled due to sea-level rise.
Where US climate migrants might move
The researchers programmed their model to make its predictions based on historic migration flows - including population shifts among seven US counties that were seriously affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That allowed them to project how Americans might migrate in the future.For the most part, the model assumes migrants would not stray too far from their coastal cities. Instead, they'd most likely choose inland areas that were nearby but relatively safe from flooding. The authors also predicted, however, that people would be willing to move a bit farther away to live in a big city.
- Sacramento, California
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- San Antonio, Texas
- Houston, Texas
- Dallas, Texas
- Austin, Texas
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Orlando, Florida
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Raleigh, North Carolina
The authors predicted that urban areas in the southeast would see a "disproportionately high" influx of migrants from New Orleans and Miami. Texas cities - particularly Houston and Dallas - would also become popular safe havens, since they're nor far from flood-prone areas in the Gulf Coast.Florida residents would gravitate toward Orlando, which would be surrounded by flooding on all sides. California residents would opt to move to Sacramento, Phoenix, or Las Vegas.
The study also predicted that people could be forced to move as cities get too crowded, since rising density often means less affordable housing and more competition for jobs.But the authors noted that new workers could liven a city's economy by paying taxes or starting companies that create jobs. A 30-year analysis of asylum-seekers in Western Europe showed that an influx of migrants can reduce unemployment rates and boost local GDP. That could be good news for Orlando, Sacramento, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, which have some of the weakest economies in the US based on unemployment numbers, job-growth rates, GDP growth, per capita GDP, and average weekly wages.
But the authors said there's still more to study when it comes to climate migration.
"The effect of sea-level rise on human populations could be more pervasive and widespread than anticipated," they wrote. "Our results are the first step in understanding the socio-economic impacts of climate driven migration."
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