What does Boston look like with a foot of sea level rise? What does it look like with ten?

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(Boston today)

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(Boston with 10 feet of sea level)

A new tool by the folks at Climate Central called Surging Seas puts you in the driver’s seat. Not only can you use a handy slider at the side to create your own watery world scenarios, but you can also toggle categories like social vulnerability, population, critical facilities, ethnicity, and income .

The map below looks at what Chinatown looks like under five feet of sea level rise. As shown below, some of the key institutions will be just beyond the surging seas. And with the ethnicity layer toggled,  many of the affected people in the area are of Asian ethnicity.

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What about Eastie? Looking at income, affected areas have median incomes that are often below 20% of the City’s median income level. That makes Eastie is a climate justice focal point. As the water rises, we’ll need to make sure that we prioritize the area.

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There are several more tools that the website offers. If you don’t want to look at a map, you can get a summary analysis of the different facilities, as well as the total number of people, that might be at risk. This analysis shows that 3 oil facilities and 11 brownfields in Boston are under 4 ft. of elevation.

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A caveat –while this tool may be effective from a communications standpoint, it doesn’t get to localized effects. For example, water flows might drain an area relatively quickly even if it’s relatively low-lying. Or some buildings might have localized defenses that protect them more than the map shows.

As a start though, this map is great stuff. Conversations about climate change can be incredibly abstract and conditional – full of “ifs”, “may haves”, and “probabilistically-speaking” jargon. By translating high-minded science speak to water on the sidewalks (quite literally), we can all start to see how climate might affect us. It’s enough to make all the climate communication nerds here swoon.

Happy exploring! And if you come across something particularly intriguing, join in the preparedness conversation here.


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