Online Tool Details Threats Down to Zip Code

Coastal communities throughout Texas will likely experience extreme floods topping 5 feet above the high-tide line by midcentury, and see records broken from Freeport to Corpus Christi. That is the threat under multiple sea level rise scenarios presented in a new report released by Climate Central. At risk are some 37,000 homes, $9.6 billion of property, and 1,600 miles of road on more than 1,000 square miles of land.

More than 1 in 6 homes are threatened at 5 feet in Galveston County, 1 in 5 in Aransas County, and nearly 1 in 4 in Jefferson County, illustrating a threat that confronts the entire Texas coast. Exposure balloons past 175,000 homes by 10 feet, a flood level likely in most coastal areas by end of century under a rapid sea level rise scenario.

“Sea level rise means more floods, reaching higher – and that’s already happening today,” said Dr. Benjamin Strauss, study lead and Climate Central’s vice president for climate impacts. “In Texas, one big concern is the integrity of coastal energy infrastructure, and another is the potential for contamination if petrochemical facilities flood.”

Climate Central’s interactive tool offers new research results in unprecedented detail, mapping threats from neighborhood to state level, by decade, and for more than 100 topics, from schools to hospitals to heavy infrastructure. The independent research group blended global sea level projections with local trends to get sea level and flood forecasts tailored to Texas.

Over the past 20 years, sea level has been rising at nearly double the 20th century average rate. Research published this May indicates that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun an unstoppable collapse that will lead to 10-plus feet of rise over centuries, the maximum range of Climate Central’s map and analysis. Research published last week indicates that West Antarctic ice loss rate has recently tripled.

Drawing on data from more than 10 federal agencies, Climate Central is developing research and tools for every coastal state. This launch adds Texas, bringing the total complete to 18 plus Washington, DC. Previous coverage includes USA TodayAP, and The New York Times.