Sea Level Rise Mapped In 'Drown Your Town' Visualization Of Cities Around the Globe

By Rhonda J. Miller on November 10, 2013 5:43 PM EST

San Francisco, Calif. Under 80 Meters Of Sea Level Rise
San Francisco, Calif. under 80 meters of sea level rise is shown in this creative visualization on Google Earth maps devised by deep-sea ecologist and population geneticist Andrew David Thaler. (Photo: Andrew David Thaler / Rhonda J. Miller)

Climate change is becoming an increasingly important priority for nations around the world as the impact of rising sea levels becomes more visible and extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes become more frequent.

To bring attention to the global issue of rising sea level, San Francisco deep-sea ecologist and population geneticist Andrew David Thaler devised an application for Google Earth maps that shows how cities around the world might be impacted under levels of flooding ranging from one meter up to 80 meters. Some of Thaler's images were included in a slide show in an article by Mark Fischetti in the Nov. 9 issue of Scientific American.

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"The maps are not validated by scientific data and many variables influence actual sea level rise at any location," Fishcetti writes. "Still, the images are curiosities and represent a captivating way to spread awareness about climate change."

Thaler started the visualization project as an exercise for his serial science fiction novel Fleet, which describes a world in which the oceans have risen 80 meters. After he created the visualization for his hometown of San Francisco, the idea caught on and Thaler got requests from individuals around the world who wanted to see what their cities might look like under the impacts of sea level rise. Thaler post a how-to guide to create a "drown your town" visualization on the blog he oversees called Southern Fried Science.

The impact of climate change is also examined in an exhibit titled "RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities" at San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay, created by mulitimedia documentary producer Claire Schoen of Berkeley, Calif.

"Projected sea level rise, caused by climate change, threatens to flood coastlines around the world, including most major cities. Inundation of roads, airports, sewage treatment plants, hospitals, and other infrastructure situated by the water will affect those of us living on higher land as well," Schoen said in an introduction to the RISE project, which includes three, hour-long documentaries for public radio available online.

"There's a lot of hard work being done to limit the greenhouse gases that are creating climate change. But we have passed a tipping point," said Schoen. "Even if we could completely stop the release of CO2, right now, there is already so much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that the effects will last hundreds of years. This is going to dramatically change the way we live.

"The world is full of problems. But climate change is on a completely different level than the rest of them," said Schoen."If we don't figure this one out, every other problem that human beings face — war, famine, immigration — won't matter, because climate change will alter the planet so dramatically."

Click to view a slideshow of how rising sea levels could impact your city.

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