Climate: Vulnerability of Our Nation's Coasts to Sea Level Rise

Predicted sea level rise will cause physical changes to the coast, home to numerous communities and sensitive coastal ecosystems. The ability of our coastal communities to adapt to the impacts of sea level rise is critical to our nation's long-term security and economic sustainability.


100-year projected local sea level rise (in feet) at Eugene Island, LA, the highest projected in the U.S.

Source: NOAA Tides & Currents, 2008


Percent of the Virginia coastline considered at high or very high risk to sea level rise (1597 miles).

Source: USGS, 2000

0.6 - 2

Feet of projected global sea level rise by the year 2100 (does not include Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet melt).

Source: IPCC, 2007


100-year projected local sea level rise (in feet) at Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, VA, the highest on the east coast of the U.S.

Source: NOAA Tides & Currents, 2008

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Download Coastal Vulnerability Interactive Map and Data (1.2mb)

Source: U.S. Geological Survey - Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center.
Note: U.S. Territories, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Great Lakes states were not included in this assessment.

About this Topic

This topic provides information on the vulnerability of coastal areas to sea level rise, based on a vulnerability index produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. The index is comprised of several variables including erosion rate, geomorphology, historic sea level rise rate, regional coastal slope, tide range and wave height. According to the index, there area 6,734 miles of coastal shoreline in the U.S. that have very high vulnerability, and an additional 4,514 miles with high vulnerability. North Carolina has the greatest amount of high or very high vulnerability shoreline at 1,914 miles, followed by Florida with 1,712 miles, Virginia with 1,597 and Louisiana with 1,399 miles. Louisiana and Mississippi both have 100 percent of their shoreline in the high or very high categories. This topic includes two case studies: Global Sea Level Rise is a Local Threat and Sea Level Rise Impacts Transportation Infrastructure. Also presented is a Coastal Voices video entitled A View from the States: Climate Change.

Closer Look

Relevant Links

U.S. Geological Survey National Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise

NOAA Tides and Currents - Sea Level Online

NOAA Climate Services

U.S. Global Change Research Program